How To Tell If Hiking Boots Are Too Big + Solutions [2024]

Are you new to hiking and are wondering how to tell if hiking boots are too big? 

Or, have you already purchased a pair of hiking boots, worn them hiking, and later discovered in horror that they don’t fit?

I understand your frustration with buying hiking shoes too big for your size because when I started hiking I bought the wrong damn boots! GRRR

I bought beautiful expensive boots and tried them out in Spain for my first hike. I was in AGONY! I just wanted the hike to end 🙁

In fact, I was so traumatized that I hiked for AGES in sneakers after, then my feet got wet and I had to go back to hiking boots again…

How To Tell If Hiking Boots Are Too Big

Hiking is already pretty strenuous, so the last thing you want is a pair of hiking boots that don’t fit. 

And let’s be honest here, hiking boots are not cheap either,which is why getting one that fits snuggly is a win!

It is often easy to tell when hiking boots are too small as you will not be able to fit your foot in but it is tricky to tell if they are too big. 

There are several suggestions out there and the general rule of thumb is to take a size up to avoid discomfort but how do you tell if the sizing up is just right and not too big and how should hiking boots fit?

how to tell if hiking boots are too big

What this article covers: 

  • How to tell if hiking boots are too big?
  • How hiking boots should fit?
  • Are my hiking boots too big? Extra tips to follow (or avoid) buying hiking boots too big.
  • 5 solutions if your hiking boots are too big.


Some of the links on here are affiliate links, and I may earn if you click on them, AT NO EXTRA cost to you. I hope you find the information here useful! Thanks.

How To Know If Boots Are Too Big?

1.If blisters form on your heel after walking a while in your hiking boots. 

There is bound to be slight discomfort or rub spots as you try and break in your new pair of hiking boots. However, how to tell if boots are too big? If you are getting blisters after the boots are worn, it is a sure sign that your hiking boots are too big.

2.There is a lack of ankle and foot support as you tighten your laces. 

The difference between hiking boots and running shoes is that hiking boots are supposed to offer some protection for the ankle and foot to minimize straining. Tightening the laces should give your ankle some form of support. 

how to tell if hiking boots are too big

The support is important as you carry a heavy load through your hike especially when you are hiking for days, and give protection through the rough terrain and season such as winter.

how to tell if hiking boots are too big

3.You find your foot shifting side-to-side or moving front and backward even though you have tightened your laces all the way up. 

Your foot should not feel “loose”, the boots should not be squeezing your foot too tight and the fit should be snug and comfortable.

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4.Your toe is in pain as you descend downhill. 

This is a tricky indication as it could also mean that your hiking boots are too small. It is normal to experience a tiny shift forward but if your toe slides too much forward and jams the front of your boots causing pain, that is another sign that your hiking boots slightly too big.

how to tell if hiking boots are too big

How Do Hiking Boots Fit?

Hiking boots that fit make your foot feel snug at every point whether it is the front at the toe box, sideways, or at the back of the heel. They should not feel tight or suffocate your foot and there should be enough room for your toes to wriggle.

To find out how should walking boots fit, follow these pointers:

Tips on Picking Hiking Boots

how to tell if hiking boots are too big

1.Check The Length Of The Hiking Boots

Pay attention to the length of the hiking boots as you try them out. It is common if one side of your foot is longer than the other, therefore, make sure to try with the larger foot. Slide the foot all the way in until the toe touches the front wall of the boot. 

Try asking someone to see if there is a room between your heel and the back of the boots.

 There should be enough gap for one finger to slide in (but the insertion should not be too easy) and the gap should not be too big. This gap area will give room should your feet expand as you hike. 

Another tip would be to remove the insoles and step on the insoles to see if there is too much room around your feet. This will tell if the boots are too long.

2.Check The Width Of The Hiking Boots

We all have varieties of foot widths whether narrow or wide, therefore, checking the width of your foot is just as important. How do you do this? By tying up the laces of the hiking boots. 

This is important especially for people with a wide foot as you would want to avoid having your foot squashed up from the side uncomfortably. If there is too much room at the side, blisters will form. 

The right width size hiking boots should allow room for your feet to wriggle but not too much that it slides sideways. 

3.Avoid A Heel Lift At All Costs

The number one cause of blisters is often due to heels sliding up and down as you walk in hiking boots. 

