Where do you tie your shoe laces?

Ok- I’m not looking for the trite answer of “on the top of my shoes”- I’m thinking specifically, and the reason I ask is because it can show a couple of interesting things, and also leads to some difficult to solve (if you havent been noticing) problems.

Minor case study

I had a fellrunner come in for ankle pain a while ago . It was just one ankle, on the lateral (outside) area. His training had not changed in the past few weeks- similar distance, ascent, training load etc, so none of the classic problems that precede something going “wrong”. He hadn’t twisted his ankle, or had any history of spraining it in the past… he was at a loss as to why it hurt, hence coming to see me.

We went through all the usual tests- looking for muscle issues, ligament problems, mobility issues… nothing was wrong with the ankle at all, apart from a particularly sensitive spot on the outside of the ankle, with no apparent reason for it.

The only thing that was niggling at me was the way his shoes were tied as he walked into the house. One was tied with the knot in the middle, like normal- the other, the shoe on the offending foot was tied off centre, directly over the sensitive area.


Not the actual shoes I saw- but note the lacing on the left (as you look at them) – way over to the outside of the shoe. This isn’t a really obvious thing, and neither is it a complete “No No”- but it might cause sensitivity.

I didn’t say anything about this, but fetched his shoes and asked him to lace them up…. The foot with the normal lacing position got laced up normally, the other one was laced up exactly how it was laced up when he walked in- with the knot done up skewiff, over to the lateral side, directly over the sensitised and painful area. Bingo.

We changed the way he did up his shoes, and the pain that was curtailing his running stopped, the sensitivity did not return -and he was able to continue with his season.

So why do people do their shoes up lopsidedly?

When I see this happen it generally tends to indicate that there is a lack of ability to reach the foot easily- either through immobility in the hips, or because of another issue such as obesity. (which is relatively easy to spot, to be honest). With this particular runner we also looked at hip mobility and worked into some different positions that he was beginning to have an issue with- though that is probably a story for another day.

So- it is worth looking to see where you do your laces up- the tongue is there to provide padding from the knot. Use it. If you find it hard to move your hips to do your shoes up optimally, work on that hip mobility. Hips are pretty much the biggest joints of the body. Lacking movement in them is not a cool thing.

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