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How to Lace Your Running Shoes for a More Comfortable Fit

A group of runners lines up at the start of a race

Tying your running shoes is second nature. Make a couple loops, twist them together and pull—you’re on your way out the door.

But the standard lacing right out of the box might not be the best option for your feet. If your heel is slipping or your toes are hurting, knowing how to lace your running shoes could fix the problem. (Although, some problems could be from wearing the wrong size shoes for your feet, so make sure you know how to choose the right running shoes.)

Here are four common fit problems and how you can lace your running shoes to fix them:

  • Heel-lock or marathon loop lacing. If your heel slips when you step, the heel-lock could help
  • High instep lacing. Best to help alleviate pressure if you have a high instep
  • Wide feet lacing. Got wider feet? This could give you a little more room
  • Diagonal lacing. Try this if your big toe is feeling the squeeze

Heel-Lock Lacing

The heel-lock (also called marathon loop) lacing helps keep your heel in place. If you feel your heel slipping up and down in your shoe, try this to lock your foot in place.

  1. Make sure your shoes are laced in a normal criss-cross pattern (this is probably how they came out of the box)
  2. Starting on the outside, take the excess lace and thread it into the open lace hole at the top of the shoe, but don’t pull it all the way through to create a small loop
  3. Repeat on the inside of the shoe so you have two loops on either side
  4. Cross each lace over the tongue, and slip the tip of the lace through the loop on the opposite side
  5. Tighten the laces and tie normally

Note: Don’t tighten the laces too much. It can put excess pressure on the front of your ankle, which can also be uncomfortable.

A runner demonstrates how to fo the heel lock lacing technique
A runner demonstrates how to fo the heel lock lacing technique
A runner demonstrates how to fo the heel lock lacing technique

High Instep Lacing

Runners with a high instep might feel pressure on the top of their feet with a normal lacing pattern. The high instep lacing technique can help make a shoe more comfortable.

  1. Unlace the shoe down to the bottom two lace holes
  2. Starting on the outside of the shoe, take the tip of the lace and skip a hole so the lace runs up the outside of the shoe, then insert it in the next hole
  3. Repeat on the inside of the shoe
  4. Continue lacing in the normal criss-cross pattern. The finished laces will leave a window in the middle of the tongue
A runner demonstrates the high instep lacing technique
A runner demonstrates the high instep lacing technique
A runner demonstrates the high instep lacing technique

Wide Feet Lacing

If your shoe feels too narrow, try this lacing technique for wide feet. It’ll give you a little more space in the to box and midfoot, which could be enough to let you run comfortably. This is also a good trick to use if you’re going to be on your feet for an extended period of time—like in an ultramarathon—and you know that your feet will swell.

  1. Unlace the shoe until it’s only threaded straight across through the bottom lace hole on either side, and the lace is going into the shoe on both sides
  2. Beginning with the lace on the lateral side of the shoe, thread it up to the second lace hole from inside the shoe and push it through
  3. Take the tip of the same lace and pull it straight across, over the tongue, to the second hole on the medial side, and thread it down into the hole
  4. Repeat with the lace on the medial side, but skip the second lace hole and thread the tip of the lace through the third (from the inside, out)
  5. Cross that lace over the tongue and thread it through the third hole on the lateral side of the shoe (from the outside, in)
  6. Repeat the pattern all the way up the shoe, and then tie off normally at the top

Note: The technique should create horizontal laces all the way up the shoe instead of crossing over in an X pattern.

A runner demonstrates the wide feet lacing technique for running shoes
A runner demonstrates the wide feet lacing technique for running shoes
A runner demonstrates the wide feet lacing technique for running shoes

Diagonal Lacing

If your shoe is hurting your big toe, try using this diagonal lacing system to alleviate the pressure. Here’s how.

  1. Unlace your shoe, leaving it threaded only through the first hole on both side
  2. Starting on the lateral side first, thread the tip of the lace through the second hole on the medial side (inside, out)
  3. Now with the other medial-side lace, run it all the way up the shoe to the top lace hole on the lateral side and thread it through (inside, out)
  4. Take the lace at the bottom and do the standard criss-cross lacing all the way up the shoe
  5. Tie normally at the top
A runner demonstrates the diagonal lacing technique for running shoes
A runner demonstrates the diagonal lacing technique for running shoes
A runner demonstrates the diagonal lacing technique for running shoes
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