If you’re wondering how to make hiking boots more comfortable, you’re not alone. The last thing any hiker wants to experience while out on the trails is sore feet or blisters, especially during those long hikes.
I’ve struggled a few times with my own hiking footwear being less comfortable than desired and I know that it can put a bit of a damper on the day.
Over the years, I’ve learned some tips and tricks that help keep my feet feeling good throughout the duration of a hike. Here’s everything I’ve learned along the way about steps you can take to make your hiking boots more comfortable.
Why Is Important to Wear Comfortable Hiking Boots?
Wearing comfortable hiking boots is important because, without the right comfort and support, your feet will suffer. Not only will your feet be hurting by the end of the hike, but you also risk a more serious injury.
If you’ve ever experienced foot pain during a hike or have had your heel rub against the boot, you know that even the most minor discomforts can ruin your outdoor adventure.
10 Ways to Make Hiking Boots More Comfortable
Here are some ways that you help avoid an uncomfortable hiking experience and ensure that your hiking boots perform well regardless of the length of your hike or the terrain.
1. Buy The Right Size Hiking Boots
The best thing you can do to ensure comfort is to make sure that when you buy a new pair of boots, you get ones that have the right fit. A good pair of hiking boots will support your foot correctly, including your arches and ankles.
Proper fitting boots will also be snug, but not feel tight. You may have got a size bigger than your normal shoe size to ensure that you have enough room to accommodate thicker socks, custom insoles, or if your feet swell.
However, you also don’t want your boots to be too large, or that will lead to rubbing or blisters.
2. Pick Proper Hiking Boots For Foot Conditions
As you pick out your new boots, consider any special foot conditions that you have, such as narrow or wide feet or weak ankles. Make sure that the footwear you purchase works well for those special circumstances.
When I had to hike with plantar fasciitis, I had to make sure that I purchased hiking boots designed for plantar fasciitis that I knew had good cushioning and extra arch support, or my feet would be in pain.
Most people don’t need ankle support when hiking, but If you twist or roll your ankle often, you’ll want to make sure that you wear boots with good ankle support.
Just because a particular boot gets great reviews doesn’t mean that it will work well for your specific needs. Make sure to research whether others with the same issue found the boots to be comfortable.
3. Break In Your Hiking Boots
It used to be that you always had to break in your hiking boots before wearing them out on the trail, or they wouldn’t feel comfortable.
These days, many modern boots are made of synthetic materials, and trail running shoes do not require breaking in before they have the right amount of comfort.
However, if your hiking boots are made of leather, you will need to wear them for short periods of time before hiking in them, in order to break them in.
Full-grain leather boots will stretch and mold to your feet the more you wear them and may not be comfortable right out of the box.
4. Use Good Lacing Techniques For Your Boots
Believe it or not, the way that you lace your hiking boots does have an effect on how comfortable they feel.
Unlike street shoes, hiking boots have many different lacing techniques that can minimize discomfort, alleviate hot spots, and provide your foot with better support.
Understanding these lacing techniques and when to use them can alleviate many common discomfort problems, such as squished toes, heels that rub against the boot, and ankle fatigue.
The window lacing technique is one of my favorites for helping to remedy pressure points.
5. Stretching The Toe Box Of Your Hiking Boots
The toe box of your boot is the area where your toes rest when the boot’s on your foot. You want to make sure that you have enough room in this area and that your toes aren’t squished.
If your toes touch the end of the boot or your toes overlap, you don’t have the right size. This fit problem could cause issues like black toenails which can cause a lot of pain.
If it seems too small or narrow, you can stretch the toe box of your shoes out a bit and gain some more space by rolling some newspaper or a towel into a tight ball and stuffing it into the toe box for a day or two to help it stretch.
Synthetic boots won’t stretch as much as leather ones, so you will want to ensure they have a wide-toe box before you purchase them.
6. Wear Hiking Socks
Hiking socks are designed for wearing with hiking boots and will add to the level of comfort that you experience.
I prefer wearing thick socks while hiking because they prevent rubbing and are also pretty cushioned.
I also like socks that wick away moisture well, like wool. If your feet get too sweaty while you hike, it increases the chance that you’ll get a painful blister.
