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Lacing Tips for Backpacking, Hiking, and Outdoor Footwear




Spring has sprung and in Colorado that means drying trails and couloirs packed with stable, hard snow. In go the ski boots and from the closet come trail shoes and mountaineering boots. Sadly, my last pair of shoes died a grizzly death at the hands (feet?) of my extra-wide pinky knuckle because I was too lazy to lace them correctly. Below are my tips on funny looking lacing for funny looking feet.

Altra Lone Peak 2.5 Mesh Wear

My 2016 Lone Peak 2.5's – ready for the trash bin thanks to a 2" long hole.

Altra Lone Peak 3.0 Lacing

Fresh Lone Peak 3.0's – they look so helpless!

Since it was about time to get down to it I figured I'd share what works for me and add in some resources at the end since everyone's feet are different. I generally have two problems with shoes – my wide right forefoot and slippery heels. I have learned to address these issues by lacing my footwear to reduce tension in the front of the shoe and lock down tension at the base of the ankle. First I'll show what I do on my Altra Lone Peak trail shoes, then move to mountaineering boots since boot lacing tends to be different than glorified sneakers. Keep in mind, lacing techniques only go so far and still require a lot of in-store fitting with various brands.

Lacing Tips and Techniques

The first technique is straightforward – simply skip some laces where the shoe is too narrow. The tension will still pull down on the front of your shoes but allow some extra width. If this doesn't add enough width, you can try leaving the lace looser there by tying a surgeon's knot (begin by looping your laces together as if you were starting to tie your shoes, but wrap around an extra turn) at the top to allow you to tighten only the upper laces.

Hiking Shoe Lacing Tips

Skipping loops can add width where you need it.

Next I want to address my heel slip by tying a heel lock. The idea is to bring tension from the base of the ankle down through the heel to prevent the foot from moving up and down in the shoe. Regular lacing only brings tension into the sides. I start by lacing the shoe up to the top hole:

Skipping Laces for Wide Feet Trail Runners

Next I make a loop:

Trail Runner Lacing

Then pass the opposite lace through the loop:

Backpacking Shoe Lacing - Heel Lock

Tension the laces and you should notice more downward pressure on the top of your foot instead of the usual sideways squeeze.

I also have the same problems on my mountaineering boots (Scarpa Charmoz), which use a different lacing system and come up higher on my ankle. The first step is easy enough – simply find where your foot is too wide for the boot and skip the nearest laces:

Lacing with Mountaineering Boots

The heel lock is a little trickier since these eyelets are open at the back. We can get a similar effect by skipping the laces closest to where your ankle starts:

Heel Lock

Then loop the opposite laces through and tightening up:

Finishing the Heel Lock Lacing on Mountaineering Boots

Completed heel lock

Final Thoughts

That's what I do, but you likely have much different issues so here are some resources that might work better for your funny feet and hopefully something here works for you: a great video covering the heel lock and several additional techniques, endless combinations available on Ians Shoelace Site, and lastly a more British approach to locking down the heel. If not – post in the comments!

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Aaron Zagrodnick


Thanks for sharing these tips. luckily standard lacing usually works pretty well for me, but without a doubt these are great tricks to know and to have in the repertoire!

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