Having the right gear and ensuring it fits well is one of the easiest ways of enhancing your enjoyment of the great outdoors. It’s important that your walking boots and walking socks are comfortable and suitable for the type of walking you enjoy doing. This guide will show you how to fit walking boots so you can enjoy your next walk or hike in comfort.
There is no single boot that will be suitable for every type of walking or terrain; you will need to decide what kinds of walks you will be undertaking in the boots you are looking to purchase. Have a look through our walking boots range to get an idea of the types and styles of boot available. If you’re unsure, check out our Walking Boots Guide or visit your nearest Mountain Warehouse store, where staff will be able to help you pick the right pair for your intended use.
Ladies with wide feet could try the same style in a men’s walking boot. Men’s walking boots tend to be a little more generous and will give greater comfort.
If you are a man with a narrow heel and size allows, try a women’s walking boot on. They tend to have a slightly narrower heel which may offer more comfort.
High insteps can be helped with additional support from changing the footbed inside the boot.
Change the footbed to a thicker type or use a cork volume reducer to make the boot fit closer.
Trying on boots at the right time of day is very important. Later in the day your feet are likely to have swollen and will be at their biggest.
When trying on walking boots it is important to wear the same socks you’ll be wearing while walking. A good pair of walking socks will increase the comfort of your boots and having a pair to wear when fitting will ensure you get the correct fit.
If you use any orthotic insoles you may need to use and fit them into boots when trying on.
Often overlooked but trimming your toenails will ensure you get the best possible fit.
A boot should feel comfortable from the moment you put it on, if they hurt or pinch they are not a good fit.
Try both boots on at the same time, starting with your biggest foot if one is slightly larger than the other (which is more common than people think) as this will dictate the size of the boot you need.
The step by step instructions below should help you decide if the hiking boot fit is good.
Once you have determined your size (if one foot is larger than the other) put both boots on. Before you lace the boots up, stand up and let your feet spread into the boot with the weight of your body. If the boots feel uncomfortable before they are laced, this is usually a good indicator that they will feel more uncomfortable once you fasten them.
The next step is to determine if there is sufficient length to the boots. Sit down and wriggle your feet forward in the boots till your toes are just touching the end of the boots. Don’t scrunch your toes up! Then bend your leg forward at the ankle without raising your heel off the sole of the boot and insert your index finger down the inside of the boot.
You should have enough room down at your heel so that your finger is not squashed, and you can move it backwards and forwards a couple of millimetres. If there is too much room the boot will sit loose on your foot regardless of how thick your socks are, or how much you tighten the boots! If there is not enough room to slide your finger down to the heel, the boot is too small. Remember that there needs to be enough room for your feet to swell. If either of the above scenarios occurs, try on the size up or down accordingly and repeat the process.
Once you are satisfied that the general fit is good and the boot is the right length, proceed to lace them up. Make sure your heel is well back in the heel cup, and tighten the laces as you normally would for walking (don’t leave them too loose or the next step won’t work properly!)
With the boots laced up properly, stand up. The boots will feel very different from how they did in the first step, they will feel like they are supporting your feet (this might feel a little unusual depending on the type of footwear you had on prior to putting the boots on). You should have sufficient space at the front of the boot to wiggle your toes around and shouldn’t feel restrictive across the width of your foot.
Top Tip: The way you lace your boots will effect the fit. Try lacing your boot from the bottom up if there is more than one eyelet. Take the lace around the heel lock then lace as you would normally but starting from the top this will lock your heel down into the back of the boot and prevent your heel lifting. Try lacing the boots the way you would normally and from the top down and see if you feel the difference.
Roll forward onto the balls of your feet, them back onto your heels several times. The heel should not rise out of the heel cup, if there is a slight movement check the laces are nicely tightened and adjust as necessary. You can also try crouching down and bending forward to see if the heel lifts out the back of the boot.
Take a walk around the store to get a reasonable feel of how the boot moves with your foot. The ball of your foot should sit at the natural bend point of the boot (unless you are trying on a rigid soled boot, suitable for crampon use – where the sole should have very little or no flex). The toes should have room to move freely and the heel shouldn’t lift in the boot.
At this stage, you might be very pleased to find a pair of hiking boots that fit well, but never just buy the first pair you try on. A good shop will encourage you to try at least one or two other styles for comparison, so repeat the process again with a couple of different styles. It may well be that you return to the original ones you tried on, but it’s always worth spending the time to make sure you have the most comfortable boots you can. Don’t rush the process you might regret it later… miles from nowhere!
Once you have tried on several different styles and chosen the ones you like best, the most important thing to do is to make sure you purchase the exact pair that you tried on as they are the ones that fitted you best! Take them home and try them on again, and this time keep them on your feet for a couple of hours. This will give you a reasonable indicator of how they will feel out on the trails. Walk around the house, up and down the stairs. If you are not satisfied for whatever reason, return them to the store before you hit the hills in them. Unworn, you can exchange them for a different size or switch styles. Caked in mud the store may be less accommodating.
There are a variety of footwear accessories which with small changes can increase the comfort of your current walking boots.
Replace the Footbed
Changing the footbed can alter the characteristics of your boots dramatically. There are different styles available from the very basic, and cost effective (which are pretty much the same as the ones factory fitted inside the boots when new) right through to custom fit ones that you heat in the microwave and mould to the shape of your feet! Fitting a thicker footbed to an older pair of boots can improve the support they give to your feet by providing a tighter fit.
Change the Laces
Most people will only swap their laces when they break. Changing them early will improve the fit of your boots. Laces stretch over time and the outer cases are worn smooth as they pass through the lace guides. New laces will bring back friction so they don’t slip through the eyelets and therefore hold your boots better on your feet. Have a look at our range of laces in our selection of footwear accessories.
Change the Socks
Like boots, your “old faithful” socks might be well past their best. Most people don’t look at the insides of their socks (even though most walking socks should be washed inside out!). When new, the loop pile inside the sock provides a great amount of comfort to the wearer but over time this becomes flattened down so gives less support and comfort. Investing in a new pair of walking socks is a great way to increase the comfort of your current boots.