You may want to experiment with different types of socks until you find the ones that are most comfortable for you.
7. Add Insoles Or Pads To Your Hiking Boots
I often find that the insoles that come inside new hiking boots don’t provide me with the right level of support or cushioning so I need to add my own. If the boots come with removable insoles, it’s very easy to add a custom orthotic insert or another off-the-self option.
Look for insoles that best match the shape of your foot and have good cushioning. If you’re having trouble finding ones you like, a podiatrist can help design custom ones for you.
There are also a few over-the-counter brands that use heat to shape the insole to your foot and provide a near-custom fit.
8. Use Deodorant On Your Feet
Although it sounds a bit strange, putting some deodorant on your feet before you put on your socks will also help with them getting too sweaty in hot weather and reduce friction. Use a spray-on version and allow it to dry completely before putting on your socks.
You can also put a bit of baby powder in your sock before you put it on to reduce friction and keep your feet dry. Both methods are good options for making your boots feel a bit more comfortable.
9. Use Bandages On Your Skin, If Needed
If you have areas where you need extra protection to prevent blisters when hiking, consider applying some bandages or moleskin before putting on your boots.
Bandages can also be a lifesaver if you encounter some of these problems in the middle of your hike. Not only can they protect against friction, but they can alleviate some points of pressure too.
I always keep some bandages in my backpack first aid kit and use them more often than you’d think.
10. Have Your Hiking Boot Resoled By A Professional
If the soles of your boots are wearing out, but the rest of the hiking boot is in good condition, you may want to consider having them professionally resoled.
The rubber outsole of the boot helps to absorb shock and keep you balanced while you hike. If it starts to wear out, it can cause you to experience discomfort. One common reason that the sole will wear out is if you walk a lot on rugged terrain.
For this reason, check your outsole frequently and if you notice that it has any damage, the grip is worn out, or it doesn’t seem level, take it to a professional for repair.
What if None of These Methods Work?
If you’ve tried all of these methods and none of them seem to work to make your hiking shoes more comfortable, it’s time for a new pair. All hiking shoes have a lifespan and not even the highest-quality or most-expensive boots will need replacing eventually.
When it’s finally time to replace your hiking boots, make sure that you find the right hiking boots by following the suggestions I’ve provided for comfort and making sure the boots fit.
Walking out of the store with comfy hiking shoes will prevent many problems and greatly affect the comfort of your experience.
Do Boots Loosen Over Time?
A quality leather hiking shoe will stretch and loosen over time due to the weight and stress that your feet put on them while walking and the fact that leather naturally softens.
If you need your hiking shoe to be stretched more quickly, make sure that you follow the steps for properly breaking them in, which involves walking in them for short periods of time each day for a few weeks before wearing them on a longer hike.
Should I Buy Boots Bigger Or Smaller?
Whether you need a size bigger or a size smaller hiking shoe will depend on various factors, including the type of shoe, the brand, and other variables, such as the socks that you typically wear when hiking.
Some hikers always recommend purchasing a size bigger than your normal shoe, however, I find that’s not always the best solution.
Some brands like La Sportiva tend to run a bit on the smaller side and other brands like Salomon can run a bit bigger or run wide.
Make sure that you read the reviews about the fit of the boot before purchasing. Whenever possible, it’s always best to try on the boots in person to get the best feel for their sizing.
If You Want More Comfort, Should Your Hiking Boots Be a Half Size Bigger?
As just mentioned, so many factors come into the overall comfort of your hiking shoes, that finding the right boots for your feet is more than just size.
The best-fitting boot is one that has the right combination of fit and comfort. It will cradle your foot well and not cause any rubbing or pain. A boot that’s bigger, won’t necessarily reduce these issues.
Sometimes, boots run true to size, sometimes they run big, and sometimes they run small. The key is to try them on with the exact insole and sock that you will wear on the trail and determine the comfort level then.
More Comfortable, Better
The key takeaway that you want to note when shopping for hiking footwear is that you want your feet comfortable for your outdoor adventures.
We’ve tried many different brands and styles of boots and have recommendations for the best boots for a variety of conditions, whether you need more ankle support, wide feet hiking boots, or want boots with a waterproof membrane.
Once you find the right pair of boots, your feet will thank you.