Criss Cross Lacing

Lacing (pic)

Probably the most common method of lacing normal shoes and boots, the laces simply criss-cross as they work their way up the shoe.

Eight pairs of eyelets

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Lacing Technique

• Begin straight across on the inside (grey section) and out through the bottom eyelets.

• At each eyelet pair, cross the ends, feeding under the sides and out through the next higher set of eyelets. Repeat until lacing is completed.


Traditional look

Simple to lace


Baseline length


Criss Cross Lacing is reasonably comfortable because the crossovers of shoelace occur in the gap between the sides of the shoe and thus aren't pressed against the top of the foot.

Criss Cross Lacing is the most basic, traditional lacing method. Almost all lace-up footwear and clothing throughout history has been – and still is – designed to suit this lacing.

Criss Cross Lacing is also specified as the default method for lacing combat boots in the Australian Army, as per the following official spec:

Military Specs

(Excerpt from the official document Australian Army Dress Manual, rev. 18-Dec-2020):


• Chapter 3:  Items of Dress, Embellishments and Accoutrements

• Section:  Boots and Footwear

• Subsection:  Laces

3.39  Combat boots are to be laced IAW the manufactures [sic] instructions. In the absence of any instructions all footwear is to be laced as follows:

a.  the initial lace is to be horizontal across the inside of the footwear, through the lowest eyelets on each side of the boot and shoe

b.  subsequent laces are to continue diagonally, outside over inside, upwards through all eyelets, to the top of the boot and shoe

c.  laces are tied neatly at the top of the boot and shoe after laces have been passed through all eyelets.

Ian's Comment

To me, the above instruction at 3.39b is rather vague – particularly the “outside over inside”. After discussing this with another website visitor, our conclusion was that this probably refers to the way that the ends are crossed. At each eyelet pair, the end nearest the outside of the shoe crosses over the end nearest the inside of the shoe (ie. between the ankles).

Assuming that I've interpreted this correctly, then the right shoe would end up with left-over-right crossovers (exactly like my diagram above) while the left shoe would end up with right-over-left crossovers (like my diagram flipped left/right).

Shoe lacing photo

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Criss Cross Lacing Video

Original video showing Criss Cross Lacing at a leisurely pace.

Criss Cross Lacing One-Minute How-To Video

Faster video showing Criss Cross Lacing in just under one minute.

Criss Cross Lacing – Factory Variation

Factory variation of Criss Cross Lacing

There is a subtle variation of Criss Cross Lacing that appears in many shoes that come pre-laced from the factory. The lacing starts with the bottom horizontal section running straight across the outside and with the first crossover on the inside. The remainder of the shoe is laced normally.

Visually, this is less consistent and thus less appealing (to me). Perhaps some people like the bottom horizontal “bar” as a sort of underline?

Functionally, there is little good reason for this variation – with the possible exception of shifting the lowest pressure point up a little.

So what is the main reason for this variation?

Historically, there was a period when manufacturers were shipping shoes with the lace ends fed into the bottom eyelets and simply tucked away neatly inside the shoe. In later years, with greater competition and cheaper labor, manufacturers began lacing their shoes all the way to the top – yet still starting as they always did with the ends fed into the bottom eyelets. The end result was this variation, which has since become one of the “standard” ways that shoes now arrive pre-laced.

Shoelace Lengths for Criss Cross Lacing

Pairs of
length needed
8 pairs133 cm53 in
7 pairs123 cm48 in
6 pairs112 cm44 in
5 pairs102 cm40 in
4 pairs91 cm36 in
3 pairs81 cm32 in
2 pairs70 cm28 in

NOTE: These are approximate shoelace lengths for using this lacing on an average sized sneaker. For more accurate lengths, use the Shoelace Length Calculator.

Comparative Length

• The length of shoelace required for Criss Cross Lacing is this website's “baseline” length against which all other shoe lacing methods are compared.

More details

Visitor Feedback

I think the function of the underline is to allow easier loosening near the toes. If you loosen the laces starting from the top and pulling them out and up, it's much easier with the underline when you get to that spot. Without it (the more visually appealing way) that last little crossover is harder to get to. It makes it more consistent.

– Matt M., Jan-2024

Ian's Comment: Matt's feedback (above) was in relation to the “Factory Variation” (further above).

– Ian Fieggen, Jan-2024

First pattern that I learned was Straight European (probably because I saw it around, I live in Europe), at the start I didn't like Criss Cross at all (bit now I think its probably the most practical pattern).

– Dejan S., Jul-2022

It seems like display style lacing has gained massive popularity in the last ten years or so. Shoes like converse chuck taylors and jack purcells can be commonly seen laced in this fashion when traditionally they were laced criss cross. I have gone with both methods over the years and have come to the conclusion that while display looks good on some shoes, the criss cross method is much better in terms of comfort and ease of tightening laces. I recently relaced my jacks from display to criss cross and it's amazing how much less pressure I feel on the top of my foot and easier to adjust they are. I always used to think not bridging the first eyelet was visually unappealing, but it's alot easier to get shoes or boots uniformly tight this way and feels very secure.

– Blake R., Oct-2020

Several years ago I had a pair of deck shoes, with leather laces, that irritated my skin under the bottom lace. I had laced them using the Criss Cross method. I discovered that going back to the Factory Variation relieved the pressure from the bottom lace (grey section) that was causing the irritation.

– George, OK, USA, Jan-2017

I tried doing the simple criss cross because it looked cool. But when I put my foot in and tightend my shoe it looked really funny. I have converse shoes and when i do the thing they cross over and u only see one lace and It doesnt look to pleasing. You know how the laces look like crosses... mine look like this \/ all the way up and all the way down .

– Ryan M., Jul-2005

That straight lacing method is the method used on shoes and ankle boots (but not combat boots which are laced using the standard criss cross lacing) for, not only cadets, but by all members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

– J-P J., Ontario, Canada, Jun-2005

For those of us with narrow feet, criss cross lacing has an disadvantage compared with straight lacing: For the standard criss cross style, the laces must run from above to below between the left and the right side; but with narrow feet, you sometimes simply don't have the space for laces at that place.

– Bodo M., Feb-2005

I've also noticed that I'm lacing my shoes using a variation of the Criss Cross lacing, resulting in the first cross being under and sebsequent crosses being over. The reason is that I was starting the lacing by running the bottom line down into the shoe instead of up creating a sort of “shoe hood ornament.” So my variation wasn't as visually pleasing as the original. There was also a bunching at the bottom from my step.

– Rob M., Oct-2004

For example the European straight lacing method, as well as the shoe shop menthod result in various crossings of the laces UNDER the two sides of the shoe. Consequently the thickening due to the crossing of the laces is pressed into the instep of the foot when tying the laces. For me that is THE most important reason why I prefer the criss-cross method, where the thickening of the crossed laces is BETWEEN the two sides of the shoe. No pressure on the instep!

– Martin v-H., Leiden, The Netherlands, Mar-2004

By the way, something you might want to explicitly add to your “Traditional criss-cross” lacing. Make sure to alternate which lace goes on top with each pair of eyelets. Your illustration does show this. It's always the left or right side that crosses on top.

I learned this method from professional hockey players. By alternating, it “locks” the laces into place, ensuring a long-lasting, tight - but comfortable fit. The last thing you want went you're going from 20 mph to 0 in less than a second is a loose boot!

– (Anonymous), Mar-2004

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This page last updated: 09-Apr-2024. Copyright © 2003-2024 by Ian W. Fieggen. All rights reserved.

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