How to Get the Right Fit Online

The well-being of your knees, hips, and back is very much dependent on what you wear on your feet. And when it comes to footwear, fit is EVERYTHING. Forget how cool the shoe looks. Forget that it’s half price. If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t wear it. Period.

So with this in mind, ordering shoes online can seem daunting. Will they fit? Will they need to be returned? To reduce the fear factor, we measure all of the backpacking, hiking, and running shoes we carry. These measurements are included in the “Tech Spec” section of each online product description.

Ball Width

The ball width (widest part of the foot) of each hiking and running shoe is measured using a caliper. This measurement is translated into wide, medium, and narrow. These width values are included in our footwear’s product description. A men’s medium is equivalent to a D; a women’s medium is equivalent to a B.

Heel Width

Heel widths are also provided in our online product descriptions. We include them because the most common heel problem is too much room in the heel box. If your heel moves within the shoe, sometimes rubbing against the back and causing blisters, you might have a narrow heel, in which case you should choose a shoe with a narrow heel box.


Width and length are not the only ways to measure a foot. Volume, or the overall mass of a foot, can differ dramatically from one person to the next. If you’ve always had trouble finding a shoe that adequately holds your foot in place, you might have low-volume feet. We measure our shoes (literally fill them with beans) and translate those values into low, medium, and high volume. If you’re in doubt about your foot volume, ask a professional shoe fitter.

Know Your Size

but knowing the size of a shoe gets you only halfway there. You need to know your feet. If it’s been more than a year since your feet were last measured, there’s a very good chance that you don’t know your actual foot size. Arch support, for example, can slacken with age and your feet might literally spread out and get longer.

At least once a year you should go into a store to get measured by a professional fitter—even if you order your shoes exclusively online. At Eastern Mountain Sports, we have the Foot Guru program. Each of our 67 stores has several sales associates who have attended a comprehensive course on how to help you achieve the perfect fit. These Foot Gurus will help thoroughly analyze your feet and discuss all the different things you can do to affect fit.

If you’re shopping online and can’t make it to a store, call our Customer Service Department and ask to speak with a Foot Guru specialist (1-203-379-2233).

Right Fit = Right Shoe + Right Sock + Right Footbed What? There’s more to a proper fit than wearing the right shoes? You bet. The thickness of the sock and footbed has a major effect on fit.


Wear socks that fit your feet. Socks should fit snugly without cramping your toes or allowing extra material to fold, wrinkle, and cause friction. Your sock’s heel should fit snugly around your heel. The arch area should fit snugly around your arch. Seams should be flat (especially on the toes) and shouldn’t rub or pinch any part of your foot.

If your feet are wide or high volume, you might opt for slightly thinner socks to adjust the fit. If you have narrow or low-volume feet, wear thick socks to fine-tune the fit.


All our hiking and running shoes come with removable foam liners that provide some cushioning, but no real arch support. The question is, should you swap out the standard default footbed for a cushioned, higher-performance option to help stabilize your foot and better support your arch?

If your foot’s standing (weighted) measurement is longer than your seated (unweighted) measurement by a whole foot size, you’ll benefit from more arch support. Support your foot correctly with an aftermarket footbed, which will help support your foot in its natural position and allow it to work more efficiently. Keep in mind that the foam footbed supplied in your footwear is inadequate and will deform quickly.

Superfeet are great examples of high-quality aftermarket footbeds. Made in several different models, Superfeet footbeds offer different levels of arch support and shock absorption. They also come in different thicknesses for high-, medium-, and low-volume feet.


For hiking footwear, kick your heels into the back of the shoe and lace them with enough tension for the laces to snap back when pulled between the eyelets (think of a stringed musical instrument). If this creates discomfort, learn special lacing techniques that can help improve fit. by asking an Eastern Mountain Sports Foot Guru at any of our stores or by watching any of these videos:

Surgeon's Knot

A surgeon’s knot helps lock the heel down for a better fit.

Surgeons Knot Over Lace

Create a more comfortable fit around the ankle.

Runner's Loop

A secure, comfortable lacing method for runners.

Create a Window to Relieve Pressure

This lacing method provides an area of relief for higher insteps.

Additional Tips

i) Find a shoe specifically designed for the activity you want. Many people try to find one shoe that does it all—this won’t work. Ultimately, running shoes are designed for running, hiking shoes for hiking.

ii) During long days of running or hiking, make sure you stop to check your feet. This can be as simple as maintaining your lace tension so the shoe is securely anchored on your feet. For a more thorough check, remove your shoes and socks to make sure you have no red spots, excessive moisture, or problems that could become worse later on. Change your socks if they become too wet.

iii) Make sure both of your feet are measured. With socks on, have BOTH of your feet measured on a Brannock Device (sounds scary, but it’s harmless). This portable metal tool measures the length and width of your feet. Why both feet? One foot is usually longer and/or wider than the other. Fitting to the larger foot is critical. Measure your feet each time you shop for footwear.

iv) Listen to your feet. If you have foot pain that doesn’t go away, a sore that doesn’t heal, or loss of sensation in your feet: SEE A DOCTOR . . . NO QUESTION!!!