Outdoor Horizon is a reader-supported site. Purchases made through links may earn a commission.

What’s The Best Way To Lace Hiking Boots?

Hiking boots, unlike other footwear, require special technique when lacing in order to keep your foot secure, as well as prevent swelling and blisters. This is because of the uneven nature of hiking trails, and for many hikers, it is a struggle to lace their hiking boots correctly.

The best way to lace hiking boots is by doing the overhand knot. This involves crossing the two laces over one other to form an ‘’X” before looping the laces and pulling their ends away from each other. Doing this ensures that the lacing stays in place, allowing you to tie however you deem fit.

Lacing your hiking boots correctly is crucial to the overall hiking experience that you enjoy. A pair of badly laced hiking boots can cause foot troubles, accidents, and great discomfort. Below, we go through all the important tips and techniques required to lace your hiking books correctly.

Why It’s Important To Lace Your Hiking Boots Correctly

Different Hiking Terrains

One of the main reasons it is important to lace hiking boots correctly is the existence of different hiking terrains. Hiking terrains range from mountainous terrains to plain trails, and they go uphill as well as downhill. Due to the difference in movement style, each terrain puts pressure on different parts of the foot.

This is why you need proper lacing for specific hiking terrains to support your feet and reduce strain. For mountainous terrain, you need to employ a lacing technique that prevents heel spillage by locking your heel in. Hiking downhill requires the area at the top of your foot to be pressure-free. Other hiking terrains require specific lacing techniques to ensure balance and comfort.

Foot Problems

A lot of foot problems can be caused by hiking in poorly laced hiking boots. Some of these problems include blisters, heel slippage, as well as bruised toenails. Using the correct lacing technique will help prevent these problems. The perfect knot for preventing heel slippage is named the surgeon’s knot, while window lacing helps to relieve pressure on the toenails. We’ll cover both of them below.

Basic Tips For Lacing Your Hiking Boots Correctly

Different lacing techniques have their unique steps and procedures. However, there are basic tips which are common to all lacing techniques.

Always Center The Tongue

A lot of hikers don’t pay enough attention to the tongue of their boots when lacing for a hike. But the tongue of your boots can cause unwanted pressure marks on your skin when it slips to the side.

When the tongue of your boots slips to the side, the pull of the straps cannot be spread evenly. This will then cause pressure marks, resulting in serious discomfort. Always check the tongue of your boots regularly, making sure to recenter it from time to time.

Wear Suitable Hiking Socks

One of the best ways to avoid pressure marks and blisters while hiking is by wearing suitable socks. Socks complement proper lacing by providing cushioning for sensitive parts of the feet such as the heel and toes. For waterproof boots, socks can absorb sweat without sticking to your skin. Merino-wool socks are suitable for waterproof shoes, while nylon socks help to prevent blisters.

Tie Your Boots Regularly

As a hiker, you’ll likely need to adjust your laces several times on each trip. This is because your movement affects the lacing of your boots and can reduce the level of comfort over time. Check your boots every 30 minutes or so to ensure that the lacing is intact. If you feel a snag or discomfort while moving, ensure to retie your boot immediately. Don’t ignore any pain!

4 Steps To Lace Hiking Boots

1. Put Your Heel Back

The first thing to do when lacing your hiking boots is to put your heel at the back of the boots. You do this by putting your foot in the boots and tapping the ground to push your heel back. The purpose of this step is to get your feet properly placed and create enough room in front of your toes to prevent bruises.

2. Adjust The Lower Part Of Your Boots

Most hikers simply pull the end of the laces in order to tighten them. This is not a reliable method, as it leaves pressure marks on the lower parts of the boots. Start lacing the boots from the lower part to the top part, so that you can get the right amount of flexibility.

3. Knot The Lower And Top Part Separately

Tying the lower and top part of the boot into knots should be done separately in order to give room for adjustment. For the lower part, you want to ensure that your toes have enough room. The top part on the other hand has to cater for your ankle. Be careful when tightening your boots, and don’t go too tight, as you do not want to cut off the circulation of blood to your feet.

4. Use A Secure Knot

It is important to tie your laces into a secure knot to avoid loose ends when hiking. Cross the two laces over one another to form an ‘’X”, then loop the laces and pull their ends away from each other to make a tight knot.

Other Hiking Boot Lacing Techniques

There are a lot of lacing techniques out there that serve different purposes, all of which you can try on your hiking boots to find out what works best for you. The first of these is called window lacing.

