Should Hiking Boots be a Size Bigger?

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.

Sharing is caring!

The short answer? They should be slightly bigger – but not always a full size up. It’s a nuanced topic, and to help you understand why, we’ll break it down in this comprehensive guide.

Footwear is a crucial component of any hiking trip. A good pair of hiking boots provides support, comfort, and protection from the elements. However, there’s a common myth that you should always go a size up when purchasing hiking boots, which can lead to some ill-fitting decisions.

Why ‘slightly bigger’? As many hikers have noticed, feet can swell during a long hike. Hence, boots that were snug and perfect in the store might become tight and uncomfortable after a few miles on the trail. Thus, a bit of extra room can make a huge difference. But there’s a fine line between “slightly bigger” and “too big”.

Throughout this blog post, we’ll explore why the right fit matters and how it directly impacts your hiking experience. So, buckle up for an in-depth look at the science and considerations behind finding the perfect size for your hiking boots. The right choice could be the difference between a memorable adventure and an uncomfortable slog.

pair of brown boots

Importance of Proper Fitting Hiking Boots

Finding the right fit for hiking boots is more than just a matter of comfort. A boot that fits well is fundamental to ensuring a great hiking experience and can also play a significant role in preventing injuries. Let’s delve into why this matters.

Support and Stability

Proper fitting boots provide optimal support to your feet and ankles, helping to distribute weight evenly across your foot. This is crucial when you’re walking on uneven terrain, as it helps maintain balance and reduces the risk of twisting an ankle. In contrast, boots that are too large can cause your foot to slide, creating instability and making it more likely that you’ll trip or roll an ankle.

Blister Prevention

Perhaps one of the most common issues hikers face with ill-fitting boots is blisters. Boots that are too small can create pressure points, leading to painful blisters. On the other hand, a boot that’s too large allows for excess movement of the foot inside the boot, causing friction and subsequently, blisters.

Preventing Fatigue

Well-fitted boots help prevent unnecessary fatigue during hikes. Boots that are too large can make your steps less efficient, as your foot moves around inside the boot, causing you to exert more energy. Conversely, a tight boot can lead to discomfort, making every step painful and tiring.

Enhancing Hiking Experience

Lastly, but certainly not least, proper fitting boots significantly enhance your overall hiking experience. Comfortable, supportive footwear allows you to focus on the scenery, the sounds of nature, and the joy of hiking, rather than being preoccupied with discomfort or pain in your feet.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:   Your Hiking Guide to the Manaslu Trek in Nepal

In conclusion, the importance of finding the right fit when choosing hiking boots cannot be overstated. Remember, the right fit doesn’t always mean sticking to your usual shoe size. As we’ve discussed, hiking boots should be slightly larger than your regular shoes to allow for foot expansion and thicker socks. However, the keyword here is ‘slightly’ – avoid going too far in the bigger direction, as an oversized boot can cause as many issues as a tight one.

person stepping on rock

Understanding Foot Swelling and Boot Size

When it comes to hiking, our feet can behave differently than they would during a typical day at the office or a stroll in the park. Foot swelling, or edema, is a common occurrence in prolonged activities like hiking. Understanding this phenomenon and its impact on your boot size can significantly enhance your hiking experience.

Why Does Foot Swelling Occur During Hikes?

During a hike, your feet bear the brunt of the physical exertion. The continuous impact and stress can cause your feet to swell. This is due to an increased blood flow to this area and the force of gravity pulling fluids down to your lower extremities.

Adding to this, warmer temperatures, whether due to weather or body heat, can exacerbate swelling. That’s why your feet might feel tight in your boots during a summer hike or after several hours on the trail, even when your boots felt perfectly comfortable at the start.

How Does Foot Swelling Impact Boot Size?

Here’s where the concept of “slightly bigger” hiking boots comes into play. If your boots just fit your non-swollen foot perfectly, they might become uncomfortably tight after a few miles of hiking, leading to discomfort and potential blisters.

As a rule of thumb, you should have enough space in your boots to wiggle your toes freely, even at the end of a long hike. This doesn’t mean that your boots should be overly large, but rather that they accommodate the natural swelling that can occur.

Accounting for Foot Swelling When Choosing Hiking Boots

To account for foot swelling, it’s generally a good idea to try on hiking boots at the end of the day, when your feet are likely to be at their largest. Also, remember to wear the same type of socks that you’ll be using on your hikes. This approach will give you a more accurate representation of how the boots will fit during a hike.

