How to Tie and Lace Hiking Boots to Make Your Feet Smile 

When I first started seriously hiking and learning how to wear hiking boots, there was so much that I didn’t know. I never even thought there might be a particular way to lace up hiking boots. After all, I learned how to tie my shoes as a child. Surely I could tie a pair of boots. 

However, even though I broke in my hiking boots and had the right size, I began researching after a few hikes, where I returned home with blisters. I learned that lacing techniques help prevent your hiking boots from rubbing against your feet and causing hot spots or blisters. 

Sounds great, right? If so, keep reading. Here I’ll share with you everything I know about the best way to tie hiking boots to make your feet comfortable and happy. 

Quick Summary 

  • The proper way to tie hiking boots involves first identifying the areas of your foot that give you issues and choosing the best lacing technique for these areas. 
  • Use specific lacing methods to address toe pain, prevent heel blisters, and avoid sore spots/pressure points on your foot. 
  • Secure your tied hiking boots with a square, granny, or double knot once you’ve finished lacing them to help them stay tied on the trail. 

How To Properly Tie Hiking Boots (Step By Step)

lacing my hiking shoes

Here are step-by-step directions for the procedure I follow whenever I tie my hiking shoes. I’ll talk more about the specific lacing systems in the next section, but here’s the basic process for how to tie hiking boots. 

  1. Start with hiking boots that fit well —if your boots don’t fit properly, you’ll likely never make them very comfortable, regardless of how you tie your laces. 
  2. Make sure the boot lacing on the bottom is firmly tied but not so tight that it does not still feel comfortable.  
  3. Before you start lacing the part of the boots with the hooks, tie a “surgeon’s knot.” 
  4. Between the hooks, tie a “heel lock.”
  5. Use the “window lacing” technique around any hotspots. 

4 Hiking Boot Lacing Techniques 

1. Surgeon’s Knot 

Surgeon’s Knot lacing technique for boots

I like the surgeon’s knot because it allows me to isolate parts of the laces from the other parts.

This trick helps if I have an area of my foot where tight laces would cause extra pressure and hurt an already sensitive area. 

In the process above, I noted that you should use this knot before you start lacing the part of your hiking boots that has the hooks.

However, you can also use it in other sections as needed. 

To do the surgeon’s knot, make a simple overhand knot that you use when typically tying your shoes.

However, instead of just looping the lace once and pulling it tight, loop it around a second time. This added loop creates more friction, which holds more tension. 

2. Toe-Relief Lacing 

Use this lacing system if you find that your superior hiking boots cause your toes to feel squished. I had a pair of boots that always did this to my toes, and once I learned how to lace my boots, it made a big difference in my comfort. 

You will need two pairs of shoelaces per hiking boot for this technique, but it’s straightforward once you get the hang of it. 

First, unlace your boots to the toe line. Then, re-lace your boot about halfway up. You can use whatever lacing system you like best and tie the first shoelace off using a regular knot.

Starting at the next eyelet, take the second shoelace and lace the boot up to the top. Tie that lace off at the top using a “heel lock” technique (see below).

Now, you can easily adjust the tension on your toe laces when needed without having to adjust the laces of the entire boot. Trust me. This system has helped me during some long hikes when my toes just need more room. 

You can also relieve some toe pressure by simply skipping lacing the bottom eyelets of your boots altogether, starting at the second ones up. 

3. Heel Lock Lacing 

I mentioned the heel lock way to lace hiking boots in the toe-relief section above. This way of lacing hiking boots helps prevent your heel from lifting and rubbing against the inside of your boots, causing heel blisters when you walk. 

The heel lock uses the open hooks on the sides of your boot as a pulley system. Instead of tacking your lace across the tongue of the boot to the hook on the other side, bring it straight up to the next hook on the same side of the boot. Do this step for both sides of the boot. 

Now, cross the lace over the boot and put it underneath the vertical lace on the other side. After you’ve laced through the vertical part on both sides of the boot, pull it tight. Pull the laces downward towards your toes to tighten them even more. 

This type of lacing did take me a bit of practice to master. However, once you learn how to do it, it comes very easy and is very helpful in preventing heel problems.

You can even use it on low hiking boots or your running shoes, basically any shoe or situation where your heel rubs too much. 

4. Window Lacing 

Window Lacing technique to tie your boots

Window lacing also avoids the back-and-forth lacing that most of us use by default.

Use it for lacing your boots around any areas that give you sore spots or if you happen to have high arches. 

While tying your boots, skip lacing the areas of your foot that give you issues.

Lace normally, and when you reach an area you want to skip, bring the laces straight up to the next eyelet or lace hooks, and don’t cross over the tongue of the boot. 

If you use this technique, you’ll notice that it creates a “window” in the area where you didn’t cross the lace over the boot. Since the lace doesn’t press down on that spot, you should have less pain and issues with it.  

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Knot Techniques 

Here are some other knot techniques I find helpful when lacing my boots. 

  • Square Knot – after pulling your laces tight, take the two loops and pass the left one over the right one and then the left one over the right. You’ll end up with bow loops that point to the side and create a secure knot. 
  • Granny Knot – this knot is slightly less secure than the square knot. It follows pretty much the same technique, but you’ll know if you tied a granny knot if the bow loops point up and down instead of to the side. 
  • Quick Pull Knot – if your shoes have a pull-cord system, you simply have to pull it, which will lock and secure the laces. 

How Tight Should Hiking Boots Be Laced? 

It would be best if you laced your hiking boot laces tight enough that they fit securely on your feet but aren’t so tight that they cause pressure points or so loose that your feet rub against the boots and cause blisters.

I always test my tightness by walking briskly for a few minutes before hitting the trail. I leave a little room to account for foot swelling, but otherwise, they feel secure. 

I find that Timberland and Columbia have some great options for hiking boots that lace up really simply. 


How Do You Tie Hiking Boots So They Don’t Come Undone?

To tie your hiking boots securely, use a square, granny, or double knot at the top of the boot. These knots help keep the laces from coming undone.  

Why Do Hiking Boots Have Hooks?

The lace hooks on hiking boots act as a speed lacing system, allowing you to put on and take off high boots more easily. 

How Do You Lace Hiking Boots to Prevent Toe Pain?

Use the toe-relief lacing method to prevent toe pain when lacing your hiking boots. This method gives you more room in the toe box and prevents your toes from getting squished and causing pain. 

One of the most popular lacing techniques for hiking boots is the surgeon’s knot method. It involves tying an overhand knot at the bottom, lacing diagonally, and then tying another knot at the top. This technique ensures a secure and comfortable fit for your boots.

Jennifer Strom

Jennifer Strom

Jennifer Strom has been a writer for over 20 years and an outdoor and hiking enthusiast for most of her life. After spending much of her career in the corporate world, she decided to freelance to spend more time with her family and explore new places. You will find her always looking forward to her next weekend adventure and writing guides that help others make the most of their own hikes and time outdoors.

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