Window Lacing

Also known as box lacing, window lacing is a lacing technique that helps people with wide feet, high arches and high insteps. It is the lacing technique that brings the most comfort for many hikers, as it is aimed at relieving pressure in the sensitive areas of the feet. Window lacing also provides relief from the pain of foot swelling.

The 4 steps to follow for window lacing are:

  1. Mark the area of your foot where you feel pressure.
  2. Unlace your boots stopping at the eyelets below the area where you feel pressure.
  3. Start lacing your boots vertically from that point till you get to the eyelet above the pressure point. The vertical lacing reduces the amount of pressure exerted on that part of your foot, thereby causing relief.
  4. Resume diagonal lacing from the eyelet above the pressure point until you get to the top of the boots as normal.

The Surgeon’s Knot

Also known as a double overhand knot, the surgeon’s knot is best for people with narrow feet and small arches. Unlike window lacing which relieves pressure points, the surgeon’s knot increases tension in areas where your feet might feel too loose. The surgeon’s knot also helps to prevent heel slippage.

The 5 steps to tie a surgeon’s knot are:

  1. Unlace your boot completely to the top of your foot. This area is also called the metatarsal area.
  2. Ensure that all the laces in the metatarsal area are snug, as this is crucial to getting the surgeon’s knot right.
  3. Cross your laces around each other two times, and this is what is called the surgeon’s knot. Do this before you start to lace the boots again.
  4. After making the knot, thread the lace through the next eyelet to increase tension in that area. Do the surgeon’s knot again before moving to the next eyelet. Continue this process until the loose points in your boots start to feel firm.
  5. After making the surgeon’s knot at the loose points, resume normal diagonal lacing until you get to the top of the boots.

Heel Lock Lacing

Heel lock lacing is a lacing technique that is best for people with narrow ankles, as well as those that struggle with toe pain, blisters and heel slippage. This technique keeps your heels firmly rooted in the boots, preventing slippage and blistering of your heel.

The 3 steps to follow for Heel Lock lacing are:

  1. Identify the eyelet where your foot starts flexing forward. Create a loop in that area by using vertical lacing between two eyelets.
  2. Pass one lace through the loop on the other side and do the reverse for the opposite lace.
  3. Resume lacing your boots using the diagonal lacing technique until you get to the top of the boots.  

Toe Relief Lacing

For hikers that suffer from bruised toes or bunions, a lacing technique that relieves toe pain is the best bet. Toe relief lacing is simple and straightforward, and it ensures you are comfortable while hiking.

The 2 steps to follow for toe relief lacing are:

  1. Unlace the boots completely. It is important to do this, as you need to relieve pressure in the front of your boots.
  2. Skip the first eyelets before continuing to lace the boots in normal fashion. Skipping the first eyelet will relieve the pressure exerted on your toes whenever you wear the boots.

Choosing The Right Laces For Your Hiking Boots

The quality of your bootlaces affects the lacing of your hiking boots, thereby determining how comfortable your feet are. It is therefore crucial that you only use laces that match the type of hiking boots that you have. The qualities that your bootlaces must possess include thickness and flexibility.

When your laces have the right thickness, you will have no trouble fitting them into the eyelets of your boots. The flexibility of your laces also enables you to adjust your lacing from time to time with ease, as well as use different lacing techniques when required. Laces that lack flexibility usually cause pressure marks, resulting in discomfort for the hiker.

Things To Consider When Choosing Laces For Your Boots

Bootlaces break from time to time due to general wear and tear. In the case that your bootlaces are damaged, it is necessary for you to replace them. You therefore need to know what you are looking for when choosing laces for your boots. Below are a few things to consider when purchasing bootlaces.

Shape

The first thing to consider when choosing laces for your boots is the shape of the laces. The shape of bootlaces usually determines their usage and longevity. The two common laces used for hiking boots are flat laces and round laces.

Flat laces are not popular among hikers, as they are not suited to the hooks at the top of hiking boots. Round laces on the other hand are top choices for hiking boots, as they fit in seamlessly.

Diameter And Length

A common mistake that hikers make with laces is buying laces with the wrong diameter. Be sure to check the eyelets of your boots to confirm if they can work with wide laces. You also don’t want to get bootlaces that can’t cover the length of your boot! Ensure to check the size of your boots before you buy laces.

Final Thoughts

The best way to lace your hiking boots is by using the overhand knot. You do this by crossing both laces over each other and then looping the laces, before pulling their ends away from each other. There are also more specific lacing techniques, such as window lacing and the surgeon’s knot.