Wide hiking boots offer a specific fit that can go a long way for outdoor enthusiasts. Little do most hikers realize, a good number of boots in the market are useless if they don’t fit you perfectly. Wearing boots that don’t fit will only result in misery while on the trail (think about blisters and painful toes). Even worse, prolonged wearing of this kind of gear could lead to lifetime damage to the feet and legs. But why must hikers suffer when they can get more comfortable wide hiking boots instead?
The common shoe shopping mistake
Without much thought, some buyers would just walk into stores and choose the hiking boots they like. Some would even buy a pair even if it means squeezing their feet in them. If you thought that buying footwear for hiking is like a walk in the park, you are wrong. Choosing the best hiking boot requires careful and thorough consideration. Size and foot shape are just two of the things to consider that people often neglect. Some people actually need wide hiking boots but never realize it.
Do you often have a hard time finding a hiking boot that fits you? Here are a few things you can do to get the right pair:
Consider the boots made for the opposite gender. There are companies that do not use gender-specific lasts when building their boots. The minor differences maybe the tweaking you need to get the right fit. Who knows, instead of wide hiking boots you actually need a pair from the men’s regular size.
Ask for wide or narrow hiking boots. Shoe companies acknowledge the fact that the size and form of people’s feet differ and with it comes the idea of offering narrower or wider shoes. If your conventional boots feel off, you can always choose among the narrow or wide hiking boots on the shelves.
The children’s section may have the right boots for you. Some feet are really small for adult sizes so it would be helpful to look around the children’s section. The good thing about this is, children’s boots are much cheaper. The drawback is, they are not as sturdy as the boots designed for adults.
There are different systems for foot measurement and shoe sizing. Width indicators also vary by region or brands. Familiarizing these will help you shop wide hiking boots on physical stores, online, and even abroad. Here are a few of these systems:
The Mondopoint system measures the width and is indicated in millimeters. The Mondopoint system is used by the International Standard for sizing and marketing. It is known as ISO 9407:1991. You can observe the Mondopoint system if the wide hiking boots bear a fraction sizing.
In the US and UK, width is commonly assigned a letter or a combination of letters taken from a table which manufacturers also follow. Some common letters used from narrow to extra wide are A, B, C, D, E, EE, EEE, EEEE, F, G. Variations include 4A, 3A, 2A, A, B, C, D, E, 2E, 3E, 4E, 5E, 6E or N for narrow, M for medium, R for regular, and W for wide.
You may not find wide hiking boots if you shop in a store in Europe as the European system is expressed in Paris Points. The shoe size is not adjusted for gender but French outlets give wide-width footwear in Largeur Confort, Grande Largeur, Extra Larges, and Ultra Larges.
The exact foot width varies but in the US and UK, the difference between normal size and wide hiking boots is 1/16 inch. Negligible as it may seem, this little difference in the upper can do much. Hikers could especially feel that wearing wide hiking boots is more comfortable compared to squeezing their feet in standard shoes that may be too tight for them.
When should men and women get wide hiking boots
Getting wide hiking boots do not always appeal to most hikers. There are some hikers who are worried that wide hiking boots will make their feet wobble and greatly affect their trip. Some are turned off by the thought of wearing “clunky” boots. In the age of shoefies, bulky shoes are an eyesore. So is it a sound choice to say no to wide hiking boots right away?
Wrong width vs. breaking in
Hikers are always advised to break in footwear regardless if these are conventional or wide hiking boots. This ritual is deemed necessary as a new pair will take some time before conforming to the shape of the wearer’s feet. New shoes are generally tight around the toes and rub the heel. A common mistake that people make is believing that breaking in resolves all the discomforts they are experiencing when in fact, they really bought the wrong pair.
What’s worth factoring in is that a lot of people buy footwear in the wrong size. No matter how long people wear ill-fitting shoes, they will remain a pain to use. No amount of breaking in can make ill-fitting footwear conform to the wearer’s foot shape.
Most people neglect the importance of getting their feet properly measured. They may even be surprised to know that they are wearing the wrong size all along. As a result, they are swayed by the thought of just breaking in their boots when they actually need wide hiking boots.
Having your foot measured is the most important part of buying new footwear. Upon getting the correct measurements, store assistants who are most knowledgeable of the sizing charts of most brands can recommend some styles and brands suited for your feet. Heed their recommendation if they say you need narrow or wide hiking boots instead of insisting on a pair that will only turn into torture devices when you take them out for a walk.
This doesn’t mean though that you will no longer break in wide hiking boots. Wearing your boots a few days before the trip actually helps you to get used to it. When you are already comfortable with your wide hiking boots, you will already feel more confident when you take it out.
Wearing the right boot size
Are you wearing the right shoe size? Not a lot of individuals notice that they needed to ask this question. According to the College of Podiatry in the United Kingdom, nearly half of women are wearing the wrong shoe size. In fact, most people who participated in the study admit to never have had their feet measured since they were a child. The respondents admitted that they would only figure out their size by trying out a few pairs during shoe shopping.
