Boots should fit, especially if you plan to wear them for extended periods of time. There is no other way around it: a pair of boots that do not fit your feet properly is going to cause problems, as well as one that is too large for your foot size. But how can you tell if a pair of boots will fit, and how should boots fit in general?
Boots Should Fit Your Boot Size
Buying a pair of boots is just like buying a pair of regular shoes: in general, your boot size (or shoe size) is key to getting the perfect fit. Finding the right boot size for your feet is not hard, and you can usually get them measured – or just measure them yourself – without needing to spend too much time and effort. Once you are sure of your size, you can narrow your search down to boots that match it.
Remember that one foot is generally always a half-size larger than the other. This half-size difference is important since you want a new pair of boots to fit the larger foot. This removes the problem of a boot fitting your smaller foot but being too tight for the larger one.
Finding the Right Size for You
The size of an average person’s feet can vary quite significantly – some people are born with larger feet, others have much smaller feet. Either way, you need your boots to properly fit with your foot size however you can. To find a proper fit, you need to understand your own feet and how they are shaped.
Not all boots in the same boot size range are the same. One boot might have a larger width than another due to the design, and there might be all kinds of little differences that make one pair the right size even if another is not. For example, if the widest part of a certain boot is the heel, then people who need a wide toe box might not find those boots as comfortable.
Big boots, little boots, or any other kind of boots can run into this problem. If the widest part is the toe box, but the widest part of your foot in the middle, then the middle area might be too small while the toe box is too large. Feet are not one uniform size, so try to choose the proper options for the width of your feet rather than the expected size.
The instep is the upper middle part of the foot, which slopes downwards towards the toes. In any kind of boot, having a high instep can limit your options since most boots fit a regular instep just fine but are not meant for anything higher. If you have obviously high insteps, be sure to keep that in mind when looking up boots that interest you – the higher they are, the harder it becomes to wear shoes with flatter tops.
Your arch comes underneath your feet and is generally the part that you will notice most while looking for boots. A flat foot with no arch often requires you to have boots with a flat insole, while a ‘hollow’ foot with a high arch needs boots that can offer extra arch support.
The arch usually extends from the ball off your foot to the joint just before your toes, so try to find boots that can give you the arch support you need. Good arch support prevents slippage, plantar fasciitis (heel pain), and other foot issues, while bad arch support can result in more pain and less stable movement.
Your heel is critical to comfortable movement. While a little slippage is fine (and sometimes actually preferred), your heel forms the basis of most foot movements, so new boots need to properly support and stick with the heel as you move. Heel slip can make movement harder, and a particularly bad heel slip might even accelerate the development problems like plantar fasciitis rather than prevent it.
On top of that, the heel is quite vulnerable and can be a physically sensitive spot for some people. This means that damage to your heel can impact your entire foot, so having a pair of boots that can protect each heel might be important too.
At the other end of your foot are your toes. Each toe needs to be comfortable inside your boots, and that means having enough toe room to properly hold them all. Without proper toe room, not only will your boots feel snug, but extended periods of wearing them could even push your toes together. Extreme cases of this can even make one toe curve over another.
Your toes are important to a lot of foot movements, so you should not ignore them. If your toes feel uncomfortable, then your new work boots probably do not offer enough toe room, toe stability, or general toe padding. Like your heels, not taking care of your toes can result in major problems.
Ball of the Foot
The ball of your foot sits behind your toe box and is another key area for balance and movement. The ball of your foot can be useful for trying to align new shoes or boots and is also a point that needs proper breathing room to prevent compression or difficulty walking.
Every boot is designed to flex along with your foot, and this is often done with a simple ‘flex point’ concept. For example, a boot might only have a flex point where your foot has a flex point, meaning that the majority of the boot is actually solid and rigid. If your feet do not line up with the flex point, though, you can expect problems while trying to wear those shoes on the move.
Getting the Right Fit
Remember that your foot size does not always translate into the size of the boots you will want. Different areas of the foot can still have their own requirements, and even when boots fit, they might not be comfortable due to the shape of your feet.
Ideally, boots should not be too loose or too tight, no matter how they feel on your feet. Boots that are too tight will cause friction and rub against your feet, which can lead to unexpected pains and skin damage. Tight boots also are not that comfortable in general.
Loose boots are just as bad, but for the opposite reasons. While you might have more room and feel more comfortable, without the right fit, your feet can start to bounce around inside the boots. This causes overpronation, heel pains, and a variety of other issues that can make it harder to walk properly or even stand up comfortably.
