Why would you need to lace your hiking boots for downhill hikes?
If you’re going to be traversing some very steep trails and going down them, into some valleys or canyons, your toes are going to take some serious beating, even if you have top grade hiking boots.
The reason for this is because when walking downhill, your feet tend to slip forward, further toward the toe box of your boots. As this occurs, your toes will be mashed towards the front of the boot causing tremendous pressure on them.
First of all, before you go on any hiking trip make certain that you clip your toenails as short as possible so there won’t be any undue pressure on them from your boots pressing against them on downhill slopes.
If the trail is just a short one, there is probably not much of a problem, however, if the trail is fairly long, even an hours hike, or so, you’re going to be suffering some very sore toes, as well as pain in the ball of the foot, before very long.
If you are already wearing some high-quality hiking boots, you’re already ahead of the game, especially if you’ve taken the time to break them inappropriately. Even though they are superior quality boots, they still need to be laced correctly in order for you to keep your foot in the proper area of the boot for as long as possible.
There is a proper way to do this, and it will keep your toes a lot more comfortable during the hike. You may have to stop a few times and re-tie the boots, but each tying should last quite a while, depending on the grade and your own gait.
The vast majority of top-quality, first-grade hiking boots will have some excellent grommets or lace eyelets.
There are several types that are found on superior boots.
There are the D-ring types, which are simply metal rings that the laces run through, there are regular O-ring grommets, and there are also some small pulley-type lacing rings that are popular on certain brands of boots.
Many boots will have the open front or “quick-release” grommets on the upper ankle support region of the boot. Another thing you may notice on top end boots is that one set of the grommets/eyelets will be set further toward the back of the boot, usually where the lower region attaches to the ankle cuff.
This off-set grommet is also known as the “heel lock.”
The proper way to lace your hiking boots when anticipating a steep downhill path is as follows:
Tighten your lower lacings rather loosely. Not so loose that your foot slips a lot but just loosen them up a little so there’s some give in the laces.
Now, the last grommet prior to the ankle cuff, you’ll want to pull very tight. Next, you should be going through the “heel lock.” Again, tighten the laces very snug in this area.
Through the next set of grommets, lace up normally (not extremely tight and not too loose). Remember, your crisscrossing with each grommet set.
Now, make the rest of the loops, to the top very snug and make your usual bow knot. Not so snug that you cut off your blood supply but tight enough that they’re very snug, and you can still move your toes easily.
Now, just tie another cross knot with your laces and pull them tight. They should not come loose from this position.
When you tie your boots like this what you’re doing is allowing the heel lock and the upper lacings to hold your ankle and, thus, your foot further towards the back of your boot, allowing your toes to move freely in the toebox, even on a downhill slope.
If you’re not sure whether or not this method will work, we advise you to tie only one of your boots in this manner and then tie the other in your normal walking manner and compare the pain in your feet after walking downhill for about 100 yards or so.
You’ll be a believer by then.
Again, when you start to feel your toes binding up, it is probably time to take a break, sit down and re-tie the boots.