Shoelace Tips for Everyone

Family group (pic)

There's some shoelace tips that apply to everyone, young and old alike. This section contains general tips about shoelace comfort, security, appearance and length adjustment.

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.
  • Lacing (icon) 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

  • Granny knot (pic) Check that you're not inadvertently tying an un-balanced Granny Knot (which comes undone much more easily).
  • Replace hard, round shoelaces (such as those found on hiking boots) with softer oval shoelaces (such as those found on sports shoes) or flat shoelaces (such as those found on sneakers). The more easily the shoelaces themselves can bend, twist and compress, the more readily they'll compress into a compact knot that stays 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 smooth and slippery, roughen them up with some coarse sandpaper.
  • Shoelaces can also be made less slippery by applying a grippy product to the surface, such as beeswax, rubber cement or a specialist product like Lace-Stick®.
  • If you prefer not to mess with the original shoelaces (such as keeping the hard, round shoelaces on hiking boots for the sake of durability), instead 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.
  • Long laces (pic) 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.
  • Lacing (icon) Adopt a different lacing pattern, such as Ladder Lacing or Spider Web Lacing, which use up more shoelace and effectively “shorten” the ends. For maximum shortening, use Supernova Lacing.
  • Replace straight lacing methods like Straight Bar Lacing with the identical looking End Shortening Lacing, which invisibly consumes more shoelace.
  • 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.
  • Joining knot (pic) 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.
  • When shortening a shoelace to length, save time by only shortening one end. Many people find that a clear heat shrink tubing aglet is a close enough match to the original aglet. In this case, shift the lacing along so that one end is the desired length and all the excess is at the other end, then shorten just that end to the same 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.

  • Lacing (icon) 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.

  • Lacing (icon) 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

  • Knot (icon) 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.
  • Lacing (icon) If using Over Under Lacing, note that the “Over” sections are more effective than the “Under” sections because the centering loop will be jammed 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.
  • Lacing (icon) 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 the loop partially closed to form a tighter passage through. Or swap thin “sports” laces for “fat” laces (which has the added advantage of looking cool!)

In addition, tongue centering loops destroy the aesthetics of most lacing methods. It's inevitable that part of the lacing will end up hidden as it passes through the centering loop. There are a couple of measures to minimize the effects:

  • Run just one of the segments through the loop, then run the other segment across the top. That way only one diagonal of the “X” would be hidden by the loop – and even then, only that part that wasn't already hidden by the outer segment.
  • This can be taken one step further by initially running the first segment across the top of the centering loop, then back through the loop, then back across the top again – effectively forming a complete loop through the centering loop. However, this would scrunch the loop somewhat.

Helping Shoelaces Last Longer

  • Ian Knot (icon) 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 collet grinder like 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.
  • Eyelets (pic) Cheap, one-piece metal eyelets (as seen at bottom-left) are notorious for having very rough edges. These will soon tear through even the toughest shoelaces. Such eyelets can be replaced relatively inexpensively with smoother, two-part metal eyelets (as seen at top-right). These can be purchased – complete with punches and dies – from craft or 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.

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This page last updated: 09-Apr-2024. Copyright © 2005-2024 by Ian W. Fieggen. All rights reserved.

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