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The Knack

Think You Know How To Lace Your Boots?

Pull yourself up by your bootstraps this winter with five expert ways to tie your shoes

Winter means boots – and lots of them. Boots can be worn for a host of different reasons; many are undoubtedly chosen for their utility, such as army boots or work boots, while it’s the formality of others, such as dress boots or equestrian boots, which appeals. Meanwhile some, such as O’Keeffe’s hiking boots and Red Wing’s biker boots, fill both roles.

Just as there’s a wide variety of boots, so there’s a variety of ways to lace them. These can be selected for reasons of practicality or style; anything from unremarkable schemes that are worn purely for comfort, through to distinctive-looking patterns. A well-executed lacing pattern is the important finishing touch to any pair of boots, and indeed your outfit. Here are five contrasting techniques from Mr Ian Fieggen (aka Professor Shoelace).


The fail safe

Most people (and most manufacturers) lace boots with good old-fashioned criss-cross lacing and for good reason: it’s a simple, efficient method. At each pair of eyelets the shoelace ends cross each other and feed under the sides and out through the next higher pair of eyelets.


The spider’s web

Start by forming a vertical section on each side, running down from the second-from-bottom eyelets to the bottom eyelets. Cross the ends and run diagonally up and out through the next pair. At each pair, run the ends down and under the verticals below before continuing diagonally up. With white shoelaces against black boots, this really lives up to its name, though it will mostly catch people’s eyes instead of insects.


Army approved

Many armed forces (British, Dutch, French and Brazilian, to name a few) lace their combat boots with “army lacing”. At each pair of eyelets the shoelace ends cross each other on the inside of the boot, then run straight up the sides on the outside of the boot to the higher eyelet pair. This allows the usually tough leather sides of the boots to flex more easily because they are not restricted by the crossovers (which are on the inside).


The ladder

US paratroopers often wear “ladder lacing”, not just for looks, but also because it’s very firm and secure and looks good on boots with lots of eyelets. Start by forming a vertical section on each side between the bottom and second-from-bottom eyelets. At each eyelet pair, run the ends under the verticals on the opposite side before continuing up to the next higher eyelet pair. The end result resembles a straight ladder.



My own preferred variation is “over-under lacing”, which alternates between crossovers on the inside and outside of the boot. This reduces friction because the shoelaces don’t rub across the edges of the boot, making it faster and easier to pull only every second crossover to tighten or loosen. It’s also easier to get fingers underneath those outer crossovers.

Fill your boots

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