Boot Fitting Guide
24th June 2019 by Emma Mathias
Buying new boots can be a minefield. If you need a little help in working out where to start, read on for all our top tips.
Boots are made up of 4 key components.
- Outsole – This is the strip of rubber along the bottom of the boot and is probably one of the first things you will notice. The patterns in the sole are called tread and these vary greatly depending on the intended purpose of the boot. Boots with a chunkier tread perform best in wet, muddy conditions as they shed mud easily. Those with a thinner tread are better suited to rockier terrain as they have more surface area against the ground and therefore more grip.
- Midsole - This sits between the outsole and insole and provides cushioning and shock absorption. The structure of the midsole defines the flex of the boot – how much the boot bends from heel to toe. A softer flex is great for low level, easier walks whilst a stiffer flex is more suited to technical terrain.
- Upper – Acts as the first line of defence from elements and supports your foot. Made from either treated leather, a synthetic fabric or a combination of both. Each has its own benefits depending on its intended use. Leather boots are sturdy, protective, supportive and durable. Great for wet weather walking in the UK. Synthetic boots are lighter and more breathable so more suited to summer and milder temps.
- Liner – This is the material below the upper that surrounds your foot. Check out our handy table to see which style of liner is most appropriate for you.
Why would I choose This?
Do I really need it?
Waterproof linings keep your feet dry in wet conditions. This makes them a good choice for walking over long distances where your feet may be exposed to prolonged cold if wet.
Waterproof linings can reduce breathability of footwear. This makes them less suited to dry or warm conditions as they can make your feet hot.
These are comfortable, offer good breathability and compared to a leather lining can make the boot lighter and more flexible.
Fabric linings are valuable in warm conditions where waterproof or heavy leather footwear may be unnecessary.
Certain boots with leather uppers and leather lining can be waterproof and often more breathable than those with a waterproof liner.
Boots with this type of construction are often a bit stiffer and heavier than fabric alternatives. They may prove to be too much for a casual walk along the lake.
Types of Boot
What type of boot you choose will be dictated by the activity you are doing. Low rise boots are more like a shoe and are great for lowland and summer walking. They are light and breathable so your feet won’t overheat.
Keen Terradora Leather WP Womens
Terradora Leather WP Womens
A comfortable and secure women's hiking shoe for excellent cushioning and stability on every trail.
Keen Targhee III WP Mens
Targhee III WP Mens
A solid men's hiking shoe with a waterproof and breathable membrane to keep you out on the trails in comfort, no matter the weather
High rise boots offer the ultimate ankle support for more technical walking or when you want to keep water and debris away from your feet. They offer full protection but are less breathable than other types of boot. These are great for when you're carrying a heavy load or are facing bad weather.
Meindl Bhutan MFS Mens
Bhutan MFS Mens
The memory foam system ensure this boot fits like a glove and offers complete comfort. The vibram sole gives you the ultimate grip in all conditions and the GORE-TEX lining keeps your feet dry.
Meindl Bhutan Lady MFS Womens
Bhutan Lady MFS Womens
The same ultra comfortabe boot, with memory foam, vibram sole and GORE-TEX lining, but in a women specific fit.
Mid-rise boots offer a medium between the two – some ankle protection but cooler and more breathable than a high rise.
Scarpa Cyrus Mid GTX Womens
Cyrus Mid GTX Womens
A Nubuck leather mid boot with GORE-TEX lining ensures you remain dry and protected in all conditions. The lightweight construction and Scarpa Energy L outsole keeps you moving all day long.
Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Mens
X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Mens
A performance focused hiking boot for technical trails with a high traction Contragrip® outsole and GORE-TEX lining.
If you’re venturing into winter walking or climbing, then you’ll want to consider a crampon compatible boot. We have a range of crampon compatible boots depending on your adventure.
Scarpa Manta Pro GTX Mens
Manta Pro GTX Mens
A technical mountain boot designed to take you anywhere you want to go. A GORE-TEX lining keeps your feet dry all day. An all round B2 boot built to last.
Scarpa Charmoz Womens
A B2 rated boots that's essential for winter mountaineering. A lightweight but tough synthetic upper with Outdry® membrane keeps your feet dry, the memory foam collar ensures comfort and the vibram outsole makes sure you stay on your feet.
- Getting the right fit on your boots can be confusing. All brands use different moulds and within each brand range they may vary the last that they use. Meindl, for example, have a comfort fit last which is wider than other models.
- When selecting a new boot, use your normal size as a starting point. From here you can pull the insole out of the boot, place your foot onto it and get a visual indication of the shape of the boot compared your foot.
- When trying on a boot, it should feel natural to the shape of your foot. When walking downhill your foot should not slip to the front of the boot (this could indicate that the boot is too wide and insecure). You should have about 1-1.5cm of space between the end of your toes and the end of your boot. Ill-fitting boots can change the flex point of the footwear and cause premature damage.