Ideally, your heel should be in a locked position. Upon tightening your laces, make sure to leave the top part of the boots slightly loose but tighten the ankle area.

 Stand on your toes to check for any unnecessary heel lift. 

hiking boots too big?

3.Always try them at the end of the day

When buying hiking boots, always try them at the end of the day such as late afternoon or evening. 

This is because your foot most likely has swelled a bit more from all the activities done in the day. 

As you hike through the day, your foot will get swollen as well, and having sufficient room is important.

4. Bring along the exact pair of socks you intend to wear during your hike. 

how to tell if hiking boots are too big

How to keep your feet from sliding forward in hiking boots? Wear a pair of socks as you try on the hiking boots.

For those who are preparing to hike in various weather and will switch between thick and thin pairs of socks, make sure to bring the thickest and thinnest pair of socks when trying out hiking boots. This can help to snugly fit your foot inside the hiking boots.

5.Walk at different speeds and try different elevations.

If you want to know how should walking boots fit? While trying out walking boots, it is recommended to walk around at a variety of speeds. Keep a lookout for a ramp going upwards or downwards in the shop.

 The ramp will simulate the uphill or downhill hiking motion. 

There should be minimal foot movement in the hiking boots as you go through the ramp or at different walking speeds.

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6.Buy hiking boots from a physical store.

It is highly recommended to buy your hiking boots from a physical store where you can try them physically and try to avoid buying hiking boots online. But if buying online is unavoidable, the next tip will guide you on your online purchase.

7.Foot measurement for hiking boots purchased online.

Do hiking boots run small? Most online stores do not provide accurate sizing charts that customers will be able to refer to before making a purchase. In most of the reviews that I read on Amazon, there are problems with the sizing chart. 

End up the hiking boot fit is way off. If you are buying online, advisable to buy hiking boots half size up. To be able to know how hiking shoes should fit best, it is important to know your actual foot size.

Here are some simple steps on how you can find out your feet size:

1. Place both feet on a piece of paper and trace the outline of both the feet with a pen. 

2. Use a ruler and draw a rectangle around the outline of the foot. 

3. Look out for the toe and heel on the rectangle and take note of the measurement for both feet. 

4. There may be slight variation in terms of measurement between the length of both feet. 

5 Solutions If Your Hiking Boots Are Too Big

Most of the time you only realize your boot too big after you have worn them and chances to return them are close to none.

Those who reside in the United States and are REI members, enjoy the benefit of returning hiking boots at any condition.

If you are wondering what to do if your walking boots too big, follow these 5 tips:

1. Wear an extra pair of hiking socks. 

Try padding up your foot by wearing a few pairs of socks. The extra pair of socks will hopefully take up the extra room in the hiking boots. A good pair of hiking socks will provide extra comfort to your hike.

This is by far the easiest and fastest technique to apply especially if you are already out there hiking for days. 

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2. Tighten up the hiking boots’ laces.

If you accidentally buy hiking shoes one size bigger, you can try to tighten the laces on your hiking boots with force. Hopefully, with the laces extremely tight, this may prevent your foot from moving about.

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3. Use makeshift mediums as toe box insert.

Use mediums such as newspaper, sponge, or water-wicking cloth as an insert in the toe box. These inserts will prevent the toe from sliding forward hitting the toe box and causing injury. 

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4. Get insoles for hiking boots too big.

If you think are my boots too big, what are other solutions that I can try to fit my hiking boots comfortably?

You can try adding hiking insoles as another great way to reduce the size of hiking boots. Insoles reduce space by increasing the height of feet. Another advantage of insoles is that they add comfort to the heel. 

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This is how you can choose insoles for boots that are too big

For a heel that is slipping, middle to a higher volume of insole would be ideal as it helps stabilize the heel. Consider opting for a wide insole if you find the sides of your foot particularly roomy.

Here is further information on how to choose insoles.

5. Consider ball-of-foot pads

This option may be preferable for hiking shoes half size too big or for those who might not want a full insert as their hiking boots may not be too big.

A ball-of-foot pad is typically placed at the ball of your foot area to provide comfort.

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how to tell if hiking boots are too big

FAQ on How To Tell If Hiking Boots Are Too Big

How To Tell If Hiking Boots Are Too Big?

