How To Size Hiking Boots - 2024 Sizing Guide (2024)

There’s a lot of opinions about how to size hiking boots properly for more comfortable wear. In reality it usually takes some trial and error. However, to drastically improve your chances of a proper hiking boot fit there is a lot you can do when choosing your boots.

For me, it is essential that my hiking boots perfectly fit me. If not, I come home with feet full of blisters and hot spots at the end of my hike. Not to mention, I could be at risk for injuries if my boots don’t properly support and grip my feet and ankles.

But despite owning several pairs of boots over the years, it’s easy to get confused about how hiking boots should fit. Many suggest buying a pair that is one size bigger, while others say that the shoes must have a snug fit.

Fortunately, I did a lot of research before my last couple of boot purchases. In this post, I will walk through what I’ve learned about the most effective ways to help you check the sizing of hiking boots. I will also discuss how hiking boots should fit for more comfortable wear.

How Should Hiking Boots Fit?

Hiking offers several challenges that can put your feet under different strains compared to regular daily activities. With that in mind, it’s essential to consider several important factors when looking for a pair of boots.

Check the Length of the Hiking Boot

First things first, you should check if the boots fit the length of your feet.

If you noticed that one foot is longer than another, do not worry. This is a common condition. What you need to measure is the length of your longer foot.

Start by wearing the boots with the laces loosened up. Place the longer foot inside the hiking boot and then stand, natural and straight. Then, move your toes forward until your toes touch the front end of the shoe.

With your toes fully forward you’ll want to see how much room is left behind your heel. This free space should be able to fit one finger or so. This way, you can ensure the boots properly fit you.

It is essential that there is wiggle room behind the heel. The reason behind this is that your feet swell after hiking for a whole day, so a little extra space in the shoes will come in handy.

Check the Width (After Lacing Boots)

Besides the length of the boots, it is also important to consider their width. If you choose a hiking boot that is too wide for your feet, you risk getting blisters on your feet. In contrast, buying hiking boots that are too large for your feet can only lead to discomfort and pain throughout the whole trip.

Fortunately, checking the width of your hiking boots is relatively easy.

First, make sure to lace up your boots tightly.

Then, feel your feet inside the hiking footwear. You should not feel a lot of extra space.

You should also ensure that your feet are not squeezed uncomfortably inside the hiking shoes. Your feet should not be able to slip from side to side.

However, it is perfectly fine if your hiking boots can feel a bit snug. It is recommended if they have around five percent stretch, so you can put on the boots easily.

Use a Brannock Device

How To Size Hiking Boots - 2024 Sizing Guide (1)

If you want to ensure accurate measurement of your feet, try using a Brannock device. This is an old-school piece of equipment patented by Charles Brannock in 1927 to calculate the size of your feet in three ways. These include heel to toe, heel to ball, and the width of your feet.

Operating the Brannock device is relatively easy to help you find the right hiking boots.

If you want to get both heel-to-toe and heel-to-ball measurements, simply hold your heel firmly against the heel cup. You should ensure that there is no heel slippage. Meanwhile, you can rest the inner edge of your foot against the indicator of the device.

After, you should press your toes against the device using your thumb. Then, you can proceed to read your toe length to determine the proper hiking boot fit.

Those who want to measure the width of their feet can use the diagonal width line found in the Brannock device. It usually comes in contact with your foot at its widest part. Make sure to measure both feet.

Once you have found your accurate measurements, some of you will probably realize that one foot is bigger than the other. If this is the case, it is best to follow the measurement of your bigger foot.

However, it is essential to have the same equal heel-to-toe and heel-to-ball measurements. If not, you may find it difficult to find the right fit hiking boots for you. Most of the time, though, you can go with whichever measurement is larger. For instance, you can buy new hiking boots in size 10 if your heel-to-toe measurement is size 9.5 while your heel-to-ball size is a 10.

You also have to take into account the different sizing charts of various boot manufacturers. So even if the Brannock device is accurate in measuring your feet, it is not enough to ensure that the boots will fit snug for your needs.

