Lacing up our shoes is something we all learned from a young age. But what no one ever really taught us is what to do if there’s too much lacing.
The extra length can get in your way, prove quite uncomfortable, and may even prove a tripping hazard.
Below, I’ll share with you the quickest and easiest solutions to shorten your shoelaces in a matter of minutes so you can stride in style and security.
What You’ll Need to Shorten Shoelaces by Cutting
When it comes right down to it, the “best” way to shorten your shoelaces is to measure the excess length and cut it off. That’s how you have total control over exactly how long the laces end up being, letting you decide if you want enough extra length for a double knot or just enough for a small, tight knot.
To cut the shoelaces, you’ll need:
- A sharp pair of fabric scissors
- A tape measure or ruler
- A felt-tip pen or marker
- Replacement aglets or heat shrink tubing (or, in a pinch, Scotch tape) and a lighter or match
Armed with these tools, you’re ready to get to work!
Step 1: Measure Your Laces
To measure your laces correctly, put your shoes on, make sure they’re fully laced, and tie your standard knot (usually a bow knot). Use a tape measure or ruler to measure the exact length of the excess on both laces.
The reason you measure the laces with the shoes on and tied is because you want to make sure that you’re not trimming off so much that you can’t tie your shoes effectively, but also not so little they’ll still be too long. Who wants the hassle of doing this twice?
Step 2: Mark and Cut
You’ve measured the excess length on both laces, but that doesn’t mean you need to cut both. Really, all you’ve got to do is add the excess length (for example, 2.5 inches on the right lace and 2 inches on the left) together for a total (2.5 + 2 = 4.5 inches) that you’ll cut off just one side.
Use the tape measure or ruler to measure out the excess, mark the spot with your felt-tip pen or marker, and use the fabric scissors to snip at the marked spot.
Step 3: Repair the Aglet
The aglet is the plastic or metal sheath that caps the end of your shoelaces, making it easy for you to slide them through the eyelets in your shoes.
The one downside of cutting your shoe laces is that you’ll have to repair or replace the aglet that you snipped off.
The easiest way to do that is with a replacement aglet. You can order them online — for example, this 200-piece set from Boao on Amazon —and once delivered, you’ve got a hassle-free solution for replacing aglets.
But if you’d rather go with the simpler, more streamlined clear plastic look, all you need is a bit of heat shrink tubing and a lighter or match.
Simply match the length of the heat shrink tubing to the length of the remaining aglet, cut it, slide it over the snipped end of the shoelace, and use the lighter/match to apply a bit of heat. The plastic will shrink right around the shoelace and will form an aglet that’s as good as new.
And just like that, your shoelace is shortened to the ideal length and ready to use.
7 More Ways to Shorten Shoelaces That Take Fewer than 5 Minutes
#1: Straight Bar Lacing
Straight bar lacing is a lacing pattern that works best with extra-long laces. It uses the extra length to create a pattern that looks sharp (especially on dress boots and shoes) but which can still be easily adjusted for a tighter or looser fit.
Insert the aglets downward into the eyelets. Make sure that both ends are of even length.
Run the right end up across the inside of the shoe toward the next eyelet, and slide the aglet through and upward. Cross it over to the eyelet directly opposite and insert the aglet downward into the shoe.
Run the left end up across the inside of the shoe toward the next available eyelet, and slide the aglet through and upward. Cross it over to the eyelet directly opposite and insert the aglet downward into the shoe.
Repeat this lacing pattern (up inside, across the outside, and down), alternating between the left and right lace until you reach the top. The end-result is a beautifully simple look and shorter laces.
If the laces aren’t the same length when you’re finished, simply loosen all of the cross-laces and adjust as desired.
#2: End Shortening Lacing
End shortening lacing is a more complicated version of straight bar lacing that will do exactly as its name suggests and shortens extra long laces. All of the work is largely done with just one side of the laces, though, so it actually ends up being a lot less work once you get the hang of it.
Run the left lace up through the eyelet from inside the shoe, setting it to your desired length.
Thread the lace up through the left bottom eyelet, across and down through the right bottom eyelet.
Run the lace along the inside of the shoe to the second-to-the-top eyelet on the right side, then thread it up, across to the eyelet on the left side, and down into the shoe.
Run the lace along the inside of the shoe to the second-to-the-bottom eyelet on the left side, then thread it up, across to the eyelet on the right side, and down into the shoe.
Run the lace along the inside of the shoe to the third-from-the-top eyelet on the right side, then thread it up, across to the eyelet on the left side, and down into the shoe.
Run the lace along the inside of the shoe to the third-from-the-bottom eyelet on the left side, then thread it up, across to the eyelet on the right side, and down into the shoe.
Run the lace along the inside of the shoe to the fourth-from-the-top eyelet on the right side, then thread it up, across to the eyelet on the left side, and down into the shoe.
Run the lace along the inside of the shoe to the last remaining eyelet on the left side, then thread it up, across to the eyelet on the right side, and down into the shoe.
Run the lace up along the inside of the shoe toward the topmost eyelet on the right side to complete the lacing pattern.
