How to lace up your hiking boots

Most of us master lace-tying in primary school and don’t give our laces much thought after that. If your hiking boots start to wear on your feet in uncomfortable ways, though, you’ll be glad to learn a few new lacing tricks that could help improve your comfort. Here are three simple ways to re-lace your boots to help relieve foot discomfort.

It’s important to note that the lacing techniques described here aren’t a substitute for getting the right fit when you buy your boots. For that you need to see a hiking footwear specialist. It is also important to note that these are not the only methods, in fact I am sure you will have your own tried and tested ones. If you do, please feel free to share.

Surgeon’s Knot

Simple and versatile, it can keep your heel from slipping.

When your heel is slipping excessively as you hike, you probably have too much interior volume at the top of your foot. Cinch down your boot and hold it in place with two surgeon’s knots: Once secured, these hold fast where they’re placed and won’t work themselves loose.

  • Pull out any slack in the laces, snugging the boot over the top of your foot.
  • Locate the two pairs of lace hooks closest to the point where the top of your foot begins to flex forward; you’ll be tying a surgeon’s knot at each of these pairs.
  • Wrap the laces around each other twice, then pull them tight; be sure to run the lace directly up to the next hook to “lock” in the knot’s tension.
  • Repeat Step 3 at the next highest set of lace hooks.
  • Finish lacing the rest of your boot in your usual way.

Window Lacing

Alleviates pressure points on the top of your foot.

If your well-tied boots start to create a pressure point on the top of your foot, window lacing (aka “box lacing”) can help alleviate the problem:

  • Unlace the boot down to the hooks that are just below the pressure point.
  • Re-lace by going straight up to the next hook and then crossing the laces over.
  • Finish lacing the rest of your boot in your usual way; alternatively, you can tie a surgeon’s knot at the lower and upper edge of your window for a snugger hold.

Toe-Relief Lacing

A stopgap remedy to get you back to the trailhead.

If your toes are in a world of hurt, this stopgap measure can help you make it back to the trailhead. This trick works by relieving pressure in the toe box:

  • Completely unlace your boot.
  • Lace it back up—but skip the first set of hooks; this opens up the toe box and takes some pressure off your digits.

If your toes always hurt when you hike, it’s time to get a different pair of boots. An REI footwear specialist can fit you in boots that will give you just the right amount of wiggle room.


Always carry a spare pair of laces to suit your hiking boot. You just never know when you might need them.

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