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How to Fit a Hiking Boot

This video offers instruction on how to tell if your hiking boots fit properly.

How to Fit a Hiking Boot

So you’ve just purchased a pair of hiking boots or hiking shoes and you want to know whether you’re getting a good fit out of them. This how-to covers a couple of things to try before you take the boot out on the trail to determine whether you’re going to get a good fit.


1. Unlace your boot or shoe. With it completely open, you can fold the tongue back; if it’s a boot you may not be able to open the tongue all the way, and that’s fine – just make sure the laces are loose.


2. Make sure you’re trying the boots or shoes on with the socks you are going to wear when you hike. If you normally wear a liner sock, try your boots on with a liner sock and the over sock.


3. Slide your foot into the boot or shoe and lace it up, and lace it up snug. You want this to be snug as possible without being tight and uncomfortable. It’s designed to be supportive so you’ve got to get the laces snug enough that it allows the boot to actually accomplish that. The first element of fit is overall comfort. Does the boot feel comfortable on your foot? Are there any uncomfortable seams? Is it too tight in any areas or too loose in any areas?


4. With the boot or shoe on and laced up, you should be able to slide two fingers into the back, but the boot or shoe should be pretty snug and there shouldn’t be any extra movement there. As you’re walking around and your foot goes from heel to toe, think about the heel movement in the shoe. Are you getting any heel lift? Is your heel lifting out of the back of the boot? It’s okay to have about a quarter of an inch of lift. You want some movement there otherwise the boot may be too tight. If you are wearing a low cut shoe, you may get a little more lift because there isn’t any ankle support to keep your heel tied down in the boot. The same elements of fit apply to low cut hiking footwear. You want to make sure that the feet are comfortable no matter what type of boot or shoe you’re wearing.


5. At the top of low cut footwear you often have two eyelets. The top eyelet on this sort of footwear is optional. If your foot is a high volume or you have a high instep, you may want to take the lacing out of that top eyelet in order to give your foot some more room.


Remember, hiking footwear is designed to be durable and supportive on your foot even if you are carrying a pack on rugged trails. Don’t be surprised if your shoe or boot feels stiff underfoot, or it doesn’t feel as flexible as you expect it to at first. It’s not at all going to be like a regular sneaker or running shoe, and will often need to break in. In the ankle, if you’re not used to wearing a boot, there is definitely going to be a break-in period. You may need to wear the boot for a series of weeks or even months if you buy a stiff enough boot (such as one made of full leather) before that will be broken in. In a boot with fabric and leather construction, you get more flexibility and it’s easier for the boot to break in. These boots tend to feel much more like a sneaker underfoot than the way a leather boot might out of the box.