How To Tell If Hiking Boots Are Too Big? [The Perfect Fit Prevents Sores]

You’re planning that epic hiking trip. A weekend with the guys (or gals), a fire, camping, the whole package. But there is one thing you need to make sure of before you can head out on the trail. You have to check that your hiking boots are the right size. 

If your hiking boots are too big you will likely find a lot of blisters on your heel, that your foot moves around freely inside the boot, you get toe pain, and they are loose around your ankles. These are all pretty clear signs that you need new boots. 

Want to learn more about how to figure out if your boots fit properly? You’re in the right place, and this guide will take you through all the ins and outs. 

Your Boots Might be too Large If: 

#1 Space 

Your boots should be snug around your foot, everywhere except for your toes. If your hiking boots are loose even when you have laced them tightly, they are too big. If your foot can slide around from side to side and forward and back, they are too big. 

One way to avoid this is to make sure you take accurate and professional measurements of your feet. This helps you to find the right boots without taking a risk of them being too big or small. Some brands can even customise the width to suit your needs. 

#2 Blisters 

While your boots need to be broken in, after that period you should stop getting blisters and sores. If you start noticing blisters on your heel, this is a sign that you should look at investing in a new pair of hiking boots. 

The reason for this is that when you break your boots in, they also mould to the unique shape and fit of your heel. Boots that are too big don’t do this, which leads to them becoming less comfortable as well as loose on the foot. 

#3 Toes 

This can be a sign that your boots are too big or too small. If you are going downhill and suffer from toe pain, it can mean that your toes are pushing too hard against your boot because they do not have enough space – hence they are too small. 

However, the toe pain can also be caused by the fact that there is too much empty space across the bridge and the ankle, causing your toes to slide forward and hit the front of the boot. This is a sign that they are too big. In both cases, you need a new pair of boots. 

#4 Support 

Ankle support is pretty important, and we actually look at the subject in detail in one of our other guides. If you have laced your boots up as tight as possible and you still aren’t getting that rigid support, your boots are too big and you need to change them. 

However, if you have very slender calves and ankles this could also be the cause. It does happen, and skinny lower legs can be a little bit tricky to fit properly. In cases like this, you may need to try several different brands and sizes to get the right fit. 


Should you go up a size in hiking boots? 

Sometimes going up a size in hiking boots can be a good idea. If you are planning on hiking for hours over multiple days, you need to take into account that your feet do swell. Therefore, it can be a good plan to go a size up to keep your feet comfortable in these situations. 

However, not everyone suffers from foot swelling while on the trail. I suggest sticking with boots that fit well and learning how your feet cope with hiking. 

How much room should you have in hiking boots?

The best way to determine how much room you should have in hiking boots is by seeing how well it holds your heel. Your heel should be held in place without shifting and there should be very few air gaps around it. Your toes should also wiggle without touching the end. 

What can I do if my boots are too big?

If your boots are too big you should really buy a new pair. Big boots can be a problem, but if you find yourself in an emergency where you have no choice, there are a few things you can do:

  • Wear an extra pair of socks to bulk up the empty space 
  • Tighten up the laces more, it can really help secure the boot
  • Get creative using padding from the first aid kid or even sanitary towels 

Will my feet swell on long hikes?

Your feet might swell on long hikes. It is a fairly common occurrence, but it doesn’t happen to everyone. In fact, the more time you spend on your feet walking or working, the less likely you are to suffer from swelling on those massive hikes. 

How much room should be at the end of hiking boots?

There shouldn’t be much room at the end of hiking boots, just enough so that you can wiggle your toes without them touching the end. This should happen even if you are standing on a downward slope. You want secure feet with minimal space at the end. 

Final Thoughts 

Now you know how to check if your hiking boots are too big, and some of the things you can do to rectify it if you aren’t able to head out and pick up a new pair. Just remember, if your boots are too big they are not going to be particularly effective on those long hiking trips. 

Did you find this installation in our outdoor living guide helpful? If so, you should check out the rest of the series. Our guides aren’t just written by experts, they have been made to help make life easier for you. Everything from safety to footwear (and so much more) is covered.