Foot blisters and sores are never fun, but even less so when you’re walking or hiking.
Recommendations are to leave 0.5-1 inch of toe space when trying on new boots, but does this mean you should buy boots half a size bigger?
Boots should be the half a size bigger than your shoe size for summer use and should be the same size for winter use. If your feet are wider than average, you will need a larger size to provide more space. Your toes should be from 1 inch to 0.5 inches from the toe cap of the boot.
Don’t just pay attention to the size of the boot, as there are other factors you need to consider like the shape of your feet.
We will take a look at these options and show you how to make sure you get the perfect boot fit!
Are Hiking Boots Half a Size Bigger Better
The reality is, when it comes to hiking boots, your feet shape plays the biggest role in determining the size of your hiking boot. As well as the temperature outside.
A wider foot will need more space and a larger size than a narrow foot, and therefore a slightly larger size. If your foot is wider than average, then a boot half size bigger than your standard shoe size will probably give you the best fit.
The temperate outside also is a big factor in determining the size of your boot.
Have you noticed that in the heat your feet swell up?
Hiking in the heat will naturally cause your feet to swell and fill a larger area of your hiking boot. This is why it is recommended to have two pairs of hiking boots.
One pair of boots for the summer at half a size bigger to allow your feet room as they swell, and a same size pair as your standard shoe size for the winter.
Half a Size Bigger Boots in the Summer
One common result of the heat on your body is swollen hands and swollen feet.
The reason for this is that your veins expand as part of your body’s cooling process, to allow more fluid to travel to nearby tissue.
It’s fascinating how the body works, but this natural body mechanism means that fluid can be left behind around your ankles and feet, giving the appearance of swelling.
As your body temperature returns to normal, this fluid will drain away, but this is unlikely to happen until after the hike and you’ve had a chance to rest.
A boot size, half a size bigger than your shoe size, means as your feet and ankles expand, they have space inside the boot to expand in to.
This should give you a more comfortable adventure.
If you do find your boots becoming tight then stop, take off your boots to allow your feet to cool and rest for a while before you continue.
Same Size Boots in the Winter
Although our body will naturally warm as we exercise, the affect through the body’s natural warming process – and result of your body trying to cool itself – are two different things.
Your feet may also swell in the winter but it’s of course much easier to cool them down.
One caveat though is not to wear too thick a sock, to compensate for the cold, whilst wearing same size boots.
This can create the same issue where the extra space used by your socks has nowhere to go, and your feet end up squashing into your boot.
Make sure your socks are suitable for your hike or alternatively use your half a size bigger summer hiking boots in the winter, but just use thicker socks.
How to Calculate Your Foot Size for a Hiking Boot
The best way to calculate your foot size, and get the best possible fit, it to go to a boot store and seek a professional to help you.
They measure feet all day long and will often have years of experience to help guide you towards the perfect boot.
This isn’t always possible of course and for those times you just can not get to a store, this helpful guide should show you how to calculate your foot size properly:
These are the things you’ll need to measure your feet:
- Summer Hiking Socks
- Winter Hiking Socks
- Tape Measure
#1 Draw Your Foot
The first thing you need to do is to make two drawings of your foot.
One drawing is with a pair of summer hiking socks, and the second drawing for a pair of winter hiking socks.
This is so you can properly work out whether you can get away with one pair of hiking boots for both seasons, and, whether you really need two pairs.
To do this simply:
- Place your foot on a piece of paper with your summer hiking socks
- Draw (or trace) around your foot with the pen
- Change from your summer sock to your winter socks, and measure again
- Make sure you measure the same foot!
Don’t worry about the accuracy of your drawing, or your tracing skills, you will be the only person to see it!
#2 The Length of Your Foot
Now simply measure the length of your foot, using your two drawings and a tape measure or ruler, from the top of your toes to the bottom of your heel.
Using this measurement, and this chart, we can now work out the size of your shoe or boot
#3 The Width of Your Foot
We can take this one step further to calculate what width size you will need.
The width of your foot should be measured at its widest part, this is usually at the point your foot meets your toes.
You should now measure the width of the widest part of your foot on both drawings.
Using this measurement, and this chart, you should now have not only the size boot your need, but also the width size (which should range between Narrow and Extra Wide (EE)).
Step by Step Instructions for Measuring Your Feet at Home for a Best Boot Fit
Why You Need the Right Fitting Hiking Boot
Being comfortable in your wear, and your boots, is so important on a hike.
Knowing you have 6 hours of hiking ahead of you whilst your shoes are already rubbing against your feet is never a good position to be in.
It can be dangerous as well as uncomfortable. Many trips and falls are caused by being unsteady on your feet due to poor fitting hiking boots.
Here are just some of the reasons – some obvious some not so obvious – as to why getting the right boot fit at the start is so important:
- Poor fitting boots can cause blisters
- Too much gap in the toe area can cause you to be off balance and potentially fall
- Too small a gap in the toe area can cause pain around the toenail area, and in some cases for the toenail to fall off!
- Sores and cut skin
- Swelling of the feet
- Unsupported ankles can cause injury
- An uncomfortable hike is an unhappy hike
What size boot to purchase when in between two sizes
Half size shoe sizes are a pain!
Sometimes you can find the boot and brand you want in half sizes, but some only increase their boot sizes by a full shoe size.
So, what to do when your shoe size is in between two sizes?
You should choose the higher boot size when your shoe size is between two boot sizes. Your feet will naturally swell when hiking and your feet should have more space within a hiking boot than a standard shoe size. So, in almost every case you should choose the higher boot size.
This recommendation will give your feet more space to swell in the summer, as well as giving your more space for a thicker sock in the winter months.