How should cross country ski boots fit? Make sure you’re good to glide

The legs of two cross country skiers
How should cross country ski boots fit? We size up this common question to help make sure you have the best kit for snow season (Image credit: Steve Mason)

Athletic footwear sometimes follows different rules to everyday shoes and boots. For example, you want your rock climbing shoes to be very snug, whereas when sizing hiking boots, you want about one thumb’s width of space between the tip of your toes and the front of the hiking boot. So how should cross country ski boots fit? We answer this common question to help make sure you have the best kit for snow season. 

How should cross country ski boots fit? 

Cross country skier

The fit of your cross country ski boots is going to be pretty similar to your regular athletic footwear fit (Image credit: TommL)

Basically, the fit of your cross country ski boots is going to be pretty similar to your regular athletic footwear fit. Cross country boots are made in European sizes, so you’ll need to figure out what European size you wear your hiking boots or trail running shoes in and start there. So if you wear a European size 40 shoe, start by trying on a size 40 ski boot.  

How do you know if cross country ski boots fit? 

A woman cross country skiing

Different brands and styles do size slightly differently, so you want to try your boots on before you buy them (Image credit: Westend61)

Of course, different brands and styles do size slightly differently, so you want to try your boots on before you buy them. Before you try the boots on, put on the thickest pair of ski socks that you’ll be wearing with the boots. When you put them on, slide your heel all the way back before lacing them up. Once laced up, stand up and the boot should be snug, but still comfortable around the widest part of your foot.

You should be able to wiggle your toes which means you’ll be able to access and activate your foot muscles for skiing. For both cross country skiing and skate skiing, it’s ideal if your toes just brush the end of the boot, whereas for other types of skiing, it’s okay if there’s a little more room. 

Is it better for cross country ski boots to be tight or loose? 

A cross country skier in the mountains on a sunny day

While you may be able to get away with sizing down a half size with cross country ski boots, you definitely don’t want them to be loose (Image credit: Larry Kwan)

While you may be able to get away with sizing down a half size with cross country ski boots, you definitely don’t want them to be loose. If your foot moves around in the boot, it will rub your foot and cause blisters.

It does take a while to break cross country ski boots in, and of course once you’ve been out skiing in them you won’t be able to return them, so it’s a good idea to wear them around the house a few times and make sure they’re not too tight and don’t rub before you get them out on the snow.

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.