Remember, foot swelling during hiking is a natural response to physical exertion and is something that every hiker should consider when choosing their hiking boots. By understanding this phenomenon and planning for it, you can select boots that will stay comfortable throughout your hike, ensuring that foot swelling doesn’t put a damper on your outdoor adventures.

person wearing blue and brown hiking shoes

Key Considerations When Buying Hiking Boots

Choosing the right pair of hiking boots can seem daunting with all the factors to consider. However, keeping some key points in mind can help guide your selection process and ensure you find a pair that suits your needs perfectly. Remember, hiking boots are an investment in your comfort and safety on the trail, making this decision an important one.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:   How Does a Walking Stick Help with Stability and Mobility?

Sock Thickness

The thickness of your socks can considerably influence the fit of your boots. When trying on boots, make sure to wear the same type of socks you plan to use while hiking. Thick hiking socks not only provide additional cushioning but also take up more space, meaning a boot that fits well with thin socks might feel tight and uncomfortable with thicker ones.

Boot Materials

The material of the boots plays a significant role in their fit and comfort. Leather boots, for example, tend to conform to your feet over time and can offer a great fit after a break-in period. Synthetic materials, on the other hand, are often lighter and more breathable but may not mold to your foot in the same way. Considering your preferences and hiking conditions can help you choose the right material for your boots.

Trying Boots On at the End of the Day

As we discussed earlier, feet tend to swell over the course of the day. To account for this, it’s generally a good idea to try on hiking boots in the afternoon or evening, when your feet are likely at their largest. This will give you a more accurate idea of how the boots will fit on the trail.

Test Walk Before Buying

Before making the final decision, make sure to walk around in the boots. Many outdoor stores have an incline ramp for testing footwear; if not, simply walk around the store. The boots should feel snug but not tight, with enough room to wiggle your toes. Pay attention to any spots where the boot rubs against your foot, as these can become blister-prone areas on the trail.

Buying the perfect pair of hiking boots is a process that requires consideration of various factors. By keeping these points in mind, you can ensure a comfortable and enjoyable hiking experience. Remember, the boots should be slightly bigger, but comfort and fit should always be the top priorities.

person sitting on cliff over body of water during daytime

Common Hiking Boot Fitting Mistakes

When it comes to hiking boots, the right fit is paramount for a comfortable and injury-free hike. However, many people make common fitting mistakes that could turn their exciting adventure into an uncomfortable experience. Here, we will discuss some of these pitfalls and how to avoid them.

Buying For Looks Over Comfort

A common mistake is being swayed by the appearance of the boots over their comfort and functionality. While it’s great to have boots that look good, it’s crucial that they fit properly and meet the demands of your hike. Always prioritize fit and functionality over aesthetics when choosing hiking boots.

Not Considering the Socks

Hiking socks can significantly affect the fit of your boots. Forgetting to wear your typical hiking socks when trying on boots can lead to a size that’s too small. It’s important to wear the socks you plan to use on your hikes when you’re trying on new boots.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:   14 Best Gifts for Hikers Under $50: The Ultimate List

Forgetting About Foot Swelling

Many people choose hiking boots that fit snugly when their feet are at their smallest, often in the morning. However, feet swell throughout the day and during physical activities like hiking. Always consider this swelling when choosing the size of your boots, ideally by trying on boots later in the day and leaving some room for your foot to expand.

Assuming Your Size

Never assume that your hiking boot size is the same as your regular shoe size. Hiking boots are designed differently, and sizes can vary between brands and even models. Always try on the boots to ensure they fit well and remember that the boots should be slightly bigger to accommodate thicker socks and foot swelling.

Not Testing the Boots Sufficiently

Simply slipping the boots on and walking a few steps isn’t enough to ensure a good fit. Make sure to spend time walking around the store, climbing stairs, or using an incline ramp if available. This will help identify any potential discomforts or issues that you might not notice immediately.

Avoiding these common mistakes can help you find hiking boots that fit well and keep you comfortable throughout your hikes. Always remember that the perfect fit might require some time and patience to find, but the payoff in hiking comfort is well worth the effort.


Travel tips and tricks:

  • Save big on flights with Skyscanner.com – This incredible tool lets you find the most affordable airfare to your dream destination. You’ll love their “Whole Month” feature, which displays the best prices for the entire month. If you’re flexible with travel dates, this is a game-changer for scoring the cheapest tickets.
  • Stay in the heart of the action – I always find the perfect accommodation on Booking.com. Their map view lets me filter hotels by my budget and select ones that are right in the center of it all. Trust me, you won’t want to miss this easy way to book your ideal stay!
  • Go beyond the resort – I’m all about making the most of my trips, and GetYourGuide.com has been a lifesaver for booking unforgettable tours and day trips. It’s the most hassle-free way to dive into the local culture and explore the hidden gems in every new place.
  • Hit the road with DiscoverCars.com – There’s no better way to explore your destination than by car! Renting a vehicle has never been easier, and with their competitive prices, you’ll have the freedom to create your own adventures.

I highly recommend trying these tools for yourself – not only will you save money, but you’ll also create memories that last a lifetime. Happy travels!


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top