When it comes to fitting walking boots, or hiking boots, it seems everyone has a different opinion. I don’t know if this is because there is no one standard way, or because old advice permeates modern footwear. Or even just because everyone likes to think they know best. Whatever the reason it is hard to get the information you need sometimes.
Well not to be outdone, I’m throwing my two cents worth into the mix. This guide comes from experience, talking to boot sellers and manufacturers, and speaking with other hikers and walkers.
Fitting Walking Boots
I have read over the years that you should buy walking boots or shoes anything from half a size to a whole size larger than you would your normal shoe. The reason being that your feet swell when walking over a long period. And while the latter is of course true, the former is crap!
Don’t get me wrong, you may find you buy a size larger, but the reality is that sizing of shoes varies depending on the manufacturer. What you should be doing is having them properly fitted to your foot, not just assuming you need a larger size.
Manufacturers know that feet swell, and will often factor this into their boot design. So when it comes to fitting walking boots, buying a size too large could in fact lead to more problems than buying the right size would.
When to try
It is recommended to try shoes on later in the day, as your feet will have become swollen, AND while wearing the socks that you intend to use in the field. This will give your foot the best chance to be at the size (or should that be volume?) it will be at the end of a hike, a time when your feet will be starting to really feel the effects of your hiking.
How to Fit the boot
When trying the boot on, push your foot to the front of the hiking boot so your toes are touching the front of the boot. Then, with your foot flat on the ground, slip your index finger between your heel and the rear of the boot. If it fits snugly, but with little force, then this is probably the right size. Too much room and you will potentially have boot slipping (blisters!!). Too little and you will probably have discomfort at the end of the day (tightness).
Once you have tested this, you will of course need to really try the boot out.
Checking the fit
Firmly place your heel at the rear of the boot and then lace the boot all the way up (all eyelets and hooks), make sure it is firmly pulled, but not with too much restriction. Once done stand up. As you put weight through your feet there is expansion and elongation as the arch is compressed downward. If your toes touch the end then the likelihood is you will need a larger size.
Walk about on the boot, test it for width. I need room to spread as I walk, especially longer walks, having quite wide feet. Without a wide toe area I’d suffer discomfort. Make sure the spot that the toes flex at is comfortable, sometimes I’ve found a badly placed eyelet creates real pain at the flex point, and can lead to bruising here, which is really not ideal.
If, while walking around the shop, you find your heel slipping, then a size smaller may be required.
Utilise the ramps, and steps, that are provided in outdoor retailers. These are there to check how your foot will slip and move in a real walking situation. Remember paths aren’t always flat. Finding out early that the boot slips in these situations, will likely prevent pain in the future.
With modern boots, often, rather than needing to be “worn in” what they really need is for your feet to get used to the boot. Wear them around the house. Use your stairs. Get a real feel for the boot, before you go out for any long walks. A good retailer will take them back if they haven’t been worn outside, so testing over longer periods inside will potentially save you money.
Correctly fitted boots are comfortable, from the start of your walk to the end. Will help reduce blisters and other foot pains, and make walking a pleasure, rather than a pain.
The biggest tip I can give is to make sure your walking boots are fitted correctly at a decent shop. Even if you were to go away and buy online. At least then you would know you had the right boots (Just don’t tell them I said this).
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