Lately I have had a lot of women walk through my store, who have never worn hiking boots before and their question is invariably the same: “How are these things supposed to fit?” If you haven’t worn hiking boots before, it can be an odd sensation. With the snug fit around your ankle and in some cases, the heavy weight, not to mention the mountains (sorry for the pun, couldn’t help myself) of choice out there, it’s enough to send anyone back into the open arms of the sofa and a box of chocolates.
Which is exactly why I’ve created this list of tips to help prepare you for the main event. Buying new boots should be fun, not a headache, and if you get the right pair they will last years. In fact, I’ve had many customers come into the store and share stories with me about all the travels they’ve had with their boots, like they are long friends, and how reluctant they are to replace them. Hiking boots might not be as stylish as a pair of Louboutins, but treat them right and they will be your companion on many adventures.
Before you go to the store…..
Bring your insoles and orthotics gear with you. If you want to get the best fit possible, it is important to bring any orthotics kit you wear on a regular basis. An insole can affect the entire fit of the boot, and in some cases depending on size and width, the insole might not fit inside the boot!
Remember to bring hiking socks. These can dramatically affect the feel of a boot. Casual socks and even gym socks do not have the adequate amount of cushioning needed for hiking boots, and if used will cause blisters. It is also worth remembering that hiking boots will feel best when you try them on with a brand new pair of socks.
At the store…..
Get your feet sized by a professional. Generally, hiking boots are intended to be half a size to one size bigger than your regular shoe size for extra space in the toe box to avoid them hitting against the end of the shoe on downhill walks. In addition to this, each boot brand has their own standard of width, arch support, and size. Any decent outdoors shop will have someone who can measure your feet, and guide you towards the correct type of boot for your feet. It beats wasting hours trying on endless amounts of shoes, only to leave the store empty-handed!
Inform your sales assistant of any conditions you have. If you have any foot or knee injuries, or long-standing conditions, it is best to inform the staff sizing your feet. They can take this into account when finding the correct boot for you, and ensure they help you choose one which won’t aggravate old injuries.
Try them out on ramps and different terrains. Any decent outdoors store will have ramps featuring different terrains, which will allow you to assess the boots for any heel lifting or toe crunching. Ideally, your heels should not lift much when standing on tip-toes or walking uphill, and when walking downhill, your toes should not hit the end of the toe box.
Try on hiking boots in the afternoon. Feet swell after prolonged exercise, so to get the most accurate fit for hiking boots try them on after you have been walking around for several hours.
Buy boots that fit your needs. It can be tempting to cut costs and buy an approach shoe when you need a hiking boot, but in hiking like many other sports, you get what you pay for. If you plan on walking up and down hills, then buy a boot with good ankle support. As we all know, English weather can change at any moment, so it is advisable to buy a boot with some form of waterproofing in it.
Check the shoe fits. This sounds like an obvious one, but so many people nowadays wear wide, flat trainers or pointy-toed stilettos that they have completely forgotten what a proper shoe should feel like! Hiking boots should hug your foot comfortably without pinching it, provide enough room in the toe box to wiggle your toes, and provide a snug enough fit around your ankle so that you can move it whilst still offering support.
Substance over style. This is a biggie! Do not buy boots simply because they coordinate with your outfit, or you like the colour. Unfortunately ladies, after a few walks no amount of cleaning will change your boots back to their original pastel hue, so you might as well embrace their muddy brown colour.
Once you’re home….
Wear them around the house. Before wearing your boots outside, test them around the house for a few hours, including stairs, just to double check you are happy with them. No matter how accurate a fit you receive in store, any niggling feelings can turn into painful blisters when you’re out on the trails. Due to health and safety legislation, some stores will not provide a refund for any boots worn outside, so be doubly sure you want to spend the next however many years stomping around the countryside in them!
Clean them regularly. In order to get the most durability and prevent premature damage to your boots, it is best to clean your boots regularly. Check out my cleaning guide here for some helpful tips and instructions.
Get Outside! By now you’ve probably been going crazy with ‘new kit’ fever, and have spent every moment in the office anticipating a trip outdoors. Take your new fancy footwear out on a trip, and explore some exciting new scenery, like this place below….
Any questions? Post them below, or e-mail me at [email protected] 🙂