Ladder Lacing

Ladder Lacing

Distinctive lacing worn on military boots by paratroopers and others. The laces weave horizontally and vertically, forming a secure ladder.

Diagram for 8 pairs of eyelets, variation 1

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Lacing Technique

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

• The ends are run straight up the sides and in through the next higher set of eyelets.

• At each eyelet pair, the ends run straight across, feeding under the vertical lace sections on the opposite side before continuing straight up and in through the next higher set of eyelets. Repeat until lacing is completed.

• At the top, the ends can optionally be fed under the vertical sections once again before being tied (see variation 2).


• Variation 1 has the ends tied across the top as usual.

• Variation 2 finishes with Lace Locks, where the ends are once again fed under the vertical sections on the opposite sides before tying at the middle. This looks consistent plus offers additional tightening.


Distinctive look

Stays very tight

Harder to tighten

2% shorter ends (approx.)


• This lacing looks particularly effective on high boots with many eyelets, especially when contrasting laces are used.

• Although this lacing is slightly harder to tighten, this can actually assist in getting the lacing really tight because the lower sections hold more firmly while progressing up the shoe. This makes it a great lacing to use on hiking boots, ice skates, etc.

Shoelace Lengths for Ladder Lacing

Pairs of eyelets: 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Length needed: 63 cm
25 inch
76 cm
30 inch
90 cm
35 inch
103 cm
41 inch
116 cm
46 inch
129 cm
51 inch
142 cm
56 inch
Lengths available: 27" 27" 36" 40" 45" 54" 54"

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

Longer shoelaces needed than those for basic Criss Cross Lacing.

Shorter ends if existing shoelaces are re-used (−2% on average).

More details.

Visitor Feedback

I'm a 53-year old combat veteran, and I've always, always, always just laced my shoes & boots the most very basic way. I've recently started experimenting and looking for the best ways to lace tactical boots, easy tighten, easy removal, most stable/secure, etc. I have to say, with the low boots I typically wear, I end up with longer leftover laces. All things considered, I just settled on ladder lacing. that method uses up a little more lace, and I can snug it down nicely.

Okay, Professor Shoelace... So, one thing about ladder lacing is that some may not like the look of it with all the goings-on on the outside. ... I have another method for ladder lacing, and maybe it would just be called “inside ladder lacing”. It's ladder lacing but on the underside instead of on the outside. It looks more like a mix between a traditional crossover lace and a bar lace... almost like the laces “figure 8” through the same eyelet.

(See photos in the 2nd gallery above.)

– Tim G., USA, May-2022

I am flat footed and have struggled for 20 years with pain in my feet and never knew that it was the way I laced and tied my shoes that was a major part of the problem.

As a timber cutter I spend up to 14 hours a day walking in thick scrub carrying a 15kg chainsaw in lace up steel cap boots and have suffered a lot of pain from incorrect ankle support and boots that just never fit right. After seeing you on a tv show I decided to look up your site and have tried a couple different ways of lacing and tying my boots. I settled on paratrooper ladder lacing and now wouldn't lace my boots any other way.

– Luke H., Aug-2014

Your Ladder Lacing solved my dilemma with my tennis shoes. This method has provided a more secure and comfortable fit with less ankle rollover possibilities. It has also eliminated some of the extra shoelace length as well.

– Hector R., California, USA, Jul-2014

Photo 1549

Nothing spectacular, but I did start out my ladder lacing a bit differently. I always got frustrated with the bottom eyelets not getting squeezed together/flat like the rest so I started with loops by going through the same eyelet twice and ran the laces through just as in the rest of ladder.

– Zaii, Mar-2012

I use the ladder lacing for mine, and I find it actually EASIER to tighten/loosen the boot with this lacing! You just need to pull on the vertical laces one by one, bottom-up to tighten, top-bottom to loosen.

– Fernando V., Mar-2012

The Canadian Forces still uses ladder lacing on the ankle boots, and for the combat boots, cross laces, but always with one lace always passing on top to make it easy to undo the boot with a knife to have an injured foot looked at. The laces are also fed from the top of the eyelet, not underneath. I have no idea why, but that's how it's done

– Kimball M., Canada, Jan-2012

The ladder lacing actually does allow my boot to break better and also fits the boot more snugly to my foot and ankle.

– Neil M., Oct-2010

... Converses with ladder lacing because it strengthened the sides and now they're not as flimsy.

