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Lace Your Shoes to Fit Your Feet

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You might not have given the lacing pattern of your shoes a second thought, but those strands do more than just hold the shoe on your foot. By customizing the way that you lace with an eye to your foot shape can help you get a more comfortable fit on your shoes.

“Shoes often come pre-laced in a crisscross pattern that works fine for most people,” said Darrell Prins, DPM, who provides podiatry services at Samaritan Coastal Clinic. “But changing your laces a little can actually get you a better fit and better comfort.”

According to Dr. Prins, when your shoes are laced securely and firmly fastened to your feet it reduces pressure on the plantar, the thick band of tissue that travels across the bottom of your foot. It also decreases the likelihood of the shoe slipping and rubbing or causing an injury, which is especially important during exercise.

A study published in the Journal of Sports Science found that lacing shoes tightly and using more sets of eyelets lowered pressure on the heel and lateral midfoot for runners.

“A secure fit is really important for lace-up shoes, whether or not you’re running,” said Dr. Prins. “If a different lacing pattern helps you tie them more firmly then it’s definitely worth trying.”

Alternate Lacing Patterns

A good fit is the most important part of a workout shoe. Dr. Prins recommends going to a store with knowledgeable staff that can evaluate your foot shape and stride, and find the right fit for you. Shoes should be comfortable in the store don’t buy shoes and expect them to stretch.

When you take your shoes off, loosen the laces all the way down to the toes to avoid putting excess stress on the eyelets nearest your ankle. When you put your shoes on, tighten the laces at each set of eyelets for an even fit. 

If you have a good pair of shoes that fit your feet but are still having comfort issues, consider trying an alternate lacing pattern. Once you begin experimenting with lacing variations you may discover your own custom lacing that works best for you.

Shoelace patterns demonstrating five different variations customized to the shape of your foot.

Narrow Foot A box pattern toward the toe combined with cross lacing and skipping a set of eyelets will help pull the shoe up snugly around your foot.

Wide Foot This open lacing pattern skips every other set of eyelets, allowing the shoe to be tied securely while still giving your foot more space.

Wide Forefoot Use box lacing on the toe area to give the forefeet more room and cross lacing to keep the rest of the shoe snug.

Wide Forefoot,  Narrow Heel  Those with a narrow heel and wider forefoot, common in women, can benefit from using two laces. This allows the heel-side of the shoe to be laced securely while giving the toes more room.

High Arches or a bump on top of the foot Use skip lacing over the highest part of your foot to improve comfort. This pattern can also be helpful for those with arthritic bone spurs.

Special shoe lace pattern for those with flat feet.

Flat Foot (or slipping heel) – Threading the laces back between the first and second eyelets helps give a more secure fit across the top of the foot and heel. Also called “lace lock,” this lace pattern works best if your shoes have an extra eyelet for this purpose.


Tie a Secure Knot

Whenever you wear lace-up shoes make sure you use a secure knot. The granny knot you probably learned as a child often ends up twisted in a toe-to-heel direction and can easily come undone. A reef knot looks the same but doesn’t twist or untie as easily. The trick is to make sure the way the laces cross on the bottom and the top are in the opposite direction.

  1. Tighten and cross the laces to form the base of your knot as usual. Make a loop with your right hand and use your left hand to bring the other lace over the loop.
  2. Push the lace though with your right index finger to form the second loop. Pull tight. (Hint: If, when you cross the lace over the initial loop you are pushing it through with your thumb, you might be doing it backwards.)
  3. The bow should lie side-to-side across the top of your shoes and not twist toe-to-heel even if you tug on the sides of the shoe. If the bow doesn’t lie straight, reverse the way you crossed the laces in step 1 and try again.

Reef knot and surgeon knots.

If you still have trouble with your laces coming untied, try a surgeon’s shoelace knot. The lace in your left hand wraps around the loop in your right hand twice before pushing through to make a second loop.

Have a foot issue you’d like to get checked out? Schedule an appointment with Dr. Prins at Samaritan Coastal Clinic

Learn how the fitness experts at Samaritan Athletic Medicine can help you maximize your game and everyday performance.