How Tight Should Hiking Boots Be?

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Hiking is a fantastic way to get out and enjoy nature and stay in shape. But, unless you have the proper footwear, you aren’t going to be able to fully enjoy your hiking experience. Of course, there’s other equipment you should always have, but footwear is the most important by far, even on trails that seem relatively easy to navigate.

Whether you like it or not, you will need to invest in a quality pair of hiking boots if you want to get the most out of this activity. But you can’t buy any old pair of hiking boots. They need to fit just right, so they are comfortable enough for long hikes. After all, you don’t want to end up with sore feet and legs part-way into your hike.

How to Buy Hiking Boots

Before you can know how tight your hiking boots should be, you need to learn how to buy hiking boots. Remember, this isn’t just any old pair of boots or shoes. Instead, this is footwear that will help you get the most out of hiking and ensure that you won’t have sore feet at the end of the day.

Here are a few tips to help when you are buying new hiking boots.

Shop at the Right Time of Day

It is best to buy any footwear at the end of the day. Our feet swell as we move around during the day, so it is best to buy hiking boots or other footwear later. If you buy them early in the day, you could end up with boots that are too tight once your feet swell up a bit.

Wear Walking Socks

When trying on hiking boots, it is a good idea to wear a pair of walking socks. These are thicker than usual, everyday socks, so you will get a better idea of how your boots will fit with thicker socks on.

Leave Some Wiggle Room

You don’t want your boots to fit too tightly or loosely. Make sure there is enough room for you to be able to wiggle your toes. An excellent way to know if you have enough space is when the boots are untied, it should be easy to put two fingers between the back of the boot and your heel.

Then, if you feel a lift on the heels when you walk, you will have plenty of wiggle room.

Look for Support

You need to have boots that have plenty of support when you are hiking. Not only should you look for boots that offer that support, but you also need to make sure they are laced up tightly enough to support your ankles.

Then, walk around in them for a few minutes to ensure there are no pressure points and that they are comfortable.

Break-In Your New Boots

Before you lace up your boots and head for the hiking trails, you need to break in the boots. Only once they are completely broken in will you know how tightly you need to lace them up to get the support you need.

In fact, the most essential part of buying good-quality hiking boots is breaking them in before you use them for hiking. This is the only way you will tell how tight you need to have them laced to be comfortable and provide the amount of support your feet and legs need.

How Tight Should Hiking Boots Be

Take Your Time

You won’t be able to break in a pair of hiking boots overnight. Every pair of boots is different, as is the break-in period with all boots. For instance, if you are using light hiking boots, you may find that it takes little time to break them in and have them ready to use.

Heavier boots will require more break-in time, as much as a few weeks if you are getting leather boots because it takes longer for the sturdy material to get soft and fit themselves to your feet.

Boots Should Start Out Being Comfortable

Once you have broken in your boots, you will better understand how well they fit and how tight you need to lace them before hitting the trails. One thing to keep in mind is that your boots should already be at least somewhat comfortable before you start breaking them in. Here are a few tips to help you break your new hiking boots in.

Wear Them Around the House

Grab the socks you will be wearing while hiking, as well as any insoles you plan to use in your hiking boots. Put the insoles in the boots, put on the socks and boots, and walk around your house.

Lace them up tightly, with the tongue straight, and then experiment with different amounts of tightness until you find what is most comfortable for you.

Start Going for Short Walks

Once you are a bit more used to your new hiking boots, it’s time to take them outside. You are not ready for actual hiking yet, but it is good to get out and walk on concrete.

Each time you go out, add a few minutes to your walk so you can figure out how long you can comfortably wear the boots. Remember, the more you break boots in, the looser they are going to fit and the tighter you will have to lace them.

Go Off-Road

Now that you are even more used to the boots, it’s time to take them off-road. You aren’t quite ready for full-on hiking yet, but you are definitely getting there.

Start out hiking easy trails that you can walk in a couple of hours. Each time you go out, increase the amount of weight you will be carrying until you are carrying the gear you would typically take on long hikes.


As you can see, there are no hard and fast rules regarding how tight hiking boots should be. Everyone is different, and every pair of hiking boots is different.

Only you will be able to tell what is most comfortable for you, and you will only know this by buying a good-fitting pair of hiking boots and correctly breaking them in.

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