Lacing Your Boots

Tying up your shoes is one of the many things you learn as a kid growing up.  If you were to say to an adult, you are tying your boots up wrong they would probably think you are mad.  Because surely there is only one way to tie a pair of walking boots up – isn’t there?

Well, in theory yes, but in practice no, there are numerous ways to tie a hiking boot lace and none of them are fashion related!  The standard way of lacing up a hiking boot is the way that the boot will come to you from the manufacturer. Normally criss-crossed lacing to the top, where it is tied off.


However, have you ever felt that your boot is tight across your toes or across the top of your foot?  Have you ever had problems trying to keep your heel from slipping forward?  Well you will be pleased to know that there are a few different ways to tie your boot laces that could improve your comfort.

I will look at three ‘tricks’ to help relieve discomfort:

  • Surgeon’s Knot – can keep you heel from slipping.
  • Window Lacing – reduces pressure on the top of your foot.
  • Toe-Relief Lacing – eases the pressure across your toes.

Surgeon’s Knot


This will help to prevent your heel from slipping forward

  • Pull out any slack in the laces, fitting the boot snuggly over the top of your foot.
  • Locate the two pairs of lace hooks or eyes closest to the point where the top of your foot begins to flex forward; you will be tying a surgeon’s knot at each of these pairs.
  • Wrap the laces around each other twice, then pull them tight.
  • Repeat the last step at the next highest set of lace hooks or eyes.
  • Lace the rest of your boot in the usual way.

Window Lacing


If your boots create a pressure point on the top of your foot, then window, or box, lacing can help reduce the problem.

  • Unlace the boots down to just below the pressure points.
  • Re-lace by going straight up the next hook or eye and then crossing the laces over.
  • Finish lacing the boot in the usual way.  If you require a more snug fit, then you may wish to tie a surgeon’s knot at the lower and upper edge of the window.

Toe-Relief Lacing


If you find that you are unable to ‘wiggle’ your toes and they feel restricted, then you can relieve the pressure by using toe-relief lacing.  This may just be a temporary measure, or as in my case, a permanent measure.

  • Completely unlaced the boot.
  • Re-lace it but miss the first set of hooks or eyes; this will open up the toe box and take some pressure off your toes.

If your toes always hurt when you hike, you may need a different pair of boots.  However, if like me, your boots are wide enough in the toe box, but your laces tighten the box, then this method is for you.

Boot Laces

The laces that you receive with your boots will be long enough to allow you to make these changes to your lacing methodology.  If your laces are worn out, make sure you replace them with ones that match both the shape (round, oval or flat) and length of your existing pair.


It’s important to note that the lacing techniques described here aren’t a substitute for getting the right fit when you buy your boots. Always buy your boots directly from a reputable walking boot dealer, never buy from an outdoor fashion outlet.  Ensure that the person serving you is qualified to measure your foot and correctly fit boots.

(Acknowledgements – The first image is courtesy of Merrell, and the last three images are courtesy of REI)


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