Back to Basics: How to Tie Your Running Shoes

Oh no!
Oh no!

You’re four miles into a 10k, tracking perfect splits to PR by a few seconds when disaster strikes. First you notice your left shoe. It is not feeling quite as secure as it was moments ago, but you try to put it out of your mind. A few minutes later you hear a plastic clicking sound, which fills you with a sense of doom. A quick glance at your feet reveals the inevitable truth. Your shoelaces are untied.

Do you stop and tie them, losing time and possibly your PR? Do you keep running, hoping that it doesn’t get any worse and that you don’t face plant right before crossing the timing mats? I say no to both options. Instead you should travel back in time and read this post so that your shoelaces never (hopefully) come untied again.

I learned how to tie my shoes correctly at the age of 25 from my friend Helene. I know. You thought you learned in Kindergarten. So did I, but it turns out there is a better way to tie your running shoes so they stay tied and don’t ruin your run!

The correct process is very close to the traditional “around the tree” system, but incorporates an extra loop. In my opinion it is better than double-knotting because this knot can be untied by just pulling on one of the laces, and it is also very durable (I’ve never had my shoes come untied when using this method). Internet research has revealed that this knot is sometimes known as the tibetan trekking knot or the sherpa knot, so it gets additional bonus points for having a cool name.

Disclaimer: These directions are from me personally. I am left-handed. If these directions are difficult or feel counter-intuitive to you, try reversing the lefts and rights!

Tie1
Step 1: Tie the first starter knot per usual (right over left and through the hole).
Tie2
Step 2: Make a bunny ear (Loop A) by folding over the lace on the right side.
Tie3
Step 3: Pinch the base of loop A and wrap the left lace around the base from the back.
Tie4
Step 4: Push the left lace through the resulting hole, forming another loop (Loop B).
Tie5
Step 5: Now, this is the important step! Instead of pulling on Loop B to finish tying the shoe, hold the hole (mentioned in step 4) open with one of your fingers (I prefer the middle finger on my left hand) and wrap Loop B back through the hole from the top.
Tie6
Step 6: Tighten
Tie7
Step 7: You did it! Time to go running. To untie, simply pull on one of the lace aglets!

So that’s how I manage my shoelaces!

Have you ever had a race derailed by a flapping lace? What is your strategy for keeping shoes tied during runs and races?

I'm a proud resident of Portlandia, ex-running store employee, pulmonary emboli conquerer and connoisseur of high fives. I write about running community, trail running/training and anything else that grabs my immediate interest. I'm currently running for fun with my crazy friends - no races on the horizon YET.

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8 comments

  1. Brava!
    I’ve also (recently-ish) learned to tie my shoes this way … LOVE that it still unties with a single pull, but doesn’t come undone.

    Another thing I’ve learned (again, recently-ish) is how to get the bow to be perpendicular to the ladder of lacing, flopping to the left/right instead of up/down the shoe.
    Simply make your starter knot in one direction (say, left over right), then the next knot in the opposite direction (right over left).

    (I used to make both in the same direction because it’s what felt natural to me – kinda like always interlacing your fingers or crossing your arms the same way.)

  2. I have now run 3 races with an untied shoe even after triple knotting them! One was a half marathon when it came untied at mile 10, so that wasn’t too bad, but the other 2 were a 5 miler and my most recent 10k when the stupid shoe came untied a half mile in! I just ignored it. Maybe not the smartest move, but other than the shoe feeling a little loose and little laces slapping me in the shin from time to time it didn’t seem to impact the race. I was so worried about it in my last marathon though, that I put speedlaces in my marathon shoes, but this is a cheaper and simpler option. THANKS!

    1. That’s the worst! I use speed laces in triathlons, but I never feel like they are adjusted quite perfectly. This method is definitely preferable when I have time to tie my shoes at a leisurely pace.

  3. Ooh! Another “tip” – this one stolen from a lifetime spent in another sport…

    If you really don’t want your laces to come untied (say, for a race), you can tape them after tying.
    Just slap a strip of duct tape or whatever on there in a way that doesn’t impede the flex or fit of the upper.

  4. First off, welcome to the team! I had a tying incident a few years ago at a turkey trot. About a mile into the race, my left shoelace came untied. It was totally my fault because I didn’t double-knot my lace. (Not sure why). I did stop to tie it, and this woman passed me. It gave me a little more fire to catch her and win the race. I have since learned my lesson to always look at my laces!