Getting your running shoes just right can be a bit like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Are your shoes tied too tight? Too loose? Is the right tighter than the left? Add to that issues with heel slippage, bunion-squishing, or arch pressure, and it can seem like the perfect fit is nearly unattainable.
But never fear, your laces are here! Really! Shoe laces are your friend, and there are a number of ways to adjust them that can improve the fit of your shoe. Maybe you’ve heard of fancy lacing techniques but dismissed them as challenging or just didn’t want to bother looking for them? Well, no more excuses, Bertha, we’ve got your shoe fixes right here, right now.
First, let’s put those kicks on right. UNLACE THEM, you heathen. Yes, all the way! Loosen up the top few crisscrosses so you can get them on your foot properly! (And, backing up a little, untie them before you take them off. None of that slipping them off by stepping on the other heel stuff!)
Next, put your shoes on while sitting down, so you can give the back of the shoe a good thwack onto the floor and settle your heel all the way back into the memory foam in the heel cup. Especially with new shoes, that foam can be so plush that your foot doesn’t naturally slide all the way back. This can cause heel slippage along with other issues, like your toes hitting the end since your foot is farther forward.
- There are 26 bones in each foot — a quarter of the bones in your body are in your feet and ankles! There are also 33 joints and more than 100 muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
- The wiggly parts of your toes are called phalanges.
- The middle bones of your foot are your metatarsals. Think of this as the palm of your hand.
- Closer to your ankle are three cuneiform bones behind your first three toes, then the cuboid behind your fourth toe. The navicular bone is behind the cuneiforms and beside the cuboid.
- Your ankle includes the talus bone on the top of your foot and the calcaneus, which is your heel bone.
- The “medial” side of your feet means the big toe side. “Lateral” is the pinky toe side.
Correcting Fit Issues
These are the three most popular lacing techniques I learned while working for five years in a running specialty store. If you’re one of those people who only buys running shoes online, this is the kind of thing you’re missing. #shoemagicians #Iwishthathadbeenmytitle
You can find more techniques elsewhere, but honestly … I probably fit 20,000 pairs of shoes and never found the others useful. (If you’re doing something really extreme with your laces, you probably just need different shoes.)
Heel slippage: Sometimes just kicking your heel back into the shoe will do the trick. If not, lace locking may be for you. This is one of the most common lacing tricks, so bear with me if you know this one already.
You likely have an extra unused eyelet at the top of the eyestay. If you don’t, unlace your shoes back one hole. Then take the shoelace through the top eyelet on the same side to create a little loop. Next, cross each end of the lace across the tongue and into the loop you made. Pull as snug as you want! You may need to work a little sawing action back-and-forth to get it secure. (You can also do this technique with the second and third eyelets from the top, instead of the top two.)
A word of caution: it’s easy to tie this too tight and make your foot numb and tingly, so don’t go overboard!
Instep pressure: Especially for higher arches, laces can press on the top of the foot and cause pain. Before you worry about stress fractures in your toe bones, it might just be from your laces.
You’ll need to identify the specific area of pain; most commonly it’s going to be your medial cuneiform or the base of your first metatarsal. Once you identify the culprit, unlace your shoes to that point. Then, instead of crossing the laces over the spot that hurts, take the laces straight up through the next eyelet, then go back to crossing over. This is called “gap lacing.”
Bunion pressure: If you’ve got a bunion, you know it. Bunions need their personal space, and aren’t shy about letting you know!
The “bunion crossover” technique is similar to the gap lacing technique above but skips an eyelet entirely. Start by unlacing your shoes all the way to the bottom. Instead of the bottom two eyelets being your “center,” the first two eyelets on the lateral side (pinky toe side — the side AWAY from the bunion) will be your starting point.
Skip the eyelet closest to the bunion entirely. Run one end of the lace through the second eyelet on the medial side (big toe side) and the other end through the third eyelet on the medial side. After that, begin criss-crossing the laces like normal.
And one last tip: Some running stores use different lacing techniques to display shoes. If your laces finish inside the eyelets, you may need to relace them completely. Traditional criss-cross lacing starts with the laces coming out from the bottom two eyelets, and finishing coming out of the top two eyelets.
Have you improved the fit of your running shoes by merely changing your lacing technique?