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How Boots Should Fit
14 · 09 · 2021

How Boots Should Fit

Written by Tigre Haller

It’s not enough to get a great looking pair of boots if they don’t fit correctly. Ill-fitting boots will hurt your feet and possibly cause permanent foot problems.

Knowing how your boots should fit before buying them can save you a whole lot of headaches, foot aches and body aches. Not to mention the damage to your wallet.

This article will help you understand what to look for when trying boots on, what to avoid and how the right fit should feel.

Consequences of Ill-Fitting Boots

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Wearing the wrong sized boot, or a poorly constructed boot, can lead to more than just foot pain.

If you are familiar with reflexology and acupuncture, then you most likely know that the nerves in your feet are actually connected to every organ in your body. So it stands to reason that if your feet hurt another area of your body will also suffer.

Even if you don’t give credence to this idea, if your feet are hurting because of poorly fitting footwear, it’s more than likely that the damage will be felt elsewhere. It could manifest in general leg discomfort, varicose veins, a pinched nerve, imbalance or potentially spinal deformity.

If the boot is too narrow, your feet will get squeezed and pressure will be put on the nerves in your feet. This can result in a sensation of pins and needles, numbness and cramping. Permanent nerve damage could be caused if it’s not taken care of immediately.

Tight boots also constrict air flow and provide the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, which can lead to smelly feet and athlete’s foot. Additionally, the pressure on your toes can actually dislodge the nail and cause hangnails. As the nail digs into the skin, it will become sore and infected.

If you are wearing boots that are too wide, blisters, corns and calluses can develop on the soles, heels, sides and toes due to your feet rubbing against the interior of the boot.

Boots that have inadequate support can also cause inflammation and pain along the bottom of your foot and around the heel and arch, called plantar fasciitis.

Imbalance in the tendons, muscles and ligaments of your feet can also be caused by poorly fitted boots, which can lead to hammertoe - a deformity that literally changes the shape of your foot.

None of these symptoms should be taken lightly or dismissed. If you experience any of them, consider how your footwear is fitting and consult your doctor.

How Boots Should Fit

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First off, you need to know your correct size. Ideally, you will be able to measure your feet on a Brannock device in a shoe store. Keep in mind that it is common to have one foot that’s larger than the other. If this is the case with you, be sure to defer to the larger size.

An excellent gauge of how the boot will fit overall is the flex point, or the part of the boot that should bend as your foot naturally does at the toe line. If the upper of your boot fails to do so, your foot will most likely slide back and forth as you walk, the toe box might pinch your toes and the vamp will get twisted and creased. Discomfort is guaranteed.

Since the leather on some boots might be stiff, it can be difficult to see if the boot is flexing. However, you should still be able to feel it as you bend your feet, and see some movement of the boot’s upper. You can should also check if the boot widens where the ball of your foot is, immediately behind your toes.

It’s important to know that your feet will expand throughout the day. That’s why it’s important to try boots on in the afternoon, preferably with the types of socks, orthotics or inserts that you will actually wear them with.

A little heel slippage (a quarter to a half-inch) is absolutely normal, and shouldn’t be cause for concern. The slippage might actually decrease or vanish altogether as the boot starts to conform to the shape of your foot, after a few months of wear. Your toes should also feel secure in the toe box, but still have about an inch of wiggle room.

The sides of the boots should fit snugly, not too loose or too tight. Your feet shouldn’t feel any pressure or constriction from the leather. Conversely, there shouldn’t be so much space that the sides of your feet aren’t touching the sides of the boots.

Laceless vs. Lace Up Boots

beckett simonon elliot balmoral boots

There are other things to take into consideration depending on whether the style of boots you’re trying on has laces or if they are laceless boots.

For example, Chelsea boots like our Boltons as seen in the third image of this article, depend upon elastic side panels, called gussets, to encase your ankles and help keep the structure of the boot intact. They should be snug, not tight, your heel should not slip out of the boot and the structure should be flexible as you walk. Over time, the elastic and leather of the boot will stretch so it is vital that the fit be snug from the beginning.

Dress boots, like our Easton Side Zips, are pretty straightforward. Unzip, put your foot in and zip up. Given their sleeker aesthetic, from the outside this boot style should appear to be form-fitting, but the interior should actually be roomy and accommodating.

Jodhpur boots, exemplified by our Douglas Jodhpurs shown at the top of this article, are another example of laceless boots which fit a bit differently than other styles. Your feet should slide easily in for a stable fit, and not slide around. An ankle strap wraps around the boot and can be adjusted like a belt depending on how loose or snug you like. Since your ankle should be well-secured by the boot’s collar, some people opt to leave the strap open as a sartorial statement.

As part of their design and construction, lace up boots are more adjustable than the laceless variety. You should assess how many eyelets and speed hooks the boots have, as this will indicate how quickly and tightly you can tie the boots. This will also determine how tight you can make the boot around your ankle.

You also need to determine whether the lacing system is closed like Oxford shoes, where the quarters are sewn on top of the vamp as can be seen on the Elliot Balmoral boots as pictured above, or is it an open lacing system like you see on Derbie shoes, which have the quarters sewn on top of the vamp, like our Dowler boots and Lopez boots, and others.

NOTE: Closed lacing doesn’t have as much adjustability as open lacing which can be as wide as you need it to be.


There you have it, the basics of how boots should fit. Truly, the importance of wearing well-made boots that fit correctly cannot be overstated. It really is a matter of your overall health, well-being, happiness and the way you look.

So, the next time you are trying on boots remember what we covered in this article, and let us know if you have any sizing questions, or need help by sending a message below. If your not sure of your size, use our quick and convenient size guide as a reference.


Joseph Elliott May 20, 2022

Very helpful information for those who aren’t knowledgeable about such matters. As a teenager I was a salesman for Tom McCans shoe stores back in the 60-70s..
So I appreciate your full leather footwear and craftsmanship.

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