Wearing narrow shoes causes a bunion, a painful bump at the big toe joint. This condition develops through time when the normal structure of the bone changes which causes the big toe to lean toward the second toe. The deformity will increase and make it painful for anyone to walk.
On the other hand, using footwear in a size that’s a bit bigger creates friction and results in blisters. These small pockets of fluid often appear after wearing new footwear and make it painful to walk. Experts advise everyone to break in their hiking boots before taking them on long hikes to avoid inconveniences on the trail.
Do you often have problems wearing your hiking boots because of the tapering toe boxes? This feature of conventional shoes and boots are added to make them look more aesthetically pleasing. However, this shape poses risks to people because it compromises foot health as the toes are forced into a wedge position. If you feel that your foot is restricted, get wide hiking boots.
Foot anatomy and your footwear
If you have a favorite pair of footwear, it is likely that it is also the pair you feel most comfortable wearing. To understand the importance of using the proper footwear size and its correlation to a happier hike, you must first understand the relationship between foot anatomy and footwear structure.
For experts, a healthy foot is one that is undeformed by conventional footwear. By studying the foot structure of different people throughout the world, researchers have concluded that the healthiest feet belong to the unshod populations. These are inhabitants in parts of Africa, Latin America, South Asia, and Southeast Asia who have never worn shoes or have only worn them minimally. Sounds weird?
Experts unanimously agree that these people have never experienced any of the common foot problems that the shoe-wearing population has experienced. In fact, they have the normal foot structure that has proper toe alignment and orientation.
On the other hand, people living in shod societies have experienced different foot problems like bunions, blisters, hammertoes, and many others. In several studies, common foot problems and leg injuries are attributed to wearing the wrong footwear. As most shoes have elements like heel elevation, toe spring, and toe box among others, the foot is forced to conform to those which result in deformities and injuries. The toes, as little as they may seem, actually play a great role in propulsion, balance, and overall health.
The difference between wide and extra wide men's and women's hiking boots
No two feet share the same size and shape and wearers have their preferences when it comes to a “comfortable fit.” There are shoppers who would go for loose-fitting width while others prefer a snug ankle. Comfort and fit are subjective and every individual has a preference on what suits his or her taste.
Typically, a wide shoe shares the same last as the standard version but is only given around 10 millimeters of upper space. As negligible as one may think, this very small difference can already ease most of the pain associated with wearing a smaller size.
An extra wide boot, on the other hand, gets 20 millimeters more of upper space as compared to the standard size. It is also extra wide all over. This size is the best fit for people with feet that are wide all over.
It also helps to know that width sizing is dependent on the foot’s length. Two people could both have 3 9/16 inches wide feet but one may wear a size 8 shoe and the other a size 5. In this case, a person who wears a size 8 is considered regular width while the other who wears a size 5 wears a wide shoe.
If you are ordering boots online, make sure that you get your foot measurement and compare it with the dimensions indicated online. If you shop onsite, make sure that your measurements are taken before you even try on pairs.
The standard boot width
Wide-width hiking boots were not really offered before. In fact, most shoes were offered in standard sizes only and special considerations were only given to clients with special needs such as those with diabetes who need wider footwear to avoid ulcers. However, as foot and shoe experts have noticed, the average foot size of people have grown which prompted manufacturers to cater to their needs.
Different manufacturers use different sizing charts. Most of the time, the shoes they produce come in standard size but, as demands are growing, a lot of footwear have been produced in wider or narrower styles.
Size is determined by two factors: the length and the width. Most of the time, length is represented by a number while the width is represented by a letter. Boots usually have six widths: B for extra narrow, C for narrow, D for regular, E for wide, EE for extra wide, and EEE for triple wide. Some brands may offer hiking boots in much wider sizes or cater to clients with special needs. Women can also use a simple conversion to find the right size for them. Typically, women have to go 1.5 sizes down to get their men's shoe equivalent. So, a lady wearing a size 7 can wear a 5.5 men’s boots. But then, just like no two feet are the same, some brands may also use a different sizing chart.
Benefits of wearing wide boots on the trail
Your feet are composed of so many small working parts: joints, bones, muscles, connective tissues, tendons, and nerves. All of these parts work hand in hand so you will have no problem walking around even if you are treading a very difficult path. Hikers and mountaineers are among people who need to have footwear that will protect and support the feet.
Wearing the right hiking boots have great benefits. If you have the perfect pair with you, here are four benefits to look forward to:
Improved comfort – One thing that hikers need during their trip is comfort when walking for long hours. Wearing wider boots will greatly benefit the feet and toes because it helps get rid of the discomforts that narrow shoes would have caused.
Improved toe alignment – The toes need to splay freely, in line with the corresponding metatarsal bones. This part of the feet plays a crucial role in weight-bearing and proper posture. By wearing wide boots, the feet and toes are rehabilitated and restored to their true shape and alignment and gives a person more comfort and strength to endure long hours on the trail.
Fewer injuries – Injuries are a common occurrence for people engaged in strenuous physical activities and most often, these are blamed on poor conditioning or previous injuries. While this is true in some instances, one couldn’t also discount the fact that conventional boots are a source of major discomfort and pain. Opting for wide hiking boots could help make hiking trips easier by debilitating problems in the lower leg and feet.
