How to Tie Your Running Shoes (Yes, There Is a Better Way!)
Many believe that tying your shoes is like riding a bike. Growing up, your parents or your nana teaches you how to do it, and then you’re sorted for life, right? Not so fast. What if we told you that perhaps your go-to way of lacing up isn’t ideal? Or, better yet, what if changing the way you tied your running shoes could help you run more comfortably and with less issues? Intrigued? You should be. Because the way in which you tie your running shoes can literally make or break a run.
Here’s everything you need to know about creating your most comfortable running experience through finding the best way to lace up and tie your running shoes.
Lacing Up vs. Tying
First off, let’s just differentiate between lacing up your shoes and physically tying the knot. And no, we’re not splitting hairs here! Both of these are equally important. Why? Because, firstly, the way in which you lace up can actually help accommodate your feet’s status quo. High arches? Wide feet? Narrow heels? There’s a lacing method for that. And, secondly, tying a knot that won’t come undone halfway through your run is essential for both eliminating frustration and nailing that PB.
First up, then: Tying the perfect knot.
Tying the Perfect Knot
We’ve all experienced the frustration of having to stop mid-run to fix straggly laces. Or almost taking out a fellow runner who stopped mid-race to do the same! And you know what? It’s completely preventable. Because according to the experts, the difference between shoelaces that come undone and shoelaces that stay put is as simple as replacing a granny knot with a reef knot. A granny what, you ask? Don’t worry. Here’s the blow-by-blow.
The first giveaway that you’re doing it granny-style is a crooked bow. If the loops of your bow are vertical, i.e. pointing up to your ankle and down to your toes, then you’re in the granny camp. But don’t worry. Going from granny to reef is as easy as one-two-three:
- Step 1: Cross the left lace over the right lace, then pull through.
- Step 2: Make a loop (or bunny ear) with the lace that is now on the left, and bring the right lace right around it (towards your ankle, not your toes).
- Step 3: Feed the right lace through the hole that has formed, grab hold of both loops, and tighten. Voila!
But what exactly makes a reef knot so ideal? The secret is in the tension. While lace tension that is generated by your moving feet continues to tighten a reef bow as you run, the opposite is true for granny bows. In the latter, tension in the bottom half of the bow will loosen the top part as you move.
So with that sorted, let’s move on to lacing up. And this is where it gets a bit more complicated. Because while there is purportedly only one way to tie the perfect running bow, there’s numerous foot shapes and issues to be addressed through different lacing techniques. But we’re going to try and keep it as simple as possible.
First off, have a look at the foot shapes and issues listed below. Choose the one that relates to your feet, grab your running shoes, and follow the instructions step by step. Granted, these instructions don’t not make for scintillating reading. But finding a lacing technique that is best suited to your feet will be more than worth it.
1. Lacing suited to high arches and wide feet
For high arches or wide feet, try the following lacing method (see image here):
- Step 1: At the bottom eyelets, thread the shoelace straight across, from the inside to the outside.
- Step 2: Use criss-cross lacing until you reach the part of your feet that needs more space.
- Step 3: At this highest or widest part of your foot, let the laces go straight up to the next set of eyelets.
- Step 4: Continue with criss-cross lacing once you’ve passed the highest/widest part of your foot.
2. Lacing suited to runners experiencing heel slippage
If the heel of your running shoe slips on your runs, creating blisters and pain, then try the following lacing method (see image here):
- Step 1: Lace up your running shoes to the second eyelet from the top using your go-to lacing method.
- Step 2: Thread the laces straight up on the outside and in again to the inside through the top eyelets.
- Step 3: Cross the lace ends and pass them through the vertical “loops” created on the outside of the top two sets of eyelets.
- Step 4: Tie a bow as normal.
3. Lacing suited to runners with narrow feet
If you have narrow feet, try the following lacing technique (see image here):
- Step 1: Use criss-cross lacing up to the midfoot, making sure that you end with laces coming from the inside to the outside of the shoe.
- Step 2: Create a loop by pushing the laces back through the hole it last exited.
- Step 3: Thread the laces to the opposite side of the shoe.
- Step 4: Continue with criss-cross lacing to the end.
4. Lacing technique for easing tightness across the top of the foot
If your running shoes feel tight across the top of the shoe, try the following technique for relief (see image here):
- Step 1: Thread the lace straight across, from the outside to the inside of the bottom eyelet.
- Step 2: Thread the left lace straight up, on the inside of the shoe, and then straight across, on the outside of the shoe.
- Step 3: Thread both laces straight up, on the inside of the shoe, skipping an eyelet each.
- Step 4: Let both lace ends go straight across, on the outside, and in again through the adjacent eyelets.
- Step 5: Alternate, as detailed, until lacing is complete.
5. Lacing for taking pressure off the big toe (and decreasing the chances of a black toenail!)
- Step 1: Start off by threading the one end of a lace through the eyelet closest to, but opposite, your big toe.
- Step 2: Pull the lace through, but leave enough to tie a bow at the end.
- Step 3: Now pull the lace through the eyelet closest to your big toe.
- Step 4: Take the lace to the lowest eyelet, opposite your big toe, and thread from the inside to the outside.
- Step 5: Keep lacing diagonally up, until the lace reaches the top end of the shoe and tie as normal.
And before you brush all of this off as claptrap, consider this. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Sports Science found that both the tightness and pattern of running shoelaces directly influenced the impact force and pronation of runners’ feet. Food for thought, no?
So why not give the experts the benefit of the doubt and experiment with the suggestions above? Start with the reef knot and work your way up to some personalized lacing patterns. You might just be setting yourself up for your most comfortable running experience to date!
- Three ways to lace up your running shoes, Online publication, May 19, 2015 ,
- Gear tip: How to tie your shoes, Online publication, Jan 27, 2016 ,
- How to lace your running shoes, Online publication, ,
- Effects of different shoe-lacing patterns on the biomechanics of running shoes, Scientific journal, Feb 01, 2009 ,