Though foot anatomy can vary widely among individuals, we generally use a common approach to tie our shoes.
But there are actually more than 20 ways to lace shoes, and Dr. Jennifer Flo, a podiatric physician at Ankle & Foot Care Centers, recommends five specific techniques that accommodate different foot structures and can alleviate pain or discomfort.
“Individuals with a high instep, bunions, wide feet, pain in their toes or heel slippage can benefit from these different shoe lacing techniques,” said Dr. Flo. “Instead of getting rid of shoes that don’t fit comfortably, individuals can adjust the lacing and experience a difference in fit, providing better support and saving the cost of new shoes.”
Here are five common issues people experience and a shoe lacing solution for each. Watch the video to see Dr. Flo demonstrate each lacing modification style step-by-step.
1. Gap Lacing for High Instep
Side lacing begins with a normal criss-cross at the second set of eyelets and then skipping the next set, but keeping the laces on the same side and weaving through the fourth set of eyelets and then continuing with the criss-cross to the top. This way, the laces open up the middle of the shoe, but are still secured along the outside.
2. Increasing Forefoot Width for Bunions
Skipping the first set of eyelets at the forefoot allows for more breathing room toward the toes, taking pressure off of the bunions to prevent numbness and irritation.
3. Lock Lacing for Heel Rubbing/Blisters
Lock lacing utilizes the top set of eyelets (the two holes that are usually ignored), to secure a tighter fit around the top of the shoe and the ankle, preventing heel slippage.
4. Diagonal Toe-Cap Lacing for Toe Pain
If you start with the eyelet closest to the big toe and run the lace diagonally up to the last eyelet (closest to your ankle), and then take the other side of the lace back down to the other first eyelet and criss-cross regularly from there, the single diagonal stretch of lace from the first eyelet to the last will loosen the pressure toward the toes with a tug on the top of the lace.
5. Bar Lacing for Wide Feet
For bar lacing, start from the first set of eyelets with a criss-cross lace but skip a set of eyelets toward the center, to allow for more flexibility and breathing room.
Every Foot is Unique
While Dr. Flo recommends trying these different lacing techniques, she also points out that if at any point you have to strain to get your shoelaces tight enough to fit, the shoes are the wrong size and shape and you shouldn’t try to force them to fit.
For those who don’t have the mobility to tie their shoes, Dr. Flo recommends shoes with velcro or elastic draw string-closures, instead of slip-on shoes that lack support.
When looking to purchase shoes, be sure to choose a pair with eyelets that allow for lacing flexibility.
“Listen to your feet and find what works best for you,” said Dr. Flo. “If you have any questions about additional lacing techniques or other foot conditions, call your podiatric physician today.”