Lacing patterns can help tailor the fit of a boot which is particularly useful if you have very narrow or wide feet. Specific lacing techniques can help make your walking boots feel more comfortable, hold your heels firmly in place and even stop laces coming undone as easily.
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Many people make the assumption that the lacing method employed by footwear manufacturers is the best way of fastening their new boots. For many people this may be true but in this guide we will look at alternative methods to customise your laces for the best fit.
Before changing the lacing pattern of your walking boots replace worn laces with a new pair. Laces stretch over time and become weaker and some of these lacing techniques can put additional stress on semi-worn laces possibly causing them to break prematurely. Always remember to carry a spare pair of laces with you in case of emergency, even if you have recently replaced yours.
There is no right or wrong way of fastening laces. Personal preference and ease of tying play a large part, as does knowing the different techniques! That’s where this guide comes in. All images in this guide show two colours of lace, this is to enable you to follow the passage of the lace through the eyelets and show how the knots are formed.
All the lacing techniques here use a surgeons knot. Effectively it is a starting knot where you pass the right lace over the left twice, then tuck it under and pull tight. This helps create more tension and reduce slippage (see image above).
Lacing Techniques for Narrow Feet
In the images below, we take you through a couple of techniques which are useful for those with narrower feet.
The lacing pattern shown here is a variation of a pattern called segmented lacing. Start in the middle (3 eyelets up) and works down to the bottom. If your boot has a gaiter catch, loop the laces through this before inserting the laces through the fourth eyelet. If your walking shoes don’t have a gaiter catch use a surgeons or reef knot at the bottom before inserting the laces through the fourth eyelet.
When you remove your walking boots, do not undo this section of lacing. This will ensure the boots remain at a constant tightness at all times, unless you need to further adjust the fit.
Another method (see image to left) is known as knotted lacing. This uses a more traditional lacing pattern with a surgeons knot (or a reef knot if you prefer) used after passing through eyelet 2, 3 or 4 depending on how much of the boot lacing you wish to lock off (“locking” is effectively using the knot to isolate part of the lacing so as to create a constant tension in that section of the lacing).
A surgeons knot is preferable as it allows for faster adjustment on the go, without the need of removing the boot. If you need to really tighten your boots you can insert a surgeons knot before passing through each eyelet. Be aware that doing this will allow almost no room for foot expansion. Try at home wearing your walking shoes for a few hours to see how they feel and adjust as necessary.
Lacing Techniques for Wider Feet / High Insteps
Certain techniques can alleviate pressure on the foot by creating “windows” in the lacing pattern. The image on the right demonstrates how you can create a window at the very front of the boot.
Windows can be created anywhere on the lacing run and can be tied off using surgeons knots if you wish (a surgeons knot can however add tension in the lacing where you may not want it). Remember, you don’t have to use all the eyelets on your boots, the above technique shows how you can miss out the bottom eyelets.
Heel Lock Methods
These techniques are designed to prevent both heel lift and forward movement of the foot in the boot, especially when descending steep hills. The first pattern starts with a surgeons knot and creates a window at the top of the boot. On the speed lace sections you can then pass the laces back through the sides (as demonstrated on the right).
The next step (below) is to tie off, starting with a surgeon knot again. This uses a cantilever effect, drawing the cuff of the boot together tightly to stop heel slippage.
The second method (below) creates slightly less tension, but moves the finishing knot lower down for greater ankle security.
Tie a surgeons knot before the speed lace section, then go straight up to the top lace catch, cross the laces over and pass down to the second lace catch. Draw the boot in tightly with another surgeons knot, then tie off.
Dealing with Damaged Boots
Sometimes unexpected things happen out on the trail and one of the most annoying things that can happen is laces breaking, or worse yet an eyelet breaking! Thankfully there are ways of dealing with this – one of which is outlined below.
Start by unlacing the footwear down below the broken eyelet and then pass both the laces up to the next good pair of eyelets (shown in left image). Next cross the laces back through the window that you made before passing the lace through the good side eyelet and tying a surgeons knot (see below).
After tying the surgeons knot, go back up to the next good set of eyelets and continue lacing as normal. This will minimise the loss of tension across the foot and allow your boot to remain comfortable whilst you complete your walk. Below is what the finished pattern looks like.
There are many methods for finishing off your laces and some are better than others. The double bow is particularly quick and easy to tie and undo. This type of knot provides good tension and resists undoing itself whilst out on the trail. A double bow is tied in the same manner as a single bow, but you loop over twice so that the finished knot looks like the image below.
There are of course many variations to tying off your laces and lacing patterns. Many of the lacing techniques described in this article can be applied simultaneously. If you have wide feet, use the window technique and the heel lock at the same time. If you have narrow feet besides lacing try changing the insoles in your boots to thicker ones. They will take up some of the volume so you are not over-tightening your boots and pulling them out of shape.
It is worth experimenting with a new lace pattern at home. Wear your boots round the house or go for a short walk in them close to home. That way if you find it uncomfortable, you aren’t trying to re-lace your boots halfway up mount Snowdon!