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

33 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.

  6. I have some Altberg Defenders which I bought 1/2 a size up and in wide because I have extremely wide feet and an arthritic toe joint which needs room. Consequently the boots are a little too large and the heels slip. I can’t reduce the volume at the toe and as it will hurt the arthritis and likewise I can’t have my toes being jammed forward for the same reasons.

    Any idea what the best solution is for me?

    • You need the shoes to be more snug in the instep or tongue area. If they are snug in this area then you won’t slide forward into the toes and away from the heel. You can make the shoes snug in this area with some felt “tongue pads” or an extra arch “cookie”.

  7. Hi. I have a new pair of western full-grain leather boots [13″ shaft] that I’ve worn for three days. In the store as I tried them on, they felt too roomy behind my ankles and the back of my foot. They didn’t hug well behind my ankles and around the back of the foot. They did not have a half-size smaller to try on and I was assured they’d be o.k. when they broke in.

    They don’t slip too badly on level ground but do slip significantly when going upstairs. My foot also slides forward in the boot a little when walking downhill.

    The toe box is comfortable across the widest part of the toes, but the heel box just feels too big and doesn’t hug my heel well.

    I was assured by the store salesperson that the boots would break in enough to mold around my foot and become more snug; that it would take at least a week of heavy wearing to accomplish this. Though this might be true to a degree, I have my doubts this will fully work, or be able to snug-up all the space around the back of the ankles and heel that it needs to.

    I tried removing the cushioned/gel insole that comes in the boot and replaced it with inserts that are stiffer and have a bit of an arch to it. It may help a bit, but won’t snug up the heal around the back of my ankles and Achilles. Switching to the new inserts means I also loose the gel padding that originally came in the boot’s inserts.

    Any suggestions? Where can I get a full leather back to install into the boot, if that’s the way to go? If so, is that something I can install myself?

    Thanks very much for your help.

    • Your description leads me to believe the boots are too big. Getting e right size is the best answer. If you had bought them from me I would give you another pair that actually fit. We have a fit Guarantee.
      But you probably can’t take them back to the store you got them for if they are worn. So, here are some suggestions. Simplest answers are to try bobble insoles or thick socks or two pair of socks. the next step would be to modify the boots with thick leather backs or adding tongue pads or arch cookies. I give in depth explanations of those in other posts on this site.
      We can do that work for you if you want to ship the boots to us. Or maybe your local shoe repIr can do that if you hVe one.

  8. Thanks for responding. I was told I wouldn’t be able to return boots that are worn outside. Wish I knew about your store with your Fit Guarantee. For future reference, can you order just about any Western brand?

    I used a heavy pair of Winter socks yesterday, which helped; but when it gets warmer, that won’t do me much good.

    How much do you think it would be to ship my boots to you to have you install thick leather backs or whatever you feel might do the trick? My family and I are on a tight budget, unfortunately. I will try to find a good shoe/boot repair around here first; if not, I”ll give you a call.

    Appreciate your help.

      • I’m waiting to hear back from a local cobbler to see if they can do the work. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll give you a call. Thanks very much for posting this advice. I thought I was doomed to an ill-fitting pair of boots. Have a good week.

      • No go on a local cobbler. I had a couple follow-up questions:

        1. I’ve watched a bunch of online videos that say you *should* have plenty of room in the heel and that it should slip. My heal doesn’t slip too bad, but it feels like there’s too much room around the back of the ankles – like the heel counter is too wide? I’ve also heard this is a good thing to have space around the heel. Is it?

        2. If your shop inserts a leather heel back into the boots, does it get skived in around the edges to blend inside the boot?

        3. When it’s stitched, does it follow the stitching lines around the back heel piece/ heel counter that’s already there? I looked at your article on this and it looks like it does.

        Thanks for the help! When I get some money saved up, as out of state shipping will be costly, I’ll send the boots your way.

        • 1. Boots may slip in the heel but they don’t have to slip to be a good fit. A Boot should only slip because the boot or sole is stiff and your foot bends but the boot doesn’t bend yet with it. They should not slip because the heel is loose. Why would it be a good thing to have space around the heel? The boot should fit comfortably snug in the instep without allowing your heel to move forward in the boot thus causing slip.
          2. Yes we skive the top and side edges. (for others reading this, Skive means feather the edge of the leather.) We have a professional Fortuna skiving machine.
          3. Yes we try to match the original stitching and stitch color. There are some times on certain boots that we can’t perfectly match because of the way the boot is constructed. But 99% of the time we can match it up.

