How to lace hiking boots: tips and tricks to relieve foot pain and troubleshoot problems while hiking in the great outdoors

how to lace hiking boots
(Image credit: Getty)

There's more to knowing how to lace hiking boots than you might think. It is essential that we look after our feet when we are out and about on the trail, and one thing that can really impact their general wellbeing is knowing how to lace hiking boots in a variety of ways. These tips and tricks work for both mens and women's hiking boots.

Even though most of us know how to tie laces, there are actually lots of ways in which we can secure our boots to our feet that can help improve overall comfort and ease of movement. Many boots come with extra-long laces precisely to allow for re-threading, or so they can be used for some of the following techniques. Each method has its pros and cons, and could be used under varying circumstances. 

Please note, if you have chosen sensibly, your boots should already fit you well, and practicing these systems is not advised as a long-term answer to foot pain or other problems. Knowing how to stop chafing and how to avoid blisters is also useful if you experience these problems. If you suffer prolonged pain you may need to look at getting new boots that fit properly.

Toe-relief lacing

If your feet have expanded due to natural swelling, injury, or overuse, you might find you have pressure pushing through your toes or in the toe box of your boot. Loosening this area can therefore alleviate some of that pressure. To do this you can use toe-relief lacing by completely unlacing your boot, then re-lacing but skipping the first set of eyelets.

how to lace hiking boots

Lacing your boots correctly from the outset will mean a more enjoyable hike (Image credit: Getty)

Window lacing

If you feel uncomfortable pressure on the top of your foot, you can do the same thing using window or box-lacing. The first step is to unlace your boots down to just below where the pressure sits on your foot, then re-lace by going straight up to the next hook (skipping a pair of hooks). This will leave a ‘box’ or ‘window’ shape in the lacing system. Then continue threading the lace as normal by criss-crossing between eyelets to the final tying off point. 

Surgeon's knot

If you find that your heel is slipping around in your boot this may be because you have excessive space between the cuff of the boot and the top of your foot. You can secure your foot using the surgeon's knot. To do this, locate the eyelets closest to where your boot feels loose, usually where your foot bends forwards. Wrap the laces around each other twice (once more than you would do as the first step in tying a bow) or even three times, then pull tight. The laces should lock in place nicely as you run the lace up to the next set of eyelets. You can do this with as many eyelets as you need, but be careful not to pull so tight that you cut off the blood circulation to your feet!

how to lace hiking boots

More technical boots have latches as well as eyelets further up the leg (Image credit: Getty)

Be prepared

It is, of course, possible for your bootlaces to break. I always encourage hikers to carry a spare set of laces in their backpack along with the rest of their hiking essentials. (They can always be used as a washing line if you don't need them elsewhere.)

Finally, whenever you finish a hike, be sure to brush off any dirt and let your boots dry out (but not on a radiator!). This will help to prolong the life of both your laces and boots, thus aiding long-term comfort and use.

Abbie Barnes

Abbie runs Spend More Time In The WILD, a campaign and YouTube channel that seeks to inspire and empower individuals to get outside for the benefit of mental and physical health, while building meaningful connections with the natural world and each other. Abbie’s area of expertise is long-distance backpacking – in other words, she likes to hike a long way carrying heavy stuff. She loves wildflowers, dogs, playing the handpan and maintaining her existence through drinking a never-ending stream of tea.