How to Correctly Lace and Tie Combat Boots

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How to Lace Tactical Boots
Photo by Роман Канин

While tying and lacing your combat boots is similar to tying your shoes, soldiers learn a few key differences in the military. These different lacing methods give your footwear a unique look, but more importantly, they help your feet feel comfortable and gain the necessary support.

Civilians can benefit from learning how to lace combat boots just as much as soldiers. Every lacing method serves a different purpose. Here, I’m going to cover a few of the different types I learned when I first joined. Even though I’m not in active duty, old habits die hard, and I’ve found that these lacing styles hold up better than the “rabbit ears” approach that most of us learned in kindergarten.

For tips on how to lace combat boots in different ways, keep reading.

Diagonal Lace Method

If you’re wondering how to lace military boots, the diagonal lace method is one of the most common:

  • Find the best bootlace. Since your pair of boots most likely reach your ankles, it’s critical to get laces that are long enough. The perfect length depends on a variety of things, like the number of eyelets, the spacing between eyelets, your lacing method, and the size of your feet. You will usually need 45 inches for five or six eyelet pairs, 54 inches for six to seven eyelet pairs, 63 inches for seven to eight pairs, etc. For every additional set of eyelet pairs, you can increase the length you’ll need by about nine inches.
  • Start to lace the boot. One of the most common ways of doing this is in a criss-cross pattern. Beginning at the bottom, pull the shoelaces through each of the lowest eyelets. To make sure the ends are even, pull the laces straight up and compare. After this step, the laces should be on the outside of the eyelets.
  • Cross one end of the shoelace diagonally over the tongue of the boot. Once you have the laces of even length, pull the lace’s end through the next eyelet, feed it through, and repeat it. After this step, the laces should be on the outside of the shoe. For a standard criss-cross method, pull laces under and through the eyelets, not over the top.
  • Continue to lace. Remember to always insert one side of the lace before the other side to keep the pattern neat until you reach the top of the boot. If you crossed the shoelaces right to left on your first eyelet, then keep doing so. For the best symmetrical look, make the opposite pattern for your other combat boot. (For example, if you started the first diagonal lace on your right foot with the right-side lace, on the left foot, begin with the left-side lace.) By staying consistent, you can easily tighten your laces, and your boots will always look clean.
  • Lace to the top. If you feel like you need more room at the top for your feet to breathe, don’t feed the shoelaces through the last eyelet. Once you reach the top, make sure to tie the shoelaces or tuck them in your boots. If you have laces to spare, you can even wrap them around your ankle before tying.
Laced Combat Boots
Boots laced in the Diagonal Lace Method

Army Method

For people who need to know how to tie combat boots, the army method is the one that our armed forces use:

  • Pick the laces. Since this lacing method doesn’t require a lot of extra lengths, you can use shoelaces that came with the combat boots or are the same length. If there is an even number of eyelet pairs on your boots, then start by feeding the laces through the bottom-most eyelets. If there is an odd number of eyelet pairs, feed the lace from the outside in through the eyelets.
  • Begin lacing. Begin with one end of the lace and feed it diagonally through the next eyelet from the inside out. After this, lace the same way as the criss-cross method. Then, repeat with the other end of the shoelace. Remember to thread your diagonal shoelace under the horizontal shoelace at the bottom, not on top. After completing this step, the laces should have one criss-cross pattern and be on the outside.
  • Run laces vertically. On either side of the shoe, take the lace and pull it through the eyelet right above it. Do this by going from the outside in. After this step, there should be a horizontal part at the bottom eyelet pair. You should have a criss-cross pattern, and two eyelets with the laces running through from the outside-in. Therefore, the laces should be on the inside of the boot.
  • Repeat methods until finished. To finish lacing your combat boots, alternate the criss-cross pattern with feeding the laces over the top vertically. Make sure that you keep your method consistent. If you crossed your right shoelace over your left, continue this trend for your whole shoe.
  • Tie laces or tuck them in. Since the shoelaces will end up on the inside of the shoe after lacing, tucking them inside your shoe will give you a clean look. You can also typically tie them into a bow. If length allows, try wrapping the laces around your ankles before tying.