Enhanced balance – You may notice enhanced balance when wearing wide hiking boots. This is an experience attributed to the wider platform that supports the feet. With the foot splaying, you get more contact with the ground. With more toe space and better heel support, you will have a more wonderful time hiking.
Using wide hiking boots is beneficial for you. If you are hoping to get rid of the discomfort, pain, injuries, and difficulties you often encounter, ditching your conventional footwear is the soundest choice you will make.
Wide hiking boots FAQs
Which part of wide hiking boots is wide?
Wide hiking boots or any footwear that are considered wide have more upper room compared to the medium or standard-width version. Most often, the difference between a medium-width to wide hiking boots is not very noticeable but once they are worn, a person would feel that the latter allows the feet to position properly.
Are there wide hiking boots available online?
So many people are glad that online shopping has become available, after all, it is more convenient to just browse than clear one’s schedule for shopping. Some people are hesitant about online shopping though because of differences in sizing. What if you wanted wide hiking boots and get a narrow one in the mail?
The key to getting the right pair of wide hiking boots is to know how to shop online. A major e-commerce site shares their fool-proof ways to get the right shoes when shopping online:
First, look for the clickable sorting which is usually made available by online stores.
Second, sort the brands, styles, and colors that you are looking for so you will easily find the wide hiking boots with such characteristics within your area.
Third, find a seller with defined return policies so you will have an option to replace your shoes. You can go from wide hiking boots to extra wide if needed as long as the size is offered by the store.
Shoe stores also give customers the convenience of identifying their equivalent shoe size through size conversion tools online. This is especially handy if you are looking at purchasing wide hiking boots from a different region.
Are wide hiking boots clunky?
The style is one aspect that people look for when shopping for shoes. In recent years, something that most people avoid is clunky shoes primarily because they are not very fashionable. It is worth noting, however, that the difference between standard-width boots from wide hiking boots is about 1/16 inch. The difference is almost negligible that it would be hard to tell the difference between wide hiking boots and medium-width ones just by looking at them.
Should I still break in my wide hiking boots?
Others would say that breaking in is a myth. You may think that your wide hiking boots are already perfect especially if you tried them on first but you also have to consider that your feet will need some getting used to wearing a new pair. If you have planned a trip that will take days, wearing your wide hiking boots for a few hours a couple of days before the trip is a sound ritual.
Breaking in your wide hiking boots will also help you evaluate if it is suitable for long hikes. There are instances when they initially fit perfectly but a few hours into them and you will notice that they are actually too heavy. Naturally, wearing heavy footwear, even if these wide hiking boots fit like Cinderella’s glass slippers, will slow you down and wear you out faster.
Are wide hiking boots the same as footwear with wide toe boxes?
A common trait that footwear share these days is the tapered toe. This means a lot of footwear causes more damage to the toes as people could imagine and yet, they wear them most of the time. In order to address this problem, shoe manufacturers have introduced shoes with wide toe boxes.
Unlike wide hiking boots which have more upper room, shoes with wide toe boxes could come in standard width but are styled in a way that the toes are given more space. Technically, wide toe boxes give extra wiggle room for the toes, footwear like wide hiking boots, on the other hand, have more upper space to accommodate the foot’s circumference. Naturally, as the circumference of wide hiking boots is bigger, the toes are also given enough space to wiggle.
You will only know if you need wide hiking boots or a pair of wide toe box if you have your foot measured. Some people have feet with regular circumference and heel but are wider on the toes so they naturally need shoes with wide toe boxes. Others have feet that are wide all over so wide hiking boots would be the best choice for them.
Are wide hiking boots more expensive?
One concern that most people have is the price. Although every hiker would surely invest in a good pair of wide hiking shoes, there is also that fear that it is too expensive as compared to standard sizes. Chances are, the wide hiking boots offered by brands do not affect the price so much. Special footwear like hiking boots is generally priced according to its quality and the technology applied and not merely by the size.
15 best wide hiking boots
Zamberlan 996 Vioz GTX
Lowa Tibet GTX
Lowa Renegade GTX Mid
Danner Mountain 600
Vasque Breeze III GTX
Columbia Newton Ridge Plus II Waterproof
Timberland Euro Hiker
Danner Mountain Light II
Timberland Mt. Maddsen Mid Waterproof
Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX
Oboz Bridger Mid BDry
Merrell Moab 2 Mid Waterproof
Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator Mid
Vasque St. Elias GTX
Timberland White Ledge Mid Waterproof
Paul loves adventure. Over the past 20 years, he has climbed, hiked, and ran all over the world. He’s summited peaks throughout the Americas, trekked through Africa, and tested his endurance in 24-hour trail races. He has worked in the outdoor industry as a whitewater and hunting guide, gear tester, copywriter, and outfitting specialist at places like The National Outdoor Leadership School, No Barriers USA, and Sierra Trading Post. He has been quoted in NYMag, NBCNews, and Business Insider to name a few.
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