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Posted by Bethan Bithell on Feb 10, 2015

When choosing a new pair of walking shoes or walking boots, getting the right size, ‘fit’ and style can be quite confusing – especially as some brands such as Grisport and Hi Tec, work to their own specifications!

Whether taking your dog out for a walk or attempting to climb Mount Everest, ill-fitting footwear really can cause problems! Think about aching feet, blisters, tiredness or even ‘black’ toes – perhaps forcing you to give up and ‘head for home’!

Perhaps you never find time to go shopping, or just can’t find the right brand of shoe in your local store, meaning you might try to buy online. Well that’s fine, of course, but how do you know that the footwear you choose online will actually fit? At least if you buy “in-store” you’ll have expert advice from the sales assistant and you can try on different styles and sizes before making any financial commitment. But, once you’ve bought online and your parcel is delivered, (and if you’re a busy person), it may be some time before you actually get around to using your new items and when you do, they may turn out to be the wrong size or fit! This poses an important question…..‘How can I avoid making this mistake when buying online?’

Well, this guide outlines THREE really easy tests that you can do, in the comfort of your own home, to check that you have the right size, fit and style, when trying on new boots or shoes that have been bought ‘on line’.

Five signs of incorrect boot/shoe fit


There are many signs of ill-fitting boots or shoes. Below are five but there may, of course, be others too:

  1. Toes are squashed up at the front of your boots
  2. Shoes ‘gape’ at the sides, as you walk
  3. Your heel slips up and down or your feet pop out of your shoes as you walk
  4. You get sore and/or ‘rubbed’ areas on certain parts of your feet
  5. Sore blisters appear after walking

Please remember – there shouldn’t be any signs of pressure or rubbing (i.e. red marks or imprints etc) after walking.

The importance of wearing walking socks when trying boots

When trying on a new pair of walking boots or shoes, it is vital that you try them on with the right pair of socks. Often overlooked is the fact that Socks are just as important as the footwear, as they provide the necessary padding, support and comfort on key pressure points of your feet. For advice and information on the types of walking socks and the benefits of different materials available, please check out our Walking Socks – Which one is best for me? guide.

THREE easy tests to find the right boot size

  • Test 1: Heel area space
  • Test 2: Width flexibility
  • Test 3: Downhill and uphill walking

These three simple tests will help to determine the correct walking boot size. You may find that you need heel lifts or insoles to help to support your foot arch. For further information on these helpful inserts, view our Which walking boot insoles? guide here.

Test 1: Plenty of room in the heel area

To check for the correct size, please follow these easy steps below. Remember to check both feet, as many people have one foot bigger than the other!!

Step 1: Put the boots on but leave the laces undone

Step 2: Move your foot forward in the boot, as far as possible, so that your toes are reaching the front of the boot

Step 3: ‘Measure’ and assess the amount of space there is inside the boot, between your heel and the boot itself, by placing a finger within the boot.

To ensure you have the correct size, there should ideally only be one finger’s width between your heel and the boot. If there’s too much space, the boots will slip up and down as you walk, resulting in blisters. However, if there is too little space, this will prevent your feet from expanding naturally as you walk, (due to the build up of your body heat) again creating rubbing and blistering!


Test 2: Width flexibility?

Having sufficient width space in your walking shoes or boots is vital to prevent blisters and foot ache. If your walking boots are too narrow and there isn’t sufficient space for your foot to ‘stretch out’, over a period of time, this will have an impact on your feet and may also strain the stitching on the sides of your footwear, possibly leading to damage.

To check if there is plenty of flexibility in the width of your footwear, follow the steps below. You may find it easier to have somebody to help you check the width of your footwear.

Step 1: Put on the boots and tie the laces

Step 2: Stand and put your full weight on the boots

Step 3: Look at the width of the boots to see if they gape over the side of the sole. If you are unable to see the side of the soles due to the boots gaping, the width may not be wide enough for your feet.

Step 4: Whilst standing, check the side of the boots. You may need to ask someone to test the sides of the boots for movement. Squeeze the sides to see if there is sufficient expansion space. If you feel your feet are tight against the fabric/leather, you may need to consider moving up a size or even trying a different style. Many brands offer different styles, some of which may be wider than others.

Test 3: Downhill and Uphill Walking

Walkers, ramblers and hikers often experience injuries when walking uphill or downhill and injuries may be due to slipping or twisting ankles on wet rocks or uneven surfaces. In some instances, tendonitis of the foot may result and sometimes hikers may even find they have black toenails.

What is a black toenail?

A black toenail occurs when the foot slides forwards in the walking boot and the toes knock against the front of the boot. As your feet get hot they swell and can be compressed by the walking socks and boots. This results in damage to your toenail bed, creating a blister underneath your toenail. (This is another reason for wearing correct walking socks for the environment you will be walking in. For example, Coolmax fabrics will help to regulate the temperature of your feet in warmer environments. Click here to view our collection of Coolmax Socks) To help to prevent your toes from ‘knocking’ the front of your footwear, you may need to use the ‘heel-lock’ lacing technique – click here for this lacing technique and other examples too.

Remember, your feet may swell up to one ‘full shoe size’ over a course of a walk and therefore your feet need room to expand. The toebox needs to be wide enough for expansion, but not too wide that your toes are ‘rattling around’.Grisport Quatro Toe Box

Below are two easy steps to help you identify whether the boots are the right size and fit for you, when walking downhill:

Step 1: Put on the boots and tie the laces as normal

Step 2: Without lifting your boot off the ground, try to move your foot within the boot. Does your foot move forward inside the boot?

If there is considerable movement you may find that you need to go down a half-size or full size. Alternatively, you may wish to consider a different lacing technique to help with locking the heel in place or perhap try footwear accessories such as insoles, heel lifts and/or volume reducers.

To help reduce the “impact” of walking upon your joints, you may wish to consider upgrading your insoles. It’s fact that Insoles provide extra support, cushioning and comfort to help avoid issues such as tendonitis of the foot, blisters and even aches of your joints.

So, in conclusion, buying the right walking boot or shoes may take time. A certain brand of footwear may not suit your feet which is why it is recommended that you use our three ‘size and style’ tests above. When you have purchased a new pair of boots or shoes, do spend time trying them on. Whilst still brand new, walk around the house a little to check they do not ‘pinch’ or hurt your feet, before you decide to keep them. Although leather will give a little bit over time, ideally the footwear should not pinch or rub in the early stages of wear.

Our guarantee:

When you try on your new footwear from us, at home, in a clean environment, if you find that the size or fit is not quite right, you are more than welcome to return them to ourselves, for a different size. All we ask is that they are in the same condition as when you received them from us, and have not been worn outdoors. Please see our returns policy here for more information.