How Should Hiking Shoes Fit?

When you go for a hike, you need the right equipment, including socks and the best pair of hiking boots or shoes.

If your shoes fit properly, you can walk for miles and still feel energized when you’re done.

However, if they don’t fit correctly, you could have foot pain and bad hiking experience.

How should hiking shoes fit?

To answer this question, we must focus on the types of footwear out there, how to ensure adequate fit and proper support, and a few other factors.

How Should Hiking Shoes Fit?

When focused on buying new hiking shoes, the fit is essential.

Your foot is going to be inside the shoe, firm, and strong.

Adding weight means that the front of your foot takes more force, so the back of the shoe and your heel should allow for an index finger to slip inside easily.

If there’s less space than that, the toes can get smashed while you’re descending.

For width, your shoes must feel snug against the sides of your feet, but there should never be tightness.

Consider the widest part of the foot (around the ball). If it feels tight, it’s too small.

Also, there shouldn’t be any pinched around the heel or anything uncomfortable around the ankle bone.

To get the best fit possible, consider these tips:

1. The Time of Day

Your feet will swell as you go through the day, which is similar to what will happen on the hiking trail.

Therefore, it might be a good idea to shop for your shoes in the afternoon when the feet are bigger.

2. Fit Is Important

Though you may want to focus on the features of the hiking shoe, it’s best to have one that fits properly.

Just because the shoe has a lot of bells and whistles doesn’t mean anything if your feet hurt when you put them on.

The best fit allows the foot to be secure without any constrictions.

Hot spots should not happen, either.

This is where the shoe rubs on the foot and causes irritation.

When you move the foot to the boot’s front, there should be a little space behind the heels for your socks.

3. Spend Time Shopping

Though you may be impressed with the first pair you see, it is best to take your time.

Remember, once you put on the shoes and wear them, you can’t return them.

Make sure you’ve done your research and take enough time to try shoes on before buying.

4. Visit a Store

Even if you prefer to do all of your shopping online, you need to try on the hiking boots.

To do that, you need to go to the store physically.

Consider a retailer with a rocky incline ramp, which gives you a better way to gauge how the boot is going to feel while on the trail.

5. Shop and Buy Online

Your research should be done online at first, as it helps you see what is available.

However, online shopping doesn’t allow you to feel the fit.

Go to the store to find the brand and style you like best that fits you properly.

If you desire to buy online to save money, you can select that same style and purchase it from your favorite website.

Once you’ve found a pair you like, you can go online to shop when you need the same hiking boots again.

6. Get Rid of the Factory Insoles

Most manufacturers use flimsy insoles, and they don’t offer the support you need.

You can easily find inserts that support the arch and provide all-day comfort.

That said, some manufacturers focus primarily on the support and offer advanced technology with their insoles.

If that is the case, you might skip this step.

7. Test Them at Home

Make sure that, once you buy the shoes, you wear them around your house to give you enough time to test them and don’t get them excessively dirty.

You can confirm your choice as the best or send them back and try a different pair.

What to Consider When Choosing Hiking Boots

Whenever you select some new footwear for hiking, you have questions that need answers, such as Do they need to be snug?Is there a break-in period?, and How tight should they be?

It’s important to get the best and most comfortable fit possible, so make sure that you follow these tips and take your time to find the right pair.

1. Types of Boots or Shoes

Choosing the right pair of hiking boots is a daunting task.

Most people falter immediately because they don’t realize there are multiple options.

In general, you will find three versions of hiking footwear.

They are all designed for different levels and intensities.

If you match your footwear to your hiking goals, you are going to have more enjoyment and get more miles in each day.

A. Light Hiking Shoes

Often, these look similar to tennis shoes and are a low-cut model, which means the ankle part of the shoe goes right to the ankle or a little under it.

They usually feature a more flexible midsole and work well for trail running, day hiking, and any backpacking trips where you don’t want a lot of extra weight.

how should hiking shoes fit

B. Backpacking Boots

Many times, these boots are high-cut, which means they go over the ankle to add more support and help prevent twisting or sprains.

The midsoles are usually stiffer so that the bottoms of the feet are protected.

You may find that you walk over sharp rocks and other rough terrains, but with these types of boots, you probably aren’t going to feel these things.

These boots are also often used by hikers who are going long distances and carry a heavy load.

C. Mountaineering Boots

Usually, mountaineering boots are a bit more durable and heavier than your normal hiking boots.

They can be made of plastic or leather and often come with a removable insert.

They’re specifically designed for glacier crossings, alpine climbing, and higher altitudes.

Primarily, they use stiffer soles and should be used with walking aids.

It can seem like the best choice to buy mountaineering boots for their durability, but even on a shorter hike, they are going to feel heavy, clunky, and slow you down.

