5 Running-Shoe Lacing Techniques for a Better Run

Styling Tips

Changing your lacing method can make your running shoes more comfortable. It can even help with common issues like blisters and toe pain.

Last updated: 20 September 2022
7 min read
5 Best Running Shoe Lacing Techniques

Just because your running shoes come out of the box pre-laced, it doesn't mean you're stuck with what you get. In fact, it pays to get creative with your running-shoe lacing technique.

"Lacing in the right way can really make a difference in how your running shoes feel on your feet", says Lauren Sheu, an RRCA-certified running coach and owner of Running for Wellness.

By making simple tweaks to your lacing style, you can add or remove tension and support and apply pressure in specific areas, she says. These changes can often prevent common issues like blisters, toe pain and heel slippage.

Find your most comfortable fit with our guide to lacing techniques for runners.

Top Methods for Lacing Running Shoes

  1. 1.Parallel/Lydiard Lacing

    5 Best Running Shoe Lacing Techniques

    Try If You Have Pain on the Top of Your Foot

    If the top of your foot feels tender or is swollen, you may have extensor tendonitis, a common cause of pain across the top of the foot. It happens a lot to runners who wear ill-fitting shoes or lace up their shoes too tightly, which creates pressure on the extensor tendons that flex your ankle and toes.

    "Inflammation in this area means you want to avoid pressure on the top [of the foot]", says Karena Wu, DPT, a board-certified orthopaedic specialist at ActiveCare Physical Therapy in New York City.

    She recommends a lacing technique that aligns the laces horizontally across each eyelet, as opposed to the usual criss-cross pattern. This technique, known as parallel lacing or Lydiard lacing (after the legendary running coach Arthur Lydiard), can help to reduce pressure on the top of your foot, Wu says.

    If your shoes still feel tight, they may be the wrong pair for your feet. Visit a running-shoe shop for help from a running-shoe expert.

    Parallel/Lydiard Lacing Instructions

    1. Start at the bottom of your shoe (near the toes). Thread your shoelace through both eyelets from the outside.
    2. Even out the lace so you have equal lengths on each side.
    3. Take the end of the lace on the left side (A) and thread it through the next eyelet on the left from underneath. Then, thread it through the adjacent eyelet on the opposite side, going from the outside in.
    4. Finally, thread the same lace through the next eyelet on the right side from underneath.
    5. Take the other end of the lace (B) and thread it through the next eyelet on the right side from underneath.
    6. Pull A across the top of the shoe to the left side and thread it through the next eyelet from the outside.
    7. Do the same with B, except thread it through the next available eyelet.
    8. Keep going until you run out of eyelets.
    9. Tie a knot and a bow to finish it off.

    Tip: If you have an odd number of eyelets, do a double-pass (both ends through the same eyelet) at some point.

  2. 2.Combined Parallel and Criss-Cross Lacing

    5 Best Running Shoe Lacing Techniques

    Try If You Have Toe Blisters, Black Toenails and/or Toe Pain

    Toe-related problems usually mean the toe box of your shoe is too tight. Without enough space to wriggle, your toes may rub or press too firmly against each other or the shoe. The result: blisters, black toenails and/or toe pain.

    To reduce pressure on your toes and free up space in the toe box, try a combination of parallel and criss-cross lacing, suggests Jordan Duncan, DC, a marathon runner and owner of the Silverdale Sport and Spine sports medicine clinic in Silverdale, WA. Use parallel lacing for the first few eyelets, then finish with the standard criss-cross pattern, he says.

