How Should Hiking Boots Fit?

This article will explain the importance of hiking boots, why they need to fit you correctly, and how to know if they fit correctly.

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Hiking is great fun, its great for your health, and it is a wonderful way to spend time in the great outdoors.

It is also a far more accessible hobby than most others. After all, you can go hiking with just a water bottle and some running shoes.

But what happens if we want to take our safety when hiking a bit more seriously? What if we want to start hiking on the more difficult trails? Then suddenly there are some things we need to think about buying.

Most importantly, it is hiking boots, specifically ones that fit correctly.

This article will explain the importance of hiking boots, why they need to fit you correctly, and how to know if they fit correctly.

Table of Contents

Why are hiking boots important?

Hiking boots offer far more support than your typical running shoes. They are not just more supporting of your ankles, they help keep your feet better insulated and dry. Additionally, if you are walking on the trail rocks and debris can hurt your feet if you are wearing soft running shoes. Walking boots are hard-topped to protect your feet. The biggest advantage for a casual hiker is the higher tops and the rigidness. Keeping your ankles from rolling is so important, a rolled ankle can be agony should you find yourself having to walk for miles to get back down the trail.

When it comes to safety, hiking boots are far superior. Hiking on the trail can be dangerous at times so making sure we wear the footwear that is going to protect us from injury the best is paramount. If you plan to be going on a multi-day hike there is no other choice but to wear hiking boots. An ankle injury when you are a day or more hike from civilization is going to result in you having to be helicoptered out potentially.

Do I need to wear hiking boots?

You don’t have to wear hiking boots, but it is advised. The advantages of wearing hiking boots far outweigh the cost of buying a good quality pair. Most people choose not to wear hiking boots because they find running shoes more comfortable and find they will breath better. The latter statement is a fair assessment, running shoes do breath better than boots. But that is also why they don’t protect your feet as well from water and debris on the trail. Hiking boots have been designed to be as waterproof as possible this means water cannot make its way in (or out). Running shoes, on the other hand, are designed to breathe as well as possible. This means water flows in and out of the shoes easily. This also means in very cold weather running shoes are not going to provide the proper insulation needed to keep your feet warm.

The main reason many people complain hiking boots are not as comfortable is that they aren’t wearing them properly. Hiking boots that fit correctly are very comfortable. Loose-fitting hiking boots are not going to be as comfortable because they are not being used correctly. This is one of the biggest problems with people buying cheaper knock-off hiking boots. The cheaper boots do not fit as well as proper hiking boots do, this has given quality hiking boots a bad reputation, unfairly.

How should they fit?

Hiking boots have a very specific way of fitting. Unlike normal shoes where you are looking for a nice range of motion, with hiking boots you aren’t. Running shoes need to allow you lots of ankle movement because that is necessary for the act of running. Luckily, you won’t be running in hiking boots so that isn’t a problem. Hiking boots have higher tops than ordinary shoes because they are trying to keep your ankles in place. Should you fall, you want your ankles to be held rigidly in place to avoid them twisting or breaking. Here are a few tips for when you go to try on walking boots in the store:

Go in the afternoon

During the day, your feet will gradually begin to swell up. This is normal and nothing to be worried about. The reason is that your feet take a lot of weight and pressure throughout the day, by the end of it they are slightly bigger. This means hiking boots that feel perfect in the morning might feel slightly too tight in the afternoon. This is not an issue for normal shoes, it is just that hiking boots must fit much more accurately.

Bring thick socks

If you try hiking boots on without the thick socks that you would be wearing you are not going to get an accurate fit. You want your feet to be as similar in size to what they would be on the hike. This means going in the afternoon as mentioned above and wearing the correct socks.

Have your feet measured

The best way to get the right fitting hiking boots is simply to have your feet measured at the store. There are complex measuring tools available nowadays that can provide you with very precise measurements.

Boots should be snug but not too tight

Once you have done all of the above it is time to start trying on pairs of boots. Everyone’s feet are slightly different so even similar sized boots might feel very different on your feet. That’s nothing to worry about. The boots should feel nice and snug all around your feet. They should never feel tight though. They should feel secure but not too restrained. It is a peculiar feeling that is hard to describe, you will be able to feel when they fit correctly though.

Can you wiggle your toes?

A good way of checking that your boots are snug but not too tight is you can still wiggle your toes. If your boots are too tight your toes will not be able to wiggle very much. If they are too loose you will find your toes will move too much. There is a nice sweet spot in the middle.


Finding hiking boots that fit correctly is very important. If you keep the tips from this article in mind you will be fine. It is best to buy hiking boots from a physical store so you can try them on and walk around the store. Some stores even have some fake hiking trails for you to walk up and down to test them properly. Don’t be afraid to ask the store assistant for advice about the boots.