An Expert Provides Advice On Right Fit for Hiking Boots.

As hiking season gets in full swing you may be considering new boots for your upcoming adventures. In the thirteen years I’ve been helping people choose hiking footwear, I’ve gathered four critical tips to share:

  1. Length
  2. Width
  3. Volume
  4. Shape

Length – Two lengths are important. A) the heel to toe measurement that we think of as our “size”. Manufacturers size their products according to that length. And B) the heel to ball length also referred to as the arch length.

S-sizesConsider the size of the foot in Figure 1. This illustration shows two feet which are the same length, but each require different size boots. There are different fittings for short-arched and long-arched feet. Proper boot fitting incorporates not only overall length (heel-to-toe measurement) but also arch length (heel-to-ball measurement). Boots are designed to flex at the ball of the foot. Correct fitting properly positions the ball joint in the boot and provides room for the toes so they are not confined.



S-checkingOnce you’ve chosen a boot, check the length by untying the boot, shove or kick your toe into the toe of the boot and slide your finger down behind your heel as shown in Fig.2.  You need a finger’s width between the heel of the boot and the heel of your foot for the boot to be long enough.







S_widthWidth – The measure of the boot across the forefoot is indicated by letters A through E. Very wide widths are indicated by multiple “E’s”, as in double E or triple E. Fig 3 shows where width is measured. Medium width for a man is a “D” and for a woman it’s a “B”.





S-volumeVolume – The measure of the boot around the forefoot has no alpha-numeric indicator (and neither does your foot). Fig. 4 shows the location of the volume and it is important because too much volume could cause your heel to be continually lifting up causing a heel blister. Too little volume and you’d have problems with your toes.





S-shapeShape – Some boots have a slight curve inward from the heel to the toe and some are very straight. Like volume, there is no alpha-numeric indicator of shape. Shape is important to prevent pinching or sliding. If the boot pinches in any area as shown in Fig. 5, then the boot may be the wrong shape for you.

Some Additional Tips

  • Terms such as narrow, wide, regular, extra wide (and others) may be used by manufacturers to indicate a width size. These terms are not standardized. Ask the footwear retailer or manufacturer to get a specific recommendation on their width sizing.
  • Shop at stores that provide service to their customers and have knowledgeable sales people.
  • Be sure to have both feet measured. Many people have feet of different sizes. Fit to the larger of the two. Your foot size changes with age, weight changes, and other factors.
  • Have boots fitted in the evening if possible, when your feet have expanded.
  • If your boots don’t feel right at the time of purchase, they probably will never feel right.
  • Take time to fully lace and tie the boot properly and walk around in the boot at the time of try on.

One Comment

  1. Thank you for a great article. So much of what is covered here obviously should also be considerd when choosing a ski boot; too many people ski in boots the wrong size.

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