How to Fit Backpacking Boots

How to Fit Backpacking BootsBackpacking or hiking boots are one of the most important outdoor purchases you'll ever make. Getting a proper fit is crucial -- if the boots are uncomfortable, you won't want to wear them, and a poor fit can also cause debilitating blisters or even frostbite in cold conditions. There are no two ways about it; if you want to get a good fit for your backpacking boots, you're going to have to try them on.


Difficulty: Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Hiking socks
Step 1
Put on the same socks you intend to wear while hiking. If you hope to wear the backpacking boots in both warm and cold seasons, use the thickest socks you expect to wear.
Step 2
Try the boots on for comfort, starting with your usual street shoe size. Lace them snugly along the length as you would do for an actual hike. Try on both boots, since one of your feet may be slightly different in shape from the other.
Step 3
Walk around in the boots. Pay attention to any hot spots or discomfort you feel inside the boots. These are signs that the boots are either too small -- you can try a half-size larger -- or simply the wrong size for your feet.
Step 4
Walk up and down any stairs, ramps and any other uneven surfaces you can find. Pay attention, again, to any hot spots or pressure points, any discomfort in your feet, and whether your toes make contact with the front of the boots, particularly when walking downhill. These are all signals to try either a half-size larger in the same boot or a different boot altogether.
Step 5
Stand in one place and lift up on your toes, then rock back on your heels. If your heel lifts up in the boot before the boot itself moves, the boot is either too loose, too big, or simply not shaped well for your foot.
Step 6
Jump up and down a few times. Jog in place. Your feet should feel stable and well-supported. Note whether the boots feel heavy; after a long day of backpacking, they'll feel 10 times heavier than their actual weight.
Step 7
Wiggle your toes. If there's not enough room to wiggle your toes, the boots are too tight; your circulation may be impaired and your feet may be more susceptible to frostbite in cold conditions. Another clue that the boots are too tight is if your feet or toes feel cold or numb after a few minutes of having the boots on.

Tips & Warnings

You feet swell through the course of a day's normal activities, and can be expected to swell after a day on the trail also. Try to fit backpacking boots during the late afternoon or early evening, if possible, to simulate your foot condition after a day of hiking.

Article Written By Marie Mulrooney

Marie Mulrooney has written professionally since 2001. Her diverse background includes numerous outdoor pursuits, personal training and linguistics. She studied mathematics and contributes regularly to various online publications. Mulrooney's print publication credits include national magazines, poetry awards and long-lived columns about local outdoor adventures.

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