How To Tell If Hiking Boots Are Too Big (3 Easy Ways + Tips)

Very often I’m asked by people about how to tell if hiking boots are too big and how much room should the boots have in the toe box when wearing them.

I’ve been an avid hiker for many years and have worn my fair share of all types of hiking boots. One thing that can be very confusing when purchasing new boots is the proper sizing for these types of hiking footwear.  

It’s taken a lot of trial, error, and research, but over the years, I’ve mastered the art of purchasing new hiking boots. Here I’ll tell you everything that you need to know about how to ensure a proper fit when buying hiking boots.

Quick Summary 

  • Proper fitting hiking boots are an essential part of ensuring comfort and safety during adventures.
  • Hiking boots have too much room if your foot slips back and forth or your ankle rolls in use. 
  • Measure your feet with socks and perform certain other sizing checks when buying a new pair to see if you need a smaller size.  

How Do You Know If Your Hiking Boots Are Too Big?

tie your hiking boots if they are too large

If you’re wondering how to tell if hiking boots are too big, you can look for various indicators. For example, if you can’t flex your foot at the breakpoint (the widest part of your foot) properly when you wear them, it’s a clear sign.

Other signs include your heel or your feet slipping when you walk in them. If the boots allow your feet to slip from front to back when you wear them, you may get blisters during hikes.  

Here are some things you should consider to determine if your hiking boots are a little too big and how much toe room you should have in your hiking boots.

Remember, your normal foot size may translate to a different size when purchasing this type of footwear.  

After A Hike, Your Feet Have Blisters 

Even tho blisters can be treated, they are a key indicator that tells if hiking boots do not fit properly, and they are an extremely painful way to find out.

Blisters occur when your feet rub against the material of the boot and can happen even when wearing socks. If your boot has too much extra space, you will find that this occurs and causes issues. 

find out If Your Hiking Boots Are Too Big

You Don’t Feel Like Your Have The Proper Ankle Support 

One of the most important things for hiking boots to have is proper ankle support. You do not want your ankles to roll while you hike, as it could lead to a potential injury.

If you notice this type of movement while wearing your hiking boots, it’s a clear sign that they are a little too big.  

If you particularly looking for ankle support in a boot, we’ve made a list of the best hiking boots for ankle support that we personally tried and tested.

Your Foot Slips When You Walk 

If you’re walking, especially downhill, and feel like your foot is slipping forward toward the toe box, it’s a good way to tell if hiking boots are big.

You want your foot to feel secure in the boot and not move around, which, again, can cause rubbing and blisters, especially if your big toe keeps hitting the front of the boot. 

3 Sizing Checks To Perform When Trying On Boots 

Now that you know some of the key indicators for how to tell if your hiking boots are too big, consider completing the following steps when fitting hiking boots. These considerations will help you determine if you’re working with the right size of boots. 

Wear socks when trying shoes
Wear socks when trying shoes

1. Wear The Socks You Plan To Wear While Hiking 

Most of the time, your hiking socks will be thicker than the socks you wear in everyday life. Therefore, it’s important that you try on boots wearing the thickest sock that you will wear when you hike.

Even when measuring your foot prior to trying on boots, wear the type and thickness of the socks that you will wear during your hikes. If you don’t, you may end up thinking that your boots are too big when they are actually the proper size.  

2. Simulate The Movement Your Foot Makes When Hiking

After trying on the hiking boots, roll your foot forward and backward from your heel to your toe. This action mimics the movement that your feet make when you’re actually hiking.

If your foot seems to slip up and down while you do this, it signifies that the boots are too big. If available, you can even take a quick stroll up and walk uphill (or on a ramp) in them to mimic the stepping action that you will take on the hiking trail. 

3. Test The Ankle Support 

Roll your foot from side to side when you are wearing the boots and try leaning over in them.

If you notice a good amount of movement when you do these things, it means that the boot likely won’t provide the support that you need in a real hiking environment, and they are too big. Aim for no more than a thumb width of space.      