Consider Wearing Socks

How To Size Hiking Boots - 2024 Sizing Guide (2)

You can also use your old hiking socks if you want to size leather boots.

Put on a thick pair of socks when there is extra room inside your shoes. Doing so can add as much as a half-size to your foot, which ensures a more comfortable fit.

Wearing thick socks can also give you the necessary warmth, ideal for winter days.

Finally, thick socks can offer temporary comfort when you are out and about on the trails. During this time, it is more likely that you will have swelling feet. The socks will act as soft cushioning whenever you find your boots too tight.

Besides the thickness of the socks, you also have to consider their material. You can use cotton socks because they are comfortable. However, you might find that they are not the best choice for hiking on steep descents and uneven terrain. That is because your feet will perspire and release moisture whenever you are walking. The cotton material will absorb that sweat, which can lead to friction and blisters throughout the day.

Instead, use nylon and wool-blended socks. These materials can wick sweat to keep it off your foot rather than adding friction.

Add an Insole to Minimize Heel Slip

How To Size Hiking Boots - 2024 Sizing Guide (3)

Do you have flat feet and want to find a boot that comfortably fits you? If so, you can consider using an insole.

This boot insert will give you extra arch support. Hence, those with flat feet can find this method on how to size hiking boots useful.

Besides this benefit, an orthopedic insole can also close the gap between your heel and the back of the boot. Thus, it can ensure more comfortable wear throughout the day.

If you still notice any space in your hiking boots, you can consider adding a heel grip. This item offers extra padding, which is handy for trails.

Walk on a Steep Surface

You might also want to walk on a sloped surface to get the proper size of your hiking boots.

Spend a few minutes wearing the boots while walking up or down a hill. Then, feel your toes within the front of the hiking boots. You should expect them to move closer to the front of the shoes.

However, make sure that your toes are not touching the end of the boot. Cramped toes can lead to a lot of health issues and implications later on. These can prevent you from enjoying and hitting the trails for weeks or even months.

You should also still be able to fit your finger between your heel and the back of the boot. To check this, you can push your foot forward into the boots as you can possibly get while standing on a flat surface. Then, try walking downhill and uphill and see if the hiking shoes are comfortable to wear.

Break In Your Boots Before Your First Hike

Finally, you can break in the hiking boots to know whether they are too tight or too loose for your feet.

There are different ways to break in a new pair of hiking shoes.

One of the easiest methods is to wear them inside your house for a day. You can put them on while doing the dishes, watching TV on your couch, and performing other household chores.

You can also take the hiking boot outside for an easy walk around the neighborhood. By wearing them for longer walks and further distances, you can expect the leather material of the hiking boot to soften over time. This way, you can also ensure comfortable wear throughout the day.

Once the break-in period is done, you can determine if you need to return the boots or stick with them.

Should You Buy Hiking Boots One Size Bigger?

It is recommended to get a pair of hiking boots that is at least a half size bigger or full size larger than your normal shoe size. There are several reasons why you need larger hiking boots.

First, you can expect your feet to swell and become larger after days of hiking. Hence, you will benefit from a bigger hiking boot.

Second, you have to realize that toe box sizes can vary, and some hiking boots have a more narrow toe box. You might want to go for one size bigger to prevent your toes from being squeezed if the specific boot you like has a smaller toe box.

Finally, you need larger boots if you intend to use them for both summer and winter. That is because you are more likely to wear thicker wool socks during cold weather. Thus, having a pair of larger boots can be more flexible for different situations.


Hiking is a fun yet challenging activity that can put a strain on your feet. Hence, it is essential to choose the proper size of hiking shoes.

Hopefully, this article helped you find the best size for your boots. All that is left now is to pick a great trail and enjoy the nature around you.

How To Size Hiking Boots - 2024 Sizing Guide (2024)


How To Size Hiking Boots - 2024 Sizing Guide? ›

It's always a good idea to go at least a 1/2 size larger with hiking boots than what you typically wear since you will likely be wearing thicker socks, and will experience some foot swelling on longer hikes.

