Tying your shoe laces, like learning to knot a tie or ride a bike, is an early rite of passage. It shows your progression from a needy ‘do everything for me’ cling on, to an independent individual, growing in stature and experience. You immediately feel like a big boy or girl from the moment you tie your first shoe lace. But what if I told you that your knowledge of tying shoe laces was just the tip of the iceberg? What if I told you that there were numerous ways of lacing hiking boots? You see, no one foot or walking gait is the same, is it? So, if you’ve ever suffered from pain, discomfort or rubbing when you’ve been walking, read on…
Don’t get me wrong, there will be a hell of a lot of people out there who have worn boots over many years and had no problems. Therefore, for them at least, lacing hiking boots will be a straightforward affair. However, there will also be people who consistently struggle to find comfortable boots. There will also be those who have never questioned the conventional wisdom of boot manufacturers. Just because your favourite new boots came laced up a certain way when you eagerly opened the box, it doesn’t mean that they have to stay that way.
Now, the single most important thing to ensure that your hiking boots give you years of pleasure is to actually go and try some on. The internet is a great way to secure yourself a saving but, by going to a dedicated outdoors shop, you’ll benefit from the knowledge and experience of the staff. Lacing hiking boots in all manner of variations will certainly help but it won’t fix a badly fitting boot.
Furthermore, by going into a store you’ll able to compare similar models from different brands. Some brands are known for their narrower fit, whereas others give even platypus feet like mine enough room to breathe. Each brand offers something slightly different. If you were to ask everyone in the world who wears a size 5 to try a particular boot, then each of them would have a slightly different experience. Regardless of size, everyone’s feet are different.
I, for one, have hideous feet. For a start they are flat and wide. Throw into the mix the fact that they are misshapen, particularly around the ankle area from years of sporting injuries, they aren’t the prettiest things to have graced a shoe. Some people have even likened them to hooves! Consequently, on occasion, I get a build-up of pressure around certain areas of my feet. This is less noticeable on short walks or when wearing lightweight footwear. However, on longer treks, or when wearing stiffer boots, I begin to feel the pinch. Luckily, by lacing hiking boots in particular ways I am able to alleviate much of this.
So, if you’re planning on taking a particularly long or arduous hike, or you have struggled for comfort in the past, you may need to make minor adjustments to the fit of your boot. This is where a basic knowledge of lacing hiking boots comes in. By simply rearranging your usual lace configuration, you can ease pressure or provide more support to specific areas of your feet. Take a look…
If you suffer from blisters on long walks, it may be because your heel isn’t firmly fixed in place. Heel slip, as it’s commonly known, is a problem that blights the hiking experience of many people. However, there is a solution.
With your foot snug in your boot, flex your foot forward as if you’re about to go onto your toes. Next, locate the point where the top of your foot begins to bend and press against the inside of your boot. Finally, identify the two pairs of lace hooks/eyelets directly above this point on your foot and create two surgeon’s knots. Surgeon’s knots are really simple. Where you would normally just cross your laces over once, you will now loop them over two or three times so they can’t budge. This should secure your heel enough to stop any movement that has previously caused rubbing and blisters. Just be aware that this will leave very little room for your feet to expand. So, on a hot day, you may want to consider which would be the lesser of two evils.
Another use of the surgeon’s knot is to alleviate pressure spots from the top of your foot. By tying a surgeon’s knot below and above the painful point, you’ll still ensure that your boots are snug. You can then just use a looser, standard lace crossover across the pressure point itself. This will give that small area of your foot a bit of relief but won’t loosen your entire boot, risking blisters.
Something I occasionally struggle with on very long or multi-day walks is pressure and rubbing on my toes. This is not just annoying it’s downright uncomfortable. A simple way to give your tiny tips some relief is to open up the toe box of your boot. To do this, simply unlace your boot and re-lace it, missing out the bottom pair of eyelets. You’ll be surprised how much difference this can make. Obviously, if toe pressure is a recurring problem, short of sawing them off, you’ll need to go and purchase some new boots. However, as an occasional fix, particularly on long or multi-day walks, this could be a saviour.
I spoke about top of the foot pressure earlier…it can really blight a good walk. If you suffer in this regard, then window lacing might just be the answer to your prayers. By creating ‘windows’ that are free from laces, you’re able to reduce top-down pressure, and walk pain free. All you need to do is locate the section of your upper foot that is hurting. Unlace your boots to just below that point and then re-lace them avoiding a crossover at that point. As such, you’ll simply thread the lace vertically up to the next eyelet instead.
Hopefully, by trying some of these techniques, you’ll be able to alleviate some pain or discomfort. Lacing hiking boots to suit your needs is a really simply way to personalise the fit of them to your specific foot type and shape. It doesn’t take long and it won’t cost you anything. Let me know how you get on.