Lacing Hiking Boots
The Right Way:
Here's How

by Diane Spicer

Meet Hiking For Her's Diane

Pair of unlaced hiking boots

Lacing your hiking boots seems like a straightforward activity, doesn't it?

Except that if your feet are prone to problems, how you lace your hiking boots is one of the most effective weapons you have against foot issues on the trail.

These How To tips will help you get those hiking boots laced up correctly.

And these foot injury prevention strategies can be used, too.

You have my permission to play around with the different "zones" of lacing on your boots: ankle, top of foot, toes.

Because that's how you're going to get into the best hiking terrain, right?

Alpine backcountry hiking destination

Lacing hiking boots
to prevent blisters

Blisters are at the top of the list of most common foot problems plaguing hikers.

Here is an entire page of blister prevention ideas.

Followed by blister treatment ideas.

But rest assured, there are specific boot lacing tricks for blister prevention, focused on the zones of your boots.

Here's a great overview in an entertaining video. It takes you through which areas of the boot to pay attention to, and gives you some lacing tips to prevent blisters.

Lacing hiking boots
to prevent pressure

Your hiking socks and boots will press against the sides and tops of your feet, as well as on your ankles.

That's inevitable, and it's normal to feel some pressure.

Let's get personal

Every hiker has a particular set of foot issues, including unique shapes and volumes:

  • arches (high, flat or something in between);
  • width (wide, narrow or the illusive "normal");
  • toe length.

You know you have boot issues when you get feedback from your feet in the form of aching, pressure, sensitivity, bruising and cramps.

You don't want to compress tissues and slow down blood flow into, and most importantly out of, your feet!

Boot lacing strategy

Unlaced hiking boot lying on its side

Here's a boot lacing trick if you have a high arch that presses the top of your foot against your boot:

  • Skip crisscrossing between one set of eyelets when you lace up, and go straight up to the next set.
  • Exactly which set of boot eyelets or anchors you skip depends upon where your pain and/or pressure is felt.
  • Play around with this until you find the right area of the top of your boots to "leave unlaced".
  • Each foot might be different, so don't be ashamed to lace your right boot differently than your left boot.

Long steep trail descents also make you a candidate for this pressure relieving technique.

As do swollen feet near the end of a long hard hike.

Don't overlook it!

Another pressure relieving approach

  • Don't use the criss cross XXX type of lacing pattern.
  • Instead, lace across the top of the boot from one eyelet to its corresponding partner in a --------- straight across pattern.
  • This allows a lot of the top of your foot to remain pressure free.

Lacing hiking boots
to prevent heel slippage

Sometimes you need to lock your foot down tight into your boots, whether due to terrain, the hiking socks you've donned, or a boot that is too big/long or has a short toe box for your foot.

Use the well named heel lock approach to make sure your heel doesn't slip inside your boot.

Here's a written, and visual, explanation of exactly how to keep your foot from slipping inside your boots.

Note: If your feet are sensitive to pressure due to high arches, try something different. The heel lock techniques are for what is referred to as "low volume" hiking feet.

Lacing hiking boots to prevent
bruised, ugly toenails

What can I say?

Punishing your toes and toenails because you didn't lace up your hiking boots properly is something you'd be smart to skip on the hiking trail of life.

Read this whimsical description of how to beat up your toes, and be sure to do the opposite of his advice to prevent ugly toenails.

Boot lacing 101

Don't ignore the customization features on your hiking boots called laces.

Some boots have eyelets.

Other hiking boots have a combination of hooks and eyelets.

And some will have boot lacing systems, like a set of cords acting as pulleys.

  • The laces are already in place.
  • You tug on them to create tension, or to release it, until the fit is just right.

When you shop for boots, consider which lacing method is best for customizing the fit of the boots.

If you get to know your feet well, this will be make boot buying decisions much easier.

Tip: For the most control over slippage, pressure and hot spots, choose a boot which features old fashioned boot laces and eyelets.

And don't be afraid to get inventive with the scientific method of trial and error.

  • Lace up your boots in ever more creative ways to defeat the demons of heat, pressure, lack of circulation and PAIN!
  • Try different knots for more or less pressure and control over slippage.
  • Use this same approach for getting a great fit with your hiking shoes, too.

One last tidbit

One last word of wisdom:

Give up the myth of the perfect hiking boot. It ain't out there. Work with what you've got!

And read these boot buying tips to be sure that what you've got is the best fit for your hiking feet.

Home page > Best Hiking Tips >

Lacing Hiking Boots

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