Straight European Lacing

Straight European Lacing

Traditional straight lacing, which appeared to be more common in Europe, has straight sections on the outside and diagonals on the inside.

Diagram for 8 pairs of eyelets

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Lacing Technique

• Begin straight across on the outside (grey section) and in through the bottom eyelets. On shoes with odd numbers of eyelet pairs, adjust so that the left (blue) end is slightly longer than the right (yellow) end (see details below).

• The left (blue) end crosses diagonally on the inside, then straight across on the outside.

• The right (yellow) end crosses diagonally on the inside at a steeper angle, then straight across on the outside.

• Alternate with left and right ends until lacing is completed.


Suits dress shoes

Neat on top

Messy underneath

3% shorter ends (approx.)


• Although visually messy, the underlying zig-zag makes this lacing very tight & secure. The mess is mainly noticeable on shoes and sneakers with a wide spacing (as seen in the first photo below).

Straight European Lacing is particularly suited to dress shoes such as Oxfords / Balmorals, as it allows the uppers of the shoe to come completely together in the middle without bunching or corrugation. On these shoes, the underlying zig-zag will be completely hidden (as in the second photo below).

Sports / Military Advice

Like other straight lacing methods, Straight European Lacing has an additional benefit for sporting or military use: The upper horizontal sections of shoelace can be quickly cut through with a knife or scissors in order to more easily remove a boot from a broken, sprained or otherwise injured ankle or foot.

Note that most military forces have regulations for just about everything, so I'd recommend that military personnel check before they adopt this – or any other – possible non-regulation lacing method!

Straight European Lacing Video

Shoelace Lengths for Straight European Lacing

Pairs of eyelets: 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Length needed: 70 cm
28 inch
81 cm
32 inch
92 cm
36 inch
103 cm
41 inch
114 cm
45 inch
125 cm
49 inch
136 cm
54 inch
Lengths available: 27" 36" 36" 40" 45" 45" 54"

NOTE: These are approximate shoelace lengths for using this lacing on an average sized sneaker. For more accurate lengths, use the Shoelace Length Calculator.

Comparative Length

Longer shoelaces needed than those for basic Criss Cross Lacing.

Shorter ends if existing shoelaces are re-used (−3% on average).

More details.

End Length Adjustment

Because Straight European Lacing is not symmetrical, on shoes with an odd number of eyelet pairs (eg. five pairs of eyelets), one end will travel through more eyelets than the other, resulting in uneven end lengths. As noted in “Step 1” of the Lacing Technique, the left (blue) end should be adjusted to be slightly longer than the right (yellow) end. It's possible – though tricky – to calculate that difference in length exactly:

Difference = H+√(H²+V²)×2−√(H²+(2×V)²)

– where “H” is the Horizontal distance between eyelets (across the shoe) and “V” is the Vertical distance between eyelets (up the shoe).

In practice, approximating the difference in length is close enough. On a typical shoe, the Horizontal distance “H” is often 2×, 3×, even 4× the Vertical distance “V”. Assuming 3×, let's substitute H=3 and V=1 into the above formula:

Difference ≈ 3+√(3²+1²)×2−√(3²+(2×1)²)
≈ 3+√(10)×2−√(13)
≈ 5.719
≈ 6 (rounded off)

If we once again substitute H=3, we find that the difference is close enough to 2×H. In other words, start with the left (blue) end longer than the right (yellow) end by approximately 2× the Horizontal distance “H”.

To achieve this easily, first adjust the ends to exactly the same length, then pull the left (blue) end out by exactly the width of the bottom horizontal section. This lengthens the left (blue) end by “H”, plus shortens the right (yellow) end by “H”, creating the 2×H total difference in length. Continue lacing the shoe and the ends will magically finish almost exactly even.

Straight European Lacing Feedback

I did the straight European lacing on a pair of shoes with 5 pairs of eyelets, but when finished, one end of the shoe string is longer than the other. Is it supposed to be this way? The technique works fine on my shoes with 6 pairs of eyelets.

– Vin M., Apr-2017

(In response to Vin M's question, I added the End Length Adjustment section above.)

– Ian Fieggen, Apr-2017

My father lost his right hand in an accident at 18-years of age. Having been a right-handed man, he needed a way to hold laces in place while tying his shoes. He tried many lacing methods before happening on what you call European. This method of lacing holds the shoe together without slipping loose so he could tie one-handed with his left hand. Before his death at age 89, he thought [sic] his method to many others handicapped by accident or injury, including many disabled soldiers.

– Charles & Jan D., Jan-2017

In the past I was using the straight bar lacing because I was used to shoe where we could see underneath. It made my shoe very hard to tighten. With this new lacing, I am liking my oxfords more and more ! :)

– Rémi D., Dec-2015

I've attached some photos of my Church's dress shoes with the Straight European Lacing method. I like it. It's a little messy underneath, but that's why I like it. It gives the ordinary straight-bar look of the classical oxford lacing a bit of edge -- some credible vibe.

– Emilio B., Jul-2012

I have a pair of those Chuck-Tailor-Converse-sneaker-whatever-like shoes, which were just boring and also the laces were too long.

I am happy that i found your site; i now use the Straight European Lacing on them and your “Ian's Secure Shoelace knot” and i have to say it really helped.

The shoes are no more boring-looking and now the ends are sufficently shorter – without doing any modifications or a shopping tour.

– Nicholas W., Lübeck, Germany, May-2011

In most shoe stores, the shoes come pre-laced from the manufacturer, either with “Shoe Shop” lacing or “Display Shoe” lacing, depending on the type of shoe.

The shop assistant rarely laces new shoes at all, except in the cases where the store has a policy of relacing shoes to make them easier for customers to try on (usually with Straight (European) Lacing or Criss-Cross Lacing).

– Lars R., shoe store assistant, Jul-2008

I use the lacing method (straight European) a lot with regular laces too, as it is much easier to pull the lace tight.

– Erik, The Netherlands, Oct-2006

My favorite laces is the Double helix and the Straight(European) because of the cool zig zag style on the bottom.

– Ryan M., Jul-2005

I just want to say that on the Straight (European) Lacing my laces always end up being really tight.

– Saagar B., Jul-2004

I learned the “Straight European” pattern long ago when I was a kid, at a time when ski boots were still just very stiff-soled lace-up boots. I still use it on skates, or anywhere I need maximum lacing support. The particular advantage of this pattern is that one can lace a boot very tight by pulling up on each crossing, starting at the bottom, picking up slack as you go. That “messy” pattern underneath prevents slippage, so the entire tension of the lacing isn't dependent on the knot. In fact, to loosen it one has to pull the lacing apart one crossing at a time. I've never tried “double-back” lacing, so I don't know how it compares, but this is the tightest of any lacings that I've tried, and worth noting. Try it with a tall boot and you'll see what I mean.

– Matthew C., Vermont, USA, Mar-2004

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This page last updated: 14-Oct-2020. Copyright © 2003-2020 by Ian W. Fieggen. All rights reserved.

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