Lining Up Your Boots
Try to align the inside of your new boots with the insteps and balls of your feet. If you can feel that the boots are holding firm against your feet, it is a good sign that it probably fits you well. A snug – but not too constricting – feeling is often the best.
How to Make a Pair of Boots Fit
If you are stuck with boots that should fit but feel off, there are a few ways to make them feel more fitting without changing anything about the boots themselves.
It might seem odd, but thick socks can be a major saving grace when it comes to making boots fit. These socks increase the width of your foot while you are wearing the boots, meaning that the socks can add an extra half-inch (or even an inch) to make your small feet feel slightly bigger. Thicker socks can result in tight boots that offer less heel slippage, solving overly-loose boots easily.
How should boots fit somebody in their size range if they still feel too tight? Sometimes you just need to break in boots to get the right fit. Wearing them for a while and deciding to walk around more often can quickly loosen up the material enough to give you a proper fit, all while stretching out the boots just a little minute by minute.
The result is boots that are able to properly fit your feet, providing you with a more reliable boot fit right away. Even better, as long as you have been wearing them for long enough, your boots will not suddenly shrink back to how they used to be.
There is no better way of trying to break in some boots than wearing them, so sometimes you just need to get used to your new shoes before you write them off as a poor fit. If you are not used to wearing small boots, then it might seem like the boots should fit, but do not – in reality, it could just be because you have not worn a boot that is designed to minimize the amount of room between your feet and the boot itself.
When you wear hiking boots or some other large-scale boot design, you need to check your own weight distribution. Boots that are a little too small can cause your feet to tilt to one side or even forward as you walk. This is important since it can result in your feet suffering even more pain and can potentially cause longer-term health or comfort issues.
This also usually results in more heel slippage, which is rarely a good thing no matter where you wear those boots.
Other Tips for Fitting a Boot
Fitting a boot properly is not always just about knowing which sizes to buy, but it is still an important part of the process. However, when you are buying a new boot pair for yourself, you should still be sure that you have exhausted every check before you even try to put the new boots on for the first time.
Check the Sizing Guide
Remember that not all size guide details are going to be in the same format. Some countries have specific guide systems that have to be converted over to another guide if you are in a different country: the UK and US are two very obvious examples of this. If you use the wrong guide, you could end up with a boot that is a size too small for your feet.
Break In Boots
While trying to break in boots was mentioned earlier, it is one of the most useful tips to share and should not be ignored. Wear your boots and get used to them since you can sometimes be pleasantly surprised by how much room they will create once they stretch. You do not even need to wear them – sometimes, freezing a bag of water inside the shoe can have the same result.
This is something that you will end up doing anyway as long as you wear your boots, so you may as well start early. Even just wearing them around the house or while you are walking home can make a difference, and it does not take as long as you might think – you just need to spend enough time in the boots for them to loosen up.
Include Socks in Sizings
Regular socks – not thicker socks – are still going to add some extra thickness and width to your feet. If you are wearing socks, then you put on a tight boot; it can just push you over the edge into discomfort. Be sure to check how thick your socks actually are: even though it is rare that they will cause any problems, it helps to be sure.
Look at Reviews
If you are not sure whether a certain boot will fit perfectly, look into reviews around the internet. A lot of recent posts might share things like problems with the width, issues with the toes not being big enough, or other things that could disrupt this perfect size match. Other people might also share or leave a comment of their own, which can add more context to the issue.
Do not be afraid to ask for advice about the issue in the form of your own comment. Name, email, and bot-check forms might need to be filled out, but this is a good way to get help from somebody with the same boot issue that you have.
Go One Size Bigger
If you are really stuck for solutions to make a boot fit, you might just be one size (or at least one half-size) too small. A boot that is slightly too big is much easier to deal with than a smaller boot, even if it means having to wear big socks as a compromise.
Basically, if you are a half-inch below the size you need, then it is better to go a full inch above. Whether it is size, length, or a specific area like the toes, you always want to end up with more room than you need rather than less room.
There also is not really a downside to having an oversized shoe. Unlike most of the tips here, this one may seem like it is going against the other tips, but you should end your search with something that feels right. If extra width gives you the comfort you need, then there is nothing wrong with choosing that extra width.
So, you are still looking for shoes that suit your needs? Remember that there are always ways to make boots fit better as long as they are larger than your requirements, but smaller shoes can be a struggle sometimes. In situations where you are absolutely not sure what to go for, choose a specific area of your feet (like the toes) and figure out what they need, then move on to another area.
Ideally, your boots should keep all parts of your feet safe and sound, from the heel to your toes. While you can wear shoes that are not a perfect fit, it is not always a good idea, so it is a good idea to rely on common sense when picking out which shoes you actually want to wear.