#3: Ladder Lacing
Ladder lacing is typically used by paratroopers and on military boots, because the combination of horizontal and vertical weave results in a very secure, snug fit.
It also uses up a lot of lacing, so if you’ve got extra-long laces and want to shorten them without cutting, this lace pattern is just the ticket.
Run the laces through the bottom-most eyelet, threading both aglets up from inside the shoe. Make sure both ends are of even length before you start lacing.
Run the right lace up the outside of the shoe and down into the first eyelet on the right. But don’t pull it tight just yet.
Run the left lace up the outside of the shoe and down into the first eyelet on the left.
Bring the right lace up and thread it under the left lace, just below the spot where it threads into the eyelet. Do the same with the left lace, threading it under the right lace. Now pull both laces tight to “lock” the first knot into place.
Repeat this pattern—up across the outside of the shoe, down into the eyelet, and across the loop beneath the opposite shoelace before pulling tight—all the way up the shoe.
If you reach the last eyelet and you still have extra length, repeat the cross-over-and-weave-under pattern before tying your shoes. That will use up even more length!
#4: Boat-shoe Knot
Instead of getting fancy with the lacing pattern, you can always create an ornate boat-shoe knot at the end of the laces to use any extra length.
The boat-shoe knot won’t work for all shoes. You don’t want to use it on dress shoes, work boots, or any formal footwear. However, for your favorite running shoes or a pair of casual sneakers, it’s a great option.
Gather up the excess length of your right-side shoelace. Form a loop using the end.
The larger the loop, the more the knot will shorten your shoelace, but the closer it’ll hang to the ground.
Larger loops will work great on high-tops or high-heeled lace-up shoes, but for low-profile shoes, you’ll want to go with a smaller loop.
Wrap the lace around the loop, making sure that each wrap is close together and as tight as possible.
Slide the end of the shoelace into the top of the loop and pull on the base of the shoelace (running into your shoe) to tighten the loop around the aglet and secure the knot.
Repeat on the left side, trying to match the length of the loop and the tightness of the wrap so both boat-shoe knots resemble each other as closely as possible.
#5: Double Knot
If you’re already tying your laces into a standard bow knot, it’s beautifully easy to “double” that knot and shorten the length of those laces. It’s the perfect solution for laces that are just a little too long, but aren’t long enough to accommodate a boat knot or one of the fancier lacing patterns above.
Tie the standard bow knot. The result will be two looped ends, and the two single ends tipped with the aglets.
Grab both pairs of ends in each hand, cross one over the other to form a loop, and thread that end through the loop.
Pull the knot tight, and you’re good to go!
#6: Wrap Around Your Ankles
For athletes, runners, and anyone who needs a quick solution for extra-long laces, this is a great choice. However, it will only work if you have A LOT of extra length—at least 6 inches on each side.
Tie your shoes securely in whatever knot you favor.
Take the excess length of the shoelace and wrap it around your ankle on top of your sock.
Don’t wrap it so tightly that it restricts circulation and puts pressure on your ankle, but not so loosely it can come undone or rub against your skin and cause blisters.
Wrap once and tie at the back of your ankle if the shoelaces are only a little too long. If they’re very long, wrap them around your ankle as many times as necessary to shorten them enough to tie off.
#7: Tuck and Go
If you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to tie fancy knots, having set up your boots with complex lacing patterns, or don’t want to damage your shoelaces by cutting and repairing them, the “Tuck and Go” method is a great fallback.
It’s not the most comfortable or secure option, and it’s definitely not ideal for dressy, formal, or business footwear. But for slip-ons and sneakers you’re just wearing to pop out to the store or unloading groceries from the car, it’s a good way to keep extra-long laces out of your way (and prevent slipping/tripping).
Tie your shoelaces into whatever knot you favor. Or, if you’re in a hurry, you can skip the tying-up step and move straight on to the tucking-in step.
Slide the excess length into your shoes, either behind/beneath the tongue (which can be a bit uncomfortable on the top of your foot) or beside your ankles. Whether the shoes are tied or loose, the laces should stay securely in place as you walk.
Get Crafty with Those Laces
Your shoelaces are an integral part of your shoes. They’re what keep them securely on your feet as you run, jump, and play.
Shoelaces of the right length will be pretty much forgotten the moment you tie them up, but if they’re the wrong length, they can give you all kinds of grief and even increase your risk of accidents and injury.
Hopefully, the advice I shared above will help you shorten your laces just right—either by cutting them or using the lace and knot patterns that make the best use of extra length—and you’ll never have to worry about them again.
What to do if shoelaces are too long?
Cutting your shoelaces is an option to consider if they are too long. However, before you go the route that could damage the laces, it’s worth considering a lacing pattern or a knot that uses up the extra shoelace length without needing to cut them.
Can you cut shoelaces to make them shorter?
You absolutely can cut shoelaces to make them shorter. Just be aware that the aglets (the plastic or metal sheath at the end) needs to be replaced in order to keep the laces from fraying, splitting, and wearing out.
How do you tie shoelaces so they are short?
You can either use a more complex lacing pattern (like the ladder, straight bar, or end shortening patterns I described above) or a knot that uses up the extra length (including the double knot and boat-shoe knot).