Hiking boots have two, very distinct parts.
The foot is in a shoe and the upper portion of the boot is an ankle support. The two sections can and should be tied independently.
Photographs below will illustrate the steps described to tie laces.
The lace in the illustration has a durable inner core with a stretchy, variable-shape casing to help keep laces tight.
Putting on a boot is carefully packing up a foot. Two pairs of socks can be used. A thin synthetic liner will help to wick away moisture and a thicker wool outer sock will contain the moisture and provide cushioning. Two socks can help to reduce friction between skin and boot. The theory is the inner sock tracks the foot and the outer sock tracks the boot. Friction between the socks may reduce the total amount of rub on the skin. That's the theory. This approach may be worthwhile to use the technique for more arduous missions of extended length and/or altitude differential. It is important to massage the socks on the foot to remove any wrinkles and to spread thread tensions evenly.
Slide the foot carefully into each boot then kick back the heal into the cup at the back of the boot. It is important to be certain the heel is secure in the heel cup at the back of the boot before tying the foot securely into the boot.
Ezeefit has been a game changer for securing heels in hiking boots. The neoprene sleeves serve as shims to snug heels in the boot and as moleskin (that stays where it belongs) to reduce or eliminate the impact of rubbing within poorly fitting boots. They are a powerful piece of gear for snowshoeing or hiking in crampons when there is repetitive push and pull. It is wise to carry a pair in the backpack for unforeseen circumstance. People with chronic blistering issues should own and wear Ezeefits. Ezeefits are available for all sizes at many outdoor stores.
Following are instructions for a more efficient way to tie a hiking boot.
- Unlace the boot down to the join of the ankle at the top of the foot.
Picture # 1
- Loosen the tongue of the boot and slide the foot carefully into the boot.
- Move the foot back firmly against the heel. Important. The heel must be snug in the cup at the back of the boot to reduce heel rubbing on the inside of the boot. It is possible to tie the boot without the foot being snug to the back. Banging the heel on the floor is a good practice.
Picture # 2
- Consciously check the socks for any wrinkles. Redo until perfect.
- Place the tongue in position and tuck all flaps for smoothness. Run fingers down the aprons to reduce the risk of folds in the leather.
- Snug the laces at the bottom. Use laces that have 'stick'. There are several options. Spend the money for a great lace.
- Bring the laces over the top of the middle clasp and under the bottom. This is the unique set of eyelets which divide the lower shoe from the upper ankle support. Do a simple cross tie granny knot and pull firm. The shoe portion of the tie must be snug to keep the heel in the back of the boot. Notice this will place the tie over the laces below which substantially increases the hold and security of the foot in the 'shoe'.
- Note that new laces will stretch so retying is necessary until stretching ends.
Picture # 3
- Initially, lace up the top, ankle part of the boot from around the bottom of clips.
Picture # 4
- On the final top clips, lace around the top of clip and out the bottom, then make the tie over the laces underneath.
- Normally the top portion of the boot (the ankle support) will be a medium tension. For trails with long extended ascent the top of the boot can be loosened off to prevent bruising on the lower shin. For long stretches of descent the ankle support can be tightened to assist keeping the foot at the back of the boot. Experience is the teacher.
Picture # 5
- Finishing the final tie in a double knot will make the boot ready to hit the trail.
Picture # 6
The security of the boot has been increased. By reversing the tie pattern at mid-point and the top, the knot will be over the top of the lace to better secure the position with lace friction.
This seems like terrible nitpicking but this small alteration in the tie pattern can make a big difference on the long hauls. By separating the bottom of the boot from the top each can be adjusted independently.
The core objective is to keep a carefully packed foot stable at the heel of the boot and to keep the ankle protected on uneven terrain. This reduces the risk of rub and subsequent blistering on heels and toe stress/blistering during descent. Additionally this tie technique reduces the risk of ankle fatigue or injury when you could be far from immediate assistance in time and distance.
Hiking on a long, sustained descent, the feet are angled predominantly downward and the foot wants to slide to the front of the boot. Risk of toe rub and improved heel stability can be achieved by tightening the ties at the top of both the shoe and ankle portion.
Conversely, on a sustained incline, the feet are pointing predominantly upward so the heel wants to stay at the back of the boot where it belongs, but the top of the ankle support may begin to bite into the front of the leg so the top tie can be loosened.
Normally, lace tension will be kept in a mid range with the occasional adjustment for lace stretch and it will be fine for the day. At midpoint of a hike it is common to be at maximum elevation so there is the opportunity to remove boots so they, and the socks, can dry out a bit. Fresh socks can be magic. As experience is gained, the lace tension for those 'sweet spots' will become practiced and intuitive. In the beginning it may be necessary to adjust tension more often to get it right. Patience and specific attention to detail will help in the long-term on more aggressive hikes.
There are some friction lacing systems which prevent this approach so you may need to be inventive to create a similar result. This technique can provide substantial benefit for long hauls and/or significant elevation.
At day's end, there is major benefit in changing into fresh, dry socks and different, comfortable footwear. It is like being reborn.
It is a good idea to carry an extra boot lace or two in the backpack. In addition to handling a broken lace, there are a large variety of applications where a small, thin, tough rope could come in handy. This lacing approach has worked well for me for many years.
When this lacing technique was shared with me, more than thirty years ago, the difference could be felt right away. Happy trails and stay safe.
There are other tying techniques. This one seems to be among the simplest but whatever works is good. There are no lacing techniques for solving an improperly fitted boot.