How should hiking shoes fit?


Whether you prefer low-cut hiking shoes or high-cut ankle supporting boots, here’s everything you need to know to get the perfect fit.

Hiking is all about immersing in the amazing beauty of nature. But your enjoyment of the great outdoors can evaporate only too quickly if you’re wearing ill-fitting or pain-causing hiking shoes or boots.

In this article, we explore some key tips to ensure your hiking shoes remain comfortable, even on the longest treks. So whether you're looking for a reliable pair of new hiking shoes for men or some feature-packed hiking shoes for women, you can be sure of the perfect fit.

How to size hiking shoes

An important rule of thumb is that hiking shoes should provide a snug fit - no more, or less.  Shoes that are overly tight fit can cause discomfort and blisters. On the other hand, shoes that are too loose can cause your feet to slide inside them. This can lead to uncomfortable rubbing and chafing. 

So, how tight should hiking shoes be? The perfect fit will firmly hold your foot in place while still allowing room for enough movement in the toes. In general, it’s best to have a finger's width of space between your longest toe and the front end of the shoe. 

Finding the right hiking shoes for every foot shape

Feet come in all shapes and sizes. For this reason, it's crucial to consider your unique foot shape when looking for a new pair of hiking shoes.

  • Wide feet: Those with broader feet should seek out hiking shoes specifically designed for wide feet. These offer extra room in both the toe box and the mid-foot region.

  • Narrow feet: Conversely, if you have narrow feet, go for brands that cater to a slimmer foot profile. This will help ensure a secure fit, minimising any gaps.

  • High arches: If you have high arches, look for hiking shoes that provide lots of arch support. This will help distribute your weight more evenly, preventing strain on your arches and any resulting foot pain.

Flat feet: For hikers with low arches or flat feet, stability is key. Look for shoes that offer supportive midsoles and a firm heel counter. You may also want to look for a pair that can fit any specially designed orthotics inside.



Ankle support and hiking shoe styles

Hiking shoes range from low-cut to high-cut. The difference lies in the amount of ankle support they provide. In general, higher cut shoes are better for more difficult terrain, as they help prevent ankle sprains and rolls.

  • Low-cut hiking shoes: These are good choice for easier day trips on well-maintained trails.

  • Mid-cut hiking shoes: Choose this style of shoe if you need more ankle support and balance. In general, they’re well suited for more rugged hikes and multi-day trips.

  • High-cut hiking shoes: If you enjoy heavy backpacking and exploring challenging terrain, high-cut shoes may be the right choice.

Hiking shoe closures

Another key factor to consider when it comes to fit and comfort is how the shoe does up. Some of the most common closures include:

  • Laces: It’s best to choose strong, non-slip laces that provide good grip.

  • Hook and loop: Hook and loop systems provide quick and easy adjustment of your shoes. However, you may not be able to tighten them as precisely as you can with laces.

  • Speed lacing: Speed lacing systems have a pull tab and clamp mechanism making them fast and easy to secure.

BOA® Fit System: The BOA® system uses a dial to tighten thin steel cables. It's easy to use, even with gloves on.


Trying on hiking shoes: A step-by-step guide

Many people have successfully tried on a pair of shoes in store only to find they become uncomfortable for daily wear. For this reason, when trying on hiking shoes, it’s important to try to copy the conditions you'll face while hiking as closely as you can.

  • Time of day: Feet can swell throughout the day. For this reason, it’s best to try on hiking shoes in the afternoon or after a long walk.

  • Wear hiking socks: As previously mentioned, wear the same thickness and type of sock that you plan to hike in when trying on new shoes.

  • Walk around: Spend enough time walking around the shop in your new shoes before purchasing. Make sure the shoes feel comfortable, supportive, and that your heel doesn't slip.

  • Simulate inclines: Many outdoor shops have an incline ramp specifically for testing shoes. Walk both up and down the ramp a few times. This is to ensure your toes don't hit the front of the shoe on descents, and that your feet don't slide forward when climbing.

Breaking in your hiking shoes

Even the best hiking shoes can feel different once you start using them on trails. For this reason, it’s best to break in your shoes before going off on any long hikes. Start with short walks and then slowly increase the distance and difficulty. 

This process will help mould the shoes to your feet. It will also highlight any potential issues while you’re still close to home.

Finding the perfect hiking shoes

Finding the right pair of hiking shoes can make all the difference between a painful trek and a great adventure. So be patient when choosing a new pair of hiking shoes, take your time, and listen to your feet.

At The North Face, we offer a range of quality hiking shoes, hiking boots, and other hiking gear for every need. So you have everything you need for all the adventures to come.