How Should Hiking Boots Fit? - Tips For Most Comfortable Hiking Shoes

by Mark Paigen June 10, 2018

how should hiking boots fit

The rewards of a great hike should never be diminished by sore feet. How many times have you made it to the peak only to dread the descent because your feet are in pain? Luckily, ensuring comfort and support on the trail is not as hard as it may seem. If you've ever asked "how should hiking boots fit," you've come to the right place.

In this post, we'll walk you through six tips for finding the most comfortable hiking shoes.


1. Fitting Your Hiking Boots

Fit is the most important aspect. When your foot is firmly inside the shoe, put your weight on the front of the foot. You should be able to fit your index finger easily between your heel and the back of the shoe.

Shorter than this and your toes will get bruised on descents. Width-wise, the shoe should feel snug but not tight at the widest part of your forefoot (the ball). There should be no pinching at the heel and nothing should feel uncomfortable on your ankle bones.

2. Look For Boots With Support

Augmenting the foot's natural shock-absorbing quality can do wonders over a long day of hiking. The fatty pad under your heel bone serves as the first shock absorber at heel strike.

But sometimes it's not all about how hiking boots should fit. Having an insole that cups the heel and concentrates this fatty pad can make a big difference in comfort. Providing arch support to prevent overpronation will keep your feet from fatiguing and better maintain the fit of your hiking footwear. Choose shoes that have substantial, built-in arch support or buy an after-market insole like the Tread Labs Stride to increase the support of the shoe.

3. Find Flexible Footwear 

Match the flex of your hiking boots to the terrain that you anticipate hiking. For easy, smooth trails, a more flexible shoe will be fine. As the terrain gets more rugged, so should your footwear.

Hiking over jagged rocks all day with running shoes can be painful. The most comfortable hiking shoes for you will depend on distance and skill level. A great hiking shoe store will have rock and other features to test the flex of the shoes.

4. What Materials Should You Look For?

Breathability is key when fitting hiking boots. Look for shoes and boots without waterproof membranes. In many cases, your feet get wetter from the sweat that cannot escape through the so-called waterproof/breathable membrane than from external moisture.

Especially in warmer weather, consider mesh or other upper materials that will easily let your sweat evaporate. If your feet do get wet, these shoes will dry much faster than waterproof boots. Save the Gore-Tex for really harsh environments.

5. Look For The Right Outsoles

Make sure that your hiking boots have outsoles with a deep enough tread to provide traction on your anticipated terrain. An easy day hike does not require the same traction as an off-trail backpacking trip, but all hiking shoes should provide a modicum of traction.

6. Consider The Weight Of Your Hiking Boots

This is less about how should hiking boots fit and more about their use out in the field. Lighter footwear equals less effort. There has been a big move toward lighter hiking footwear and for good reason. The old adage of a pound on your feet equals 5 on your back is pretty accurate.

Few long-distance hikers wear heavy boots anymore. Also realize that lighter footwear demands more foot and lower leg strength. A hiker with many miles in the season will be more comfortable with lighter footwear than someone getting off the couch. 

Get Hiking!

Getting out in nature is a wonderful experience. Ensure your comfort by selecting the right footwear. We hope these simple steps help you find the most comfortable hiking shoes.

If you feel you need more support in your boot, try inserting the Stride insole. Its superior arch support and guaranteed fit will make sure your feet make through a long day tour on the trails.


Mark Paigen
Mark Paigen

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