Hiking Boots Sizing: How To Get The Right Fit

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There are way cooler pieces of hiking gear to buy, but hiking boots might be one of the most useful. Unfortunately, getting a pair that doesn’t fit right will waste you money, time and probably cause quite a bit of pain. Through many hiking boot purchases of our own, we have a few tips (after you’re sized) that make it easy to determine if a hiking boot is right for you. The most recommended method for hiking boots sizing is a brannock device.

Hiking Boot Sizing Method

Getting sized for hiking boots is very easy. We recommend going to the outdoor store and using a brannock device. This is going to give you the most accurate measurement for length and width of your feet. There are some other methods to get close, but this will give you the most useful measurement and the employees are usually very helpful in choosing the right boot. Streamline the process of choosing a boot by using this tool.

How Should Hiking Boots Fit?

Once you’ve got your accurate measurement from the brannock device, it’s time to try some boots on. The employees should also be able to give you some suggestions, but here’s what to feel for when you’re trying them on.

Go Up A Size

There should be a little extra wiggle room in your boots for several reasons.

  1. You’ll be wearing thick socks when you hike.
  2. Feet swell during hikes so you want to allow for room for this.
  3. If you measure between sizes on the brannock device, round up to the bigger size.

Important Note: Don’t go too big as this will cause a lot of foot movement which leads to blisters and pain.

Pressure Points

Once you’ve got the right size to try, we’ll look at how the boots feel on your feet.

Do you feel any pressure points on the foot- areas where there feels like extra material digging in?

Pay attention to the toe box, the area along your arches, and the heel cup. Do you feel any increased pressure/pain in those areas? If so, it may be better to try something else.

Work The Laces

Make sure when you’re trying boots on you tie them properly. You don’t want them overly tight, but also not loose enough where you foot slides forward when you move.

Move Around

After you’ve identified a boot with no pain points and tied them properly, it’s time to move around in them. This will be an important test for picking the right hiking boots.

Walk on flat ground, take notice of how your foot is moving. Does your foot slide forward? Do you get heel slips as you step? Does it feel like your toes have enough room?

Hiking is usually on uneven terrain so I also try to find a step or ramp to test them on too. The incline and decline might give you a different feel of the boot. Again, take note of any heel slippage as this can leave to blisters on the heel/ankle. Do your feet slide forward on a decline? Because this would be greatly increased on steep descents.

Movement allows you to feel the boot in action and if something feels off or uncomfortable, then it’s a sign you might want to look elsewhere. Noting these things are also good ways to track when it might be time to replace your boots.

You Bought Them, Let’s Break Them In

You’ve went through everything to test and pick the best hiking boots for you. Unfortunately, you can’t just hit the trails for longer hikes. This will end in sore feet and possibly some significant blisters.

It’s common for beginners to wonder how to break in hiking boots. Luckily, it’s pretty easy. Start slow and take shorter hikes to allow the materials to take shape. Newly purchased boots won’t be formed to your foot yet, so it’s important to let them work into form a little at a time. Hiking will become a lot more enjoyable when your boots are broken in properly.

Note On Hiking Socks

When you get sized for hiking boots, please take the right pair of socks with you. Take a thick pair of wool socks because this is most likely what you’ll be using on the trails. Don’t bring cotton socks as you shouldn’t be wearing these when you go hiking. It’s important to wear what you would on the trail so you can get the most realistic fit before buying anything.

Things To Consider When Buying Hiking Boots

Hiking boots (or hiking shoes if you prefer) are a necessary piece of equipment on the trails. When you’ve determined it’s time to replace your boots, the brand and type you go with depends on several factors. Consider the following when you’re trying to pick up a new pair of hiking boots:

Weather

Weather is a constant factor in a lot of gear decisions. It’s especially important in deciding what hiking boots to buy. Evaluate the climate of where you do most of your hiking and this will help decide things like waterproofing for your new boots.

I know in many articles I talk about wanting waterproof hiking boots. I prefer to have this feature because 80% of my hiking is in wetter climates. It makes sense to have water resistant boots that will endure the moisture and mud.