Ladder Lace Method

For soldiers and civilians who want to learn how to tie military boots as securely as possible, the ladder lace method is the best way:

  • Pick the right shoelaces. For this method, it’s crucial to find laces appropriate for the height of your boots. Usually, the laces that came with your boots or others with the same length will work. This lacing method is also the straight-across lacing. Keep in mind that this technique yields the best results for boots with a lot of eyelet pairs.
  • Begin at the bottom eyelets. You should start by running your shoelaces across the bottom eyelet pair and running them through from the inside out. The beginning of this method is the same as the diagonal lace method. After you’ve done this step, the laces should be on the outside of the boots.
  • Insert laces vertically. After starting at the bottom, take each end of the lace and feed them vertically in the next eyelet pair. You should feed the lace through from the outside-in. If you’ve done this correctly, the shoelaces should be on the inside of the boot.
  • Cross laces over the tongue of the boot. Next, feed your laces under the portion of the string that is connecting the eyelets straight up and down. Remember not to pull any laces through eyelets for this step, since you are running the lace horizontally instead of vertically. After doing this for both shoelaces, the strings should end up on the outside of the boot.
  • Continue the method straight up. Start by pulling the lace through the next eyelet vertically, then bring the string from underneath to the eyelet above. Then, pull the shoelace through from the outside-in. Make sure to do this on either side of the boot before you pull the shoelaces across and underneath again. Also, remember to follow the same order from the beginning. So if you laced right over left, keep doing so.
  • Continue inserting and bringing the ends underneath. Repeat this technique until you reach the top of your boot. Ensure that the only time you feed your laces through an eyelet is moving the lace vertically from the outside-in. Once you’ve reached the end, the laces should be on the inside of the boots.
  • Tie boots to finish. Finish the ladder lace method by tying your laces or tucking them into your boots for a cleaner look.

How to Tie Combat Boots

After you’ve laced up your boots, tying the laces is a separate art. In this section, I’ll go over a few easy forms for how to tie combat boots’ laces so they stay held all day, no matter whether you’re on military duties or just out and about.

Method 1

This one is simple. Once your shoelaces are firmly laced into the boot following one of the above methods, all you have to do is full them together in the usual way before starting a set of “rabbit ears”. But from there, you take both ends of the lace and wrap them around the top of the boot, clockwise.

Then, with the remaining lace, tuck it underneath the first part of the lace and bring the ends back out, tucking them into the top of your boot to secure. Easy. This gives your boot a tight grip on your ankle and is comfortable as there’s less stray lace to tuck into your boot.

Method 2

For this one, start with a regular “rabbit ears” tying method. But, rather than leaving two loops and two dangling strings, take your loops and pull them all the way so that the two stray ends disappear. (You’ll need to knot the ends of the laces so that the ends don’t fully pull out.)

Then, tuck the two long loops into the top of your boots on either side of your ankle. Just like the last method, this leaves no dangling strings that could untie your boots during activities or trip you up.

Compared to Method 1, this way looks cleaner, but can be more uncomfortable as there’s more lace to tuck into the top of your shoe, potentially irritating your ankle.

These methods may be hard to imagine, so I suggest you watch this video below that demonstrates both how to tie military boots and the boot band method I’m going to talk in the next part. 

How to Tie and Blouse Combat Boots Using Two Methods

Using Boot Bands

Keeping the ends of your pants neat and tucked away is essential – you don’t want debris to get up in your leg when you’re out training, or to accidentally trip yourself on any material. Using boot bands to safely tuck away excess material is a great way to do this.

First you’ll need some boot bands, which look like elastic bracelets, and are available from any military apparel store. They have metal hooks-and-eyes on each end, and should fit tight to your ankle.

Once you have your boot bands, you’re ready to get started. Get dressed into all your combat gear and lace and tie your boots. Then, fasten your boot bands around your ankle. Make sure to do this over your sock to prevent rubbing and discomfort.

Then, roll the ends of your pants up one inch, so that part of the inner material shows on the outside. Repeat this so it’s doubled over, and you’ve rolled the material twice.

Next, grab the boot band over your pants material and tuck in the folds you’ve already made. And you’re done! Now, the ends of your pants are fully tucked and safely out of your way. This also looks far neater than leaving the ends of your pants out to cover the tops of your boots. It’s also more effective and comfortable than tucking the material inside your socks. Tucking it into your socks will only cause the material to come free as soon as you start running, lifting, or doing any kind of activity.

Final Thoughts

By lacing up your combat boots correctly, you can be ready for any march. I hope you’ve enjoyed learning how to lace military boots and have learned some useful methods.

The army method, ladder lace method, and diagonal lace method are all commonly used in the armed forces, and all serve very different purposes. However, lacing your boots cannot protect your feet if you don’t perform the techniques correctly. Remember to practice lacing until you can do it quickly and accurately.

From there, learning the best ways to tie your boots is essential, and I recommend the two methods outlined above. My personal favorite is Method 1, since it’s quick, easy and effective. Using the “rabbit ears” method isn’t recommended, because the stray loops and lace-ends can easily become caught and untie your boot – which is completely unprofessional and dangerous in combat situations.

Lastly, using boot bands is a great way to ensure your pants are safely tucked in. By lacing, tying and securing your boots, the last thing you need to worry about during military training or deployment is your footwear. Your feet are always primed and ready to take you wherever you need to go.