Before planning a hiking trip, it is important to make sure that you have the right-sized hiking boots that perfectly fit you. Otherwise, you might come home with blisters or toe pain at the end of the day.
There are many tips regarding how a pair of hiking boots should fit. Some suggest that they should be a bigger size, while others say they should be the same size as your feet. However, a great rule of thumb is to choose hiking boots that leave half an inch between your longest toe and the boot’s toe box edge.
To learn more and decide between bigger or smaller hiking boots, read our guide below.
Choosing the right footwear for your hike is very important. Wearing the wrong footwear could lead to sore feet and blisters which will prevent you from enjoying your hike to the fullest. Lucky for you, we have a list of the best hiking shoes for men, women, and children all in one article.
Types of Hiking Boots
There are different kinds of hiking boots that are meant to be worn for specific kinds of hiking.
For day hiking, low-cut models with flexible midsoles are an excellent choice. Ultralight backpackers often choose trail-running shoes for long-distance hikes.
Day Hiking Boots
Day hiking boots range from mid-cut to high-cut models and are designed for day hikes and short, ultralight backpacking. They often easily flex and require little to no break-in time. However, they lack the durability and support of stout backpacking boots.
These boots are designed to carry heavy loads on multi-day trips into the backcountry. Most of these boots have a high-cut design that wraps above the ankles to provide excellent support. They are durable and supportive and feature stiffer midsoles than lighter footwear, making them suitable for on or off-the-trail journeys.
Beginner hikers often wonder whether they should invest in a good pair of hiking shoes or just wear their regular shoes for their first few hikes. To learn more about this topic, check out our article to know what kind of shoes are best for hiking.
How to Choose the Right Fit for Your Hiking Boots
Your hiking boots should fit snugly in every area, which means you should not feel any tightness and have room to wiggle your toes.
Here are tips for choosing the right size of hiking boots:
- Know your size by having your foot’s width, length, and arch length measured by a specialist or using a specially calibrated fit device that you can find in some shops. However, if you are shopping online, you have to measure your foot’s length and use the manufacturer’s sizing chart to find your size.
- Try your boots on at the end of the day. Your feet normally swell and are at their largest after a whole day of activities, which can help you avoid buying hiking boots that are too small for you.
- Orthotics impact a boot’s fit, so if you wear them, bring them along with you.
- Make sure you wear socks that are comfortable with the type of shoes you use. It is best to choose synthetic fabrics instead of slow-drying cotton socks to avoid blisters.
- If you are buying your boots at a store, make sure you take the time to stroll, walk up and down the stairs, or find an inclined surface to walk on with them.
- Talk with a footwear specialist about odd bumps or seams, pinching on the forefoot, toes hitting the end of your boot on an incline, and your feet volume.
- When shopping online, consider brands that you’ve tried before as most manufacturers tend to use the same foot model for years, so the sizing is likely to be similar.
- Change the way you lace and knot your boots to see changes in the fit.
- Also, consider some aftermarket insoles or footbeds to enhance support, comfort, and the overall fit.
- Break in your boots before your first hiking trip. Getting comfortable with your hiking boots and setting them right before your initial use is a step most people neglect, which results in a lot of issues, including a feeling of tightness around the toe box. However, you can fix this problem by applying some of the methods below, though it is best to do them before your trip.
How much room should be in the toe box of a hiking boot?
As mentioned above, you should have at least half an inch between your longest toe and the edge of the boot’s toe box. You should choose a larger size of boots if you are:
Going for a long hike
For long-distance or multi-day hiking trips, it is best to choose hiking boots that are a half or one size up to prevent your feet from swelling after days of hiking.
Have boots with a narrow toe box
If your hiking boots have a narrow toe box, you should size up to prevent your toes from being squeezed and rubbing against each other.
Wearing the boots for every season
If you are planning to use your hiking boots for both summer and winter, it is best to size up since you may want to wear thinner socks in the summer and thicker socks in the winter. You may also want to add insoles when using your shoes during winter. Therefore, bigger-sized boots can fit your needs.
Just like any other hiking equipment, you need to properly maintain your hiking shoes to improve their longevity. To help you with this task, check out our guide on cleaning, drying, and storing hiking shoes.
Reasons why you need to choose bigger hiking boots
You need to choose hiking boots larger than your regular shoes for several reasons.
1. Your feet expand over the course of the day
Over the course of the day, your feet are bearing your body weight and moving you around, hence why they naturally expand or get larger under the pressure. The reason why most people’s feet get larger during the day is that their body fluids react to gravity and accumulate in the lower body.
The combination of increased fluids and increased pressure make feet bigger at the end of the day than in the morning.
2. Your feet get bigger when your body is warm
Exercises or daily activities and the hot weather can all contribute to making one’s feet larger. When your body is warm, your blood vessels expand and allow more heat to escape, which is most noticeable in the soles of the feet. The hands and feet have thinner skin, making them good for heat exchanges and regulating body temperature. This is also the reason why many people prefer to sleep with one foot outside of the blanket. When you feel hot, your feet experience an increase in blood flow, which makes them larger, and wearing bigger hiking boots will provide extra room to prevent tightening.
3. Your hiking boots may not be the same size as your regular sneakers
Hiking boots may be sized differently than regular shoes. Choosing hiking boots with a bigger size than your regular shoes will allow you to use specialized socks for winter hiking trips.
4. Descent can be more difficult
For casual joggers and walkers, going uphill is the hard part. But for more serious hikers and backpackers, the hardest part of the journey is the descent.
When ascending slopes, we rely on the strength of the large muscles in our legs, which are built for and can handle this kind of exertion.
When descending, it is harder to secure footing, which is why we rely on the stabilizing muscles around the joints of our ankles and knees, which are smaller and can easily be strained.
Descending is often done at the end of the hike, when the feet are larger and the body exhausted. This corresponds to when your hiking boots need to provide the most support and comfort and where a bad fit is noticeable.
Tips for Trying On Hiking Boots
For all the reasons that we stated above, hiking boots should be bigger than your regular shoes. However, when trying on hiking boots, you should always ensure that you get the best possible fit instead of simply sizing up, which brings us to these tips:
- Always try on new hiking boots later in the day, when your feet are bigger.
- Always try on boots when wearing your insoles and cold weather socks, especially if you plan on hiking during winter.
- If your feet are two different sizes or if you are in-between sizes, you should go up half a size. This is because it is always better to put on an extra pair of socks, and take them off if necessary, than to fix a hiking boot that is too small.
The fit of your hiking boots can greatly affect your hiking trip. If the fit of your boots is not correct, you’ll end up with sore feet and painful blisters. This is why it’s important to have boots that fit you perfectly.
To find the right hiking shoes, there are a few things that you have to keep in mind. We stated these above along with a few tips that will help you find hiking boots that not only fit you properly, but are also flexible enough to be worn in different seasons.
Hiking boots that fit perfectly will greatly improve your hiking experience. Not only will they provide you with the support that you need for your trip, but they will also ensure that your feet will be fine even after a full day of hiking. As long as you follow our tips, you’ll be able to find the perfect pair of hiking boots for you.