The method of tying your shoes that you learned in kindergarten will have to change if you’re experiencing foot problems such as bone spurs, ankle pain or blisters. Dr. Stephen Pribut, current member and past president of the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine (AAPSM), offers some lacing techniques that will untangle your foot and shoe issues.
According to Pribut, shoes serve three main purposes during athletic competition—protection, stability and interaction with the playing surface. But if your lacing is wrong, all three can be defeated. He says, “If your lacing is too tight it can pinch your nerves and cause a sharp, shooting pain in your forefoot. It could also cause soreness or blisters on your toes and other parts of your foot caused by rubbing, friction and pressure. Likewise if it’s too loose, your foot’s going to rattle around, and then there’ll be intermittent friction on parts of your foot.”
“There’s a bone bump right at the base of the first metatarsal,” Pribut says, “and a lot of nerves and tendons rub right around that area and sometimes get irritated,” causing bone spurs. By using a “skip pattern” of lacing, you can alleviate the pressure and give your forefoot more flex room. To do a skip lace, begin with the normal pattern of crisscrossing through the first two sets of holes. Then bring the laces up vertically through the next set of holes, “skipping” the area where pressure and rubbing occur. Depending on the amount of discomfort you’re experiencing, you can also skip the next set of holes if needed.
“Another point where tendons and nerves get caught and irritated is in the front part of the ankle,” Pribut says, “[especially] with a lot of running shoes in which the tongue runs up over the front of the ankle. Then, [some] people do these strange . . . lacing pattern[s] [that] go up really high to make it tighter.” Big mistake. Instead, Pribut advises athletes experiencing ankle pain to avoid lacing the top two holes. “At the top of your shoe there are two lacing holes that go up high,” he says. “If someone has a problem right there, then I usually skip those two holes at the very top and just lace it on top of the foot.”
There are several things you can do for blisters. If the problem area is your heel, the AAPSM suggests creating small loops in the top holes, then looping the ends of the laces through the opposite hole and pulling them tight. This prevents the shoe from slipping and rubbing against your skin.
If you blister around your toes and the sides of your feet, Pribut suggests skipping the bottom holes completely to loosen the shoe and lessen forefoot restriction. However, since blisters in that area are usually caused by moisture as well as friction, you need wear the proper socks.
Whether you’re running the trail or hitting the ice, if you’re experiencing foot problems, Pribut recommends checking your laces to make sure your support system isn’t bringing you down.
For more lacing techniques from the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine, visit their website at aapsm.org.