What Can You Do If Your Hiking Boots Are Too Big?

If you find yourself with a pair of hiking boots that is just too big, you can do a few things to try and adjust them to fit better and not cause problems or discomfort.

Always use good quality hiking socks with your boots

Keep in mind, though, that these adjustments primarily help with the width, buying hiking boots that are too big in length often causes a more difficult problem, and you should likely return them for the proper size. 

Wear Them With Thicker Socks

A pair of thick socks will make your foot larger and therefore, it will take up more space in the hiking boot. An alternate method is to put an extra pair on each foot. Either way, you should find that you have less heel slippage inside of the boot.     

Consider Lacing Them A Different Way

Alternate ways of lacing hiking boots exist, which can help them to fit more tightly. Methods such as “quick tight” lacing allow you to customize the areas of the boot that you tighten to create a fully fastened boot that makes the ankle feel more secure [1].   

Swap Out The Laces

You can also swap out the laces entirely to achieve a better fit. Many options exist on the market, that can help with making the boots fit tighter and more securely. Make sure that the pair you choose is strong and able to be pulled tight without breaking.   

Insert Insoles or Use Blister Pads

use insoles for hiking boots
Placing insoles inside your hiking boots helps!

Various insoles exist that you can place inside of the boot to take up extra space and, in particular, prevent heel slippage.

Look for heel lift brands that specifically provide extra padding in the boot. 

If you have a blister kit, put blister pads on certain areas of your feet.

This action will also help to take up more space in the boot and prevent rubbing.      

Check our guide where we review and compare the best insoles for hiking on the market.

Return or Exchange The Boots 

Properly one of the best things to do if your hiking boots are too big is to exchange them for a smaller size.

The risks of injury or discomfort from wearing the wrong size outweigh taking the chance.

Shopping for hiking boots in a physical store is always the best option, but if you must make your purchase from an online shoe store, make sure that you check the return and exchange policy and can swap them out for a different size if needed.

Remember, hiking boots are an investment.   

Tips And Recommendations 

Hopefully, you fully understand how to tell if hiking boots are too big and the steps to take to solve the problem. Here are a few other tips to help you with finding the right boots. 

  • If making your purchase online, make sure to review the sizing guide for the manufacturer and read other customer reviews and feedback for any additional sizing tips. 
  • Remember that you don’t want your hiking boot to fit too small either, as that also poses problems, although some materials will stretch when worn, so it might be an easier issue to fix.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Hiking Boots Supposed to Be a Little Big?

You want to make sure that your hiking boots fit big enough to wear with thick socks, so allow a little extra room. However, if they are too large, they will cause significant issues on your hiking adventure.

You want to make sure that your hiking boots fit big enough to wear with thick socks, so allow a little extra room. However, if they are too large, they will cause significant issues on your hiking adventure.

Is It Ok to Wear Hiking Boots That Are Too Big?

Wearing hiking shoes that have too much space in them will cause issues such as blisters, twisted ankles, toe pain, and even pain in your legs. It is imperative that when you fit hiking boots, you perform extra measuring checks to ensure protection against these issues.  

How Much Room Should Be at the End of Hiking Boots?

You should only have just a little over half an inch of room in the toe. Anything over an inch in the toe box provides an increased risk of discomfort. Less is too small.  

Should I Wear Thick Socks to Compensate for Oversized Hiking Boots?

Wearing thick socks to compensate for oversized hiking boots is not recommended. It may lead to further discomfort and sore feet. It’s best to address the issue by finding properly fitting hiking boots rather than relying on thicker socks.



Jennifer Strom

Jennifer Strom

Jennifer Strom has been a writer for over 20 years and an outdoor and hiking enthusiast for most of her life. After spending much of her career in the corporate world, she decided to freelance to spend more time with her family and explore new places. You will find her always looking forward to her next weekend adventure and writing guides that help others make the most of their own hikes and time outdoors.

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