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  1. Hiking boots – how the lacing works
  2. How to lace hiking boots in 7 steps
  3. Lacing boots according to your foot shape
  4. Adjusting your lacing on the go
  5. How to lace for uphill and downhill
  6. The right laces for hiking boots

You just lace ‘em up and off you go… Surely, we learnt all we need to know about tying laces when we were kids. However, hiking boots and mountain boots are a bit different, and often have complex lacing systems. This makes it possible to adapt the fit to the shape of your foot, to prevent rubbing or for different types of terrain.

See our expert advice on how to tie your hiking boots properly. Don’t worry – it’s not difficult, you won’t need a degree in shoe design. The following tips and tricks can make a big difference.

1 Hiking boots – how the lacing works

Of course, your walking boots or mountain boots should fit well without using any lacing tricks. When it comes to fit, the size and also the width are decisive. (–> Find out more here: The HANWAG Fit)

Once you have purchased your boots, you can use the lacing system to adjust the fit or to adapt to different situations. Most hiking boots and mountain boots fit over the ankle and are equipped with two-zone lacing. You use them to set different lacing tensions at different sections of the foot.

  • Zone 1: Sets the tension at the forefoot and midfoot. The lacing is usually threaded through eyelets over the instep.
  • Zone 2: There are no eyelets on the upper, instead we use lace hooks and clamping lace hooks. This zone secures the ankle in the boot, and also ensures that the heel is firmly locked in place. The so-called deep-pull lacing hooks are important here. They prevent heel slip – one of the main causes of blisters.
How to tie hiking boots

"You can lace full mountain boots tighter than lightweight hiking boots."

Andreas Settele, Head of Research and Development HANWAG

2 How to lace hiking boots in 7 steps

Before you set out on a tour, you tie your boots and check your laces – obviously. In the following gallery you can see how you should ideally proceed:

First up, loosen off the laces (including at the forefoot) so that you can easily slip your foot into the boot. Once you’re in, flex your toes up and push your heel down. This way, you make sure that your heel sits snugly in the heel cap before you tighten the laces.

Keep your ankle straight when lacing up your hiking boots, otherwise the lacing at the upper will be loose afterwards. Ideally, tie your laces sitting on a step – this automatically puts you in the right position (foot and shinbone at an angle of roughly 90 degrees).

While you are tying the laces, make sure that the tongue is centred. If it slips to one side, this can cause pressure points. And it also means that the cushioning at your shin can’t do its job properly.

Want to lace your boots tighter? Add an overhand knot to hold more tension in the lacing zone below.

For tighter lacing, thread the laces through the hooks from top down to create a pulley system.

If you want more freedom of movement at the top of the boot, then you can always tie your laces off at a lace hook lower down.

If your laces are too long. Don’t tie them around the top of the boot as this restricts your freedom of movement. The solution: use shorter laces, for example from the HANWAG webshop.

Parallel lacing relieves pressure at the instep.

3 Lacing boots according to your foot shape

No two feet are the same. However, using the right lacing and lacing tricks can help make your boots fit your feet better. Here are the top tricks:

  • Some people have an uneven instep, or ganglions on the top of their feet. If your boot rubs at these areas, then parallel lacing (aka ‘window lacing’ or ‘box lacing’) can help. Lace your boots by going straight from one eyelet to the next on the same side instead of crossing the laces over. This then leaves more room and relieves pressure across the top of the foot.
  • High-quality hiking boots have an anatomically shaped heel cap. However, sometimes your heel can lift slightly in an upward direction during roll-off. This so-called heel slip is the main cause of blisters. If you notice that your heel slips when you are hiking, you can improve the fit of your boots using lock lacing. The heel lock technique acts like a pulley system to pull the lacing tighter – exactly at the point where you want to lock your heel in more firmly.

As lock lacing is a bit more complicated, we’ll show you here in the video:

Lock lacing can help prevent heel slip.

Watch the video to see the most important lacing tricks (English subtitles available)

Expertise and know-how for your outdoor adventures – welcome to the HANWAG BOOTCAMP. Watch the how-to videos on our YouTube channel.

4 Adjusting your lacing on the go

You’ll be familiar with the situation: you tied your bootlaces securely before you set out, but after fifteen minutes they start to feel loose. “This is perfectly normal,” explains Andreas Settele. The force every time you step causes the lacing and the padding inside your boot to give slightly. The solution: simply stop for a minute and tighten your laces.

In addition, the shape of your feet alter during the course of a day’s hiking. Generally, they swell slightly. This can cause pressure points. The solution: Loosen your laces from time to time, to relieve the pressure.

How to tie hiking boots

"Traversing rough terrain and descending steep trails requires stability and support. Adjust your lacing before tackling more difficult sections."

Andreas Settele, Head of Research & Development HANWAG

Want to know how to lace hiking boots to prevent heel blisters? The solution is a simple one, tighten the laces at the area in question, to prevent your foot rubbing against the inner lining. (–> Find out more: How to avoid blisters when hiking)

“Adjusting the lacing is the quickest and easiest way to customise the way your boots fit”, says Andreas Settele. You can even adapt to different terrain by altering the fit in the middle of a hike.

5 How to lace for uphill and downhill

The lacing system on hiking boots allows you to set different lace tensions at the two different zones. This allows you to adapt your boot according to the terrain. Here’s how you do it:

  • For ascents: in zone 1 the lacing should be medium to tight, make sure the heel sits firmly; in zone 2 the upper lacing should be looser for better freedom of movement when moving uphill.
  • For downhill: zone 1 keep the lacing tight; keep the lacing in zone 2 tight too – for better grip and stability on descents.
lacing hiking boots

Finding the right laces

Our »Lord of Laces« Chris Wittig likes it colourful. You can find laces of different colours and lengths in the HANWAG webshop.

Discover Laces in our Webshop

6 The right laces for hiking boots

It’s not just how you lace your boots that determine fit and comfort, but also the type of laces you use. Depending on the boot type, laces will have different lengths and different shapes  (round or flat). They also have different stretch properties. It’s best to use the original laces supplied with your boots, as they are designed to match the boot construction, the hooks and eyelets and the area of use.

It’s a good idea to waterproof your bootlaces when you clean your boots. If they are really dirty, wash your laces in warm water. This will also help them last longer, as dirt and sand can get inside the laces and cause the material to wear out faster. (–> Find out more: How to clean hiking boots)

Conclusion: It’s worth experimenting with different styles of lacing to see what works for you

It’s just such an easy way to improve the hiking comfort of your walking boots. And if your boots become uncomfortable, adapting the lacing can make all the difference – and save you having to invest in a new pair too.

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