How to Size Hiking Boots?

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

Combination Genuine Brannock brand Device

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

Black Socks

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

Plantar Fasciitis Feet Insoles Arch Supports Orthotics Inserts for Flat Feet

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.