Mind Your Head

Lacing to Fit YOUR Foot


Changing the lacing system you use on your running shoes could make the world of difference to both comfort and fit, so read on if the good old crisscross lacing system is the only one you know. – BY SEAN FALCONER

Believe it or not, mathematically speaking, there are apparently more than two trillion different ways of feeding your laces through those six or seven pairs of eyelets on your shoe – but most are purely decorative and not much use to athletes, so we tend to stick to the tried and trusted crisscross method, because it is simple, effective and well-known. However, there are a few alternative lacing methods that athletes can use to not only improve the comfort and fit of their running shoes, but also to solve specific problems or alleviate specific discomfort caused by the shape, size or dimensions of their feet. Wide foot, narrow foot, high arch – here are the lacing solutions to your problem.

Problem: Ill-fitting shoes
Solution: Sawtooth lacing
Sometimes our feet just don’t conform to average shoe shapes and proportions, but a lacing tweak can help fit the shoe to our feet. This system has angled sections that point towards whichever corner of the shoe feels loose, and when tightened, the angled sections will pull that corner inwards, altering the fit.
How: The first lace goes diagonally up from the bottom eyelet to second eyelet, then straight across and diagonally up again. The second lace goes straight up to the second eyelet, then diagonally up, straight across, etc.

Problem: Toe problems
Solution: Shoe shop lacing
Also known as factory lacing because many shoes come from the factory laced this way, this method helps relieve problems like hammer toes, toe corns, bleeding toes or toe nail problems.
How: Thread one end of the lace diagonally from the bottom eyelet straight to the opposite top eyelet, while the other end of lace crisscrosses straight-diagonally up to the top. (Note: The left and right shoes can be laced in reverse, i.e. a mirror image, so as to end up with a neat symmetrical look, or to relieve specific pain or discomfort on either foot.)

Problem: High arches / Top of foot pain
Solution: Straight lacing
Also known as splay lacing or fashion lacing (because it looks so neat and fashionable), this system eliminates the underlying diagonals of crisscross systems, which relieves pressure on the top ridge of the foot, which is where a foot with a high arch will often feel more pressure and discomfort when shoes are tightly laced.
How: One end of the lace runs straight up the right side, emerges and runs straight across the second set of eyelets. Both ends now run straight up the left side, each skipping one eyelet before emerging two eyelets higher up. Continue running both ends across the shoe, then straight up two eyelets at a time, until one end reaches the top. The other end then runs straight across the second last set of eyelets, then straight up to the top. (Note: This system only works correctly with an even number of eyelets.)

Problem: Top of foot pain
Solution: Skip lacing
This system relieves the pressure on a specific point along the top of the foot, so it is recommended for athletes with a sensitive or bruised top of foot.
How: Use normal crisscross lacing until you reach the area of the top of the foot where pain or discomfort occurs, then take the laces straight up to the next eyelet on the same side before recommencing with the crisscrossing. You can ‘skip’ one, two
or even three eyelets per side.

Problem: Heel slipping
Solution: Lock lacing
Also known as Heel Locking or Runner’s Tie, this is more a technique to create a super-tight finish than a lacing method, and is recommended to help prevent heel slippage, particularly when running downhill.
How: Lace the shoe using the normal crisscross technique, then create a loop-lacing lock on the last two eyelets to really lock your heel down, by taking the laces straight up from the second-last to last eyelets and crossing them back under the opposite side’s lace between these two eyelets.

Problem: Wide forefoot and narrow heel
Solution: Segmented lacing
Sometimes referred to as zoned lacing, this system divides the lacing into two segments, each of which can be laced up as tightly or loosely to achieve a comfortable yet secure fit for the specific section of the foot, be it wider or narrower.
How: Use two short laces instead of one long one. The first lace crisscrosses through the lower half of the eyelets, and is then tied off, while the second lace is fed crisscross through the upper eyelets. (Note: With shorter laces, the bows can be made smaller to avoid looking too weird!)

Just remember that if you wear a timing chip for specific races, or a footpod that works with a watch for measuring distance, then you need to choose a lacing system that can
accommodate and hold the chip or pod securely.