Have you ever went out to your local outdoor equipment outfitter and purchased a high end pair of hiking boots, only to suffer miserably when you wear them during your next day hike or extended backpacking trip? If you raised your hand, then you’re not alone . Every year, countless numbers of people in America and abroad lace up a brand new pair of hiking boots that they thought fit them correctly, only to discover that those same boots did not fit them at all, and received numerous blisters in the process. The majority of this problem stems from a severe lack of knowledge on the part of the store associates that “help” us select our hiking boots, and a lack of knowledge by those of us purchasing the boots as well. For more info, check out: https://thepnw.co/
I know you’re probably saying to yourself right now that it’s inevitable that someone walking or hiking a significant amount of miles will receive sore feet and blisters in the process. That sentiment makes perfect sense if you haven’t had an opportunity to educate yourself on proper boot fitting techniques, and as most of us haven’t been able to do that, many people suffer from these negative effects as a result. That’s not to say that I know everything there is to know about proper boot fitting techniques. On the contrary, I myself have suffered enormously from countless blisters on numerous backpacking and hiking trips, however I have been lucky enough to have received solid training in this area recently, and feel a strong need to pass this information on. Many of the techniques I will share with you in this article are tried and true methods used by many hikers and backpackers all over the United States and around the world, but some them are my personal methods of keeping blisters off my feet and may or may not work in all situations. I am not a podiatrist, nor do I claim to have any sort of medical background in podiatry, however I do have significant hiking and backpacking experience to back up my techniques so feel free to use my methods or not use them at your own discretion.
Alright, so with that being said, here’s my top five boot fitting techniques I have to offer, as well as some helpful hints and companies I recommend, so grab your pair of hiking boots and get ready to lace them up!
1. Always ask to have your foot measured properly with a Brannock Device
This is the single biggest mistake that most hiking boot (and regular shoe buyers for that matter) make when purchasing their shoes. While having an associate measure your feet properly with a Brannock Device takes a significant amount of time to accomplish, it can easily save you from suffering through the pain brought on by blisters and other foot ailments, as it will allow the associate working with you ( and yourself as well) to get an accurate picture of the exact shape and size of your foot. Knowing whether your feet are narrow, wide, or somewhere in between is extremely critical as it allows you to narrow down your list of boot choices just by looking at how wide or how narrow they appear to be on first glance. Not only will this save you time (and money), it will also allow you to focus your efforts on two or three pairs instead of trying on countless boots that did not stand a chance at fitting properly in the first place.
2. Ask the associate helping you how the boot fits on their feet
While this may sound a bit absurd at first, it’s a question that can really help you in determining which boot is best for you. If the associate is at all knowledgeable about properly fitting hiking boots, they will have tried on each and every pair carried by the store they work for in an effort to understand how each and every boot fits on their own feet. This allows them to compare their feet to their customers’ feet and if their own feet tend to fit better in a narrow boot, then a customer’s foot that measures wider than their own foot will probably not fit well into a narrow boot. The same can be said for wide boots and even those boots that fall somewhere in between.
3. Once you have the boots on your feet, don’t just stand there and touch your toes
Pushing down on your toes while wearing a pair of shoes is the biggest misconception out there in my opinion. It serves almost no purpose at all, as it does not give you an accurate depiction of how the boots fit at all, because as you move around your feet move with you. It’s one of those things that makes complete sense, but no one thinks about when their trying on shoes. Instead, you should move around as much as you can, even taking the pair of boots on a mini-hike through the store to really get a feel for how they fit on your feet. You should try them in as many different settings as possible as well; walking up stairs is a perfect way to see if your heel slides up and down, and walking back down the stairs will tell you if your feet slide forward to hit the front of your boots. One other great thing to do is to try walking in the boots over a variety of surfaces if possible. Most outdoor equipment stores that sell a lot of hiking boots and shoes will have an area with various surfaces for customers to walk on while trying on new boots and shoes. Take advantage of it whenever possible.
4. Use all the tools available to get the best fit possible
Many people think that the inserts that come with a pair of hiking boots are perfectly fine and do not need to be replaced unless they completely break down after years of use. That would seem to make sense, as you should expect to receive quality inserts when you’re paying the $100 to $250 for a pair of hiking boots, however that’s simply not the case. Almost every company currently making high end hiking boots uses the same manufacturer to provide them with cheap inserts for their hiking boots. Their are some companies that make their own inserts, however they are few and far between in my experience, and just because they make their own doesn’t make them a quality product. That’s why it’s important to ask the associate helping you for the pair of boot inserts they recommend for your foot size and shape. There are many different types available for purchase so its definitely best to pick a pair and try them out to see which one works best for you.
Lacing techniques can also be extremely helpful in solving those hard foot problems. Ask the associate helping you which one they recommend for your particular foot size, shape, and needs.
5. Last but not least, don’t be afraid to ask for a boot modification
Some stores will not take back used boots under any circumstances and that is an unfortunate fact of life that you might have to deal with. However, many of those same stores will make minor adjustments in your boot’s size and shape, either for free or for a small charge. These changes can range from stretching the boot out to make more room for your feet to fit, or even adding a plastic toe guard on the front of the boot to prevent you from bashing your toes in while hiking in a rocky area. While these modifications may or may not help everyone fit their boots properly, they can be lifesaver when nothing else seems to work, so don’t be shy and ask the associate helping you if their store offers this service.
– Lowa and Vasque hiking boots tend to fit people with more narrow feet
– Merrell and Montrail hiking boots tend to fit people with wider feet
– Asolo and Salomon hiking boots tend to fit people with feet that fall in between narrow and wide
– Leather boots can be stretched to adjust their fit while Fabric boots cannot be stretched at all
Companies I Recommend:
– La Sportiva
That’s it! Hopefully you feel like you have learned something new, and will be successful at fitting your boots properly the next time you’re ready to buy. The last thought I’ll leave you with is to not be afraid to ask questions. Buying an expensive pair of boots is a time consuming process that can be difficult at best, so seek out the answers to any questions you may have at your local outdoor outfitter. If they truly want your business, they will take the time needed to answer your questions fully, and get you the best fit possible for your feet. Good luck and have fun!