Lacing lessons

(From an article by Joe Ellis, D.P.M)

There are few among us who consider the lacing of a running shoe an important function. Nearly all of us lace our running shoes the same way we learned to lace our school shoes when we were 5 years old. You remember: starting at the toes, you crisscross the laces until you reach the top of the shoe. Then you tie a bow.

But just as one shoe won't meet every runner's needs, neither does the crisscross and tie method work effectively for all runners. Certainly, you can tie your shoes in a conventional way; but specific lacing methods can help you deal with specific biomechanical problems.

Heel slippage

The most common fitting problem is heel slippage, usually as a result of a narrow heel in a wide shoe. To keep the heel from moving up and down, crisscross the laces until you get to the next-to-last eyelet. Then, loop the end of each lace and use the loop as an eyelet. This gives a better pull to the laces and a more secure fit, which should result in less heel slippage.

Nail problems

Blackened, sore nails are a fairly common problem among high-mileage runners. A simple way to alleviate the pressure on top of the toenails is to pull the toe box of the shoe up and off the toe. Take one end of the lace and run it from the inside front eyelet to the opposite last eyelet. Then take the other side of the lace and go through every remaining eyelet. You should be able to pull up on the toe box, allowing more room for the toes.
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High arches

People with high arches or rigid feet frequently have pain on the tops of their insteps, where some of the tendons rub over bony prominences of the foot. The conventional methods of lacing only aggravate this condition by adding extra pressure. The solution lies in distributing pressure more evenly on the top of the foot eliminating the pressure where the laces traditionally crisscross. The laces pass under the eyelets and don't cross over the top at all.

Variable width lacing

You may notice that many shoes these days have variable-width lacing systems. This is great, except that some shoe companies fail to explain how to utilise them. Most people assume that if there are seven eyelets on each of the shoe, the lace should pass through each one. This is incorrect. Some of the holes should be skipped depending on if you have wide or narrow feet.

If you have wide feet, skip the third, fifth and seventh eyelets.

If your feet are narrow, skip the fourth and sixth eyelets for a snug fit.

Shoe companies make it even more confusing by including laces that are too long if all the eyelets aren't used; don't be surprised if you skip eyelets and appear to have extra-long ends to your laces.

Two lace method

If a shoe is too restrictive and doesn't have enough give in the midsole, some people can develop plantar fasciitis and arch pains. To improve midsole flexibility, the front part of the foot needs to be held in place independent of the rear part. You can achieve this by using 2 laces on each shoe. The first lace is simply tied across the first eyelets as an anchor. The second set of laces should be tied loosely. There may be some heel slippage because of the looseness of the laces, but this is necessary to relieve strain on the plantar fascia.

Different lacing for different shoes?

Some people have different needs for each foot. If that's the case, you may have to consider using a different lacing technique for each shoe. Your lacing system should match your individual biomechanics. If you have any questions regarding your individual needs, then your podiatrists will be able to advise you on the best system for you.

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