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How to Tie Hiking Boots (Best Lacing Techniques Explained)

how i tie my hiking boots

When embarking on long expeditions over rough terrain, knowing the best way to tie up your hiking boots can be effective in managing pain and preventing discomfort. Typically, people are only familiar with one way of tying off laces.

However, when it comes to hiking boots, there are several lacing styles that you can use to lace up your footwear and achieve the ideal level of comfort for your feet.

In this article, I will discuss how to tie hiking boots and explore how the various lacing systems can change the way that you experience your footwear.  

Quick Summary

  • The Toe-Relief, Window, Granny, and Surgeon’s Knot styles are among the popular techniques that many hikers use to lace and knot up their boots.
  • Properly lacing up your hiking boots can make the prolonged physical activity less stressful on your feet depending on your needs.
  • Boot laces should be firm enough to fit comfortably around your feet without feeling too tight or too loose.

How to Properly Tie Hiking Boots

lacing boots for hiking

The basic and universal method for tying hiking boot laces is the criss-cross lacing style. This style is used by hikers of all skill levels for its simplicity.

Assuming that you don’t have any physical issues that would require you to have more support than this style provides, the criss-cross method of lacing a hiking boot is very easy to follow:

  1. Starting from the bottommost section of the boot, thread the lace through each eyelet and pull tightly until you have an equal amount of lace on each side.
  2. Beginning from the inside out, cross the laces over in a diagonal fashion. The left lace should cross through the right eyelet and the right lace through the left eyelet. This creates a pattern resembling an X all the way to the uppermost set of eyelets.
  3. Continue this until both boots have been properly laced. From that point, if a knot is necessary, you can tie it as you normally would.
  4. Make sure that the resulting knot lays across your foot in a perpendicular fashion.

Knot Techniques

Overhand Knot

The overhand knot is the most common method for tying boot laces. In fact, the overhand knot more than likely set the basis for how many of us, if not all, learned how to tie our shoes.

With this method, the left and right laces need to be crossed over each other to form an X. One lace must then be pulled underneath the X, and then both ends tightly pulled away from each other.

The tightness of this knot allows you to firmly secure the boot around your ankle and keep your laces in place. Additionally, due to the customizability of the overhand knot, it can serve as a lead into other knotting styles, as we’ll read below.

Granny Knot

As one possible end result of the overhand knot, the granny knot is a common method for tying off footwear of all types. Once you’ve reached the end of an overhand knot, one of the laces needs to be folded into the shape of a bunny ear.

The other lace should then be tied around the bunny ear, using your thumb to create a loop, which you will then push the lace through to create a second ear. Finally, the bunny ears should be pulled tightly from each side to finish the knot.

Square Knot

This knot shares many similarities with the granny knot and can also be achieved through the overhand knot. However, instead of creating bunny ears, the left lace should be lain over the right lace, pulled underneath, and brought back over.

Next, you’re going to fold the laces over each other again, but this time, the opposite ends should be passing over each other. Once you pull tightly, you should have a square knot, which is more secure than a granny knot.

Surgeon’s Knot

The last knotting technique is the surgeon’s knot, sometimes called a double knot, and also an enhancement to the overhand knot.

To create a surgeon’s knot, tie the laces exactly as you would for an overhand knot, but instead of pulling the lace underneath the X just once, do it twice. This gives you a tighter and more secure grip around your ankle than you’d achieve with a basic overhand knot.

Related Article: How Should Hiking Shoes Fit

Techniques for Lacing Hiking Boots

Toe-Relief Lacing

The toe-relief lacing method is very straightforward and as the name suggests, it’s a lacing system designed to relieve pressure from your toes and give them more freedom of motion.

To achieve this style, simply lace your boots as you normally would, but skip the bottommost pair of eyelets or lace hooks.

Window Lacing

The window lacing method is a style that creates a gap in the area where your foot feels compressed. The gap can be created by threading the laces vertically, instead of diagonally, and crossing them over in a way that avoids the areas of pressure around your foot.

After the window has been made, you can continue crossing the laces diagonally as you normally would.

Surgeon’s Knot

Previously, the surgeon’s knot was mentioned as a knotting technique. However, the surgeon’s knot can also be used as a lacing system to prevent heel blisters and slippage. Begin by lacing up your boots as you normally would until you reach the points of your feet that feel loose.

Form a surgeon’s knot and thread the laces through the eyelets to create points of pressure. Once you’ve done that, your boots should be more secure around your feet, allowing you to resume your normal lacing and move without causing irritation.

Heel Lock Lacing

The heel lock technique is another great style of boot lacing to support your feet. It begins in a similar fashion to the window lacing method. However, instead of crossing the laces after threading them vertically, continue feeding them until they go through the top lace hooks on both sides of your ankle.

After doing so, you can cross the laces diagonally and begin tying them with your preferred knotting method. The additional pressure at the top of the boot will help secure your heel in place without cutting off any circulation.

Should Hiking Boots be Laced up Firmly?

Hiking boots should be laced up firmly enough to prevent heel slippage and accommodate the natural movements of your feet and ankles. However, the lacing should not be tight enough to cause excessive pressure or limit the freedom of your toes.

Now, everyone’s feet are different, which means that one person’s lacing and knotting styles may not accommodate the needs of someone else. With that in mind, if you wear hiking boots, there are many brands that support easy lacing and still provide comfort for your feet.

Whether you have flat feet, or wide feet, or suffer from plantar fasciitis, I would recommend quality hiking boots referenced in these guides even for people who don’t suffer from those issues.

This is due to the ease of accessibility that they provide to hikers of all skill levels, in addition to the security, reliability, and flexibility that they provide for your soles, ankles, and toes.

lacing hiking boots


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

To tie hiking boots so they don’t come undone, a common practice is to ensure that the knot lays perpendicular to your foot. A knot laying parallel to your foot has a better chance of coming undone from constant motion.

What Is the Best Way to Lace Hiking Boots?

The best way to lace hiking boots is dependent on the level of comfort that your feet need. However, the criss-cross style of lacing is recommended as a universal standard, due to its versatility and customizability to other lacing methods.

How Do You Lace Hiking Boots to Prevent Toe Pain?

The toe-relief lacing method should be used to lace hiking boots to prevent toe pain. This method works by allowing you to create an open space near your toes by skipping one or two pairs of the bottommost eyelets.

Does Heel Lock Lacing Work?

Yes! Heel lock lacing does work. This method increases the pressure around your ankle to reduce the amount of friction and irritation to your heel.