How Tight Should Hiking Boots Be
Hiking Boots

How Tight Should Hiking Boots Be

Choosing a good pair of hiking boots that will fit you is not as hard as it sounds. Understanding how hiking works and what you will be doing on a hike is a good place to start. A lot of people will ask themselves, how tight should hiking boots be?

No worries, we will discuss that and more in today’s article. Being comfortable is important when you go hiking. It is hard to enjoy hiking on a beautiful day if your hiking boots are not comfortable for you.

Without the proper knowledge, choosing the size for your hiking boots can leave you baffled. Let’s discuss how tight your hiking boots should be.

What Kind of Hiking Will You Be Doing

This is important to realize and state up front. Depending on the type of hiking you will do, you will want a certain type of fit with your hiking boots. For each style of hiking, there is a specific boot you should look to get.

Standard Hiking 

Standard hiking is characterized by light trails and short to long distances. For this type of hiking, you will want to wear a hiking shoe that is comfortable, like sneakers. The fit should be tight, but that is okay with standard hiking shoes. They are designed as low-cut and flexibles shoes.

The midsoles make for a wonderful hiking experience. Trail running shoes also are a good substitute for standard hiking shoes if you want to do any long-distance hiking.

Merrell Men’s Moab Ventilator Hiking Shoe


Materials are discussed further below, but this hiking shoe is made from synthetic leather. This means it has great comfort and provides flexibility.

With a vibram sole, this shoe is water-resistant. It contains a rubber toe bumper with a heel counter. The midsole is made of an EVA foot frame providing an air cushion. The vibram lug gives stability in any condition.

Expect extra flexibility around the arch where the lugs were intentionally left out. These shoes offer great traction on wet and dry surfaces.

Designed with M Select Fresh soles, you do not have to worry about moisture and sweat ruining the smell of your shoes. The antimicrobial agents are designed specifically for working against the odor causing microbes in your shoe.


  • Made of synthetic leather providing good quality and comfort
  • Vibram sole
  • Water-resistant
  • Rubber toe bumper and heel counter
  • Great traction on wet and dry surfaces
  • Anti-sweat with odor control
  • EVA midsole
  • No need to break in these shoes


  • Durability is bad due to it being synthetic leather so they do not last as long
  • Insoles of these shoes are not that good

Short Hiking Trips 

Want to experience everything that hiking has to offer, but not for a long time? You will likely be wearing day hiking boots then. These are closer to backpacking boots, but not quite all the way.

They are mid cut designed and work for lighter backpack loads. Breaking these shoes in take no time at all and they are still flexible, but not as flexible as standard hiking shoes. When compared to backpacking boots, they do not offer the same durability and support.

Timberland White Ledge Men’s Waterproof Boot


Timberland is known for making great shoes. Outdoor shoes are their specialty. With this day hiking boot, they have created a great leather boot.

With a rubber sole and shaft that measures about 4.75-inches from the arch, Timberland’s Ledge Boot also has a padded collar. The midsole is made of EVA and is also removable. It is dual-density providing great comfort.

Features a lace-up vamp and rear pull loop. With comfort in mind, these boots are light and very durable. They are waterproof and roomy, especially around the toe area. 


  • Dual-density EVA midsole
  • Roomy and comfortable
  • Waterproof
  • Padded collar
  • Lightweight and durable


  • Could use a little more arch support
  • Traction is lacking on black concrete or asphalt that is slick

Long Extraneous Hiking Trips

For longer hiking trips, you will want some backpacking boots. Long trips mean more weight in your backpack. Having a good pair of hiking boots that will be able to sustain through any environment and the weight of your backpack is important.

That is what backpacking boots were designed for. They are made with a high cut and will wrap around the ankle for extra support.

Salomon Men’s Quest 4D 2 GTX Hiking Boot


Made of leather and textile, Salomon has designed a wonderful backpacking hiking boot. It has a synthetic sole and a shaft that measures about 6-inches from the arch. The lacing is rugged and it provides a protective rubber toe cap.

The shoes weigh about 640G. Included is a mud guard and heel strap with heel foam. The grip and stability of these boots are great. These show great durability and can take a beating and still be fine.

They are extremely comfortable for the type of boot they are. The lacing system is one-of-a-kind but requires a double knot to stay tied consistently. Walking through water and staying dry is another wonderful addition that this boot provides.

If you need good ankle support, these boots provide that. The soles are hard and tough, you will not feel half the things you walk on unless they are spiky. Excellent grip and traction will have you glued to many surfaces. 


  • Unique lacing system
  • Excellent grip and traction
  • Beautiful water resistance
  • Durable and provides great comfort
  • No break in time
  • Provides good foot and ankle protection
  • Can handle heavy backpack weight


  • Laces do not stay tied up for long
  • Seams will wear out after awhile

How Tight Should Hiking Boots Be?

