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Are Your Boots Too Big? Make Them Fit Better in 5 Simple Steps

LA-born, New York-based lover of menswear, watches, and culture. His work is featured in many prominent menswear publications and reaches hundreds of thousands of guys every year. He knows a good boot when he sees one. Read full bio.


Last Updated: Apr 10, 2024
9 min read

How to Tell If Your Boots Are Too Big

velasca resegott in woodland environment

Getting the correct fit for your boots is critical. If your foot slips around inside your fully fastened boot as you walk, the boot is too big.

A bit of heel slippage is normal during break-in, as long as it isn’t over half an inch. Significant heel slippage can cause chafing and blisters.

Where Boots Rub Diagram

For slip-ons, you’ll have to exert some pressure to thrust your heel into the boot. If it slips in too easily, your foot won’t be secure enough.

You must have an inch of room in the toe box. This section of the boot isn’t actually the best place to determine if it’s too big. Most people run around in shoes that are too small for them.

Pressing down on the toe-box to ensure fit is an all too common practice, and it’s easy to misread the extra space as a sign to size down.

The ball of your foot is its widest part, and should sit securely on the widest part of the sole. There must be some room to account for swelling, which is prominent during warm days or if you’re on your feet for over six hours, but not so much that your foot is slipping left and right. If you feel bumps or seams inside the boot, it’s the wrong size, big or small.

On that note, make sure to try on new boots at the end of the day because your feet will be more swollen then than in the morning. Wear the style of socks you’ll pair with the boots to simulate its truest fit.

If you live your life in boots that are too big for you, your foot’s flexpoints will be off and it won’t bend at the break points it’s naturally designed to. This can cause inflammation and plantar fasciitis. 

Probably the easiest way to fill in the extra space you have in your boots is to get a thick pair of wool socks. My favorite are the Camel City Mill Heavyweight wool socks. They have a ton of padding throughout the entire footbed and the calf so they do double-duty in adding volume and protecting your feet from blisters.

BootSpy's #1 Heavyweight Sock
Camel City Mill Heavyweight Wool Work Sock
Free Shipping $50+

The Heavyweight from Camel City Mill is the best work sock you can get for a steel toe boot. The padding is heavy in the heel and toe, but since it's made with Merino wool, this sock is also very breathable and won't make your feet sweaty.

Check Price Read Our Review

Is a half size in shoes a big difference?

Yes, if your get your boots a half size too large, you’ll likely experience blisters, foot fatigue, and potentially bunions and ankle injuries. However, a half size too big doesn’t mean you need to throw your boots away. Try thick wool socks, a heel pad, and an insole—that’ll usually fill up the extra space so your boots fit perfectly.

5 Tricks to Make Big Boots Fit Better

Step 1: Walk Around and Take Note

Walk around in your boots and take note of any specific pain points. Where is the most excess room? What parts of your foot are most uncomfortable? Your right foot may have different issues than your left foot.

Knowing the problem areas is going to help you find the right product to fill up the extra space.

model wearing Thorogood for sizing

Step 2: Wear Thick Socks

You may have already tried this, but if you haven’t, it’s the first step to getting your big boots fitting a little more snug.

Wear thicker wool socks. A thick pair of socks can increase your foot volume by up to a half-size, which is pretty impressive. I like the Camel City Mill Heavyweight when my boots are a little too big.

BootSpy's #1 Heavyweight Sock
Camel City Mill Heavyweight Wool Work Sock
Free Shipping $50+

The Heavyweight from Camel City Mill is the best work sock you can get for a steel toe boot. The padding is heavy in the heel and toe, but since it's made with Merino wool, this sock is also very breathable and won't make your feet sweaty.

Check Price Read Our Review

Step 3: Add an Insole

Choose an insole based on your examination. For example, if there’s heel slippage, go for a mid to high volume insole to stabilize the heel. If the sides are particularly roomy, go for a wider insole.

Tread Labs is my favorite brand for insoles.

Step 4: Add a Heel Cushion

Place the insole in the boot and test for comfort and fit by walking around in them, fully fastened. You might have to trim the insole to get your desired fit.

If you’re lucky, this may be the last step. If it feels comfortable but slips out of place, use shoe tape to secure the insole. If there’s still heel slippage and rubbing, apply the heel shields.

Geyoga Heel Cushion Pads
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Step 5: Add Boot Filler

Wear them around for a day or two before permanently securing anything to see if you need to make any further adjustments.

If there’s still too much room in your boot, you may need to bring in the big stuff—I’m talking about shoe filler. It’s basically a foam pad that fills in the extra space in the toe of your boot.

Shoolex Big Shoe Filler

Sometimes a man gets his boots too big. Throw these puppies in and fill up that extra toe space.

Check Price

Best Insoles for Boots That Are Too Big

Tread Labs Insoles give you a level of customization rarely found with over-the-counter insoles.

Tread Labs ramble green soles

They’re made of two parts: A hard arch support mold that comes in low, medium, high, and extra high, and an interchangeable foam top that you can customize based on several qualities including firmness, arch support thickness, size (important for our purposes today), and more.

They offer many models to address specific symptoms. For example, the Pace model is recommended for those seeking pain relief, and the flexible Ramble model is for comfort. You can simultaneously improve the fit of your big boots, while addressing the specific challenges unique to your feet.

