Shoe-lacing patterns appear to affect running technique

The Introduction

lacingWhen I started running seriously in the early 1970’s, there was very little known about running shoe design. Since then, the design of running shoes has been well-researched with the importance of heel stability and midsole shock absorption having has a profound impact on lowering the incidence of running injuries. I was always told to have a ‘loose’ shoelace pattern to allow the foot to expand in heat and on longer runs. However, little research has examined the effect of lacing patterns on running shoe mechanics and running gait. A recent German study examined the influence of shoe lacing on foot biomechanics in running.

The Research

Twenty experienced rearfoot runners with an average of 32 years ran in six different lacing conditions across a laboratory force platform at a speed of 3.3 m/sec (11.9 km/hr). All runners used the same shoes (Nike Air Pegasus). Foot pronation (heel rolling) during ground contact, tibial acceleration, and plantar pressure distribution of the right leg were recorded. The test conditions differed in the number of laced eyelets (1, 2, 3, 6 or 7) (most shoes have six eyelets in one line and some have a higher seventh eye shifted slightly laterally) and in lacing tightness (weak, regular or strong).

The Results

The results show that foot movement in heel-toe running is influenced by a shoe’s lacing pattern. Reduced loading rates and pronation velocities were observed in the tightest and highest lacing conditions. The lowest peak pressures under the heel and lateral midfoot were observed in the high (seven-eyelet) lacing pattern without any significant differences in perceived comfort. Low laced (uncomfortable and too much foot movement) or very tight (uncomfortable) lacing conditions were not liked by the athletes. 

The So What?

A firm (moderate tightness) foot-to-shoe coupling with higher lacing leads to a more effective use of running shoe features and is likely to reduce the risk of lower limb injury in runners.

Hagen, M. and Hennig, EM. (2009). Effects of different shoe-lacing patterns on the biomechanics of running shoes. Journal of Sport Sciences. 27(3):267-275.