How Should Work Boots Fit? (Tight Or Loose?)

The simple answer is that work boots should be neither too tight nor too loose. The correct fit is important as poor-fitting boots will compromise your immediate safety on a worksite with dangerous tools, and also your long-term feet’ health.

This article will give you some fitting tips for making sure that your work boots fit properly before you buy them.

someone is measuring the width of a work boot trying to say how to show if a work boot should fit tight or lose

Should boots fit tight or loose?

Work boots should be neither too tight nor too loose but, like goldilocks’ porridge, be just right.

It’s important to get the correct fit of boots because boots that are either too small or too big will compromise your safety.

A too loose boot could slip off, exposing your feet to the dangers of the worksite. Even if they stay on your feet, they’re not protecting your feet as well from knocks and shocks.

And there is always a chance with too loose work boots that you could fall over which isn’t good news on a worksite with a lot of dangerous equipment around.

Finally, too much toe room will cause your feet to move about within the boot, causing blisters.

And a too-tight boot can cause long-term health problems such as bruises, blisters ingrown toenails, feet pain and deformities, and peripheral neuropathy (permanent damage to the nervous system in your feet).

How to tell if boots fit right?

No work boot will feel 100% comfortable from the get-go. You will need to break them in a little bit.

But this section and the next two will give you some tips and tricks for determining, from the moment you try them on, whether your boots fit right.

Except for the heel, your entire feet should feel snug. The heel should slip initially in a new boot, and this should disappear as they’re broken in.

The toe of your boots should, when you first try them on, have a little bit of extra space for you to wiggle your toes. This is because your feet tend to swell as the day goes on, and so you will need that extra space.

TIP: Try new boots on with a thick pair of socks. To protect you from blisters, most boots are designed to be worn with a thick pair of socks.

How to tell if boots fit too tight?

If your toes don’t have the space to wiggle a bit, they’re too tight.

If the ball of your foot (the widest bit) is not located at the widest part of the boot, but rather further up closer to the toe, then the boots are too tight.

And of course, as well as making sure length is right, you should make sure width is right. If the sides of your feet, especially the ball, feels compressed, the boots are too narrow.

How to tell if boots are too big?

If your feet slide back and forth while you walk then your boots are too long. And if they’re sliding from side to side when you walk, they’re too wide.

How much room should be in the toe of a boot?

A good test to determine whether boots are too big before it gets to the point of them sliding around all over the place, is squeezing the top of the boots after you try them on.

Half an inch of extra toe room is fine, essential even. But if you have more than 1.5 inches of the room then the boots are too loose and will be unsafe to wear.

How to prevent heel slippage?

The feeling of your feet slipping out of a boot while walking or working is known as heel slippage.

Heel slippage is another problem associated with buying boots that don’t fit right, however even if the fit is generally correct, there are some steps you can take to fix this.

To prevent heel slippage, you can buy some additional accessories such as tongue pads and non-slip socks.

How should ankle boots fit?

Ankle boots should not be completely tight to your ankle, there should, like at the toes, be roughly 1-2cm of space at the top of the boot.

This is because your ankles bend while you are walking and so they’ll need to have a bit of flexibility to operate in.

My work boots are killing me. Are they too tight or what?

If your work boots feel too tight after a few days (i.e. after the breaking in period) then they are probably too tight.

Especially during this pandemic, when so much work boot shopping has moved online, it’s essential to check out your vendor’s returns policy so that you don’t sink $100s on boots that don’t fit.

Before going to work in a pair of work boots, it’s worth going for a short walk around your house or local area to break them in, and get the initial discomfort out of the way.

How should slip on work boots fit?

The general rules for slip on boots are the same as for any other work boots. Your heel should not painfully rub up against the back of your boot, or slip out.

Again, about 1cm of spare space is right. Your toes should have about 1 inch of space in front of them.

And the sides of your feet should not feel squeezed in at the sides.

Should you buy work boots half size bigger?

Feet growth stops for most boys when they are sixteen.

So unless you are a very young worker or a very late developer, there is little chance of you ‘growing into’ a big pair of work boots like you did as a child.

While there will always be slight variations depending on the brand, generally your work boot size will stay the same.

There are a lot of dangers we’ve already mentioned in buying a work boot that is too big, such as blisters, unnatural walking patterns, and compromised safety on the worksite.

So unless it’s a case of, say, a 10 being too small but a 10.5 being just right, it’s not really worth buying work boots in a bigger size than what fits you.

Conclusion: Summing up how work boots should fit? Tight or loose?

This article has given you some fitting tips for how to determine whether work boots are too tight or too loose, particularly focusing in around the ankles and the toes.

We’ve looked at the problems with wearing ill-fitting boots, both for your immediate safety and general health.

Finally, we’ve mentioned products, from special socks to tongue pads, that can further aid the fitting process.


Team Members Working On This Page

Adrian – Editor / Construction Professional

Construction Professional, driver, crane operator, cleaner, head chef … these are just some of the jobs I did in the past. Working in all these different environments taught me that having good footwear to protect your feet from different dangers at work IS PARAMOUNT for any worker! On this website, I aim to share all my knowledge and personal experience in dealing with different footwear and foot care issues, and hopefully, you can get something out of it. Enjoy!

Theo Cox / Researcher, Writer

I’m an MA student currently working on a research project for King’s College London Museum of Life Sciences alongside my MA dissertation. I have been published in my student newspaper, The Spectator, and the Adam Smith Institute. I’m doing part of the research and writing of the content you’ll read on BestForMyFeet.com Enjoy!


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