    Parallel and Criss-Cross Lacing Instructions

    1. Start at the bottom of your shoe (near the toes). Thread your shoelace through both eyelets from the outside.
    2. Even out the lace so you have equal lengths on each side.
    3. Take the lace on the left side (A) and thread it through the next eyelet on the left from underneath.
    4. Then, thread A through the adjacent eyelet on the opposite side, going from the outside in.
    5. Finally, thread A through the next eyelet on the right side from underneath.
    6. Next, take the other end of the lace (B) and thread it through the next eyelet on the right side from underneath.
    7. Pull B across the top of the shoe to the left side and thread it through the next eyelet from the outside. Then, thread it through the next eyelet on the same side, going in from underneath.
    8. Finish with a standard criss-cross lacing pattern.
    9. Tie a knot and a bow to secure the ends.
  3. 3.Loop Lacing/Heel-Lock/Runner's Loop

    5 Best Running Shoe Lacing Techniques

    Try If You Have Heel Blisters or Slippage

    If you're prone to blisters on your heels or if your shoes show a lot of wear inside the heel, you need to tighten the fit.

    "It [only] takes about half a centimetre of movement between the heel and the back of the shoe to create a blister", Dr Duncan says.

    Keep heel slip in check with the loop lacing technique (also known as 'heel-lock' lacing or a 'runner's loop'). This method lets you stick to the normal criss-cross pattern but to add some loops at the eyelets at the top with the excess lace. This small tweak offers more stability to keep your foot in place, Dr Wu says.

    Loop Lacing/Heel-Lock/Runner's Loop Instructions

    1. Lace up your shoes with the standard criss-cross pattern but stop when you reach the last eyelet on each side.
    2. Starting on the outside of the shoe, take the lace on the right side and thread it through the last eyelet on the right side. However, don't pull it all the way through. Stop once you've created a small loop.
    3. Repeat with the lace on the left side.
    4. Once you have a small loop on either side, pull each lace across the shoe and thread them through the loops you just created.
    5. Tighten the laces to tighten the loops and tie as usual. Don't tighten up the laces too much.
    6. Tie a knot and a bow to finish it off.
  4. 4.Modified Standard Criss-Cross

    5 Best Running Shoe Lacing Techniques

    Try If You Have Wide Feet

    One width does not fit all. Sticking a wide foot in a standard-width running shoe is a sure-fire way to create pain and swelling. And many lacing techniques only make a shoe feel extra narrow.

    If your wide feet tend to swell, your first step is to find a better shoe designed for wide feet. After that, try a lacing technique designed to loosen up the shoe even more.

    "For wide feet, an excellent lacing technique is a criss-cross pattern where you skip every other eyelet", Dr Duncan says. "This gives the foot more space within the shoe".

    Modified Criss-Cross Lacing Instructions

    1. Unlace your shoes until you get to the second-to-last eyelets.
    2. Re-lace your shoes in a criss-cross pattern but skip every other eyelet.
    3. Tie your shoes as usual, finishing by tying a knot and a bow.
  5. 5.Gap Lacing

    5 Best Running Shoe Lacing Techniques

    Try If You Have High Arches

    If you have high arches (the opposite of flat feet), you may be bothered by tightness in your shoe, particularly in the middle section on the top, where the peak of your instep (the part of your foot opposite your arch) meets the shoe.

    Over time, that added pressure can cause inflammation and pain in the instep. Dr Duncan recommends a gap lacing technique for high arches. This will open up the midfoot area, helping to ease any tightness and pressure on your instep.

    Gap Lacing Instructions

    1. Unlace your shoes until you get to the second-to-last eyelets.
    2. Re-lace your shoes by threading the laces up the sides between the second and third eyelets, as opposed to crossing them over the shoe. This will create a gap.
    3. From there, finish lacing up your shoes with a standard criss-cross pattern.
    4. Tie a knot and a bow to finish it off.

    Tip: Depending on your foot structure, you may need to apply the gap lacing pattern by lacing up the sides between the third and fourth, or even the fourth and fifth, eyelets instead. Experiment to find the pattern that's most comfortable for you.

The Limits of Lacing Your Running Shoes

Bear in mind that different running-shoe lacing techniques can only do so much. If your shoes aren't a good fit, chances are the problem won't go away.

Prioritise finding the right running shoes for your foot type and running style first. Start with Nike's Shoe Finder, then tweak your lacing technique.

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