Most runners never give a lot of thought about the way they lace their running shoes. We just take new shoes out of the box as they are, tie them as we always have, and head out the door for our run.
And yet, traditional tie laces offer an abundance of creative lace-pattern opportunities that can address all sorts of issues runners face. A shoe’s fit is almost infinitely customizable. By fine-tuning the feel of our most essential piece of gear, we can often eradicate the irritating problems that may otherwise plague our weary feet.
Here are three different shoelace “hacks” to help you nip common runner woes in the bud.
Problem #1: Your heels are slipping, leading to raw skin or even blisters on the backs of your heels.
Solution: Heel lock
If you’re struggling with heel slippage or blisters on the backs of your feet, it’s time to enlist the secret weapon of running shoes: their extra lacing eyelets (the holes in the upper that the laces are threaded through).
Most shoes come with an extra set of eyelets around the ankle. By re-threading the laces through this additional, “higher” eyelet, you can more effectively lock in your heels.
Or, for the ultimate heel lock, create a lace loop on each side of the shoe by looping the laces through both eyelets at the ankle, then through the opposite lace’s loop before tying as usual, as shown here.
Problem #2: You have high arches or are experiencing pain on the tops of your feet.
Solution: Skip a Set of Eyelets
The traditional criss-cross lace pattern can sometimes create pressure points on top of the feet, especially if you have higher arches. If this is the case for you, experiment with skipping a criss-cross set of eyelets in the area where you’re experiencing pain.
This creates some breathing space in that region and reduces the pressure of laces cutting directly across the tops of your feet in the problem zone. Skipping a set of eyelets lower down on the shoe can also be a good solution for those with wider feet who may need a bit more breathing room in the toebox.
Problem #3: You have wide feet or your toes are getting crunched.
Solution: Alternative Diagonal Lacing
This wonky-looking lacing pattern is a great way to keep wider feet happy in a shoe that otherwise feels narrow or constricting, especially in the toebox or through the midfoot.
Because our feet tend to swell the more time we spend on them (especially when running long distances!), switching to this lacing pattern midway through a race or long training run can also be a great way to accommodate that swelling. Be aware that because this is generally a looser lacing pattern, it may not be the best choice for maximizing control on technical terrain or steep, sustained downhills. But it is especially good for flatter terrain or the later miles in an ultra when your pace may have slowed considerably. At that point in your run it can be a great boon in terms of comfort.