How to Tie Hiking Boots

Thought there was only one way to tie your shoelaces? Not when it comes to lacing up your hiking boots! In this guide we'll cover 5 different options to maximize the comfort of your feet and minimize any blisters.

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Written by: | Reviewed by: Brian Conghalie
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When tieing your boots for hiking the trails, how you do so can impact greatly on how comfortable your boots feel and how well they fit the particular shape of your foot.

If your boots are causing you a few more aches and pains than they should be, the problem may well be a lacing one.

Some of the problems that might result from imperfect tieing include blisters, tension in the forefoot, pressure on the toes when hiking downhill, and/or rubbing around lower calves at the collar of your hiking boot.

All of these issues, gladly, are easily avoided. To help you do so, below we’ll introduce you to a selection of the most important hiking boot lacing techniques.

Surgeon’s Knot

Feel that your heel is shifting around too much inside your boot? This is most likely caused by slack lacing leaving a little too much space at the top of your boot above your feet. To correct this issue:

1. Pull your laces tight up to the top eyelets, leaving the two upper lace hooks free. Between these two pairs of upper hooks you’ll be tying a surgeon’s knot to maintain tension in the lace.

2. Wrap the laces around each other as you would before tying a standard bow but do so twice.

3. Pull the free end of the laces tight and loop them around the first pair of hooks.

4. Do the same with the last (uppermost) pair of lace hooks.

5. Finish tying with your standard knot.

Toe-Relief Lacing

This simple fix offers relief if you feel excessive pressure in the toe-box area. Lacing boots or shoes with this method is not a cure for ill-fitting boots. However, it will help to ease pains caused by temporary swelling when hiking in high temps, if you have bunions, or if the toe-box in your boots is a little short on volume.

1. Completely unlace your boot.

2. Skip the first pair of eyelets and thread directly through the second pair.

3. Continue tieing to the top of the boot.

Window Lacing (aka “Box Lacing”)

If you feel excessive tension around the top of your foot, the window-tieing system can help to relieve a little pressure whilst maintaining a snug fit towards the toes and at the top of the boot.

1. Unlace your shoes down to the top of the eyelets (this usually leaves four hooks untied above).

2. Re-lace the hooks by looping around pair one and going up directly to pair two without crossing over.

3. From pair two to pair four of the hooks, cross over and tie off as normal.

Heel-Lock Lacing

Get frequent blisters on your heels or find your toes banging against the front of your boots when hiking downhill? Then your regular tieing system is allowing too much movement inside your boot.

This can be remedied with the heel-lock tieing system, which works to secure your foot in place and avoid forward slippage on descends and blister-causing heel lift the rest of the time.

1. Place your heel as far back in the boot as you can, tapping the heel on the ground if need be.

2. Lace your boot up normally through the eyelets until reaching the first hooks.

3. Tie surgeon’s knots between the first and second pairs of hooks, which should be positioned roughly at the top of your forefoot.

4. Lace normally up to the top of the boot,

Relaxed-Ankle lacing

This very minor tweak to your regular lacing style can be a big help if you have wider calves or feel excessive pressure around the collar of your boots.

1. Lace your boots normally until reaching the final pair of loops.

2. With the final pair of hooks, instead of looping the laces under the hooks, loop them over the top and tie off as normal.

How to Lace Hiking Boots: FAQs

Q: How can I tie my shoes so as to avoid getting blisters?

A: The “how to tie hiking boots to prevent blisters?” question is an interesting one. First up, we should mention that the main causes of blisters is an ill-fitting shoe, inappropriate sock choices, or a failure to nip blisters in the bud when you feel a hotspot.

However, if you’re sure you’re boots are a good fit and you’re wearing suitable socks, the best lacing technique to avoid this particularly exasperating pain in the posterior is the heel-lock lacing system. This tying method prevents your foot from shifting around inside the boot, which is one of the main causes of blisters.

Q: How to tie hiking boots for downhill stretches?

A: If you feel no discomfort when with your normal lacing techniques, then no—if it ain’t broke, after all, why fix it? If, however, you feel your toes being pushed up against the front of your boot in descent, then a small tweak to how you tie your walking boots laces could relieve the pressure. Again, the heel-lock system is the way to go.

Q: Should hiking boots be tight or loose?

A: The overall level of tension in your tieing system should be somewhere between the two but erring on the side of snug. If the fit of your boot makes it necessary to lace the shoe very loosely or tightly, then your boots are probably a bad fit.

Last update on 2023-06-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Kieran James Cunningham is a climber, mountaineer, and author who divides his time between the Italian Alps, the US, and his native Scotland.

He has climbed a handful of 6000ers in the Himalayas, 4000ers in the Alps, 14ers in the US, and loves nothing more than a good long-distance wander in the wilderness. He climbs when he should be writing, writes when he should be sleeping, has fun always.

Kieran has taught mountaineering, ice climbing, and single-pitch and multi-pitch rock climbing in a variety of contexts over the years and has led trekking and mountaineering expeditions in the Alps, Rockies, and UK. He is currently working towards qualifying as a Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor and International Mountain Leader.

Kieran’s book Climbing the Walls—an exploration of the mental health benefits of climbing, mountaineering, and the great outdoors—is scheduled for release by Simon & Schuster in April 2021.

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