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How to Tie Hiking Boots for the Perfect Fit Every Time

Person showing how to tie hiking boots

Learn how to tie hiking boots in different ways to help fix your boot wearing problems!

Learning to tie your laces when you’re a kid can be one of the most challenging, yet rewarding skills to master. Such a simple thing. So you’d think that knowing how to tie hiking boots up as an adult would be just as straight forward? Well, if you have regular sized and shaped feet, and you choose the right hiking boots to suit said feet, lacing your boots should be a breeze. You probably won’t need to ever consider lacing your hiking shoes or boots in any way that is different to what your folks taught you.

Got irregular shaped and sized feet? You’re not the only one! And unless you’ve spent a lot of time trying on every hiking boot in existence to find a boot that feels great, you may need to do some sneaky adjustments with your laces to get the perfect fit.

What’s the problem with your hiking boots or hiking shoes?

Believe it or not, there are a ton of different ways to tie your hiking boot laces. And unless you just love learning new stuff, you’re probably here because you have a problem with your boots that you want to solve before you give up and go buy a whole new pair of boots.

So what’s your problem?!

Click one of the below common hiking boot issues that best applies to you. It will tell you which knots will help with your problem, and how to tie your hiking boots in a different way.

My hiking boots are giving me heel blisters
This could be because your heels are lifting up in your boots as you walk. Heel lock lacing should help this. If this doesn’t help then you may want to look at what hiking socks you are wearing. You may need something with extra cushioning, and ensure they fit well and are not too big.
My laces keep coming undone and it’s really annoying!
Some laces do that! And it’s often round laces that don’t want to stay tied up. If tying your troublesome laces in a double bow still doesn’t help, then the try the Surgeon’s knot. It’s a really simple knot, but it’s super secure.
I’ve got high arches and it puts pressure on the top of my feet
If you loosen the whole lacing system it’s likely you’ll lose lots of the support from your boots. So try window lacing which take the pressure off whichever section of your laces are causing you the most discomfort.
I’ve got narrow feet and find that my feet move around inside my boots
Foot lock down lacing systems should help with this. They can be a bit complex and it may take a bit of trial and error to make sure your feet are comfortable. But it’s definitely worth experimenting with.
If this doesn’t solve the problem then try a thicker pair of socks. And if there’s still no improvement you may have to opt for a new pair of boots that are specifically designed for narrow feet.
I’ve got bunions and need to alleviate the pressure on them
Hopefully you’ve opted for a hiking boot with a wide toe box. But if pressure build up as you walk then you’ll need to use toe relief lacing which should loosen the boot across the toes and not elsewhere.
My heels are lifting out of my boots
Get them secured back in their place with heel lock lacing.
My toes are hitting the front of my boot when I walk downhill
This may be because you’ve not tied your boots tight enough! But let’s assume you’ve explored that option. The next thing to try is heel lock lacing which secures the foot to the back of the boot. If this still doesn’t help then it have a go at foot lock down lacing.
My boots keep loosening mid-hike
Try using the Surgeon’s knot. It’s a really secure knot that doesn’t loosen as quickly or easily as a regular lace knot.
The top cuffs of my boots rub my calves when I walk
No problem. Relaxed ankle lacing creates a little more space in the calf area without having to loosen the rest of your laces.
I have pain across the top of my feet when I walk
It may be that your laces are just a little tight in this area. You can’t loosen the whole of your laces or you’ll lose lots of support. So try window lacing which allows you to just loosen a small portion of your laces.
My ankle bones stick out a lot and my boots put pressure on them
Sounds like you need to give your ankles a little more space inside your boots. Relaxed ankle lacing should help this. If you’re still finding your high boots uncomfortable then you may need to try out low cut hiking boot instead.

How to tie hiking boots

Surgeon’s knot

  1. Wrap the ends of your laces around each other as you would to tie off, but don’t pull the laces tight
  2. Wrap the laces round each other a second time and THEN pull the ends of the laces tight
  3. Either secure the ends of the laces around the next lace hooks to continue lacing, or tie off with your normal bow

What it does: This is a very secure knot that is used in a number of the below lacing systems.

Use this lacing if:

  • Your laces keep coming undone
  • Your boots tend to loosen as you hike
  • You are using heel lock lacing (below)

Heel lock lacing

  1. Put your boot making sure that your heel is as far down to the back of your boot as possible.
  2. Find the point on the front of your ankle where your foot meets your leg and identify where this is on your boot
  3. Lace your boots as normal up to this point and then tie a surgeon’s knot (see above)
  4. Run the laces up to the next hook to lock off the knot and tie another surgeon’s knot
  5. Finish lacing as normal up to the top of the boot

What it does: Locks your heel down into the back of the boot to prevent foot movement inside the boot.

Use this lacing if:

  • You get heel blisters
  • Your heel is lifting out of your boot
  • Your toes bang on the front of your boots when walking downhill

Open toe tie

Toe relief lacing

  1. Completely un-lace your boots – yep, the whole lot!
  2. Re-lace your boots as normal but miss out the first eyelets altogether

What it does: Gives temporary relief if your toes or bunions start hurting.

Use this lacing if:

  • Your toes are killing you during a hike
  • You have bunions
  • Your boots are tight across your toes

NOTE: If your toes always hurt in your boots then you may not have the right boots for you. First try wearing thinner socks, and if this doesn’t help then it might be time invest in a new pair.

Window lacing

  1. Identify the main point of pressure and untie your laces to just below this point
  2. Re-lace by going straight up the next hook above this point (instead of straight crossing over)
  3. Now cross the laces and continue lacing up to the top of the boot as normal

What it does: Alleviates pressure on the top of your feet.

Use this lacing if:

  • You have high arches
  • You have high volume feet
  • You feel pressure or discomfort on the tops of your feet

Relaxed ankle lacing

  1. Lace your boots as normal
  2. Run the laces over the top of the top loops
  3. Tie off as normal but below the top loop

What it does: Provides a little more space and movement between the collar of your boots and your calves and ankles.

Use this lacing if:

  • You have wide calves
  • You have excess pressure on your ankle bones
  • Your boots rub at the calf

NOTE: Window lacing above the ankle also works if you need even more movement through the ankle.

Foot lock down lacing

  1. Identify the points in your boots that feel especially spacious
  2. Unlace to the lowest point and add a surgeon’s knot at this point and continue lacing
  3. Repeat the surgeon’s knot in any other spots that you feel need to be extra secure

What it does: Secures your foot nicely into the boot in all places.

Use this lacing if:

  • You have narrow feet
  • You have flat or low volume feet
  • Your toes bang on the front of your boots when walking downhill

So there you have it! Now that you know how to tie hiking boots in several different ways, or even in just the one way that you need, you can be confident that your boots will keep on giving you as much comfort as they ought. And if you’ve tried everything and you still find hiking boots uncomfortable then you may need to step over the light side and give lightweight hiking shoes a go! 

Read our guide to hiking boots vs shoes to understand the pros and cons of each.
hiking shoes gear guide

Joey Holmes

Joey Holmes
Joey is based in Cornwall, UK, and runs Cool of the Wild. She can’t get enough of being outdoors – whether that’s lounging around the campfire cooking up a feast, hitting the trail in her running shoes, or attempting to conquer the waves on her surfboard – she lives for it. Camping is what she loves to do the most, but has also spent many hours clinging to the side of a rock face, cycling about the place, cruising the ski-slopes on her snowboard, and hiking small mountains and big hills.

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