Boot (toe room)

10:03 a.m. on February 2, 2013 (EST)
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When looking for that perfect boot fit, should I seek a boot that is generally an extra .5" or 1" in toe room?  I wear 12s so I'm wondering if I should leap upward to a 13.  I worry about have too much floating space and then looseness front-to-back of the entire foot bed.

11:14 a.m. on February 2, 2013 (EST)
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I guess it depends on you, but I always buy boots that are at least one size larger. I tend to hike up and down hill a lot so the extra size allows my foot to be able to shift forward and back. Otherwise my toes or heel gets pinched. A good way to check is to put a finger down behind your heel in the boots. 

And I have a big foor I wear a size 13 boot so finding a 14 is often hard to do.

1:18 p.m. on February 2, 2013 (EST)
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Personally, I half-size up, but I also look for boots with slightly wide toeboxes and forefeet, and some flex in the sole (for me, Keens). My feet never hurt if they have their freedom to move and flex and stretch, so a bit of extra width really seems to help, along with the bit of extra length.

(Of course in winter you have to be able to wear thick socks and still wiggle your toes, max circulation, so biggish for sure.)

Somewhere between the boot/shoe's ankle design and your lacing technique, there should be a way to avoid front-back shifting. Ideally, you can stop to admire the scenery on your way down a steep slope, and still be wiggling them toes.

8:50 p.m. on February 2, 2013 (EST)
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Islandess said:

My feet never hurt if they have their freedom to move and flex and stretch, so a bit of extra width really seems to help, along with the bit of extra length.

This.

I'd go an inch. Make sure the width is dialed-in to keep your forefoot secure laterally, add insoles/shims (I cut my shims from plastic detergent bottles...) to take up internal volume if needed, and make sure not one of your toes hit the front of the either shoe when doing really stupid, dynamic stuff like one might when bounding down a talus field.

Your forefoot needs room to spread out upon impact, and your toes need room to splay and flex with changing terrain, and if you don't abide by this your feet will let you know! The fact of the matter is, if you've got to resort to lacing trickery, taping, and double socks every time you wear the boots, they might not be a good fit for your foot shape. If you instinctually think the boot is too small, it's probably too small; don't wait till you're losing toenails to realize this fact, if you don't have to.

The larger of my two feet is around a size 10.5, as measured by a Brannock Device. I normally wear a size 11.5-12 boot, and this gives me about a thumbs-width of room in front of my longest toe before the leather turns over. I used to go only a half-size larger than my foot size, believing it enabled a more "technical, performance" fit, but it lead to stress fractures and nerve inflammation in my forefoot instead...

11:46 a.m. on February 3, 2013 (EST)
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Thx. This all helped. I had a s12 salomon and was worried when my toes would occassionly brush the front. The narrower toe-box contributed to it. my concern was reinforced by your comments. I'm swapping them out for a larger size today.

1:06 p.m. on February 3, 2013 (EST)
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A possible long term affect of too snug a toe box (also from over tightened fabric hiking boots/shoes) is an irritation of the nerve sheaths passing between toes causing scarring.  Morton's Neuroma can be very painful and debilitating.  I had mine surgically removed and a long consult from the doc.

You can tell when you have enough toe space (the doc says the toes should be able to play the piano in there) when the boots are the most comfortable foot covers you own.

Down hill travel can cause the fabled "Black Toe" when the toe and nail impact the front of the boot.  If the boot is long enough and able to be snugged well around the arch so the foot does creep forward, that problem goes away.  Sometimes a heel lift helps to move the foot up and back some.  But that gives other gait problems too.

Too much over size is not good for your feet either.  You need to find that boot that fits YOUR foot.

I had boots fitted at an REI (Pasadena CA) by an employee who had gone through their boot fitting program.  Other outfitters go through the same program.  I had gone to the store and picked out a boot that I had researched and wanted - it looked 'manly' too.

After chatting about the kinds of hiking I liked and how rough the areas I sometimes went to and weather and season and , and, she sized my feet with a Bannock - barefoot (over a plastic bag).  First sitting down then standing up, then putting weight on one foot and then the other and rocking back and forth.  Put on the boots and she laced them up,  poked a couple of places where she thought the boot would rub.  Then I was off for 20 mins of continued shopping (there is method in their madness) walking around the store and kicking the boots.  Upon return she poked the same spots and others and asked if I could feel pressure there. She said I didn't want that boot maker's products and came back with two other styles

She had me put each set on and then kneaded the boot putting it back on (with socks) and poking again.  We decided on a pair of boots by a method very much like going for a new optical glass prescription.  "is it better that way or this way?"

