Shoelace Tips for Everyone
There's some shoelace tips that apply to everyone, young and old alike. This section contains general tips about shoelace comfort, security, appearance, and getting them to the right length.
Lacing for Comfort
- Minimize the pressure points caused by hard, round shoelaces by replacing them with soft, flat shoelaces.
- Also for comfort, Criss Cross Lacing minimizes pressure points.
- To reduce the pressure of shoelaces on the upper ridge of the foot, use Straight Bar Lacing.
- To allow the sides of boots to flex more easily, use Army Lacing.
Preventing Shoelaces Coming Undone
- Check that you're not inadvertently tying an un-balanced Granny Knot (which comes undone much more easily).
- Learn a more secure knot, such as Ian's Secure Shoelace Knot.
- Regardless of the knot used, finish it off by pulling the knot nice and tight. Follow-up by pushing the bits in the centre of the knot snugly together to make the knot compact and secure.
- Replace shoelaces made of slippery synthetic materials (such as nylon) with ones made of less slippery materials (such as polyester) or, better still, ones made of cotton, hemp or other natural fibers.
- To make shiny shoelaces less slippery, roughen them up with some coarse sandpaper.
- Shoelaces can be made less slippery by applying a grippy product to the surface, such as beeswax, rubber cement or a specialist product like Lace-Stick®.
- Ensure that the shoelaces aren't too long, either by replacing them or by shortening them to the correct length. Besides the obvious fact that long loops or ends are more likely to be either snagged or stepped on, the fact that long laces flop around more also tends to work the knots loose.
Excessively Long Shoelaces
- To avoid stepping on excessively long loops, tuck them under the crossovers of lacing down the middle of the shoe.
- Use two or more successive Ian Knots, as shown on my Double Ian Knot page. This works well, though it looks a bit ridiculous and can be fickle to un-tie.
- Adopt a different lacing pattern, such as Spider Web Lacing, Ladder Lacing or Lattice Lacing, all of which use up more lace and effectively "shorten" the ends. For maximum shortening, use Supernova Lacing.
- Artificially shorten the shoelaces as follows: Lace the shoes on your feet, then adjust the end lengths to a reasonable length (about 250 mm) by pulling the excess lace back through the eyelets until all the excess is sitting at the bottom of the shoe (ie. near the toes). Tie a knot at that point to keep the excess down there.
- An alternative to tying a knot at the bottom is to create a triple-pass. Start lacing the shoe with a straight section across the bottom eyelets, then run both ends back across the bottom and feed a second time through the opposite bottom eyelets. Finish by lacing the remainder of the shoe normally.
- If the laces are way too long, cut out a section and re-join the two cut ends. This can be done with a simple Reef Knot, or flat laces can be either sewn or glued together, while synthetic laces can even be melted together.
- The ultimate solution is to shorten the shoelaces to the correct length by cutting off the ends, then replacing the aglets (the plastic tips) as per my Aglet Repair section.
- If you are shortening a shoelace to length, you may find that a clear heat shrink tubing aglet is a close enough match to the original aglet that you can get away with cutting only one end of the shoelace. In this case, shift the lacing along so that one end is the desired length and all the excess is on the other end, then shorten that end to the desired length.
Excessively Short Shoelaces
While the obvious solution for excessively short shoelaces is to replace them with ones of the correct length, here's some great emergency measures, especially if one lace end has broken at short notice and there's no ready replacement.
- Adopt a different lacing pattern such as Army Lacing or Bow Tie Lacing, which uses less shoelace.
- Re-lace the shoes, skipping the bottom pair of eyelets, or more if the lace ends are really short.
- Tie a Reef Knot, which is basically a Standard Shoelace Knot minus the loops and drawstrings. This means that it looks different to a regular "bow", and it also uses a slightly different method of untying.
End Lengths Shifting
Some shoes suffer from laces that perpetually shift, such that one end gradually gets longer than the other. There are various possible reasons and therefore various possible solutions.
- If using a non-symmetrical lacing method, particularly Shoe Shop Lacing, re-lace the shoes with a symmetrical lacing method, such as Criss Cross Lacing.