- When walking uphill, push the weight through your toes. This will encourage your heel to lift in your boot. Is your heel secure? You’re looking for little to no movement at all. If your heel moves then it’s like to cause blisters with prolonged wear.
- Check the width. Your boots want to feel snug around your forefoot but not tight or uncomfortable. Your foot needs space to breathe but it shouldn’t be able to move around either.
- Winter boots are more complex to fit as you need to consider crampon compatibility, insulative properties and durability. It’s important to get the right boot before you buy crampons and getting some solid advice from experienced members of staff is essential.
- Time of day – It’s best to fit boots in the afternoon or when you’ve been on your feet for a while. Your feet expand throughout the day and this will give you the best chance at getting a proper fit.
- Wearing them in – the firmer your footwear, the more time you will need to spend breaking them in. You should walk around your house initially, to make sure you’re happy before venturing out on short walks. Gradually increase the distance over time so your boots have time to mould to the shape of your foot.
Socks and Insoles
Many people focus so much on the boots that they are buying that they forget about the importance of socks and insoles.
- Socks are a vital piece in your footwear arsenal. They wick moisture, insulate your feet and help prevent blisters. Cotton isn’t a great choice for outdoor footwear as it holds water and conducts heat when wet. Instead opt for merino wool or a synthetic blend.
- Merino wool is a great for heat regulation and stays insulative when wet. It’s soft against the skin and remains odourless for longer than synthetic materials. However, as Merino wool is such a fine material it can break down quicker than synthetics. Synthetic fibres are durable and good at keeping your feet warm but can retain odour producing bacteria. A merino/synthetic blend is often the best choice.
Bridgedale Hike MW Merino Comfort Mens
Hike MW Merino Comfort Mens
A medium weight merino blend sock with zonal padding for extra support. Soft, quick-drying and durable with a flat toe seam for all day comfort.
Icebreaker Hike+ Medium Crew Womens
Hike+ Medium Crew Womens
A medium cushioned sock with an anatomical and seamless toebox and sculptured cushioning. Made with 66% merino wool to increased comfort and odour control.
- Thicker is not always better. Many modern ranges of socks use denser weaves to increase insulation and durability rather than thicker material. Thicker socks may still be appropriate for winter activities especially in the snow so it’s important to consider the conditions you will be in when choosing socks.
- Insoles can be added to your boots to assist with a whole host of foot issues. They can act as volume reducers when you have too much space in your shoes, shock absorbers for heavy going trails and arch support for both those with high arches and flat feet. On top of this they are anti-microbial to prevent the build up of unpleasant odours.
Superfeet Trim-to-Fit Orange
Superfeet Trim-to-Fit Orange
Engineered for high impact activities with a shock absorbing forefoot and deep, narrow heel cup for maximum support.
Superfeet Trim-to-Fit Berry
Superfeet Trim-to-Fit Berry
Featuring a resilient, high-impact foam forefoot with a slimmer heel and arch length to fit the proportions of the female foot. For everyday use.
There are a number of lacing techniques that you can use to prevent common foot problems, from blisters to bruised toes and we’ll take a look at a couple here.
Let’s start with a basic knot that both the following techniques will use – the surgeons knot. Pass the right lace over the left lace twice then pull to tighten. This creates a well tensioned knot, reducing slippage.
- The Heel Lock
The heel lock holds your foot in place within the boot to stop bruised toes from feet slipping forward on downhills and prevents rubbing and heel blisters on uphills. Start with the surgeons knot at the base of the ankle to secure your foot. Next, instead of crossing your laces, hook or thread them directly up through the two ankle eyelets.
Finally cross them over, hook and hook them under the laces between the two eyelets. Pull to tighten. Hold this in place with a surgeons knot before tying off. Your foot should be firmly held in place.
- Window Knot
Great for wide feet to create more space in the forefoot. You create a window in the laces by not using all the eyelets on the boot. This alleviates tension on those areas where you need more space for your foot to spread out, especially useful on longer hikes or in hot weather. Tie it off with a surgeons knot to keep it in place.
Caring for boots
A well looked after pair of walking boots can last you many years. Follow our 3 simple tips to make sure you get the most life out of your boots.
- Make sure you clean your boots after each use, removing mud and other debris with a damp cloth, to prevent wear to the connecting glues and stitching.
- If your boots get wet, stuff them with newspaper and leave them to dry naturally. Do not over stuff them as this may misshape them and don’t leave next to a heater as this may cause leather and material to shrink.
- Reproof little and often. For synthetic boots, use a good quality re-waterproofing spray whilst the boots are still damp from cleaning then allow your boots to dry naturally. Use a re-waterproofing wax for leather boots. For full leather boots, allow to dry before applying.For suede or Nubuck leather, apply when wet and dry naturally.
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