If you wonder how to tell if hiking boots are too big, check the amount of room behind your heel. Ideally, one finger should be able to slip between the heel and the back of the boot and if they get significantly more or less than that, the boot is too large or small. 

Are Hiking Boots Supposed To Be A Little Big?

If you think hiking boots are supposed to be a little big, hiking boots should fit snug everywhere, tight nowhere, and offer room to wiggle your toes. Try boots at the end of the day and wear socks to gauge your foot size.

For Americans, get your foot measured on a fit device at REI.

How Much Room Should Be At The End Of Hiking Boots?

The amount of room there should be at the end of hiking boots is to allow a full thumb’s width of space or one-to-two fingers. Allow minimal room for one finger to wiggle and if they move too easily, then they are most likely too big.

How Do I Know If My Boots Are Too Big?

Your boots are too big if your foot slips around inside your fully fastened boot as you walk. During a break-in, it is normal to experience heel slippage that isn’t over half an inch. Anything more than that can cause chafing and blisters.

How To Fit Hiking Boots?

Hiking boots should fit snugly everywhere, offer room to wiggle your toes, and tight nowhere. A good trick is to push your foot as far forward into the boot as you can get it on a flat surface. You shouldn’t feel your toes cramming up against the front and be able to fit your index finger between your heel and the heel of the boot.

Should Hiking Boots Be A Size Bigger?

Yes, you should get hiking boots a size bigger because your feet change size and shape depending on the seasons and time of day. It is worth having a pair of walking hiking boots with a half size larger to give your foot some extra room, especially on the toes area. Use thicker socks or a larger insole can fill up space should you need to.

Are Hiking Boots True To Size?

It depends on the manufacturer whether hiking shoes are true to size as they can come in different sizes and fits. Best to measure your own foot to get the correct size and better fit. Buy hiking boots half size larger so that you have a finger’s width of wiggle room at the front for your toes.

What Happens If Boots Are Too Big?

If boots are too big what happens to your feet is a painful blister, bruised toes, and lost nails because your foot keeps hitting the end of the foot. The most painful sign of a boot that is too big is getting pains at the tops of the shins due to banging back and forth every time you lean forward to turn.

How Do You Know If Your Boots Are Loose?

If your boots are loose, you can know from the front of the boot, your toes have enough room to wiggle and move toes easily sliding from front to back. Around the ball of your foot (the widest part), the boot will not fit snugly and easily slide in with roomy space.

Why Are Hiking Boots So Bulky?

Hiking boots are so bulky because heavy, high boots can offer protection and support to not only your ankle but your whole foot. After hours of hiking on rough terrain, especially when it is rocky or snowy, they are more comfortable.

How Do I Know If My Hiking Boots Are Too Small?

You will know if your hiking boots are too small by standing upright and checking behind your heel on how much room you have. Roughly if one finger can slide in between your heel and the back of the boot, you have a proper fitting boot otherwise the boot is too large or small for you.

Can You Shrink Boots That Are Too Big?

Yes, you can shrink boots that are too big however I would not recommend doing this as it can damage the leather and ruin the appearance of the boots. You can try soaking them wet and drying them under extreme heat (like in an oven) or just wear them with thicker socks.

Should Boots Feel Loose At First?

No, your boots should not feel loose at first instead, your entire foot should feel snug in the boot except for your heel. Your heel should slip properly in a fitted new boot and as you begin wearing your boot, the heel leather will soften and mold to your foot also the slippage will disappear.

Why Do My New Boots Hurt So Much?

Your new boots hurt so much due to the construction on the footbed being hardier,so you can get sore feet at first. It will take a while to break boots in and the harder the construction, the longer the process it takes. Once you have a break-in, the new boots will feel amazing and should last quite a while.

How To Tell If Shoes Are Too Big?

If your shoes are too big in length, your foot will easily slide backward and forward, while shoes that are too wide will cause your feet to slide from side to side. Eventually, this can give you blisters caused by the friction of your foot moving around. 

how to tell if hiking boots are too big

If you are a newbie looking to own a pair of hiking boots, these key pointers will help serve as a guide on how to fit hiking shoes. Hiking boots do take a while to break in given the nature of the boots.

However, there is nothing more important than getting the right pair of hiking boots that fits snugly especially when the hikes are long and challenging. 

You should not have to worry about hot spots, blisters, and other annoying injuries due to the hiking boots being too big. 

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