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Lacing Techniques for Better Hiking Boot Fit

This video explains how hikers and backpackers can use different lacing techniques to get a better fit from their hiking boots.

Lacing Techniques for Better Hiking Boot Fit

While every hiker and backpacker dreams about the perfect fitting boot or shoe, deep down we all know there is no such thing. Even the very best fitting footwear can leave you wanting a bit of fine-tuning. Luckily, there are a number of easy lacing techniques that can improve fit and hold your foot in its proper position. Everyone’s feet have a unique shape and the volume of feet differ too, so there isn’t one single lacing system or technique that is going to work for everyone. If you have a lower volume foot or a really low arch, there are techniques that can be used to strategically create supportive pressure. If you’re at the other end of the spectrum, however, and have a high volume foot or a high arch, that same lacing technique could apply too much pressure and actually restrict circulation. The good news is that there other techniques to address those concerns.

Here are just a few examples of lacing techniques to help increase comfort and reduce fatigue:

Double Overhand Knot. Though it isn’t traditionally used in boot lacing, a general double overhand knot can be a really valuable problem solver. Start to lace your boot like you normally would, but go underneath a third time and pull on the laces to tighten. This forms a kind of a lock lace and, even untied or without being held, it can basically maintain its structure and hold tension on its own. This allows you to tension the top part of the lacing differently from the lower part. You could use the double overhand knot down at the base of the laces, lock it in at the top of the ankle, or use it wherever you find that customizing the tension between one part of your foot and another is most comfortable.

Securing the Ankle/Heel. Once you’re comfortable using the double overhand knot, you’ve got options. Often times, hikers and backpackers blame ill-fitting boots for soreness or blisters on their toes. This can happen not necessarily because you’re in the wrong size but because there’s just a bit too much or too little room for that absolutely perfect fit. You may not notice it when you first set out on your hike but hours later or after many miles on the trail, it may become uncomfortably noticeable. By better securing your ankles to the back of the boots with proper lacing, you may be able to prevent soreness and alleviate undue rubbing.

Relieving Forefoot Pressure. Another common complaint is pain or irritation across the top of the foot. This sensation can be amplified as your feet swell from extended exertion. Here’s a useful tip for relieving some of that pressure and providing just a little extra wiggle room. Begin by unlacing the boot to a point near the toes and then rerouting the lacing along the perimeter instead of crisscrossing it in a traditional fashion. Once you’ve run the lacing beyond the uncomfortable point of pressure, apply that trusty double overhand knot and then continue lacing as you normally would. By lacing in this manner, you’ve left the top of the forefoot with a little extra room to expand or “breathe” if you will. This technique can be especially useful for hikers with high arches or particularly high-volume feet.

Don’t be afraid to combine techniques or experiment. Depending on the eyelet placement on your shoes or boots, you may need a variation on the techniques that we shared or you may find that a completely different technique better provides you with the comfort you need. There are no fixed rules and it’s definitely worthwhile to try different techniques to find what works best for you to ensure that you can worry less about your feet and more about enjoying your time outdoors.