Do Hiking Boots Stretch: Useful Tips for the Best Fit
Finding the perfect pair of hiking boots is a difficult task. From learning about the different heights of the hiking boots to finding out which features you most want to have, there is a lot to learn when you are deciding what you should invest in.
That said, one of the most crucial parts is finding the right fit, and this can be a big task! There is one common question that a lot of hikers have regarding fit, and that is "Do hiking boots stretch?"
There isn’t a single answer to this question, but there are some things that you should understand.
Do Hiking Boots Stretch?
The straightforward answer to the question is "Yes, hiking boots do stretch." However, whether or not you want them to stretch is a different question. While some shoes may need to be broken in to be more comfortable, breaking in your shoes will never fix an improper fit.
When you’re buying a boot, you should never rely on the boot stretching out to make it feel like a good fit. Breaking in a boot is more to improve its give and take more than to change the shape.
In fact, you don’t want to stretch out your boot too much as it can cause stress on your foot in ways that it should not be. This is a typical problem for women who buy hiking boots because women’s fashion shoes traditionally fit more snugly than men’s shoes.
When women buy hiking boots for the first time, they may buy a pair that is very snug. When they start to wear it, it will inevitably stretch out, and the stretch can ruin what seemed like a good fit. For that reason, it’s important to understand that while hiking boots stretch, you shouldn’t rely on this stretch to help you find the right fit.
The Right Fit
Since you shouldn't rely on stretching your hiking boots to get the right fit, you need to have an understanding of what a well-fitting hiking boot feels like. As a guide, when you try on the shoe, you should be able to do the following:
- Slide your foot as far forward as possible
- Fit an index finger between the boot and your ankle’s back
That little bit of extra space is important in a hiking boot, especially when you are hiking or backpacking downhill. That is because when you’re doing those activities, your foot slides forward.
After you do the index finger test, it’s a good idea to try the boot on without any socks. While you would never wear them this way, doing this test is a great way to notice any spots that might be tight or uncomfortable. While socks might mask those pinch points, they would become apparent (and painful) in time, so it’s good to scope them out.
Why and How to Break In Boots?
Now that the difference between breaking in your boots and stretching them out is clearer, let’s talk about why you want to break them in and how to do it.
Before we get into too many details, remember that not every boot will need to be broken in! Some light hiking boots will be ready to wear right out of the box while other boots, such as leather hiking boots, will require prolonged breaking in.
In its essence, breaking in most boots is a three-step process:
- Wear the boots around the house, loosely laced and with your hiking socks on.
- Take small walks around the neighborhood, gradually increasing how long you walk in the boots.
- Go on small hikes in the boots leading up to your next big hike!
Breaking in boots takes time, and the main thing that you should focus on is gradually increasing how far you walk in them. If you begin to notice any painful or pinching areas, you should try to address these by adjusting your lacing. If the pain can’t be fixed through minor changes in how you wear the boots or what insoles you put inside of them, you may need to get a different pair with a better fit than your current one.
Purchase Without Stretch in Mind
As you can see, you shouldn’t rely on a boot that stretches out in order for it to fit properly. A boot that fits well will fit well from the beginning. It’s okay if the boot feels a little stiff at first, as this will be worked out when you break it in.
Hence, you should not rely on the boot to be stretching longer or wider in order to feel comfortable. Start with the right fit, and then break the boot in to have some flex to it for a comfortable hike. By following all of these tips, you will be able to find the perfect fit in your next hiking boot!