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Hiking Boot Sizing Guide


By Ian Perkins Hiking Boots Sizing Guide


Purchasing your first pair of hiking boots can be a tough task. Hiking boots, unlike street shoes, need to be fit properly to ensure a pain free hiking experience. Be sure to spend some time researching the type of boot that you are going to need, and the types of fit that are available to you.


Types of Hiking Boots:


Light Hiker: The “light hiker” category of boots is designed for your every day hiker. Light hikers are designed to be easily broken in, comfortable on varying terrains and lightweight on your feet. They offer more support and traction then your standard street shoe, but don’t provide the needed support for carrying heavy loads over steep uneven terrain. Light Hikers should fit similar to your standard running shoe or sneaker, allowing for minor foot swell, and will not require a lot of break in, so they should fit comfortably right out of the box.


Mid Hiker: Mid-hikers are the middle ground for travelers going low and high. Generally these boots will have a more supportive sole, with added heal support to prevent ankle injuries. They are designed for hikers carrying approximately 25-40lbs of weight, and require slightly more break in time, but should be still be comfortable out of the box.


Heavy Hiker: The heavy weight hiker is designed for the extended trips carrying a large amount of weight. These boots are often a full leather construction, have a very stiff sole, and offer maximum ankle support. Heavy Hikers will require a couple of weeks of break in time, and will often make you feel like you are walking in “bricks” when you first put them on. Don’t worry, they will eventually soften up. Be sure to allow ½ - 1 full size jump when sizing these boots to allow to for the added foot swell when trying these on.



Footwear Accessories Orthotics


Orthotics: If you have doctor prescribed orthotics, always consult your doctor about your upcoming trip to ensure that you are healthy enough for it. When trying on any type of hiking boot, make sure that you wear your orthotics as they are intended. If the boot doesn’t fit with your orthotics, move on to another pair.


Socks: Wearing the proper socks is essential to finding the perfect fit. When trying on or breaking in your new hiking boots, wear the socks you intend to wear with them, as you would wear them.


Liner Socks: Liner socks can be used when breaking in boots and for added comfort during hiking. Liner socks are made of a low friction fabric designed to prevent blisters caused from rubbing. If you plan on wearing liner socks while hiking, be sure to wear them during sizing.


In-soles: 9 times out of 10, factory made insoles won’t do the job for hiking trips. Generally speaking, factory insoles provide immediate comfort and padding, however, over time, they will pack down and lose their functionality. Upgrading to an insole with added arch support and padding can increase functionality of the body and the boot, making your trip more pleasurable. Take some time to do the research on what type of insole will work best for you, and be sure to try them on with the boot you will be buying.


Things to Consider: 

Trying on Boots


Foot Swell: Foot swell is a natural reaction from the body that occurs anytime people are moving or relying on the use of their feet. When a person is walking or hiking for long distances, the repetitive pressure from the ground and the added flow of blood and other fluids can cause the feet to swell during activity. This swell generally varies between one half and one full size difference. When sizing your boots, make sure to accommodate for potential foot swell. It is always better to try on your boots towards the end of the day, after your feet have already swollen from the day, and to err on the larger size when trying to make a decision. While it is possible to be too big, it is much more detrimental to buy a pair of boots that are too small.


Heel Lift: Heel lift is the space that is created mechanically when taking a step. As you progress through your step, and transfer your weight from the back of your foot to the front of your foot, your heel naturally lifts off the ground. Before the boot actually leaves the ground, your heel leaves the sole inside the boot. When trying on boots, you want to create ¼ - 1/8th of an inch of heel lift while walking around. Clearly this is impossible to measure, however, you should be able to feel the difference after walking around if your boot has too much heel lift. If you are not experiencing any heel lift, then your boots are too small.


Toe Box: The toe box is the area of the boot focused on supporting the front of your foot. It often ends on the toe-side of your arch, and should be spacious and comfortable. You want to be able to wiggle your toes inside the toe box when trying on your boots. Remember, your toes will swell proportionately to how much your foot swells, so, be sure that your toes aren’t feeling squished inside your boots at home.


Heel Cup: The heel cup is the portion of the boot that contains and pads the bottom of your heel, the talus bone. This bone is just as important to movement as your toes are to balance. Be sure when trying your boots on, that your heel sits naturally, and that you aren’t feeling any unevenness or off balance. Damaging the talus bone can be one of the most excruciating and detrimental injuries while hiking.



Finding the Perfect Fit: 


We recommend to everyone that when starting to try on boots, you start from the inside out. Unlace the boots all the way down, creating as much room in your boot as possible before putting them on. Before stepping into your boots, check out your feet. Make sure that your socks are on properly, without any twists or improper bunching, and that there isn’t anything stuck to your feet or jammed in between your toes. If you are using insoles or orthotics, place those inside the boot and run your hands inside to make sure they are sitting flat are wont cause any accidental issues due to misplacement inside the boot. Once you’ve got your foot in the boot, make sure that your heel is sitting properly inside the heel cup and your toes have plenty of room. Then, start tightening the laces from the bottom up. Your toe box should be tight, but not so tight to cut the circulation off from your toes. The mid section of the laces should be firmly taught around your arch and the upper section of the laces should be firmly laced all the way up to the top of your ankles. Be sure not to miss any lace loops or hooks and remember when tightening the laces around your ankle that the boots should be snug and supportive but still allow for blood flow to and from your feet.


Stand Up.


Your feet are different shapes when you sit, then when you stand. When trying on boots it is imperative that you stand up to make sure that the boots fit properly. Before moving around, rock from heel to toe and feel how the sole meets your feet. Wiggle your toes and make sure they still have enough room, they should feel comfortable, but shouldn’t be “swimming” inside the boot. Test the length of the boot by kicking, toe down, straight into the ground. First check to feel if your toes are slamming into the front of the boot. If they are, then the boot might be too small, or too wide. You’ll have to play with this a bit, but when you find the right fit, you’ll know it. Next, reach down and try to insert your fingers down the back side of the boot. You should be able to get at least 1 finger between your heel and the back of the boot, but unable to fit 2 fingers. Now start walking. As you’re walking you should be feeling for heel lift and any uncomfortable or painful pinching, poking or rubbing where the boots bend. Anything that hurts in your house will hurt exponentially after a full day of hiking, so take your time when walking around in your boots to test the fit. Often, it can be good to walk up and down ramped inclines to check how your foot is going to slide when going up and down hills. We recommend trying on your boots on two or three different days, at different times, to ensure that your boots will fit no matter where or what the circumstances.


Happy Hiking! Hopefully this sizing guide will help you ensure that you have the perfect pair of boots before heading out on the trail. Trying on hiking boots can be tricky, so don’t be afraid to contact our friendly customer service department with any questions that you might have.

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