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  1. Walking boot fitting – a question of materials
  2. Hiking boot fit – it’s all about the last
  3. Should hiking boots be a size bigger?
  4. Last, not least: Trying on hiking shoes

Hiking is so much more fun in well-fitting hiking boots. But if they don’t fit well, it can turn your hike into hard work – with pressure points or even blisters to deal with along the way. Which is why it’s so important to find the right fit and the correct size for you.

But first of all, you need to consider what you’ll be using them for. There’s a huge variety of hiking shoes and mountain boots out there, that are designed for specific areas of use. So what kind of outdoor footwear is right for you? The common categories should help you come to the right decision. (–> Hiking footwear categories)

Once you’ve decided on the type of footwear, or category, the next step is finding the perfect fit. For each area of use there are, of course, several models available from a range of brands. Some are narrower, some are wider. Some are stiffer, and others a little softer. Variety is a good thing. Because no two feet are the same.

But by following these 4 tips you should be able to find the right model and the best hiking boot sizing for you.

1 Walking boot fitting – a question of materials

Whether it’s all leather, or has textile inserts, how a hiking boot fits is key. For Alexander März, Sales Manager at HANWAG, how a hiking boot fits is also, in part, determined by the materials it’s made from: “In my experience, a hiking shoe or mountain boot with leather lining adapts to the individual shape of your foot better than one with a textile lining or waterproof membrane.” (–> Find out more: 5 reasons for hiking boots made of leather)

Walking boots sizing Alexander März Hanwag

"A hiking shoe or mountain boot with leather lining adapts to the individual shape of your foot better."

Alexander März, HANWAG Head of Sales

Because leather is so adaptable, it means wearing your footwear in properly is even more important. (–> Wearing in hiking shoes) But bear in mind that even wearing hiking boots in properly and lacing them properly (–> Lacing hiking shoes) is only the icing on the cake when it comes to fit. It won’t make a difference if the boot doesn’t fit well in the first place.

The key element when it comes to hiking boot fit is the ‘last‘.

Achieving a good overall fit is down to what’s called the ‘last’ that has been used.

2 Hiking boot fit – it’s all about the last

How a hiking boot fits is predominantly down to the last it’s made on. A last is a wooden or plastic model of a foot that’s used as the basis around which a shoe or boot is made. The shape of the last is effectively the shape, and therefore the fit, of the shoe or boot.

Each footwear manufacturer has their own style of last. Most will use a couple of lasts per model. And if that model doesn’t fit, then it’s usually best to try a different model. Because there are limits to how much the fit of a hiking boot can be adapted. Do you feel that’s not really an acceptable solution? Well, neither do we.

Watch the video: How to make sure you get the right boot fit (English subtitles available)

Which is why we make HANWAG footwear around several different-shaped lasts, to make sure that each model will fit a range of foot shapes. And so in addition to our standard last shape, we use six special lasts:

  • The Wide Last makes wide hiking boots for wider feet.
  • The Narrow Last is for narrower feet.
  • The Bunion Last is for people who suffer from Hallux Valgus, or bunions. (–> Hiking shoes with a bunion)
  • The StraightFit Last is more roomy in the toe.
  • The StraightFit Extra Last is even wider at the toe.
  • The AlpineWide Last is more roomy than a traditional alpine boot.

Find out more: Videos on HANWAG lasts

Hiking boot fitting – what’s possible? A boot that’s a little bit narrow can be widened to an extent. And if a boot is too big, then spacer inlays or heel wedges can reduce the volume inside the boot. For adjustments like these, always refer to a specialist retailer for advice (Find your nearest HANWAG stockist) or the HANWAG Customer Service Team (Contact us).

Using a range of specialised lasts like this is hugely beneficial for your feet. It means you can find a hiking boot that fits your specific foot shape, without having to opt for a different model because the standard shape doesn’t fit you.

But that’s not all. Our women’s lasts are also different from our men’s lasts. This means that we not only cover a wide range of feet but can also match our footwear shapes to gender-specific anatomy.

Walking boots sizing Alexander März Hanwag

"With hiking shoes and mountain boots, you should allow about a finger’s width of space in front of the toes."

Alexander März, HANWAG Head of Sales
How to check there is enough space at the front for your toes? Remove the insole and stand on it, making sure your heel is carefully aligned with the heel of the insole. Then use your finger to check the gap.

3 Should hiking boots be a size bigger?

Surely you know your usual shoe size from other shoes. This raises a question: Should you buy walking boots a size bigger? If yes, then how many sizes up should I go with my hiking boots?

“With hiking shoes and mountain boots, you should allow about a finger’s width of space in front of the toes,” explains Alexander März. “It’s important to have that space so that your toes don’t hit the front of the boot or shoe on the downhills.” It’s no fun if your big toe keeps colliding with the toe cap. It can even result in a black toenail or a painful infection.

In particular, if you are buying lightweight, multifunctional shoes with a textile upper, you will often find that you need a slightly longer fit. So try on outdoor footwear that’s half a size or even a full size (with thick socks) bigger than your regular shoe size for everyday footwear.

Expertise and know-how for your outdoor adventures – welcome to the HANWAG BOOTCAMP. Watch the how-to videos on our YouTube channel.

4 Last, not least: Trying on hiking shoes

Whether it’s in a shop or at home, before buying a pair of hiking boots or shoes, try them on properly – even if you’re certain you’ve chosen the correct last shape and size. Here are some points to consider when trying on hiking footwear:

  • The best time to try them on is in the afternoon or evening. That’s because your feet tend to swell a little throughout the day – just like they do when you’re hiking. If you buy hiking footwear in the morning they will often prove to be too tight.
  • When trying them on, make sure you are wearing the kind of socks you’d wear hiking. (–> The best socks for hiking boots)
  • And take your time. Leave them on for half an hour in the shop or at home. If any pressure points or areas that rub do not disappear during that time, then it’s very unlikely they will on the trail. In which case, try on a different model.
A testing area like this specialist retailer’s one is ideal for reproducing real conditions.
  • Try to simulate real conditions. Specialist retailers will often have a testing area, with a range of replicated terrains and ramps to walk up and down. If trying on at home, try to simulate conditions as well. And make sure your toes are not hitting the front of the shoe when you go downhill.
  • Is your heel securely held while you walk? Heel slippage is the most common cause of blisters. (–> Preventing blisters in your hiking boots) To test the heel fit, try on your shoes or boots with the laces undone. If there’s any sideways play, then the heel cap is too wide for you. Now lace them up, head up the stairs and stand on a step with your forefoot only. Does your heel move when you go up or down? If not, then it means you’ve got a perfect fit at the heel.
  • Your toes should have ample room to move, and not just to the front. In high-alpine mountaineering boots, not having enough space in the toe box can even lead to frostbite. But you must also make sure it doesn’t feel like your forefoot is ‘swimming’ about in the shoe.
  • According to Alexander März, climbing boots and approach shoes are the exception to the rule: “These should be snug fitting and not too long in the toe. Because when you’re climbing, having more direct contact with the rock is more important than downhill comfort.”

These tips should simplify the process of finding the right shoe for your next outdoor adventure. Happy shopping and happy hiking! If you’ve got any questions, drop us a line in the comments.

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