When purchasing new boots, I advise to really put an effort into sizing them correctly. We may have experienced a pair of boots that were too tight causing problems. However, we rarely question how our boots are laced.
Walking boots usually come in a standard style, see the image below: (fig1). Nonetheless, even after a period of wearing in, issues may arise out on the hill that can be alleviated by looking at the various lacing solutions below. A bonus tip to kick off with: if you can when you lace your boots up, place your heel on the floor whilst sitting, to remove weight off the actual foot. This allows for better lacing and the heel to be more secure, reducing the risk of heel slippage.
Problem #1: The boots are giving you heel blisters
This is normally because your heels are lifting as you walk and rubbing against the boot.
Solution: You could first check that you are using the correct socks. Try thicker loop stitch socks or double sock for more cushioning and less friction. If that doesn't work, try the heel lock lacing (see fig 2). This locks your heel down into the back of the boot to prevent foot movement inside the boot.
To do this: Put on your boot making sure that your heel is as far down to the back of your boot as possible. Find the point on the front of your ankle where your foot meets your leg and identify where this is on your boot. Lace your boots as normal up to this point and then tie a hitch. To do this, wrap the ends of your laces around each other as you would to tie off, but don’t pull the laces tight, then wrap the laces round each other a second time and then pull the ends of the laces tight. Bring the laces up to the next hook to lock off the knot and tie another hitch and finish lacing as normal up to the top of the boot.
This hitch is sometimes called the ‘Surgeons knot’, but that is really more involved and the one here is just a simple, double twist hitch (fig 2 &5), which is also useful if your laces keep coming undone or loosen on the trail.
Low cut trail boots and a lot of running shoes also have ‘heel locks’, in this case they usually have two close holes together near the top of the lacing cuff (in this case at the top of the shoe). Instead of doing a bow, thread the lace through the two holes on both sides of the shoe to make ‘bunny ear loops’ then keeping the loops from getting too small, pull the opposing lace end through the opposing bunny ears, tighten and tie off with a bow (fig 3).
Problem #2: Your boots are too tight in the toe, causing pinching when you walk
Solution: Toe relief lacing. To do this, completely un-lace your boots then re-lace your boots as normal but miss out the first eyelets altogether (fig 4). This usually alleviates the pain for a while.
Problem #3: Toes are scrunching the front of the boot when you walk downhill
Solution: Perhaps make your boot tighter. The next thing to try is heel lock lacing, which secures the foot to the back of the boot (fig 2 & 3). If this still doesn’t help then have a go at foot lock down lacing (fig 2 & 5). To do this, find the points in your boots that feel especially spacious, unlace to the lowest point and add a twist hitch knot at this point and continue lacing. This is the same as the heel lock but further down the boot. Repeat the hitch in any other spots that you feel need to be extra secure.
Problem #4: Are you slipping over a lot when you walk downhill?
This is often because the boot is too loose and your foot is suddenly moving or the insole is too short or worn.
Solution: Tighten the cuff of the boot or use heel lock lacing as in fig 2&3 and ‘1’ above. Also, perhaps check your insoles for wear, thicker ones are available in outdoor or shoe shops.
Problem #5: If you have narrow feet and your feet are moving around inside the boots
Solution: Thicker socks or the so-called foot lock down lacing systems should help with this.
Problem #6: Do you have high arches and the boots are rubbing the top of your feet?
If you loosen the whole lacing system it’s likely you’ll lose lots of the support from your boots. So try ‘box’ or ‘window lacing’ (figs 6 & 7). These take the pressure off of whichever section of your laces are causing you the most discomfort.
Solution: Locate the pressure point on the top of your foot and untie your laces to just below this point. Then re-lace by going straight up the next hook above this point so you effectively lace a box around that area. Finish off by crossing the laces lacing up to the top of the boot as normal.
Problem #7: The top cuffs the boots rub your calves whilst walking
Solution: Looser ankle lacing creates a little more space in the calf area without having to loosen the rest of your laces. To do this, lace your boots as normal then thread the laces over the top of the top loops and tie off as normal but below the top (fig 8). However beware having lacing so loose in the cuff that when you walk your laces on the opposing boot get caught by the hooks on the other shoes. You will almost certainly have a nasty trip-over.
>> Boots problems fixed? You may now have found some renewed energy for taking up another walking trip. Choose from a wide range of options for walking holidays across Europe with Sherpa Expeditions.