– Matt C., Dec-2008

Here’s what I found by trying the ladder lacing, Versus the traditional criss cross pattern it more evenly distributes the pressure of the laces across the foot by keeping the lower laces tighter while securing the upper laces, combine that with the fact that it offers a high lace lock for added security from slippage and that it shortens laces, keeping interruption during play down, this is the most comfortable and secure lacing I have ever had the pleasure of using for sport.

– Matt R., USA, Dec-2007

I find ladder lacing easier to tighten than criss-cross. It allows me to set the right tension at each eyelet pair, and because it locks at each step, that stays good as I go up the shoe. The way to tighten is to pull directly outwards on the “risers” until the tension is right, then pull upwards to lock, and repeat. Loosen by pulling on the “rungs”.

– Silas H., UK, Jul-2007

I next tried the “Ladder Lacing” which seemed to work much better; plus it shortened the laces considerably, which was nice. The “Ladder Lacing” also looks really nice.

– Paul J., Jul-2007

After twisting an ankle badly in my work boots last week, I went for another visit to your site, and discovered “ladder lacing”. I've found it perfect for getting pin-point adjustment all the way up.

My real delight with the method is only hinted at in step 4 of the technique notes, though: not only is the top set of eyelets locked, but each set is---as I adjust them from the bottom up, drawing the standing parts tight underneath the bend just below. Just like the locking eyelets on some hiking boots; but evidently better locking and much easier on the laces.

All that bumps it comfortably into the “Assists tightening” category for me. I also find it pretty easy to tighten and loosen.

A bit of web surfing suggests that the method has a history in many militaries. Tried and true I suppose!

– Derek T., Vancouver, Canada, Jan-2006

nearly all my shoes now have a ladder lacing on them since all my shoes for some reason or another have unusually long laces. i also randomly discovered that ladder lacing combines PERFECTLY with lock lacing. since ladder lacing forms loops between all the eyelets, you can use the last one for lock lacing. my shoes have never felt tighter than they do now in this configuration.

– Kyle B., Clear Spring, MD, USA, Nov-2005

The original lacing scheme left way too much lace left over, however. This was no problem thanks to you as all I needed to do was consult your lacing comparison page and choose from the three options offered under “shorten lace ends significantly”. I chose the ladder lacing and I am very happy with the results.

– Sean P., Pennsylvania USA, Sep-2005

We don't want to point fingers, but one of the more childish Q staff members spent a chunk of his afternoon relacing his shoes in the “ladder lacing” style used by U.S. paratroopers, then tying them off with the “Ian knot,” a speedy knot that looks like the standard version but supposedly will not come loose until released. For another chunk of afternoon, he walked around the office and tapped his feet, trying to get people to notice.

– Sara L., Chicago Tribune, USA, Sep-2005

After visiting you site, I laced my shoes up with the “Ladder Lacing” and started tying with the “Ian's Secure Knot”. Every fall, I go hiking and I resorted to “double knotting” my shoes. Now, with the “Ian's Secure Knot”, they hardly EVER come untied, and on the rare occasion they do, the ladder lacing keeps them tight until I have a chance to tie them again. Thanks for all of your help! I thought I learned how to tie shoes in kindergarten – but I didn't really learn until I read your site some 10 years later!

– Justin P.C., age 15, Ohio, USA, Aug-2005

Oh, by the way, I found the Ladder lacing to be easier to tighten than most other methods. The vertical loops from eyelet to eyelet provide a neat handle to grab. To tighten a section, just grab those loops, pull then in toward the center of the shoe, and then back out toward the sides. The inward pull causes the next lowest loops to tighten, and the outward pull takes up the slack.

I can tighten the whole shoe using three or four in-out motions. Very nice!

– Charlie N., May-2004

I have a pair of casual shoes with terribly long laces I’ve never bothered to replace; for years I’ve let them flop around. This is generally because I have narrow feet and must tighten shoes much tighter (since narrows are difficult to find in some styles). Now I lace casual shoes Ladder style, and the long laces aren’t a problem.

– Charlie N., May-2004

Now, I have relaced my dress shoes as ladders (my favorite lacing style) and the laces are no longer too long.

– Wil L., USA, Mar-2004

There is one lacing variation which appears to be missing from your site. It is one which was often used by ceremonial US guard units wearing Corcoran jump boots with white laces.

In the states it's usually called ladder lacing and combines some of the features you show in Straight (European) Lacing and Straight (Fashion) Lacing --- it's a more decorative version of the European lacing but also has better function and has symmetrical stress. US paratroopers used to use this lacing pattern.

– Ron B.,, USA, Jan-2004

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This page last updated: 04-Sep-2022. Copyright © 2004-2022 by Ian W. Fieggen. All rights reserved.

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