Another 20 min trudge around the store - I did find something I hadn't yet bought and probably didn't need.

On the return she looked at my bare feet looking for more or less color in the skin.  Flipped the boots and socks back on and poked and pushed, putting bitd of Scotch tape on the boots to mark pressure points.  Off with the boots and she started working them on a booter's anvil.  A long 'S' shaped piece of steel anchored to a large block of wood.  From the inside, she would heavily massage and with a mallet pound the the spots she had tape on, putting some sort of liquid to help reform the leather.

Back on with the boots then one more time on the anvil. 

A bit over an hour after coming into the store, I left with a size and style I had not even considered or thought appropriate. And with a promise to come back for more boot massaging if needed. she spent maybe portions of 20 mins with me making sure I got what I paid for.  At other times I've spent a lot more time with sales people who just fetched and returned boots from an seemingly endless supply in the back.

From the start, there have been no hot spots, no scrunched toes,  no sore feet and I put them on to walk around the house in when I come home from standing on street shoes a lot.

Oh, and the plantar facsiitis is gone too.

They fit like a glove...with a slight heel lift and insoles.  It would be nice if these were to be the last boots I ever own.

3:27 p.m. on February 3, 2013 (EST)
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It depends on your unique foot.  There are four basic measures of the "shoe last" used to make an individual shoe(and several sub-measures).  Forefoot (toe box) width is one of them.  The problem with buying the next size up to gain toe room is that oftentimes a larger size means the instep height, heel width, and/or forefoot height is too big for you.  That can invite a whole host of problems and make you susceptible to injury.  I really try to avoid unnecessary length because I find it to be a recipe for disaster.  It can invite trips and falls and it also reduces stability over the footbed. So I would shop around and seek a boot that matches your foot and uses a last with a wider toebox.  Bear in mind that sizing means very little.  Each company uses different lasts and an 11 in one shoe could be the equivalent of a 10 to another manufacturer.  Also consider what sort of socks you will be wearing with your boots.  I would encourage you to actually bring those socks to the store when you try on boots.  A summer boot will probably mean a thinner sock but a full thickness/cushion winter sock could easily add half a size.  In my opinion, there is no more crucial product selection than finding the right footwear.  Poorly fitting boots can be uncomfortable at best and downright dangerous at worst.  Hiking requires far more foot dexterity than walking or running on tarmac.  You have to adapt to ever changing surface.  It's crucial to have your boot well fitting and properly supporting you.  A twisted ankle, 40 miles away from the nearest hut, can spell big trouble.  So don't be afraid to take your time and be picky.  Maybe start at a big store like REI where you have a broad selection, but also consider dropping into smaller shops that carry the smaller brands.  There are a lot of really good bootmakers out there.

P.S. What Speacock said about wearing the boots around the store for 20 mins is a great idea.  A good store will be totally okay with that and it will give you a far better idea than walking 15 feet across the shoe section and back again.

7:09 p.m. on February 3, 2013 (EST)
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speacock gives a pretty good summary of what you need to do to get a proper fit in a boot, and Halcyon adds a couple of good points.

Reiterating what may be the most important point - properly fitted boots (and pack) are the most important gear needed for a safe and comfortable trek in the backcountry. The vast majority of places where boots are sold have little or no idea how to properly fit boots (or packs for that matter). As speacock indicates, seek out someone who is trained in bootfitting and work with them. Unless you are lucky enough to match the last (the "model foot" on which the bootmaker bases each shoe or boot size), you will, like speacock, need to spend a half-hour to an hour walking around in the boots and having the trained, experienced boot fitter do the adjustments (did I mention the need for a trained, experienced boot fitter, and not depending on any random clerk in the shoe department?). Hopefully, the shop will have stairs (preferably steep) or a mock-up rocky "trail", and a climbing wall that you can go up and down to check for toe banging and overly loose fit. And yes, take your own socks, the actual ones you will wear in hiking the areas you intend on going to, with you. Not the socks tossed in the store's basket as "try-on" socks. Aside from the obvious likelihood of picking up someone's athlete's foot, the "try-ons" are unlikely to fit properly. And bring the orthotics or shoebeds you intend on using as well.