How do I know what size hiking boots to buy? ›

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.

Is it better for hiking boots to be bigger or smaller? ›

Hiking boots come in different sizes – and different fits, for example narrower or wider widths. Measure your foot to determine your shoe size and get the right fit. Buy your hiking boots slightly bigger. Make sure you have a finger's width of wiggle room at the front for your toes.

How do I know what size boot I need? ›

  1. STEP 1: TRACE YOUR FOOT. Put on the socks or tights you plan on wearing with your boots. ...
  2. STEP 2: MEASURE LENGTH. Using a measuring tape, measure the longest part of your foot to find your boot size.
  3. STEP 3: FIND YOUR FIT. Repeat steps 1 through 2 on your other foot.

Is my boot size the same as my shoe size? ›

Length: The length of your foot determines your boot size. However, don't assume your boot size is the same as your normal shoe size; it can vary between different boot brands and boot types. Width: Width is often overlooked but is equally important for comfort.

Should hiking boots be half a size bigger? ›

Many hikers suggest that a pair of right hiking boots should be a half or full size larger than their normal shoe size or even the hiking boots that fit you perfectly.

Is it OK to wear hiking boots that are too big? ›

Oversized boots can lead to a lack of support and stability, increased friction, and subsequently, painful blisters. Your foot sliding inside the boot could cause your toes to hit the front of the boot during downhill hikes, leading to bruising or even damage to the toenails.

How do you know if hiking boots are too big? ›

Stand upright and have them check how much room you have behind your heel. In a properly fitting boot, they should be able to get roughly one finger between your heel and the back of the boot. If they get significantly more or less than that, the boot is too large or small.

How much extra space should you have in hiking boots? ›

Double-check length later by pulling the insoles out of the boots and standing on them; you should have a thumb's width of space between your longest toe and the end of the insole. Try on boots at the end of the day. Your feet normally swell a bit during the day's activities and will be at their largest then.

Should hiking boots be one size up? ›

If you're planning on doing some serious thru hiking allow room for your feet to swell so you may go up ½-1 sizes bigger than you normally would. Buy for your largest foot. For most people this usually the left foot but not always. I buy for my left foot (size 15US), which is a full size bigger than my right.

Should hiking boots be snug or loose? ›

The shoe or boot should feel snug, but not tight, at the widest part of your forefoot. You shouldn't feel any pinching at the heel or discomfort on your ankle bones.

Where should my toes be in hiking boots? ›

There should be about 15mm between the end of your longest toe and the end of the insole (or a finger width). This is to protect both your toes and the boots: when walking downhill, your foot will move, and if your toes can touch the front they are going to be banging into your boots for that whole decent.

Do I size up or down for boots? ›

If your feet are a narrow width (and no narrow sizes are available to purchase), you may need to order a 1/2 size smaller than your normal size. If your feet are a wide width (and no wide sizes are available to purchase), try ordering a 1/2 size larger than your normal size. Your feet may be two different sizes.

How do I choose the right boot height? ›

Heel height is not included, so regardless of whether you have a wedge work boot or a heel, you'll still only be measuring from where the boot sole meets the boot shaft. Compare the boot shaft height to your leg by measuring up the back of your leg from your heel towards the back of your knee.

How to measure foot size? ›

Measuring your foot
  1. Foot length. Stand flat-footed with your heel against a wall. Use a ruler or tape measure on the floor to measure from the back of your heel to the tip of your longest toe.
  2. Foot width. Measure the flat width across the ball of your foot (the widest point) by stepping on the ruler or tape measure.

Should hiking boots be tighter or looser? ›

The shoe or boot should feel snug, but not tight, at the widest part of your forefoot. You shouldn't feel any pinching at the heel or discomfort on your ankle bones.

Should I size up or down in boots? ›

If your feet are a narrow width (and no narrow sizes are available to purchase), you may need to order a 1/2 size smaller than your normal size. If your feet are a wide width (and no wide sizes are available to purchase), try ordering a 1/2 size larger than your normal size. Your feet may be two different sizes.


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