Among the many skills that experienced hikers need to learn and practice, you may not have thought of “tying your shoes” as being one of them.
However, there are dozens of ways to lace hiking boots, and knowing different lacing techniques can help hiking boots fit better and improve performance.
Even better, the ability to change your lacing as needed, even in the middle of a hike, can help to reduce pressure points and prevent blisters.
Every hiker should know and practice a few different lacing techniques, so they can adjust their hiking boots when the need arises.
Here are some of the essential ways to tie hiking boots to prevent blisters.
Hiking Boot Basics: The Surgeon's Knot
The surgeon's knot is incredibly simple, and every hiker should know it. It's also a useful knot for Christmas presents, roasting meat, fishing, and any other situation where you want a secure knot that won't slip. To tie a surgeon's knot:
- Instead of tying a square knot with a single loop, or crossing boot laces over each other once as you lace, wrap the strands around each other twice.
- Once you have made a double-wrap, simply pull the knot or laces tight.
The surgeon's knot prevents laces from sliding against each other and loosening over time.
It is ideal for hiking boots because you can use it to prevent boots from becoming untied, or used anywhere along a boot lacing to provide extra hold and stability in just that part of your foot.
Heel-lock lacing prevents your heel from slipping inside a hiking boot, which is often the cause of heel blisters. This lacing technique “locks” your boot in place at the heel. To tie a heel lock:
- Lace your hiking boot normally across the top of your foot, providing a snug fit without pressure.
- Identify the two pairs of hooks or eyelets at the base of your ankle, or the point where your foot begins to flex forward at every step.
- Thread the end of one lace across this flex point as normal and connect it to the lower of your two hooks.
- Take the opposing lace, and wrap it twice around the other lace, across the top of your foot, before threading it into the lower hook and then across to the upper of your two “flex-point” hooks.
- Take the first lace and wrap it around the second one twice across the bridge of your foot before continuing to lace as normal.
Done correctly, the two hooks or eyelets at this crucial flex-point will be connected with two surgeon's knots, or double-wrapped lacings. This will prevent the boot heel from slipping as you step.
Tying your hiking boots with toe-relief lacing gives you more room in the toe-box, reducing pressure and rubbing and preventing blisters in the toe area. To lace a toe-relief technique, do the following:
- Unlace your boots entirely.
- Re-lace your hiking boots, but start at the second row of hooks or eyelets, at the top of the foot, rather than starting at the first row
Lacing your boots without using the bottom row gives more room in the toe-box and reduces pressure and blisters.
Window lacing is usually used to relieve pressure across the top of the foot. Some hiking boots may press or rub in these areas if your feet are swollen or if you have high arches.
You can also use a window lacing anywhere along the bridge of a hiking boot where you need to relieve pressure and rubbing. To tie a window lacing:
- Identify the hooks or eyelets where the pressure is.
- Unlace the boots down to the pair of hooks below the pressure point.
- Instead of crossing the laces over the pressure point, re-thread them straight up the side, up to the hook or eyelet above the pressure point.
- Once you are above that point, resume crossing the laces and thread as normal
Done correctly, you have created a “window” in your boot lacings where the laces are open instead of crossing over the foot.
These are the basic techniques of how to tie a hiking boot to prevent blisters and relieve pressure or pain, but there are dozens of alternatives.
There are also alternative lacings to help if you have broken a lace or damaged your hiking boot on the trail. It's a good idea to know and practice a few different lacing techniques so that you can use them when and if needed.