Boots are too loose and wearing thick socks doesn’t help, what can I do?

Question for The Boot Guy: I bought a pair of Ariat “Dixie” boots about 6 months ago.  I normally wear a size 9AA, but since narrow women’s Western boots are impossible to find, I planned to wear these boots in a 9B (the narrowest width I could get) with heavy socks.  I can’t, however, make the boots fit comfortably by wearing thick socks.   My foot still slides forward (possibly made worse by the height of the heel) making the boots uncomfortable, which eventually causes me to have pain/cramps in my feet, making it virtually impossible to wear the boots.  I can’t return them because of the time factor.  Is there any way the boots could be altered so as to be narrower, or is there anything I could do to make them wearable?  I can’t really afford to have a pair of boots in my closet, which are like new that I can’t even wear.  Please help!

We can help! If your boots are too big there are a number of solutions to your problem. Let me give you a few ideas to try. The right solutions depends on what spot of your boots is too loose. So I’ll list the solutions and describe what area they tighten.

You mentioned trying socks to tighten up your boots. That is usually the first solution to try. But this may cause problem of making the toes of the boot too tight. One solution is to wear boot socks like, Justin Boot Socks. These socks are made with thicker heels and thinner toes. They will tighten up the heel and take out heel slip.

Another popular solution is to add an extra pair of cushion insoles. They will tighten up the whole boot. So, insoles may give you the same problem as extra socks and make the toes too tight.

So what can be done to tighten up the boot and not make the toes too tight. I have three things for you to try.

One. Add an arch cookie or a ¾ length arch support. An arch cookie is an arch that is shaped like a D and is glued in your boot in the arch area. It tightens the instep of your boot and helps keep your foot from sliding forward. A ¾ length arch support does the same, but also takes up more room since it is an arch and a 3/4 length insoles too. But by not going the full length of the boot, these supports don’t tighten the toes.

Two. Put a “Tongue Pad” in the top of the boot in the area where the tongue of a  shoe would rest on your foot. This method tightens up the arch, keeps you from slipping forward and make the heel tighter.

Third. Put a leather back in the boot. See this other article I wrote about heel backs here. This is a great solution if the boot fits pretty good but the heel slipping a lot. Heel slipping can cause a shearing motion in the heel that can cause blisters. Leather heel backs or heel counters can be made of various thicknesses of leather, depending on how loose the boots are.

I suppose there is a fourth answer too. That would be a combination of any of the above answers.

arch cookie arch supports

Arch Cookies help keep your foot from slipping forward in a loose boot.

spenco arch

Spenco 3/4 arch support cushions help keep your foot from slipping forward in a loose boot and tighten the size without making the toes too tight.

Tongue pads

Peel adhesive and place in tongue area of loose boots

14 thoughts on “Boots are too loose and wearing thick socks doesn’t help, what can I do?

  1. read the slipping heel suggestions but I think I’ll look for a shoe maker that can add an adjustable concho strap , that should do the trick!

  2. Thank you for this post – i just bought a used pair of cowboy boots that I love – but even with a pair of thick socks they let my foot slip forward a bit too much and it’s killing /rubbing off the skin of my medial cuneiform ! I’m going to try the full foot insert and see if that does the trick :)

  3. I am having a similar issue but with a pair of muck-style boots (neoprene throughout, with rubber dipped to just above ankle height). The wear and tear is really in the heel area. I definitely should have sized down, but it’s too late. Do you think it’s still possible to add a leather heal counter to something like this? I’ve already done thicker socks and an additional insole. Thanks for any suggestions!


    • It is very difficult to work on Muck boots. The Neoprene and rubber just do not want to cooperate, they are difficult sew. So, I won’t do them, but maybe someone else will.

      • No problem — thanks! I suspected they would be basically impossible to work with. Thanks for responding!

        I wish someone just made some sort of heel cup that went under the back of the insole to hold it in place and then basically cradled the heel. Oh well — next time I should focus on buying the right size first!

  4. I was having a similar issue though my boots were purchased a half size up as that is what a friend of mine (who have the same boots) told me. They are the Bluebird by Dan Post and are far too large. When sitting, my feet feel good in the boot. But when I walk, they slide all over. What would be the most opportune option of the 3 above to try first? My thanks!!

  5. Thanks for an interesting article!
    I recently bought a rarely used pair of vintage, “smooth ostrich” Noconas from the early nineties, in great condition and all inner linings in perfect shape. The right boot is really a bit too loose around the ankle laterally, but length-wise and at the level of the toes they are exactly right. Given their age and the kind of leather I’m not expecting the heel slip to disappear, so I wonder if it’s possible to install additional pads only on the sides so as not to lose any length? Would that be a complex operation? (I live in France, so sending in boots for repair in the US would be a bit costly…)
    Thanks in advance for any suggestions,

    • I think the best option for you is to insert a thick leather back all the way around the inside of the heel back. The leather is about 1/8″ thick so it shouldn’t shorten the length enough to change the size. Putting leather on all three sides of the heel will snug the heel better and the sueded leather in the back helps grip your heel to prevent slip.
      It is possible to do just on two sides, but I don’t think that is the best solution.

      • Thanks for the suggestion. I suppose that ideally the extra piece would be sewn in (which is not something I’d trust any cobbler with…)
        I’m going to start experimenting with some padding in my socks to get an idea how much thickness would be needed.

      • Rene you might see if you can get Boot Socks in France. A boot sock is made with an extra think cushion in the heel. They work to prevent heel slip. Justin Boot makes some good boot socks.

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