9:52 p.m. on February 3, 2013 (EST)
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I have removed the stock insoles that came with my boots and replaced them with a 3/4 length orthotics insole. It allowed me to buy the correct size, as Halcyon alluded to the problems with buying a larger size, and still increase the volume in the toe box.

12:57 p.m. on February 4, 2013 (EST)
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The key point (upon reflection) was the proactive method the boot fitter used.  She told me where it (would) hurt rather than the stock question, "How's that feel?". 

She guided the discussion and fit. Until I was about to walk out of the store, then asked the question.  By then we were both confident she could fix it.


I'm not sure how the fitting process would work if you send off for a pair of hand made shoes such as Limmer.  They really need your foot someplace along the line to make their boot fit your foot.  A foot print and a few numbers doesn't seem it would be enough.

In the 'good ol' days we'd soak a new boot in water for day or two, and then walk them dry, followed up by a soaking in hot Neatsfoot oil and more walking.  Amazingly the shoes didn't fall apart back then but the socks were a mess.  But then Neatsfoot oil was different than it is today.  They were not lard oils then.

1:44 p.m. on February 4, 2013 (EST)
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speacock said:

A bit over an hour after coming into the store, I left with a size and style I had not even considered or thought appropriate...

I'm hoping you could explain this a bit more? How were they sized differently? Why did you not originally deem them appropriate?


Also, you seem very knowledgeable and experienced when it comes to boots that fit your specific needs; why did you choose to have the associate help you in such a way that day?...In other words, why not just say "Thanks, but I'm good. Your time might be better spent helping some one else...I'll let you know if I need a size..."?

I'm dealing with a now-in-remission neuroma in my left foot. Do you have Morton's foot? Both of my feet have the shortened Prime Metatarsal, and I pray I never have to get things cut out!

8:35 p.m. on February 4, 2013 (EST)
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I had Mortons Neuromas in both feet.  The left was especially trouble some to the point I hiked the final 4 miles down a steep rough trail in socks. After a long consult with the surgeon (over most of a year), I relented.  Could not have been a better decision.  I was hobbled up for a few weeks, but no pain unless I stomped on the foot.  There are absolutely no side affects.  One of the more common problem is to loose some feeling on the sole of a foot or numbness between toes.  None of that.   Two different approaches: entry from the bottom of the foot (less complicated surgery but longer off your feet), the other from the top of the foot.  I went with the top as suggested by the doc.  It was for me a relatively simple outpatient surgery.

I suspect the shape of my foot and the boot I wanted were not a good match.  It has a bit do with where the 'break' across the top of the boot is and where the toes bend in relation to the design of the sole.  It has to fit where you bend.  I ended up with a heavier boot, more expensive (ah ha you say!), and a bit less forgiving (stiffer)...I thought. 

I let her help because it seemed she knew a heck of lot more about boots than I did.  And she did.  I would not have ended up with Asolo TPS 520 GP (wide) which have turned out to be the perfect boot for off trail and rugged hiking with large pack.  Its a good routine summit boot. I had run the course with fabric boots/shoes to the dismay of the doc.

I was looking for more of a mountaineering boot that could be used with step in crampons or at least a ledge on the heel. I was also interested in a full shank boot for some reason that she also talked me out of.  I agreed with her assessment as we talked about just how much time I'd spend on snow now - age has its complications.  I compromised with strap on crampons.  I have some plastics if I ever want to do anything more animated.  She was a voice of reason.  I no longer would be able to use the boots or the technique I have for the last decades.

The size in the boot I wanted (I think it was a Zamberlan or a Lowe) was  about what I ended up with...perhaps a 1/2 longer.  I wasn't happy about the Gortex (it has worked out ok) and caved on that when i picked the boot with the best fit.

I was not THAT knowledgeable about boot fitting until after my session with my fitter.  Previously I'd run through the sizes and different socks and styles and finally get something that seemed to fit.  The only other boot I've had as comfortable as this one is a completely worn out, decrepit pair of Vasque Sundowners (I think - the name is long ago worn off). They have  lost any support and can be tied in a knot if determined enough (think slippers).  La Sportiva were my winter boots but they would not have been on the list this gal had for me.  My feet were different from when I bought those.

