Two pairs of hiking boots worn by two people balance on the edge of some muddy grass.

Boot Fitting Guide

Our Expert Guide To Fitting Your Footwear

Walking boots that fit are the foundation of any walker's kit, but there's more to finding the right fit than meets the eye. Your perfect boots will help support your feet and ankles to prevent fatigue and long-term injury, helping guide your feet on the many adventures to come. Here at Cotswold Outdoor, we've compiled our guide to helping find the right shoes for you. If you're still unsure, we recommend popping into your local Cotswold Outdoor store for a free footwear fitting with one of our experts.

If you're unsure of the perfect shoes or boots for your next big outdoor adventure, why not pop into your local Cotswold Outdoor store for a Free Expert Footwear Fitting? Our free outdoor boot fitting service has one of our in-store experts help pick out the ideal shoes for you and your outdoor pursuits by asking about your walking habits, getting you measured and fitted, and giving you expert shoe and boot recommendations made just for you and your feet.

Before your footwear is fitted, you must ensure you have the right socks to match your shoes and activities. The importance of good-quality walking and hiking socks can't be stressed enough. Walking socks can offer additional cushioning to help reduce impact and prevent blister hotspots and are made using moisture-wicking materials to help keep feet dry and comfortable in cold and warmer temperatures.


However, what you might not know is just how good your socks can be as a fitting tool. The socks that fit your feet can give clues to what shoes and boots are right for you and your outdoor pursuits. So when the time comes to replace your outdoor footwear, it's also best to update your socks, as multiple long walks and adventures will have worn away the cushioning and fabric. Plus, new shoes and socks together will make your next adventure your most comfortable one yet -  what's not to love? For more help getting fitted with the right socks, check out our guide to choosing the perfect socks here or pop into your local Cotswold Outdoor store for a little help from our experts.

Choosing the correct type of shoe for your adventures is the first step towards ultimate trail comfort. That's why it's essential to pick footwear that matches your activity, temperature, and performance when outdoors. Here are a few differences in footwear you should consider:

Do you need your shoes to be waterproof? If the answer is yes, ensure you're selecting the right pair of waterproof boots for the job. Whether you're traversing the fens or navigating coastal paths, waterproof shoes and boots help protect your feet from getting damp - ensuring you stay comfortable for the miles to come. However, it's always best to question how much you need your shoes to be waterproof. Waterproof shoes tend to be more rigid and less breathable than other walking shoes and hiking boots due to the membranes used across the upper. This extra layer of protection can affect performance and comfort in warmer temperatures, so if you don't need it - it's sometimes best to go without.

Different footwear fabrics can greatly affect your performance and comfort. When hiking mountains in autumn and winter, you want to pick something durable and stiff with good ankle support, such as a leather boot. For warmer summer hikes and walks, you will want to favour a lightweight shoe with good breathability, such as a synthetic shoe or boot with an engineered mesh.

Arguably, one of the most important factors in choosing your footwear is your foot shape. If you're someone with a wider or narrower foot, we have plenty of options made in varying fits to help ensure you get the perfect fit, this includes shoes with broader toe boxes and those with comfort fits.

4. Measuring Your Feet

The sizes of outdoor footwear may appear the same as regular shoes, but often, the fit won't be the same. Like clothes sizing can vary between brands and styles, so it's important to focus on getting the right fit, whatever size that boot is. To help get a completely accurate fit, we suggest popping into your local Cotswold Outdoor store for a free footwear fitting. However, if you can't journey into a store, we've put together these tips to help you measure your size at home:

1. Place an A4 sheet of paper flat against a wall


2. Place one heel flat against the wall on top of the paper and mark where the longest toe (usually your big toe) sits, then repeat for your other foot.


3. Measure from the end of the paper to the longer of these two marks - this is your measurement.

5. Checking The Fit

Remove the shoe's footbed and check you have enough space between the end of your toes and the front of the footbed - this should be about a finger's width. If you're trekking, mountaineering, or hiking, we recommend doing this while standing up with a filled pack as additional weight can cause your feet to expand. If you notice a significant change in your foot size when you stand up, we recommend pairing your boots with our range of supportive Superfeet insoles as these can help prevent elongation and migration.

Next, while standing with your shoe's laces undone, push your foot to the front of the boot and place a finger down the back of your heel. It should fit snugly. If it can't fit or is a painful squeeze, the shoes may be too short for you. Equally, if there's room around your finger or even space for a second, the footwear is too big.

6. Checking the volume

First, you need to check your shoe has the correct volume to suit your foot shape, which means checking the quantity of space your foot takes up in the boot compared to the remaining space. If there's too little volume in the shoes, they'll feel too tight when laced up, and if there's too much volume, there will be significant creasing at the flex point (where your toes bend), or the eyelets will be touching when you lace the boots up.


To increase or decrease volume, you can wear socks of different thicknesses, use a different lacing technique, or use different footbeds. If you're unsure, bring your boots to your local Cotswold Outdoor store, where our experts will happily take a look for you.

7. Lace it up - Different Ways To Lace Your Boots

Knock your heels against the floor to move your foot to the very back of the boot, then lace them up from the toes up. You want the laces to be tight and secure through the lacing system - you should be able to get a fingertip under the crossing of the laces, but not your entire finger. 

There are many ways to lace your boots, with each offering a different feel. These are the two most common modifications for lacing your footwear, but it's important not to attempt to solve a poorly-fitting pair of boots by changing the lacing:

For Greater Ankle Mobility

Lace the boots to the top, but rather than tying a bow, loop back around the eyelets, heading back down the boot, hooking into the eyelets underneath. Pass the laces over themselves until they bite and then tie a firm bow.

For Greater Heel Tension

Starting from the toes, lace the boot up as normal, but pass the laces over themselves just before the ankle section, inter-winding until they bite and hold. Usually, they need looping three times. Once done, pull firmly, applying supportive but not restrictive pressure through the flex point of the ankle, down into the furthest tip of your heel. This should comfortably fasten the heel into the shoe. Follow the eyelets and complete with a firm bow.

8. The Finishing Touches

Overall, your boots should fit snugly and securely at the heel and midfoot, with some wiggle room for your toes. Remember, your feet tend to swell during the day, so - if you can - try your shoes on in the afternoon or evening. Wear the boots inside as you walk around the house for a few hours to check the fit, and if you can, use stairs to simulate the inclines and declines of hills.


At Cotswold Outdoor, we offer an extended returns policy for our Explore More members, so if you can't make it to a store, we encourage you to try a range of boots to ensure you find that perfect fit. And, if you need any further help and advice, visit us in-store for a free boot fitting or check in with our fantastic customer service team for more advice on getting the right fit.

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