How Should Hiking Boots Fit? Tips for Finding the Perfect Pair
Hiking is an ideal way to get up close and personal with nature. While it's an accessible activity, hiking does require some essential clothing and gear—and comfortable, durable footwear tops the list of must-have gear. (Be sure to check out our complete Guide to Hiking Footwear.) Whether you opt for ankle-supporting hiking boots or low-cut hiking shoes, you'll find that Nordstrom offers a great selection of styles from popular brands, in a generous range of sizes for women and men.
How Should Hiking Boots Fit?
Hiking demands properly fitting footwear, especially when you consider the amount of time you'll spend in your hiking boots or hiking shoes—along with challenging terrain and the extra weight you'll carry in your backpack.
Incorrectly fitting footwear can lead to pain and other foot disorders.(1) With hiking boots and hiking shoes, it's crucial to get the right fit in these three areas:
A hiking boot or shoe that's too short can cause serious foot issues, such as cracked toenails or even the loss of toenails. How can you tell if there's enough toe room in hiking boots? A good test for proper length is to push your foot to the front of the boot or shoe (tap your toe straight down on the floor a few times) and then check that there's just enough space so that your index finger can fit snugly between your heel and the back of the boot.
How tight should hiking boots be? Your boot or shoe should feel comfortably snug and supportive, but not tight. Be sure there's enough room in the toe box for you to wiggle your toes, but not so much that your foot slides or shifts around. Adjust the lacing to get just the right snugness—numb or tingly feet can mean your laces are too tight. Also try varying the thickness of your hiking socks to fine-tune the fit. If your foot is especially narrow or wide, seek brands that offer styles in extended widths.
Your heel must stay firmly planted in the heel cup at all times and not shift around or slide up and down as you walk. Test for this by going up to a tiptoe position several times.
Tips for Trying On Hiking Boots
Here are a few more tips to ensure you get a just-right fit from your new hiking boots or hiking shoes.
Get Your Feet Measured
A perfect fit starts with precise measurements. Even if you think you know your shoe size, whenever you're buying a new pair of hiking boots or hiking shoes it's always best to have your feet measured in a store. Keep in mind that foot size can change over time—and pregnancy can cause permanent changes to foot structure and length.(2) If it's not possible to have your feet professionally measured, here are some do-it-yourself tips.
Try Them On at the End of the Day
Since feet swell a bit during the day, you'll get a more accurate fit later in the day—or after you've walked a few miles.
Wear the Socks You Plan to Hike In
Wear your hiking socks when you try on new hiking boots or shoes. You might want to try a few different pairs of socks of varying thicknesses, depending on whether you plan to use your new hiking footwear primarily for summer hiking or winter hiking.
Try On Styles from Several Brands
If possible, always try on hiking footwear in a store, with the help of an experienced sales associate who knows how hiking boots and hiking shoes should fit. After measuring your foot, your sales associate will be able to tell you which brands and styles will work best for you. The features and fits of hiking boots and shoes vary from brand to brand, so plan to spend some time trying on a variety of styles from several companies.
Wear Them at Home for a Few Hours
After trying them on in the store, wear your new hiking boots or hiking shoes indoors at home for a few hours on a few different days to be sure they're comfortable. (Be sure you have on the socks you'll wear when hiking.) This way, if you have any issues with the fit, they're still clean and easy to return.
Before Hiking, Test Them on Various Surfaces
After you've worn them for a while inside, give them a more thorough testing outdoors. Since hiking involves hills, uneven surfaces and various ground conditions, try them out on a variety of surfaces and inclines. Remember that when you're walking down a steep hill, your feet should stay in place—your toes shouldn't push against the front of your boot or shoe.
Keep in mind that some hiking boots and hiking shoes require a breaking-in period. Leather styles may feel a bit stiff at first, but they soften up over time. Regardless of the material, for your first few hikes with your new hiking boots or hiking shoes, it's a smart idea to stash an older, thoroughly broken-in pair in your backpack.
1. "Incorrectly fitted footwear, foot pain and foot disorders: a systematic search and narrative review of the literature," National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information. Accessed April 6, 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6064070/
2. "Pregnancy Leads to Lasting Changes in Foot Structure," National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information. Accessed March 21, 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3596423/