There are 43,200 ways to lace up a pair of six-eyelet shoes (which, of course, have 12 eyelets because they come in pairs). I discovered this on an extraordinary website run by Aussie Ian Fieggen. I don’t want to say that the guy is obsessed, but I bet he could also tell you how many blades of grass there are on a football field. Anyway, on his interesting and useful website, he lists 42 of them.
Why should you care? Well, if you’re shoes are too stiff, he has a lacing method that helps them flex better. If they’re too floppy, ditto. If your laces are long but you don’t want to cut them, he has schemes that use up about 1,500 yards of lacing. If they’re too short, he has that covered, too. This site is a must for sportsman, crazy people, and—most especially—procrastinators. Be careful using this site. With a pair of boots and some laces, you could get stuck here for days.
Here are a few key lacing patterns. I’ve taken really bad photos of them using my L.L. Bean Maine Hunting Shoes and two colors of paracord for easy visibility. The photos are shaky because I’ve had too much coffee. And, no, I’m not relacing my damn shoes to take better ones when the coffee wears off.
• The Criss Cross (left): This is the default method for most of us. You start across the bottom, feed the laces under the sides and out through the next set of eyelets. Fieggen’s verdict: “Traditional look, simple to lace, comfortable, “corrugates” shoe.” I have no idea what a corrugated shoe is, but apparently it’s not good.
• Gap Lacing (below, left): Okay, now we’re getting technical. What we’re doing here is skipping a crossover in criss-cross lacing to create a gap halfway up. Why? “Either to bypass a sensitive area on the instep or to increase ankle flexibility,” writes the master. Hey, makes sense to me. It looks a bit messier and uses 15 percent less lacing.
• Ladder Lacing (below, right): If you’re jumping out of a plane and need laces that will stay tight and lock your feet in your boots, this is what you want. It’s also favored by ceremonial guards who want a squared-away look to their laces. Although it’s difficult to tighten, once it’s tight, it stays tight. It takes a bit more lace length than other methods, but on the plus side, it has a distinctive ladder look—although not one you can climb up.