Did you know that you can free yourself from some shoe fitting problems with the way you lace your shoe? The traditional row of criss-crosses works for most people, but you may want to try something different if you have narrow heels, toe pain, high arches or a wide forefoot.
A-B-Cs of Shoe Lacing
The first thing to know if you want your laces to provide a more custom fit is to select a shoe with a lot of eyelets (the holes the laces go through).
Always start lacing near your toes at the eyelets considered to be the lower or bottom ones.
As you zig and zag across the shoe’s tongue, tighten each criss-cross as you go.
Narrow Feet or Heel Slippage: Use the “Extra” Hole
Have you ever wondered why there is an “extra” set of eyelets set off to each side of the eyelet row? Wonder no more!
If your feet are slender, you can use those outside eyelets for a better fit.
Lock lacing (also called loop lacing lock) pulls up each side of the shoe for a more stable fit. It also makes the fit more stable at your ankle.
How to lock lace. After you’ve laced your shoe:
1. Thread the lace into that “extra” eyelet. Leave the lace loose, so you have a little loop.
2. Pull the lace through the loop. This gets the lace back on top so you can tie it. It also creates a little horizontal line near your bow.
3. Tie as usual.
If your feet are super narrow, you can add a lace lock mid-foot too:
1. Lace halfway
2. Thread the lace back into the hole you just pushed it through, but leave it loose as a loop.
3. Criss-cross and put the lace through the loop on the opposite side. You’ll have two small vertical lace lines along both sides about midway.
4. Continue to lace and follow instructions above for a lock lace at the top.
Wide Feet or Tight Shoes: Parallel, Please
If your feet are wide across your toes and heel, or if your shoes just feel too tight, parallel lacing (also called straight bar lacing) can make your shoe feel roomier.
After you lace this way, you’ll have a line of straight bars across the tongue.
How to parallel lace. This lacing starts out differently:
1. Thread the end of the lace through the top of an eyelet.
2. Pull the lace over to the eyelet directly across and thread it down through the eyelet. This makes a straight line across your shoe.
3. Pull one side of the lace across all the eyelets and up through the last eyelet. Underneath, where you can’t see it, you’ll have one long line.
4. With the side of the lace still at the starting point, bring it up through the next eyelet on the same side.
5. Cross the shoe and thread the lace down through the eyelet directly across.
6. Pull the lace up through the next eyelet on the same side.
7. Cross the shoe to thread the lace down into the eyelet directly across.
8. Keep making horizontal lines like this until you come up through the last eyelet.
9. Tie normally.
Wide Forefoot or Bunion: Leave One Eye Open
If your foot is only wide at the top and not the heel, skip the first eyelet on both sides. Start lacing from the second eyelet. Criss-cross lace as usual.
This loosens up the shoe across your toes. If you have a bunion, this method can make shoes more comfortable.
Narrow Heel and Wide Forefoot: Wear Two Bows
To solve two problems—a foot that’s wide across the toes but narrow at the heels—use two small laces. This allows you to vary the tightness at the toe and the heel. So you can uncramp your toes while keeping your shoe on!
How to segment lace. For this method, you need two short laces for each shoe.
1. With the first lace, start near your toe and criss-cross about half way to the top.
2. Don’t tighten each criss-cross lace too much. Leave them loose to give your toes more wiggle room.
3. Tie the lace at the midway point.
4. Use the second lace to finish lacing the shoe.
5. Tighten this lace with each criss-cross to keep shoes snug at the heel.
6. Tie the bow at the top as usual.
High Arch or Bump on Top: Leave a Gap
When you have a high arch or a natural, painless bump on the top of your foot, shoes can feel too tight or even cause irritation. This lacing method can also help prevent numbness in your foot.
To give yourself a bit more leeway, use the gap lacing method.
How to gap lace. The first thing to do is to match up your problem spot with your shoe:
1. Put a lipstick smear on the bump or irritated spot.
2. Slip your bare foot into your shoe.
3. Take your foot out and look to see where the lipstick is on the underside of the shoe tongue.
4. Note which eyelets its closest to.
5. Lace as you typically would in criss-crosses up to the lipstick mark.
6. At that eyelet, instead of going across, thread the lace into the open eyelet right beside it. This makes a small vertical line.
7. Do the same thing with the other end of the lace. Now you have vertical parallel lines.
8. Continue criss-crossing lacing as usual.
Sore Toe: Zig Only, Don’t Zag
You can give a sore toe or black toenail some relief by the way you lace your shoe.
How to lace. Pull the pressure up and away from your toe:
1. Thread the lace through the top eyelet that is on the same side as your big toe.
2. Make a long “zig” across the tongue and thread the lace up at the last eyelet on the opposite side.
3. Adjust the lace until you have just enough space to tie at the top.
4. With the other end of the lace, pull the lace straight across and thread it down in the eyelet directly across.
5. Pull the lace diagonally across the shoe and up the eyelet on the other side.
6. Continue this diagonal lacing until all eyelets are laced.
7. Tie shoe.
Ready to Shop?
American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society: “How to Lace Shoes for Proper Fit.”
Houston Foot Specialists: “How to Tie Your Shoes, Secrets You Never Knew”
Wood Lake Podiatry: “Learn How to Custom Tie Your Shoe for Your Specific Foot Structure”
Financial Foot District Foot & Ankle Center: “Athletic Shoe Lacing Tutorial” Video
“Custom Tie Your Running Shoes” http://www.runnersworld.com/running-tips/custom-tie-your-running-shoes?page=single
Ian’s Shoelace Site