A smarter way to lace your shoes?

Most of us, well, at least me, has one way of lacing our shoes. It’s probably the global standard and the most obvious possible way. Those that are a little more advanced will have a fancier way for fancier shoes, but as it doesn’t really work as well, it’s not the most common way. And I realise that declaring a crisis in shoe lacing kind of pales when compared to other headlines in world news, isn’t it just a little comforting to be allowed a few minutes to focus on something a little closer to home, and where I’ll offer up a solution to fitting your shoelaces as well? A crisis solved, even a small one, is not something we enjoy on a daily basis. So let’s get down to it.

The purpose of lacing our shoes is to provide a launchpad for tying a knot, with the ultimate goal of ensuring our shoesis don’t fall off our footsies. The basic technology is hardly complicated, two flaps with an even number of eyelets running in parallel, where the purpose of the lace is to bring the flaps closer, preferable in a manner that results in an even distance between flaps and an equal tension in the laces. If the tension isn’t equal you’ll have some eyelets that are held together tightly and others where the lace is in a loose loop. We all really know how it should work, though it’s probably not something most of us ponder on a daily basis.

The classic shoe lacing

The classic “This is how I’ve always done it” lacing is just criss-cross from bottom to top. The only choice is whether to start over or under, but that is mainly a case of personal preference. The only two real advantages of this method are that it’s easy, and it’s easy. The disadvantage is that it does a poor job of evening the lacing, as you’ll back to loosen your way down a few eyelets to allow your foot to pop in, but when you then tighten it, you’ll mostly tighten the top eyelets, giving you a disparaging amount of lace looseness halfway down. Still, like it’s kind of the peoples choice, so it has to be considered.

The formal way

The more formal approach is the one seen on most fancy shoes with Oxford closing. This is when the two flaps are intended to meet in the middle and the wearer places great emphasis on having delicate lacing just crossing horizontally. The way to achieve this is to start out with one long half and one short half of lace, running the short one straight up to the last eyelet and having the long one traverse each pair of eyelets horizontally. It’s always a pain to get the lengths right the first time, but it does look neat. In use though, not so great, as all those horizontal loops are fiddly to loosen and there is little real symmetry or balance in the lacing, something that becomes very apparent when you try to tighten the lacing.

A better shoe lacing alternative

So, you’re looking at me with an expectant look, what is this solution you promised? Well, I’d love to say that this was something I came up with myself, but alas it’s not. I recently bought a rare pair of brand new shoes, and while studying them I noticed the interesting manner in which the laces had been set up. Remarkably it was both symmetrical, balanced and ensured a more even tightening than either of the above. I can only think some shoelace savant came up with this masterstroke, but since then I’ve adopted it on several pairs of shoes with success. The trick is more complex than the usual straightforward way, but once you have a think, you’ll see the cleverness at work.

So, there you have it, an improved way to lace your shoes. Wonders never cease, eh? There is a better knot for tying your laces as well, maybe we’ll figure that one out next week?


  • Roland Novak 21/06/2019 at 12:51

    I definitely have to try out the last one!

    • nick 21/06/2019 at 12:53

      I’m very pleased you didn’t find yourself all enthusiastic about the first two, Roland! 🙂

  • William Parsons (@billp64) 21/06/2019 at 13:05

    The more corrrect way from working at Church’s years ago is the last formal way alternating laces from bottom to top as your diagram showing the improved method. But I am sure it does not matter if you prefer crossed laces.

    • nick 21/06/2019 at 13:18

      Thanks, Bill! I’m late to the party on this one!

  • Lizzie 21/06/2019 at 13:14

    I’ve always laced my shoes this way!

    • nick 21/06/2019 at 13:18

      You’re clearly way ahead of the curve in many respects, Lizzie! 🙂

  • Brian Small 21/06/2019 at 15:37

    A similar pattern is often used on combat boots. When your fancy e-bike fall on your foot and you need to get the boot off gently, you can more easily cut all the laces with your survival knife.

  • Brian Small 21/06/2019 at 19:45

    “Just in case” is really the whole point isn’t it. I agree with you about the Victorinox ; those things were always useless. But in the last ten years I’ve used my Leatherman to get me out of two sticky situations. Not life or death situations but it was useful enough to make me want to carry it when ever possible. I tend not to go anywhere without a pack so it lives at the bottom of the bag with my spare glasses.

    (No reply required)

  • Jens 27/06/2019 at 11:35

    If you’re really serious, or just want to be really geeky with different lacing methods, you should check out Ian’s Shoelace Site.
    I’m personally a fan of the Over Under method.

    • nick 27/06/2019 at 11:40

      A good suggestion indeed, and one I’ve made many times. The only problem is that it can be utterly overwhelming due to the sheer number of variation! I have an ambition of learning the better way to tie laces though, where the laces lie flat, symmetrically and don’t come undone!

  • William Parsons (@billp64) 27/06/2019 at 13:49

    If it helps I find that doing the bow over twice before pulling tight will stop laces coming undone but will undo by pulling ends as normal, no knot , hope this makes sense.


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