I know what a struggle it can be to find the ideal pair of hiking boots, especially for new hikers. Since hiking boots fit differently than regular shoes, finding the perfect fit can prove challenging.
I’ve made mistakes along the way and ended up paying the price by dealing with foot discomfort and unnecessary pain at the end of a hike.
In fact, one question in particular that my team and I often get asked has to do with how much toe room in hiking boots is ideal.
Everyone wants to pick the most comfortable boots possible. The truth is, that having both too much or too little toe room can cause problems, such as sore feet, blisters, or bruised and blackened toenails.
Here’s everything I’ve learned along the way about how much toe room you need in hiking boots. Hopefully, this information will help you with buying hiking boots in the future.
How Much Room Should Your Toes Have In Hiking Boots?
Most hiking experts recommend that you have the width of one to two fingers (or one and a half thumb’s width) of space between your toes and the front of the boot. Make sure you measure from your longest toe to get an accurate fit.
In my experience, I have to buy hiking boots that are half a size larger than my normal hiking shoes to get enough space. In some brands, it may even require going up a full size.
Please remember to wear thick hiking socks when you shop for a new pair of hiking boots. If you forget to wear thin socks, you will probably purchase a pair that’s a bit too small for your needs.
3 Factors That Influence How Much Toe Room Is in a Pair of Hiking Boots
As I just mentioned, the socks you wear when trying on a pair of boots significantly influence the amount of toe space the boot will have.
However, other factors can also contribute to how your toes feel in a pair of boots. Here are more specific details on what you should consider when purchasing new hiking boots regarding how much toe room you should have.
Feet Swell When Hiking
Many new hikers don’t think about swelling when trying on hiking boots. However, experienced hikers know that your feet swell when hiking. It’s not something to worry about, just a natural part of walking that causes the blood to circulate more in this area.
It’s not easy to replicate swollen feet when trying on boots in a store, but it can help to plan to try on boots later in the day (in the late afternoon or evening) when your feet might be slightly swollen.
Doing so helps to represent better the size of your feet might be after walking a few miles (since you’ve been moving around all day).
If you can’t plan to shop after a day on your feet, just keep this consideration in mind during your shopping.
If you try on the boots and they seem a bit tight in the store, the tightness may grow more noticeable when you’re out on the trail and could pose a problem with swollen feet after hiking or during a hike.
Material Of Your Socks
Like I said before, hiking socks play an important role in how well your boots will fit. In my experience, wool socks make the best socks to wear while hiking.
Wool helps regulate the temperature of your feet and keeps them dry by wicking away sweat, which is a good thing.
Your regular socks won’t work when trying on hiking boots.
If you forget to bring your thicker socks to the store, ask if there’s a pair you can use to try on the hiking boots or purchase a pair off the rack.
I once purchased some new socks on the spot, just to properly try on some boots.
Trust me, trying to guess if your boots will have a good fit with your hiking socks will not work. Even something like a reinforced toe area on the socks will affect the toe room in the boots.
Hiking Boot Insoles
High-quality insoles for hiking provide comfort and stability to your hiking boots and help you when walking on uneven or rugged trails.
If you plan on sticking with the ones in the hiking boots, you should have no problem assessing the amount of toe space in the boot.
However, if you’re like me and have a favorite type of insoles that you like to add to your boots after purchasing them, consider if the addition of those will affect the toe box of the boot.
I find that most of the “out-of-the-box” insoles in hiking boots do not give me the amount of support I require for long hikes. Therefore, I ensure I always bring the ones I use to test out in new boots to assess how they affect the toe space.
Related Article: How to Make Hiking Boots More Comfortable
How To Make Sure You Have Enough Toe Room In Your Hiking Boots
So now that you’re at the store and trying on your boots with the proper socks, how else can you ensure that you have enough toe room before buying the boots? Here are some tips you can do in the store to ensure you have the perfect fit.
Replicate Walking Downhill
Walking around the flat surface of the store can usually tell you how the hiking boots might perform on flat terrain. However, many times you will hike downhill or on an incline.
The last thing you want is your toes to bang against the front of the boot while walking downhill. That’s one surefire way to end up with blackened toenails.
If you’re shopping somewhere specializing in hiking footwear and other types of hiking gear, they will likely have a ramp you can use to see how the hiking boots will feel on downhill hikes. Walk up and down this ramp several times and see if your toes touch the front of the boot.
If your feet slide during this test, it indicates that the hiking boots may have too much toe room, and you may want to go down a shoe size (try a half size first before going down a full size).
Perform The Toe Tap Test
I also like to perform the toe tap test when checking for a proper toe room.
To do this test, leave the hiking boots unlaced and slide your foot forward as far as you can towards the front.
Next, place two fingers in the back of the boot. If your fingers can fit in the back, it means that you have the right size hiking boots.
If you cannot fit your fingers, you do not have enough toe room. Try the next size up and perform the test again.
Double-Check The Thumb Rule
Remember, you should have at least a thumb width of space between your big toe and the boot’s front (though no more than a thumb and a half). You can also wiggle your toes to see if they have enough space or feel cramped.
Of course, this rule is something we recommend. I always make sure to tell people that the ultimate goal when choosing the right hiking boot is personal comfort. So if something follows the rule but feels a bit off, trust your gut instead.
If, for any reason, you already bought hiking boots and you cannot return them, you can always use our tips to stretch the toe box of your hiking boots.
Tips and Recommendations
Like anything, finding the right hiking boot takes practice and patience, and the suggestions here will hopefully provide a good starting point for purchasing your next pair. Here’s another quick tip to consider when fitting yourself for boots.
When looking to buy hiking boots, especially if buying them online, I like to always read through the hiking boots’ reviews and feedback from others who have worn them.
This information often helps me determine the perfect size and gives me an idea of how comfortable they will feel.
No, your toes should not touch the end of your hiking shoes as it can cause bruised toenails and other types of pain.
Having enough toe room space in hiking boots is crucial for several reasons. It allows for proper toe splay, preventing discomfort, blisters, and potential foot issues. Adequate toe room also promotes better balance, stability, and overall comfort during hiking adventures.
Hiking shoes should have the width of two fingers (or a thumb and a half) from the end of your big toe to the front. When your foot is pushed all the way forward in the boot, you should be able to fit two fingers in the back.
You have too much toe room if your foot slides back and forth while wearing the boots or if you have more space than the width of two fingers between your toes and the front of the shoe.
Hiking boots that are too big and too small are both problematic. However, if your hiking boots are just a little too big, you can try wearing thicker socks or putting inserts in the boot to take up some space.