Boot Conditioning and Preparation plays a major role in ensuring your feet are ready for any mission, ruck march, or even a long walk. Feet under the stress of a combat load will become wider, longer and swell approximately 1 – 2 % during forced marches. The best-case scenario to determine if boots actually fit is to go out and run two or three miles with the insoles and socks you will use and wear. Insoles provide relief to the shock generated by heavy loads and should be worn during the early stages of a road march. If desired, the insoles can be removed or replaced with thinner insoles to allow for more comfort when feet swell. Normally, soldiers sign for their boots from a central issue facility or their unit supply and never fit their boots until it is time to wear them, which can result in damaging their feet. Our best advice is to conduct the above mentioned test after you receive the boots and if they DO NOT fit, return them for another pair. Whatever you do, don’t keep the boots if they do not fit.

Leadership Insight: Generally, if you have a good boot fit, you should have a slight amount of room in the front of the boots to wiggle your toes. Width-wise, your boots should feel a little snug (but not tight) and your heel should stay in place while walking and not slide back and forth (which causes blisters). To improve the fit of the boot, try loosening or tightening the laces at different parts of the boot until you get the perfect fit.

Boot Fitting Guidelines

When determining the proper boot fit, there are several different areas that may be affected which may create discomfort. Major areas are heel, instep, and balls of the feet. If any of these areas are affected, each will provide indicators to why the boot does not properly fit. Follow the Rules of Thumb when trying them on.

Rules of Thumb

If the tops of the toes are involved, the cap is too low or too stiff.

If the ends of the toes are affected, the boot is too short or too loosely laced.

If the sides of the BIG and little toes becomes irritated, the boot is too narrow.

If there is irritation at the heel, the boot may be too long, too loosely laced or have too wide a heel space for the foot.


Heel – If your heel is loose, try tightening the laces in the area directly at the ankle-bend.

Instep – If there is too much pressure over your instep (the top of your foot near your ankle), try completely skipping one set of eyelets with the laces, directly over the affected area. One drawback is that you may experience a looser heel fit with shoes laced this way.

Wide Forefoot (ball) – People with WIDE feet (in a boot that is too narrow) often feel slight pain or numbness at the ball of the foot. To fix this, first try loosening the laces (in the affected area only). If this doesn’t work, you may need to try a thinner insole to give the feet more room. Also read about boot-freezing for Extra W-I-D-E feet.

Narrow Forefoot (ball) – People with narrow feet (in a boot that is too wide) can try two things:

1) Tighten up the laces. However, once the boots have stretch slightly, you may run out of room for more lace tightening which will require a thicker after-market insole to take out the excess space. Try a flat (arch-less) insole for this purpose and put it underneath the removable arch insole that came with the boot.

2) If your foot is causing heel slippage, use a Runner’s Knot.

Pressure on the top of the toes – Boots that crease abnormally and dig into the tops of the toes are too wide, too long, or have too much interior volume for the feet. Thicker insoles may remedy this issue.