I agreed with her they fit almost (I don't have Italian feet - narrow and long) They were not really that comfy even though they've had three soles. There are three things that continue to grow as you get older.  Your nose, ears and feet.  The Sportivas no longer fit.  Asolo are Italian too - go figure.  The La Sportiva vary in size within a size - enough to notice. They have the offset lacing hooks so you can really cinch them for going on a long down hill.

Choosing a boot is a lot like choosing a car.  Even if you would like a 4wheel  off road, V6, compact style with a winch and roo bars...it might not be a Ford.  A lot goes into trademark loyalty or what others like,  rather than what is most appropriate.  I rent a 4 wheel when I need it or cage a ride with somebody that does.  I drive a nice car that is comfortable most of the time that I spend on the road.  I can walk a lot of approach miles from the closest I can get with a sedan's clearance-- for $20,000 extra (including the gas for that 'beast').  AND the Stubai crampons fit my Sportivas and wouldn't fit the Asolo's. Dang!  So I ended up geting Pelz which I'm happy with. It was just another $100 that I wasn't counting on for the boots.

What I was used to wearing or would want to wear may not be a good fit now. Along with my big nose and floppy ears.

And I tried the brush off technique.  She was relentless and didn't have any customers.  I got lucky when she asked to confirm my foot size against what I was going to buy.

'sides she was cute :)

1:57 a.m. on February 5, 2013 (EST)
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When you use your feet all day, especially with the weight of a pack they tend to swell.  Then there are the effects of elevation.  I just bought a pair of winter insulated boots for hunting and snow.  I put on two pairs of wool socks and ended up with 12 EE.  The boots are comfortable with one pair of regular socks alone, but should have room for swollen feet after a rough day.  I have never bought any shoes that large, but they seem to be just right.

4:20 p.m. on February 5, 2013 (EST)
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These are all great threads. As the OGBO alludes, it is really hard to find someone trained in fitting techniques (at least for me). In fact, I didn’t know what I didn’t know until reading about such things on the web. I actually still haven’t found anyone locally that I really trust.

There does seem to be more knowledge in the running specialty stores than the outfitter type stores around here. It would be nice if our local Fleet Feet began carrying and training on heavier footwear.

I have struggled with foot issues for years (with various complications) and eventually went the route of a podiatrist / pedorthist visit. I was diagnosed with metatarsal elevatus which I combat with custom orthotics. It is hard to give any advice to anyone based on my experiences because trying to figure how much of an issue is related to bad fitting (or wrong footwear), versus medical issues, versus something like simple overuse is very difficult.

At one point I was running several 8 and 10 mile days during the week but then on top of that still doing 30 miles of backpacking on weekends. I discovered it was just too much for my body. For me there was a limit to how much I could do and be healthy no matter what footwear I used (or didn’t use) or whether or not I used the orthotics. I’ve essentially backed way off the running because I prefer backpacking and since doing so I’ve had pretty good foot health.

But fitting that footwear is key and vital. I also learned the hard way about feet that keep growing. When I started really hitting the trail hard about 8 years ago, I was a US size 8. Now, I’m a size 9.5 (depending on the footwear in question). I wonder where it ends?

12:06 p.m. on February 10, 2013 (EST)
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I used to wear size 9 or 9.5 when I was 16, but now I'm in size 11. 

That's enough to leave some room to wiggle my toes. 

However, getting a boot that fits properly has, for me, always been a personal challenge. The staff at the store were helpful and experienced, but all they could really do is offer me an assortment of ones that MIGHT work, The last time, I went to the store week after week, took home a fresh pair each time and and tried them out, only to return then and try a different brand the next week.

The closest I found for a good fit was the Salomon last with a narrow ankle and wider toe box, but I couldn't get them locally in a heavy-duty leather boot. I found some online that were discontinued, and after a short breakin, they turned into the most comfortable boots I've ever owned. I figured I'd go back and buy another pair just so I wouldn't have to do the same next time, but by the time I got in touch with the store again, they were sold out. 

4:46 p.m. on February 12, 2013 (EST)
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main thing to do is bring your own socks and take your time. don't let yourself get talked into a boot that doesn't fit properly. I used to wear a size 8, now I'm a 9. I guess a woman's foot grows slower than a man's. who knew...

11:52 p.m. on February 21, 2013 (EST)
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test walking down a steep decline and your toes should not touch the front

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