How To Tie Running Shoes

From a dude who's been doing it wrong for years

How To Tie Running Shoes

I've been on a bit of a journey with lacing running shoes over the last 2 years; a combination of wanting to get a good locked down feel for trail running, not wanting to damage the top of my feet, and overthinking things to a silly degree.

Why does this even matter?

Firstly, if your shoes feel fine and you are happy with how they are tied, please stop reading here and go enjoy your life! Don't mess with a good thing 🤘

This is for those who may be getting more blistering after runs, sore toes or rubbed heels from their feet moving too much in their shoes, along with anyone who gets metatarsal damage (the tendons across the top of your foot) from longer distances.

There are a few factors that can make the way you lace your shoes more important:

⛰ Type of terrain you are tackling: when trail running how well locked down your shoes are can make the difference between a comfy ride and black, sore toenails. This is because running over roots and rocks requires a wider range of foot movement (think how often your ankle bends over rough terrain), whilst running downhill can lead to you foot sliding forward more in the toe box.

🛣 Distance you are covering: a bit of a pinch across the top of your foot isn't going to end a 5k race, but as you spend more time in your shoes having them tied overly tight can cause damage like extensor tendonitis (damage to the tendon running from your big toe across your foot). During marathon upwards distances your feet swell up, and what was a nice comfy fit can turn into an ouchie quickly.

👟 Not quite right shoes: whilst we all want that perfect shoe, I'm finding more and more that they don't exist, every shoe has its quirks and sizing only adds to it. Size too small and those toes are getting mangled, size too big and your foot swims around causing more blistering.

What the ideal lacing tries to do

What we're trying to achieve here is a way of lacing shoes that:

  1. Isn't too tight across the top of your foot, ensuring as your foot moves and swells it doesn't cause tendon damage
  2. Is locked down in a way that stops your foot sliding around in the shoe, reduces any toe bashing when going downhill or ankle slippage
  3. Stays tied and comfortable over distance without having to stop and re-lace due to the laces coming loose

How to tie running shoes

I've been wary of heel locking every since I damaged my foot training for my first ultra back in 2021, warning folks off due to concerns around overtightening.

Lately though I've been having more and more toe damage from trail running, notably after taking on the Gordano Round (a bit hilly) and the Radyr Marathon (a lot hilly), coming away with some real ouchies. Shoes that otherwise fit fine are giving me issues and I've been looking for a way to help lock my foot down.

It also turns out this whole time I've been doing a heel lock wrong, contributing to the overtightening rather than lacing the correct way, as pointed out in the below video.

Rather than subject you to my ageing mug; here's the best video I've seen on how to tie a good heel lock on running shoes, courtesy of Trail Runner Mag. The quirky style the presenter has belies some great advice on tightening the shoes up correctly.

The important takeaways from this video are:

  1. Don't over tighten across the top of your foot, the laces should be snug, not stifling across your metatarsals. I've found that most of the time it isn't the top eyelets nearer my ankle that are hurting, it's those further down sitting right across my foot that cause the damage
  2. When tightening the heel lock pull across and down, not up. If you pull up it tightens the lace across the previous eyelet (leading to overly tight, painful laces, what's caused me issues before). By pulling downwards it tightens just the lock loop, locking your foot in place but not causing a pressure point

Next, where to put your foot when lacing your shoes. I use to sit on the stairs and put my shoes on, then wonder why when I put pressure on my foot they felt a little off.

Unlace your shoes, put your foot flat on the floor and ensure you position your foot central in the toe box (helps reduce rubbing the walls of the shoe), the crouch down with your weight over the shoe and lace them up. It sounds silly but it helps lock your foot down how it will be naturally positioned when you run.


As my "season" for the year starts and I'm using these techniques more and more, I'm finding I'm a lot happier with the fit of the shoes, whilst having more confidence pushing on the downhills without needing new toenails at each checkpoint 😅

Please let me know if this helps you, or if you've got other advice for lacing shoes properly, on Instagram or Twitter