Your hiking boots should fit snug, not tight. You should be fully capable of moving your toes inside your boots. Getting a good fit for your hiking boots is important. To accomplish this, you should be aware of your foot size completely.

Let’s discuss several factors that can affect how tight your hiking boots feel.


The socks you choose can change the fit of your boot on your foot. When picking a hiking boot, make sure you are using the socks you will be wearing when you go hiking.

There are a few things you can consider when choosing good socks for your hiking adventures. Although often overlooked, a good pair of hiking socks makes a big impact on the fit of your boots and the comfort you experience.

Sock Height

Hiking socks come in all different heights. You will want to get a pair of hiking socks in relation to the hiking boots that you choose.

The higher your boots go on your leg, the higher your socks should be. There are four different types of hiking socks: no-show, ankle, crew, and knee-high.

No-show socks do not offer much protection between your foot and the boot you wear. They can cause some unwanted issues. If you plan to use standard hiking shoes or trail running shoes, you can wear these. It is not advised to use these with any other hiking shoes.

Sock cushioning

This is an important one. The amount of cushion your sock has will most noticeably affect the fit of your boot. Cushioning is needed though, so think about how long you will be hiking when picking your sock.

Depending on the weather, you will want to choose between socks with no cushion, light cushion, medium cushion, or heavy cushion.

Sock fit

Lastly, getting a sock that fits your foot right is a good idea. They need to fit snug just like your hiking boots. Everything should be comfortable and not feel tight once you have both your socks and boots on. The heel of your sock should line up evenly with your foot’s heel.

Swelling Feet

Throughout the day, your feet swell up from you being on them. This must be taken into consideration when trying out hiking shoes. Otherwise, you will find your boot being tighter than it needs to be as the day goes on.

Shoe Design

This is a huge factor. There are different brands of hiking boots out there. Along with the different types of boots you can get, this makes for a multitude of different options.

Each one is designed uniquely and the fit and feel will be affected by this. Let’s take a quick look at some of the differences in each shoe that you might come in counter with:

Outer Layer Material


Many hiking boots are made of leather, like dress shoes. They provide good durability and water resistance. Some leather offers more breathability.

It is also common to see leather be coupled with another type of material such as nylon. This gives you more breathability while losing a bit of durability. It is referred to as split-grain leather. It is also not as water resistant as full-grain leather.

You also have nubuck leather which is like suede. It is flexible like most leather. However, with leather, it takes a good amount of time to break in and get comfortable wearing.

Synthetic & Other Materials

Another popular material used in hiking boots is synthetic leather, polyester, and nylon. This material makes for a faster break in time and more comfort. It is also cheaper and lighter weight. Even though it is not as durable as real leather, synthetic materials still offer a quality experience.

Internal Materials


Located between the midsole and outsole of hiking boots, you have a thick insert that measures around 3-5mm. It is there to help with load-bearing and provide stiffness. Depending on the shoe, this could cover the entire midsole, or only half.


Like shanks, plates are also located between midsole and outsole. These, however, are thin inserts and are semi flexible. They are usually placed below the shank.

They are great protection for your feet against roots and rocks. It helps your feet from getting bruised easily. Some hiking boots do not include this part.

Midsole Materials

Midsoles provide cushion and work as a buffer to keep your feet from experiencing the shock from running or walking through different terrains. It has a big role in how stiff your boot will be.

Stiffness in your boots can be good and bad, depending on the type of hiking you will be doing. For longer hikes, it is helpful in providing comfort.

The stiffness will help you when you are walking on a rock. You don’t want your boot to be bending on every single rock you step on.


A common midsole material, EVA is light and cheap to make. It provides great support and is included in several different densities.


This material is firmer and provides better durability. You will find polyurethane in most backpacking boots. It is heavy duty and provides a more secure fit.

Outsole Materials

The outsole of hiking boots is usually composed of rubber. Backpacking boots may have additional materials such as carbon though.

The harder the outsole, the more durability you will have. However, this can make the outsole have less traction.


These are the bumps that you will find on the outside of your hiking shoes. They help improve the grip on your shoes immensely.

You will notice deeper and thicker lugs on the backpacking and mountaineering boots we discussed earlier. Lugs with a wider space give you more traction. They also let you get rid of mud easier.

Heel Break

On the bottom of your hiking boot, you will notice the heel area looks different than the rest of the outsole. This section is known as the heel break. Its main purpose is to keep you from sliding when going down any steep inclines.


Hiking boots are a great investment. If you will be hiking once a month or even once a day, knowing how tight your boots should be can make a huge difference.

The several aspects of a hiking boot make it what it is. Your hiking boot should provide a snug fit that is not tight. It will be comfortable to wear if you get the right size for your foot.

Always remember to break your shoe in and remember to look at the materials in your shoe to know how tight it should be on you.

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