- If using a non-symmetrical shoelace knot, particularly the Standard Shoelace Knot, try learning a symmetrical method, such as my own Ian Knot.
- Ensure that all eyelets are a similar diameter. Those that are simply holes punched in the leather can be easily enlarged with a leather punch, reamer or even a sharp drill bit.
- Before lacing the shoe, tie a permanent knot in the middle of the section that will run across the bottom eyelets (the grey section in most of my diagrams). Any shift will be halted when the knot reaches the eyelet on either side.
- An alternative to tying a knot at the bottom is as follows. Start lacing the shoe with a straight section across the bottom eyelets, then run both ends back across the bottom and feed a second time through the opposite bottom eyelets. The extra friction of the double-passes of shoelace through those eyelets will reduce any shift.
Shoelaces Worn In Icy Conditions
- To prevent shoelaces icing up and becoming stiff as wire, take them off and soak them in a waterproofing solution (such as "Nixwax") and wipe off the excess. Once dry they will have a slightly waxy feel but will still hold a knot properly, especially if you also adopt the Ian's Secure Shoelace Knot.
- For those who wear crampons (spiked fittings for walking on snow or ice), Hiking / Biking Lacing can be worn with the loops to the outside, further away from snagging in the spikes of the adjacent foot.
Preventing Shoe Tongues Slipping Sideways
Many shoes have tongues that tend to slip towards the outside of the foot. This is particularly common on shoes with flatter tongues that don't fit the curvatures of the top part of the foot.
To minimize this slippage, the top of most shoe tongues includes some form of "centering loop":
- A separate loop of leather or material;
- A label that's stitched at the top and bottom and open at both sides;
- A pair of vertical grooves cut through the upper layer of material or right through the tongue.
There are several ways of lacing through such tongue centering loops to minimize sideways movement:
- Avoid straight lacing methods like Straight Bar Lacing because they don't hold horizontally.
- If using Over Under Lacing, note that the "Over" sections are more effective than the "Under" sections because the loop will end up between the sides of the shoe, limiting the sideways movement.
- Use a lacing method that runs the laces through the loop at a steeper angle, such as Lattice Lacing or Zipper Lacing.
- Rather than lacing the whole shoe differently, use Zipper Lacing only on those eyelets immediately above and below the tongue loop.
- If you really want control via a lacing method, try using Loop Back Lacing just at the tongue centering loop. The tongue generally slips outwards (towards the "little toe" side) so run the lace end that is on the "big toe" side of the shoe through the tongue centering loop and back again while the other side only loops through the shoelace and back again. Don't run both ends through the tongue centering loop, otherwise the loop would be scrunched up.
- Finally, another possibility is to forget the lacing and to physically restrict how easily the shoelaces slide through the tongue centering loop. For example, stitch it closed into a tighter loop. Or swap the sports laces for fat laces (which has the added advantage of looking cool!)
Helping Shoelaces Last Longer
- Try my Ian Knot, which uses fewer steps and thus reduces wear and tear from handling.
- Check that you're not inadvertently tying an un-balanced Granny Knot, which comes undone more easily and thus increases wear and tear due to more frequent re-tying.
- When pulling shoelaces tight, pull outwards rather than upwards, thus reducing friction against the top eyelets.
- Pull firmly and evenly and don't tug quickly on the lace ends.
- Metal eyelets often wear through shoelaces if they are rough or sharp on the inside. Such edges can be smoothed with either sandpaper or a Dremel or by painting over them with either clear nail polish or two-part epoxy glue.
- Sometimes the friction of a shoelace will actually cause a metal eyelet to develop a sharp edge. In this case, try twisting the eyelet 90° with a pair of pliers so that a fresh, smooth surface of the eyelet contacts the shoelace.
- Cheap, one-piece metal eyelets are notorious for having very rough edges. These can be replaced with smoother, two-part metal eyelets, which can be purchased, complete with punches and dies, from haberdashery stores.
- If shoelaces do begin to fray at the eyelets, shift the laces along by an inch (ie. make one end longer than the other). The eyelets will then contact fresh parts of the shoelaces, preventing the already-frayed sections from wearing through completely.
If you have any useful shoelace tips that everyone can benefit from, please Contact Ian so that they can be shared with others.