Moving to the other side of the spectrum, light hikers could be dangerous on snow-covered trails.

2. Flexibility

You are going to need various flexibilities based on the terrain that you hike.

When you’re on a smooth, easy trail, a very flexible hiking shoe is sufficient, but when the terrain is more rugged, you should consider less flexibility with the footwear.

For example, it will be painful if you walk on jagged rocks throughout your hike while wearing running shoes.

Of course, comfort is very dependent on your skill level and the distance you travel.

3. Appropriate Materials

When focused on the materials of your hiking shoes, remember that breathability is essential.

The outside of the shoe should be waterproof, but the inside should offer breathable mesh and wicking properties.

Most of the time, your feet actually get wetter because of the sweat that pools in there.

It can’t escape, so it just sits there throughout the day.

When hiking in warm weather, this is a significant issue.

Make sure that the uppers are of breathable material or include mesh inserts so that sweat evaporates.

Also, when the feet get wet, breathable shoes can dry faster than those which are waterproof.

However, if you’re in an extreme environment, like swamps, marshes, other water-prone areas, you may need them to repel water more than keeping your feet dry from the sweat.

4. Outsole Options

The outsole is also called the bottom of the shoe.

It needs appropriate tread so that you have traction on the terrain.

Easy day hikes don’t need the same traction options as off-trail trips.

Still, hiking shoes of all sorts need some traction features.

5. Weight

The weight of the shoes isn’t about the fit as much as how they are used in the field.

When they’re lighter, you put forth less effort.

Many manufacturers focus on lightweight footwear because of this desire.

The more weight on the feet, the added pressure on the back.

Long-distance hikers don’t often wear heavy boots.

The downside of lighter footwear, though, is that your lower legs and feet need to be stronger.

If you’re just starting out with hiking, you may find lighter shoes to be cumbersome, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take up hiking.

It just means you need to pace yourself and build muscle tone in the feet and legs.

6. Appropriate Support

Your feet can absorb the shocks of walking, and the shoes you wear can help.

The heel is quite padded by layers of skin and fat to absorb the first heel strike.

Plus, the hiking shoe’s insole can help.

It cups your heels, concentrating the natural padding to provide more comfort.

Arch support is also essential so that your feet don’t get tired.

Many times, hiking boots don’t have proper arch supports.

You can add new insoles or remove factory ones and put on your own.

Considerations for Insoles

Appropriate arch supports will benefit everyone.

Your feet will be more stabilized, and you won’t have sore feet, hot spots, and fatigue.

There are three common problems that new insoles can help with:

  • Overpronation

This means that the arch has collapsed.

Generally, the ankle rotates inward, which means the arch flattens.

Your stride is affected, so you put more effort into walking.

You may also get blisters because the foot slides around in the shoe.

  • Heel Slipping

Many times, this happens because the heel pocket of the shoe is too loose.

Therefore, you feel more friction, get blisters, and may have hot spots.

If this happens, you need an insole with better arch support and deep heel cup.

  • Plantar Fasciitis  

This happens when the tendon connecting the ball and heel of your foot becomes inflamed.

It often starts with overpronation and gets worse with time.

If you get it, your feet will hurt a lot, and it can take many weeks to heal.

To find the best insoles for hiking shoes, you should choose a few brands and set them up on the floor.

That way, you can compare them to each other.

Put them in your shoe first and then close your eyes while shifting the weight back and forth.

If you feel any pressure points, it’s not the insole for you.

Of course, the insole will feel very different once it is in the shoe.

Make sure to test them in the hiking shoes before you head out on the trail.

Keep in mind that the insoles don’t need breaking in.

They are going to offer support instead of cushion, so your feet need time to get used to that.

Boots for Plantar Fasciitis

Since we are talking about fit, you need to know how to pick hiking shoes or boots if you have Plantar Fasciitis.

In fact, this is a common foot problem, and one in 10 people are going to have it.

You are likely to know you have it when you feel a stabbing pain from the bottom of the heel.

Your plantar fascia is a connecting band of tissues. It is thick and stretches from the base of the toes to the heel.

It works to absorb the stresses you put on your feet.

Though it is strong, you can put too much pressure on it and tear it.

This creates inflammation, which causes the condition.

The tips mentioned earlier still apply if you have plantar fasciitis.

However, make sure you focus more on arch support.


When you are standing at a beautiful spot that you hiked to, stop for a moment to appreciate your feet.

They have walked on sharp rocks, dirt trails, and waded through the water to get you there.

Without them, you couldn’t have made it that far.

Make sure you treat them right by choosing the right footwear.

How should hiking shoes fit?

They need to be appropriate for the conditions and fit comfortably from the beginning.