In this guide:
- What are shoelaces?
- How long should shoelaces be?
- How to tie and lace shoes
- Which types of shoelaces are best?
Shoelaces are overlooked accessories. Most of us don’t think too much about the types of shoelaces we wear. But did you know there are many things you can do with your laces that change the look of your shoes? There are numerous types, textures and ways of styling laces that can be lots of fun to try.
What are shoelaces?
A shoelace is a piece of material that goes through the holes or hooks in your footwear, keeping them fastened around your feet. They’re usually seen as having a practical purpose, but they can also enhance the appearance of your boots or shoes.
Shoelaces can be made from many materials. Over time, common lace materials have evolved. When laces were invented, they were mostly made from cotton, jute, hemp or leather. These days, synthetic fibres offer greater strength and durability to create longer-lasting shoelaces.
How long should shoelaces be?
Laces should be long enough to weave through the number of holes on the pair of shoes they are intended for – and have enough material left to tie a bow. The correct shoelace length depends on the size of the shoe, but a standard lace is usually around 60-100cm long.
If you’re trying to decide the correct shoelace length for your shoes, you’ll need to consider how many holes they have and how you want to style them. More holes need longer laces, while certain lacing patterns require more material than others.
You’ll also need to think about the shoelace type you want to use. Shoelaces come in a variety of thicknesses. Your choice will depend on the size of the holes and overall look of the shoe. For example, you’d expect to see wider laces on trainers, but a classic men’s brogue usually features a more delicate style.
How to tie and lace shoes
Tying your laces is essential, as it’s so easy to trip over the stray ends. What’s more, untied laces can leave your feet without support and make your shoes too slack, which can cause rubbing, discomfort and lead to bunions or sores.
Before you can tie your laces, you’ll need to lace the shoes in your chosen pattern. Here are some examples of different shoe patterns.
Simple lacing: Criss-Cross
- Take two ends of a shoelace and push them through the two bottom holes at the front of the shoe.
- Pull them all the way through and even them out.
- Take the shoelace that’s on the right and push it up through the second hole on the left, then take the left shoelace and thread it through the right hole.
- Repeat this process, swapping over every time until you get to the top of the shoe.
Changing up your lacing style
If you want to change up your simple lacing, try patterned shoelace types or different styles and knots. For example, if you want to have your laces tied but don’t want the bow showing:
- Lift up the tongue of the shoes before you start tying.
- Tie the laces under the tongue.
- Push the tongue back down.
- You won’t be able to see the bow.
For more ideas, read our guide to styling your laces.
Of course, if you don’t fancy tying your shoes, just put the ends of your laces inside your shoes before slipping them on and you’ll be good to go for a short distance. If you’re doing physical activity in your shoes, be sure to tie them tight to keep your feet and ankles protected and stable.
Different types of lacing can help reduce the pain of foot conditions – and so can different types of shoes.
Which type of shoelaces are best?
The type of shoelace you choose is down to your personal preference – whether that’s based on colour, pattern or material. Most shoes or boots naturally pair with a particular lace. You’ll generally only need to shop for laces if you want to replace them due to wear, or if you want to change the style.
When this moment arrives, follow this general advice for pairing types of laces with shoes:
- Cotton – for tennis shoes and skater shoes
- Textured polyester – for work shoes
- Spun polyester – for super-smart shoes
- Nylon – for walking boots and shoes
- Elastic – for sports shoes
Laces are so much more than a simple shoe fastening. They can add flair to any pair of shoes when chosen carefully and laced well.
There are many different patterns available, so if you have a plain pair of shoes, add some bright coloured or patterned laces and there you have it – a fresh looking pair of shoes.
Make sure you keep them tucked away or inside the shoes though – for safety reasons – and have fun experimenting.