Three ways to tie hiking boots for a blister-free trip


Boot-tying is one of those skills that we learn early on and then rarely think about again. But if you’re a hiker, you know that your laces can make a big difference in how comfortable your boots feel on the trail. Whether you’re dealing with heel slippage, top-of-foot pressure, or toe pain, there’s a lacing technique that can help you solve the problem.

In this article, you’ll discover three ways to lace your hiking boots for a better fit and more comfort. For more reading on boot laces, check out our Boot Lace Buyer's Guide here.

Surgeon’s Knot: A simple way to prevent your heel from slipping up in your boot causing blisters.
Window Lacing: A method to create more space and reduce pressure on the top of your foot, especially if you have a high arch or a wide foot.
Toe-Relief Lacing: A quick and easy solution to relieve toe pain and numbness, especially if you have a long or a swollen foot.

Before we get into the details, let’s make one thing clear: These lacing techniques are not a replacement for getting the right size and shape of boots for your feet. The best way to ensure that is to visit a retailer with well trained staff. Here's a list of stores like qualify. They carry Adventure Andy Bootlaces and they all have a dedicated boot section with staff who can help you out. If you're curious about measuring the right length for your replacement laces, check out the boot lace length chart here.

Now, back to lacing!

The Surgeon’s Knot

One of the most common issues that hikers face is heel slippage, which happens when your heel moves up and down inside your boot as you walk. This can cause friction, irritation, and blisters on your heel and ankle. To fix it, you need to tighten the laces around your ankle and lock them in place with a surgeon’s knot. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Pull the slack out of your laces, making sure the boot is snug over the top of your foot.
  2. Find the two pairs of lace hooks that are closest to the point where your foot bends forward. These are your "deep set ankle hooks" you’ll be tying a surgeon’s knot at each of these pairs. To tie a surgeon’s knot, wrap the laces around each other twice, then pull them tight. This creates a strong knot that won’t loosen easily.
  3. Now, run the lace directly up to the next hook, without crossing over, to “lock” in the knot’s tension.
  4. Repeat the same steps at the next pair of lace hooks, above the first surgeon’s knot.
  5. Finish lacing the rest of your boot in your usual way, or use another surgeon’s knot at the top for extra security.

Window Lacing

Another common issue that hikers face is top-of-foot pressure, which happens when the laces are too tight over the top of your foot, causing pain, numbness, or tingling. This can be worse if you have a high arch or a wide foot, which creates more tension on the laces. To fix this, you need to create more room and reduce pressure on the top of your foot with window lacing (also known as box lacing). Here’s how to do it:

  1. Unlace the boot to the eyelets that are just below the pressure point on your foot.
  2. Re-lace the boot by going straight up to the next hook, without crossing the laces over. This creates a “window” or a “box” of space on the top of your foot.
  3. Cross the laces over and continue lacing the rest of your boot in your usual way, or use a surgeon’s knot at the lower and upper edge of your window for a snugger hold.

Toe-Relief Lacing

The last issue that we’ll cover is toe pain, which happens when your toes are cramped, squished, or rubbing against the front of your boot. This can cause blisters, bruises, or toenail damage. This can be worse if you have a long foot, a swollen foot, or you’re hiking downhill. To fix it, you need to relieve pressure in the toe box with toe-relief lacing. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Completely unlace your boot.
  2. Lace it back up, but skip the first set of hooks. This opens up the toe box and gives your toes more wiggle room. If your toes still hurt after trying this, it’s time to get a different pair of boots.

Our Picks for Hiking Boot Laces

The Unbreakable laces with UHMWPE have been our go-to for through-hiking and back-packing. They're super-strong and never snap, they're waterproof so if your boots go away wet for a week, they don't get mildew and weaken, and they stay tied all day. Check them out right here. 

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