There are so many things to consider when choosing hiking boots. You may be considering features, brands, prices, and a whole list of other variables.
However, the best hiking boots in the world are no good if they don't fit your feet correctly. Fit is one of the most important characteristics of a hiking boot, but also the most difficult to assess, because everyone's body is a bit different.
Here's an overview of how tight hiking boots should be, and how to fit yourself correctly.
Before You Try on a Pair of Hiking Boots
When shopping for hiking boots, here are some things to know ahead of time.
Know your size
If you don't know your shoe size, you can always trace the outline of your feet and measure your size. Remember to measure at the end of the day, when your feet are slightly larger.
Since people have feet that are two different sizes, trace both of your feet. Keep in mind that different manufacturers interpret shoe sizes slightly differently, so comparing with their measurement charts, even when you know your shoe size, is always a good idea.
When in doubt, it is best to have your feet measured by a professional in a shoe store, because they can also measure your arch, which is difficult to measure at home.
Many online reviewers will note whether a brand of shoes “runs large,” “runs small,” or “feels tight.” While these are subjective assessments, and everyone's feet are different, if there is a lot of information in that kind of feedback about size and fit, it's good to know.
When You Try on a Pair of Hiking Boots
You always need to try on hiking boots, even when buying from a familiar brand. Here is how to make sure you are getting the right fit in hiking boots.
Try them on at the end of the day
Because your feet are larger later in the day, don't try on hiking boots in the morning. If your feet are two different sizes, or if you are in-between sizes, choose the larger of the two sizes
Bring inserts and socks that you would wear while hiking
Make sure that you bring the kind of socks you would wear while hiking, along with any inserts you may need.
Trying the Fit of the Hiking Boots
When you are trying on a pair of hiking boots, here is what to look for in the fit:
When laced up, you should be able to wiggle and spread your toes inside the boot.
You should be able to fit two fingers snugly between the back of your heel and the wall of the boot.
When laced up, the top of the boot should be lightly touching the top of your foot. If you have empty space at the bridge of your foot, the shoe has too much volume. If you feel pressure, the shoe is too tight.
Testing the Fit of Hiking Boots
Stand up in the boots
Your feet should feel comfortably supported, with no squeezing or pressure.
Roll your feet forward onto the toes and back
You should have a slight amount of forward movement inside the boot, where your toes can slide a bit forward. The boot should feel comfortable and not press on the top of your foot when you roll up to the ball of your feet.
Roll your foot side to side
The boot should gently support your ankle and give you lateral stability.
Walk around in them
You shouldn't feel any seams, bumps, or pressure points inside the shoe. If you can feel it in the store, you'll get blisters from it on the trail.
How Tight Should Hiking Boots Be?
Hiking boots should be tight enough to hold your foot, without restricting movement, but also without creating pressure.
The foot should feel comfortably supported through the center, with a little room for movement at the toe and the heel, where the foot moves naturally when walking.
Keep in mind that there are many different lacing techniques for hiking boots, and that you can often adjust tightness and slipping with different lacing techniques, if the sole of the shoe is comfortable and supportive.
Getting the right fit can be the difference between hiking boots you love, and hiking boots you hate, regardless of the brand or quality of the shoe, so it's worth taking the time to get it right.