Last weekend, I was headed out for my long run, and as soon as I pulled on my shoes, I knew there was an issue. There was an immediate soreness right across the top of my foot. I had worn different socks than usual on my previous workout and the tongue of my left shoe had bruised my metatarsals. Debilitating? No. But an issue that, at best, would make my workout frustrating and, at worst, could lead to time off training to let it heal. Thankfully, I had been shown an easy trick that solved the problem. A quick re-lacing in the parking lot and we were off.
Re-lacing is a simple yet effective technique that we often forget to take advantage of it. It can help prevent blisters, save you from abandoning a slightly misfitting shoe, improve comfort, and save toenails. Here are a few easy techniques that you can use day to make those miles more comfortable.
Ever wonder what those extra eyelets near the ankle of the shoe are? It took me years to realize it wasn't for someone with odd-sized feet. Heel locking pulls the foot back into the heel socket of the shoe and holds it there, without having to over tighten the main laces uncomfortably. This can help stop foot slippage, helps to avoid blackening toenails, and save you from blisters caused by motion hotspots.
To heel lock, take the lace end and feed it out of the lower eyelet and back into the upper eyelet to create a loop on both sides. Then take the opposite lace and feed it under the newly created loop. Then tie as usual.
2. Metatarsal or 'Top of the Foot' Pain
Sometimes a just skipping an eyelet can relieve pressure on the foot. By reducing the crossing of the laces, direct pressure is eliminated on a sore spot without making the shoe feel sloppy or causing slippage. Simply skip an eyelet where the pain is located, which creates a gap in the lace crossover. If the soreness is broader, skip two. If your foot feels slightly loose with this technique, consider incorporating the heel lock to help with slippage.
3. Wide Feet
This trick can save an expensive pair of shoes from being discarded. If you have wide feet, sometimes lacing can reduce the pressure. Similar to the metatarsal technique above, skip eyelets on the lace crossover on the way to the top eyelet. This way it will expand the fit, reduce pressure, but still allow for balanced snugness down the shoe. Again, pair with a heel lock to hold the foot back if required.
4. Foot Swell
Though I've never personally needed this, a unique lacing format may help reduce pressure as your feet swell during long runs. Halving the lace crossing points across the top of the foot reduces the pull of the laces, permitting more flex. This should allow snugness at the start but reduce the pressure over time as your feet naturally swell with the miles. Pass the laces across the shoe tongue at 90º and then use the next available upper eyelet. This one may take a few attempts to get the eyelets in order but may help.
5. Change your Laces
Sometimes simply changing your laces out to a different aftermarket pair can help. Rounded or thick laces may fit with the shoe designer's inspiration visually but might also create pressure points. Don't be afraid to swap out those fancy laces for a lace with some flex or flatness. Also make sure the twists are out of the laces to avoid areas of pressure. Comfort while logging those big miles in a training block is paramount. Nothing can get into a runner's mind and derail a run more than pain, so eliminating problems within your control will help. The best part is that re-lacing isn't permanent, is essentially free, and is easily adjusted. Experiment with your shoes to find what works best for your feet and enjoy those miles!