How Should Boots Fit?

There’s nothing worse than purchasing a flashy and expensive new pair of boots only to find that they’re too tight or too loose around your feet when you get home. 

When you’re trying boots on in-store, it can often be a confusing process if you’re unable to properly test the toe box and have to base your judgment on the heel slip (something which is disputed by many). What’s more, if you’re buying boots online, this is made even more challenging. 

However, finding the right size shouldn’t be trial-and-error, and you shouldn’t have to guess from one brand to the other. With all the correct information, selecting the right size boots should be a relatively simple and straightforward task. 

Therefore, with this in mind, we’ve compiled a guide that breaks down exactly how a pair of perfectly sized boots should feel, including six of the main considerations to take into account. 

What Happens If You Choose The Wrong Size? 

Choosing the wrong size boot isn’t frustrating and uncomfortable, it can also lead to several more serious foot issues. 

If your boots are too big and your feet are sliding around in them, this can cause corns – which are hardened pads of dead skin that form from rubbing and pressure. Furthermore, corns can attach themselves to deeper soft tissue, making them increasingly difficult to remove. 

Wearing oversized boots can also cause achilles tendonitis and damage ankle ligaments. These are serious long-term health issues and will likely require medical intervention. 

On the other hand, if your boots are too small and tight, this can result in just as many problems as large boots. Tight-fitting footwear is a major cause of ingrown toenails, so if your feet feel jammed up inside your boots, it’s likely that lifting your toenails from their bed, allowing microorganisms to enter. 

Also, boots that squeeze your feet and don’t allow for a great deal of air circulation can lead to an athlete’s foot. This is another uncomfortable and hard-to-resolve condition that’s best avoided. 

We’ll now take a more detailed look at six of the main considerations you should keep in mind when purchasing a new pair of boots.

The Flex Point 

The most important component of fit is the flex point. This is where the boot breaks on your foot, so take a short walk around your living room with your boots on and take a note of where the shoe naturally bends. 

Ideally, this natural crease should line up with where your foot also flexes: at the toe line. If you’re wearing boots that break in the wrong spot – whether that’s too near the center or too near the toe cap – this can cause rubbing and a noticeable lack of support whilst you’re walking. 

If you’ve bought a pair of boots that are made with stiff leather and don’t have much flex in them, you should still be able to see where the boot flexes. They may just need more break-in time. 

Another way of checking the flex point is to inspect the width of the shoe. The widest part of the boot should match up with the widest part of your foot (the ball). 

The Heel 

The next most important consideration is the heel, and this may be the one that provides the most controversy. The controversy mainly derives from the one question that’s often on people’s lips: is it okay to have some heel slip? 

If you’re buying a quality pair of boots, it’s fairly likely that you’ll start with a little bit of heel slippage. This is perfectly acceptable, so long as your heel is only moving a quarter to half an inch. Anything more than this, you should probably size down. 

Also, keep in mind that some people prefer this slight heel slippage as boots with zero slip on the first wear can often be too stiff on the foot – especially if they have super stiff soles. 

All boots have a break-in period and during this period the insole and leather should shape to your foot, in turn, decreasing the slip. Therefore, a lot of the time you’ll find that boots bought with a quarter-inch of heel slip fit perfectly just a couple of weeks later. 

If the heel doesn’t snug up to your foot enough in a few months, there are plenty of products you can get to fix the issue. For example, heel snugs can offer some comfortable padding and easily solve the problem

The Arch

Most of the boots you’ll find on the market rarely come with arch support. This isn’t too much of a problem for most people, but for those who have flat feet, suffer from plantar fasciitis or require arch support for any other reason, it’s important to factor this into your boot size. The chances are you’ll be adding an insole and this can change how your boot fits. 

The most effective way of figuring out whether your boot fits comfortably with an orthotic insole is to bring one with you when you’re shopping. If, however, you’re shopping online, you of course don’t have this luxury. 

Luckily, there are a number of super slim orthotics available, so if your boot fits well, you shouldn’t have too much trouble slipping these in at the bottom of the shoe. 

The Width 

A common misconception is that boots will eventually stretch if the width is too tight. This, however, is rarely the case. Therefore, it’s essential that you don’t buy a pair of boots with the expectation that they’ll stretch. They may slightly expand, but no more than a millimeter. 

It’s also important to remember that your foot is a certain width when you wake up, but this can change by the end of the day. In fact, walking and standing can cause your feet to swell up to almost a half-size larger. 

For this reason, it’s recommended to try on boots during the afternoon when your feet are closer to their largest size. A perfect fit in the morning can feel as tight as a vice in the evening. 

The Toe Box

Often, the first thing people ask about or check when trying on a pair of new boots is how much room they have in the toe of their shoe. Ironically, this is one of the least effective ways of determining whether the fit is right. 

Yes, a perfectly fitted pair of shoes will likely leave you an inch or so for your toes, but having more space doesn’t automatically mean that you need to size down. In reality, everything else is far more important such as making sure the boot fits correctly in terms of the width and heel. 

The toe box may be an important part of the boot for style, but it’s not an essential component of fit unless it’s too tight. Anything under an inch of room is probably too small and can lead to foot deformities such as hammertoe. 

The Thickness Of Your Socks 

Finally, the socks you wear with your boots can have a significant impact on comfort and fit. Thick socks may change your foot size by as much as half a size, so if you wore thick socks when you first tried the boots on in the store, and now you’re wearing much thinner cotton socks, there’s every chance that boots will feel a little loose. 

However, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem when summer comes around and you’re wearing thin socks all the time. Your feet will typically swell a little bit with the heat, so the difference shouldn’t be too noticeable. 

On the other hand, if you’re struggling to fit into your boots with thin socks, there’s every chance that you won’t even be able to get your boots on with thicker socks. 

All things considered, the downsides to having a boot a half-size too big are fewer than the negatives associated with a boot a half-size too small. 

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, the perfect boot should provide you with a heel that offers a maximum of a half-inch of wiggle room and never rubs in the back. Also, the sides of your feet shouldn’t feel too tight or squeezed. 

In terms of length, find a boot that leaves you around an inch of room for your toes. This allows plenty of space for your feet to comfortably expand and swell throughout the day without slipping around too much in the boot. 

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