Tread Labs Ramble Insoles

The Ramble is my favorite insole that I've tried from Tread Labs. It offers plenty of cushion for the ball of my foot, and the extra flex in the mid-foot boosts the stability of my boot without affecting my arch too much.

Buy Now at Treadlabs Read Our Review

Finally, Tread Labs offers a “million mile guarantee” which means the medical-grade arch support mold will last forever. 

My Overall Thoughts

What I Like

  • You can customize based on foot size, arch, desired firmness, and more, for a unique insole specific to your feet and boots.

  • The bottom part of the insole is a medical-grade arch support mold that lasts forever. When the top wears out, you can replace it without having to buy a brand new insole.

  • The combination pack comes with three top pads so you can mix and match with different boots.

What I Don’t Like

  • The number of customization options was overwhelming at first. It was difficult and time-consuming for me to narrow down which model to choose.

What Other Reviewers Say

These insoles get rave reviews, many claiming they provide comparable support to insoles custom fit by chiropractors. Naturally, reviewers also celebrate the over-the-counter price point. There are many positive anecdotes including one reviewer who mentions that his two-year lower back and hip pain gradually decreased since using Tread Labs.

There are a small number of reviewers who praise the insoles’ overall quality, but didn’t get their specific pain points addressed. The multiple custom options are ultimately beneficial, but with so many moving parts, it’s easy for people to order the wrong insole. It seems the few negative reviews are rooted in that there’s no user-friendly explanation tool to differentiate between their several models.

The Verdict

Tread Labs Insoles effectively improves the fit of boots that are too big because of their custom offerings. How a big boot affects your foot is different from how it will affect my foot. This attention to detail allows you to address your specific pain points.

Tread Labs

The solid plastic insert featured in Tread Labs insoles offers much more support than any gel or foam product I’ve tried. The amount of customization you get, from arch height to flexibility, makes Tread Labs a must-have for anyone who has flat feet, plantar fasciitis, or just wants more comfort from their boots.

Visit Tread Labs Read Our Review

What Happens if Your Boots are Too Big?

Diagram of foot to show how boots should fit

1. Blisters

If your boots are too big, you’re going to get a blister. Most often, big boots give you a blister on your heel, but you can also experience blisters around the ball of your foot and even the bottom of your foot.

If your boots are broken in but you’re still getting blisters, that’s a sign that you might need to try some hacks to get them to fit better.

2. Foot Fatigue

When your boots are too big, you’re putting a lot of extra strain on the smaller muscles of your foot. Your ankles might start to feel tired (test by lifting your foot up and down—if it feels more difficult than usual, then your muscles are exhausted).

But your ankle isn’t the only place you’ll feel it: your toes, achilles, and even minor muscles through your arch can start to get tired, which isn’t a problem in and of itself, but it can lead to…

3. Ankle Injuries

When your feet start to get tired, you’re more prone to injury. And boots that fit too big are especially hazardous for your ankles.

Whether it’s rolling your ankle by taking an awkward step, or your muscles are just worn out from your feet sliding around in your boots, a secure, well-fitting boot is an easy way to prevent injury.

This is especially true if you’re wearing a boot with a heel, like a cowboy boot that’s too big. The heel can easily roll off to one side or another, and that’s where you either roll your ankle or go down.

4. Hammer Toes

Have you ever worn a pair of flip-flops and noticed at the end of the day that your toes are in pain? When you “scrunch” your toes to keep your foot close to the insole of your boots, it can cause pain over time.

That’s called hammer toes. And it’s annoying one day. But if you keep doing it over and over again, it can actually cause permanent injury, so it’s important to fix your fit issues if your noticing toe soreness day after day.

5. Bunions

Bunions—they’re not just for grandma. If your boots are loose, they can cause bunions on you, too.

A lot of times, bunions are caused if you have flat feet, but wearing boots with too much width can essentially mimic the effect of flat feet and cause your big toe to flare out. With bunions, it only gets more and more uncomfortable, so you want to do everything you can to avoid them in the first place.

Make it Work 

Boots that are slightly too big for you aren’t the end of the world. There are certainly more ways around them than boots that are much too small, at least with the right insoles and some gumption.

Of course, if you’re a size 9, no amount of heel shields and arch support will make a size 15 boot work for you. 

If you’re moving up from a half size or a friend just slightly missed the mark with a gift, properly applying insoles can save you a lot of discomfort. This strategy is also helpful when you find a certain brand sizes its boots just a bit differently than you’re used to.

BootSpy's #1 Heavyweight Sock
Camel City Mill Heavyweight Wool Work Sock
Free Shipping $50+

The Heavyweight from Camel City Mill is the best work sock you can get for a steel toe boot. The padding is heavy in the heel and toe, but since it's made with Merino wool, this sock is also very breathable and won't make your feet sweaty.

Check Price Read Our Review

FAQs

Is it OK to wear boots a size too big?

It’s OK to size up if you secure your foot in place with insoles or heel shields. It’s not OK if your feet are sliding around in the boot, your heels are slipping, and the flex points are misaligned. This causes blisters, inflammation, and plantar fasciitis.

Is it better to have boots too big or too small?

It’s better to have boots that are too big, as long as insoles and heel shields can still improve the fit. If they’re too big even for that, then they’re equally as damaging to your feet as boots that are too small, which can cause bunions and hammertoe.

Do leather boots shrink over time?

Yes, leather boots shrink over time. They can be “re-broken in” with a few days of wear. Harder leather will take longer.

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