Welcome to Further Details, a recurring column where we investigate what purpose an oft-overlooked product element actually serves. This week: a hole in your shoe that’s there for a reason.
You probably haven’t given much thought to how you tie your shoes since you learned how to knot up your favorite kicks way back during childhood. You’ve relied on those bunny ears for decades, with little variance outside of the occasional double knot. But did you know there’s another lacing system that can be a beacon for improved fit and stability? Even further, did you know this advanced tying method is not some intricate weave, but something that’s been on your feet this whole time?
We’ll give you time to utter, “I was today years old when…”
Yes, if you look at your favorite pair of running or gym shoes, you’re likely to find an extra eyelet that sits right near your normal lace slot. This added hole isn’t for improved breathability or the result of a faulty machine in manufacturing, though — it’s used to create what’s known as a heel lock. By threading your laces through this eyelet and employing a quick adjustment to your normal sneaker structure, you can give your trusted trainers new life that makes you wonder why you’re just reading about this now.
What is a Heel Lock?
Also known as a runner’s loop, runner’s tie or lace lock, this lacing method places added tightness around the collar of your sneaker for the sake of keeping everything in place. Heel locks allow for better stability at the rear of your foot, which can create a better connection between your frame and footwear in the process. Ever notice your heel slipping out of your kick when pacing through your miles or descending down a side street? This lacing method can help eliminate that problem, even if you think your shoes fit perfectly with that tried-and-true knot structure of before.
The Benefits of Heel Lock Lacing
Outside of simply improving your running shoe’s fit, adding a heel lock to your lace setup can also help alleviate some common foot aches you’re likely to experience along your routes. The added security at the heel can help eliminate any errant rubbing or chafing at your Achilles, which can do a number for preventing blisters. Additionally, the more snug collar can help defend against your foot sliding forward during toe-offs and descents. This active convenience can be great for athletes that normally suffer from hammer toe or often feel their digits jamming into the toe box.
Plus, heel locks can be great for athletes that routinely switch up their sock thickness depending on their run. Naturally, the thicker the sock, the more snug your shoes are bound to fit, but those warm and cozy wool options will probably lead to unwanted sweat during summertime jaunts. Using a heel lock can help you get away with any size discrepancy caused by thinner socks, tightening things up around your collar and essentially keeping your foot in place despite the added room.
Editor’s Note: We do recommend, though, that you match your socks to your shoes for the best possible fitment. If you frequently run in colder conditions, it may be best to pair those warm socks with a proper pair of winter running shoes.
How to Tie a Heel Lock
Using the eyelet to create a heel lock is simple:
- Lace up your shoes normally in the traditional criss-cross method, stopping at the next-to-last eyelet at the top.
- Thread the lace back through the final extra eyelet toward the foot to create a loop.
- Thread each lace through the opposite loop and pull tightly to cinch the loops to the shoe’s exterior.
- Finish off your heel lock with a normal knot.
Of course, there are other, more complicated lacing patterns you can employ to improve your running shoe’s fit, but the heel lock method is one of the easiest to master first, and the results are noticeable immediately.