          • I agree with you. I’m not sure some of these other websites are giving accurate advice about heel space and slippage. [or being clear about what they really mean.] Even for a more novice guy like me, having slippage and heel space didn’t seem to make much sense. Besides, I’ve had them for over a month now, and normal sole stiffness should have broken in a bit, even with not wearing them daily.

            The heel slip itself isn’t bad; it’s that the space around the heel and back of the ankles seems excessive to me. It also feels like the throat of the boot could be a bit more narrow. The instep is o.k, though… I think.

            And when I put on the boot, I don’t get that “pop” when you insert your foot past that resistance point. My foot also slips forward in the boot a scooch in some circumstances – but not always.

            Glad the inserts are skived and that the stitching pattern would closely match. I thought you guys would do that, but was just making sure. :)

  9. I bought a pair of twisted x work boots and yes they are to big. I just bought some insoles last night and put them in. it seemed to tighten things up. However after a lot of walking today, seems things have loosened up again. Nothing like before the top part of my foot standing fits snug and the heel does slip a bit like it should. I do move forward a touch still but not sure if that is just normal. I got so use to wearing lace up style work boots for so long. Can you please confirm that these symptoms are what i should expect in a non lace up style boot?

    • The way you describe it, it sounds like a good fit. New, slip-on, boots may slip some in the heel until they’re broken in. You can test for a good fit this way. 1. They slip no more than about a half-inch when walking. 2. The boot kind of pops on when you put them on. 3. If you kick your heel back in the boot and then step down and your foot doesn’t slide forward away from the heel causing it it slip.
      New boot slip should be because the boot is stiff and not broken in. It should not be because your heel is sliding away from the heel counter of the boot.

  10. i bought a pair of chippewa engineer steel toe boots and walked in them. after i took them off i saw blood on my socks. the steel toe area rubbed the skin on the tops of my middle toes off. my toes also had nasty huge blisters on them.

    i couldnt walk for awhile after it. i took them back and couldnt exchange it for another size. the previous size was 12 D destroyed my skin on the instep of the top of my foot rubbing the skin off. I then tried a size 10 E. which i have now. i tried double socks with mole skin on the socks, i tried toe cushions around my toes and combined with the socks and mole skins.

    my foot felt okay then the pain started. i used the nurse shoe inserts because they are soft and bought some thick socks. that worked then again my toes started to hurt. my big toe and pinky toes. my big toes also have clotted blood in the nail from where it hurt last time.

    is there a way to stop this or do i have to try double thick socks combined with the toe cushions? my heel also would slip and i have to adjust the belt strap across the top part of the foot so it would be good and snug. on my left boot i didnt have to adjust the strap but on the right boot i did.

    so currently im in pain and have to now soak my feet to get rid of the pain..

    • You have had a rough go, oh my. Sorry to hear about how much pain you have been though. The best advice I can give you, without personally seeing you, is to get a different boot AND get properly fitted by a professional when you do. You have more issues than I can help you with properly through from a message here. No “breaking in”, socks, or padding is going to fix the problems you are having. You have the wrong size and the wrong boot for YOUR feet.

      • if im measured by a scale of 11 A. THEN WHAT SIZE BOOT DO I NEED. 9w 8w. if the boot was soft toe would the same thing happen? i cant throw the boots away.

        • If you measured an 11a then buy an 11a. But since A widths are hard to find, then buy a B width. Why would you think you need to go to a 9w or 8w? Best analogy I can give you is you are putting an eight foot basketball player into a Mini Cooper. You could take the engine out and cut holes in the firewall and stick his feet through. But, it will never be the same as putting him in a Hummer.
          An A width means you have a narrow foot, Buy a boot in that longer, narrower size. If that boot doesn’t come in an A or B then find a boot that does.
          Of course, don’t throw the boots away. Sell them to a friend or sell on eBay. In the end the loss you incur will be cheaper then the bills you’ll get from a Dr. Your feet will thank you.

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