How Should Tactical Boots Fit?

Every boot wearer has asked this question at least once in their lifetime. It is a right of passage from tactical footwear naivety to pro.

When I was asking this question, there was no article such as this to give me a straight answer. Yeah, you should thank your lucky stars. That said, how should tactical boots fit?

Well, tactical boots, or any other boot, should fit snugly around your feet with a little slip at the heel. Don’t worry; heel slips disappear after breaking in the boots. In addition, the boot’s toe box must have enough space for the toes to wiggle and dance.

While buying boots, we have to ensure they fit correctly. Issues such as blisters and callouses are more prone to people who wear boots that don’t fit them right.

Currently, boots have different sizes to cater to all feet sizes. It should not be hard to get the right fit. Yet somehow, a majority still don’t get it right!

A fitting Boot
A fitting boot

I wouldn’t blame them. It is common to buy your boot size only to have it smaller after delivery. Anyone who has tactical boots online can attest to that! It is the pain of buying boots online.

What can we do to ensure we always order the right fit? Is there a way around this?

Finding the Right Fit

Finding the right fit online is primarily hindered by lacking a universal size chart for boots. Sizing depends on manufacturers. Unfortunately, they have never considered a round table meeting to decide on a standard sizing system.

How should Tactical Boots Fit?
A shoemaker manufacturing a boot by hand

We must establish ways of getting proper fits from the various manufacturers. Cumbersome, I know!

Nonetheless, before we talk about choosing the right boot size, it is common sense to know our feet’s size.

How to Measure Feet

In an ideal scenario, you’ll stroll into a store and have them measure your feet with one of their devices. However, we are left to our wits at home.

Measuring feet
Measuring feet size in a retail store

We don’t have professional feet measuring tools like the Brannock shoe device. How do we go about it at home?

You’ll need a few tools, namely:

  • A blank sheet of paper. Preferably white.
  • A pen.
  • A flat surface.
  • A measuring device (a tape measure or ruler).
  • Socks you intend to wear

Looking at the tools, I feel you know where I am going with this. Anyway, below is the procedure to measure your feet accurately:

  1. Place your paper on a flat surface. You can use ordinary cardboard over your floor(as a flat surface).
  2. Put your foot(while wearing socks) on the paper. I recommend measuring the left foot, especially if you’re right-handed. It is slightly larger than the right one(Measure both feet to find the larger one if you are unsure).
  3. Have someone trace around your foot; as close as a pen can get against the foot. The pen should always be perpendicular to your feet while tracing.
  4. Measure the drawing from the heel to the longest toe and across the widest part of the foot.

Did you know?

  • Around 60% of adults have one foot larger than the other.
  • 85% of people underestimate their feet size by at least half of the sizing metric.
  • Shoe sizes were first established in 1324 by King Edward (II) of England.

With the measuring exercise done, keep the following things in mind:

  • Due to the pen’s thickness, tracing can be slightly larger than your feet. To correct the error, subtract around 0.2″ to 0.3″ from the results.
  • If you have no one to trace your foot for you, there is another way to measure your feet. Get two flat solid objects(large books work well) and place your feet between them, length and width-wise. Measure the size between the objects to get your feet measured. Using this method, you don’t have to account for the pen’s thickness.
  • Always measure your feet after a while. It is not uncommon for feet to grow, even among adults.
Tools you need to measure your feet
Tools you need to measure your feet

Get your Boot size

Here is where it gets tricky! As mentioned before, sizing is not standard among all tactical boot brands. Therefore, you must be careful while matching your feet measurements with any boot sizing chart.

Like many articles, I wanted to include a boot sizing chart. However, I would also need a disclaimer to remind you of the inconsistencies in boot sizing.

Thus, here’s something more practical. Before buying any tactical boot online, seek your chosen brand’s size chart. Use the chart to find the right boot size for your feet.

I have taken the liberty of grabbing you links to some of the brand’s boot size charts:

  1. Bates
  2. 5.11 Tactical
  3. Belleville(Not a chart, more like a sizing guideline)
  4. Timberland
  5. Danner Boots
  6. Under Armour
  7. Reebok
  8. Thorogood(PDF)
  9. First Tactical
  10. Garmont

Leave a comment below if your beloved brand missed out on the list. I will get you the link as soon as I see it.

Quick Note:

Despite our best efforts, sometimes things don’t align. It is normal not to find your exact measurement in the size charts. Don’t fret! Go up in size or width. It is better to adjust to oversized boots than to small ones.

Is it Better for a Boot to be too Tight or Loose?

There is nothing better between too tight and loose. They are signs of a poorly fitting boot.

Boots that are too tight will cause more harm than good. If you persist in wearing them, you’ll develop blisters and hot spots.

The opposite is not much better. Have you tried walking in larger shoes? I did walk in my father’s boots a couple of times, and it’s not what I need on a hike.

In the case of overly tight boots, gradually break them in. Check out my comprehensive guide on effectively breaking in boots.

A thick sock should solve the issue with loose boots. If thick socks don’t work, a pair of cushion insoles will do the trick!

A blister
A blister

Note: An overly tight boot only accounts for one size down from your normal size. Anything below that does not fit you. The same applies to loose boots (though there is more leeway when dealing with larger boots).

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Is it better to size up or down for boots?

A. As mentioned before, it is much better to have slightly larger boots than the opposite(smaller boots).

Q. How much room should a boot have?

A. The front of the boot should have enough space to wiggle your toes. Otherwise, it should feel snug around the feet.

Q. Are boots supposed to be tight at first?

A. Yes. It is normal for boots to feel extra tight at first. However, they will feel and fit right after wearing them a couple of times.

Q. Do boots stretch over time?

A. Yes. As long as you’re using them, boots stretch over time.

Final Thoughts

Buying fitting boots is a reward in itself. Yeah, why not? Fitting boots will serve you efficiently and last longer. All while keeping your feet comfortable.

Follow my guide to reduce any chance of buying boots that don’t fit you right, especially if you’re buying them online.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below. What do you think about our foot measuring guide?

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