If you plan to spend most of your time in the dry climates like southern Utah or California, then waterproofing is less of a concern and you’ll opt for something with more breathability.

Terrain

Terrain will greatly impact your purchasing decision on hiking shoes. You’ll most likely be moving over some kind of terrain, so you’ll want to pick boots that can handle the trails. You wouldn’t take a Ferrari on a bumpy, dirt road. You’d opt for a truck or 4×4. And vice versa, you won’t take a 4×4 to the race track. You’re going to use the fast, agile car.

Same goes for your boot choice. If most of your hiking is backcountry, rough terrain you might go with something durable that can handle the bumps and scrapes. This would include a boot that has a more rigid sole to protect the bottom of the feet.

On the other hand, if your goal is to stick to the main well-kept trails, even paved trails, you might opt for something light and agile. You could even get trail running shoes. They won’t offer the same level of support as boots but the lighter footwear should be all you need.

Types Of Hikes

The type of hikes that interest you are going to determine what hiking boots you purchase. If you only see yourself doing short, day hikes on relatively flat trails then a good hiking shoe/trail runner should suffice. It won’t have as much support but will offer more flexibility. However, if long, possibly multi-day hikes are what you live for then you’ll definitely want boots that are more sturdy with better ankle and arch support.

Seriously evaluate the type of hikes you’ll be on and get the proper hiking footwear to keep your feet feeling good.

Your Own Feet

Wide feet or narrow

We all have different sized feet. This is true in the numerical sense (wearing size 8, 9, 10, etc.) but also with the width of our feet. Simply knowing your shoe size doesn’t give you the full picture. You could purchase the right “size” boot, but it could still be incredibly tight and uncomfortable because the width might be off.

Certain brands are better for wide feet while others tend to cater to people with more narrow feet. It’s good to know which you have that way you can try on the right brands and get the best fit.

Any medical issues with feet

Some people have medical needs when it comes to their boots (i.e. customs orthotics). There’s things like flat arches or misaligned foot/ankle joint that can cause issues with the shoes you wear. These problems lead to foot and joint pain that hinder your hiking activities.

So if you are one of these people, make sure you get boots that accommodate your medical needs. Most hiking boots are just fine for custom orthotics. However, when you’re buying them make sure you remove the insole of the boots before inserting the orthotics to get the proper fit.

Essential Features of Hiking Boots

Ankle Support

As covered in this article and others, ankle support is an important feature for hiking boots. It’s going to depend on the type of hikes you do, but I like having that support. It protects the ankles when you’re on a tougher trail. I also like the more sturdy arch support that comes with backpacking boots.

Durable

Hiking boots are going to take a massive beating as you rack up the miles, so your boots have to have the durability to last. Hiking boots are going to last you somewhere between 500-1,000 miles depending on how intense you hike. Whether you have a sturdy pair of backpacking boots or more flexible hiking shoes, they should be able to last you awhile.

Waterproof

Waterproof boots are a personal choice based on where you’ll be hiking. Some benefits to waterproof hiking boots:

  • Keep your feet dry and free of mud/dirt
  • More versatile because they can be used in dry or wet climate

If you’re in a drier climate, then non-waterproof hiking boots will allow for more breathability to keep your feet cool. I prefer waterproofing because of the wetter weather I’m in and want to avoid soaking my socks.

Lightweight

Whatever choice you go with (waterproof vs. non-waterproof, boot vs. shoe, etc.), get something that is as lightweight as possible. There’s some really good lightweight hiking boots out there that still offer strength and protection for your feet. Don’t get something that’s going to weight you down, you’ll already have plenty of gear to do that.

Good Tread

One thing hiking shoes give us is traction. The tread allows us to grip the ground similar to tires on a car. As the tread of the boots wear down, we are left with increased instability. Whatever hiking boots you get, make sure they have a good tread to prevent slips.

Final Thoughts On Getting Sized For Hiking Boots

Getting sized for new hiking boots isn’t really the most exciting thing, but is entirely necessary for making the right choice. Ill fitting boots are one of the quickest ways to waste money and ruin your hiking experience. Use a brannock device to get an accurate measurement right away and follow the tips above to purchase a hiking shoe that fits right.