How to Lace Your Hiking Boots to Avoid Injuries

Based on research, it’s estimated that between 4,000-5,000 hiking injuries occur in the U.S. annually. Notably, almost half of these injuries result from falls and slips. Such incidents can frequently be linked to issues like unsuitable footwear and, unexpectedly, the manner in which boots are laced.

Despite breaking in my boots and having the right size, I still got blisters. Research revealed that lacing techniques can prevent chafing and reduce blisters.

Stick around till the end as I will share with you the top lacing methods, guide you on when to apply each one, and share the knot techniques that have been effective for me.

Quick Summary 

  • Choose well-fitting hiking boots; improper fit can’t be fixed with lacing.
  • Explore different lacing methods such as the “Surgeon’s Knot” for sensitive areas, “Toe-Relief Lacing” for toe comfort, “Heel Lock Lacing” to prevent heel blisters, and “Window Lacing” for areas with sore spots or high arches.
  • Secure your laces with knots like the “Square Knot” for a side-pointing secure bow, or the “Granny Knot” for an up-and-down pointing bow. If your boots have a pull-cord system, utilize the “Quick Pull Knot” for easy and secure lacing.

4 Popular Lacing Techniques for Your Hiking Boots

1. Surgeon’s Knot 

Surgeon’s Knot lacing technique for boots

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. 

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

I use an overhand knot at key locations, like the ankle bend, allowing me to differentiate the tightness between the forefoot and the ankle. I favor a close fit on my forefoot and a much tighter grip around my ankle.

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. 

  1. Unnlace your boots to the toe line.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

  1. 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. 
  2. 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

Instead of the usual cross-pattern, use the window lacing technique.

If your feet are sore or you have high arches, try this method.

Skip over any parts of the foot that hurt when lacing your shoes.

Keep lacing normally, but go directly up to the next eyelet or hook when you get to a tender spot, without crossing over the tongue.

This lacing strategy creates a “window” — an ungirded zone where the lace doesn’t compress that section of the foot, which can alleviate discomfort.

Just a tip here: Begin with flat laces rather than the thick round ones often found on boots. Flat laces tend to hold their tightness more effectively.

Related Articles:

Knot Techniques 

lacing my hiking shoes

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. 

What Is the Average Length of Hiking Boot Laces

The average length of hiking boot laces can range between 50 to 72 inches (127 centimeters to 182 cm), depending on the size and type of the boots.

However, the precise length will depend on the number of eyelets on the boots and the preferred lacing method (Double Knot, Surgeon’s Knot, Toe-Relief Lacing, Heel Lock Lacing, and Window Lacing).

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.
E-mail: [email protected]

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