Ok, you've managed to acquire a pair of ghillies.  Now it's lacing time!  If you are a Highland Dancer, your instructor probably has shown you a preferred method.

However, much more information is now known about the feet and dance-related injuries.  For those interested in the "whys and wherefores," here are some techniques and up to date information for stylishly and safely lacing your ghillies.


Many different lacing techniques have been developed to enhance the shape of the foot and keep the shoe on securely.   

Here are the latest recommendations on lacing techniques from the Hullachan site to achieve maximum support, comfort, and foot health.  Though these instructions are specifically for the Hullachan ghillie with two sets of ankle eyelets, they apply to other brands as well.  Watch the video below or follow the written instructions below.

  • When lacing a ghillie with a front toe loop care must be taken to avoid twisting and tearing the loop itself. Insert the lace through the loop and then into the first eyelet before beginning the criss-crossing to the eyelet on the opposite side of the shoe.

  • Lace normally up to the last set of eyelets or loops

  • Cross over the laces

  • Lace the end of the lace through the Last set of eyelets from the inside (near the heel)

  • Take through the back loop

  • Pull the heel up tight onto the foot with the laces

  • Lace through the first set of eyelets now (nearest the toes)

  • Pull up tight as that makes the arch fit much better for the dancer

  • Pull the excess lace from the front of the foot through the eyelets

  • Tie in front and either cut off or tuck in the excess. Excess lace can be sealed with clear nail varnish or lightly singeing the ends.

Note: Always pull the heel up tightly when your laces are thru the back loop and then pull the sides up after the side eyelets are laced. This will stop the shoe digging into the Achilles tendon and reduce damage over the arch of the foot



Best practices: Non-elastic laces are currently recommended by Hullachan's master shoemaker Craig Coussins, who has spent many years working with dancers of various genres to improve dance shoe construction for both better performance and to help minimize injuries, while maintaining a secure fit and attractive foot profile.


In lieu of any better solution, he now recommends rounded non-elastic laces for the nice tight fit and minimal compression on delicate nerves and tendons  for both practice and for competitive dancing.   In particular, he recommends double-knotting the lace and tucking in the lace ends for tidiness and to prevent them from catching or becoming loosened. 


Many dancers, however, use elastic laces for the following reasons:

  • Easy on/off of ghillies

  • Perceived comfort

  • Quick changes

Elastics laces with an already tied knot can make putting on a shoe very fast as it only requires wrapping the laces around the arch of the shoe a couple of times.


If you do use elastic, there are several options for tying knots. Unlike with non-elastic laces you want these ones to be permanent.  When tying the knot, make sure you place the knot where it will lie on top of the dancer's shoe after it has been wrapped round the foot a couple of times comfortably.


Those who use elastic tend to favor the following types - flat, round, or oval.





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  • round elastic – secure and strong, but can sometimes be felt beneath the dancers feet, the round shape tends to create pressure points along lines of tension against the foot

  • flat elastic – these can fit better and are flatter beneath the shoe and along the foot, but are thinner, can fail or twist causing pressure points.

  • oval elastic - a compromise between the former two and a choice of many dancers who use elastic

Concerns:  The general problem with elastic is that it can be pulled so tight that it will act like a cheese cutter and break the skin if pulled too tight.  Dancers that use elastic do so for ease of use and quick on and off, but because the elastic can shift, and if the shoe is no longer as tight as it was when originally laced, the tendency is to pull the laces even tighter (which can pinch nerves and restrict blood flow). This same issue can be a problem in general when wrapping laces around the arch  (with either elastic or regular corded laces) However, elastic is so uncontrolled in this respect that it becomes very problematic for foot health.

In trying to solve a particular shoe problem (e.g., keeping a heel from slipping off), dancers may overcompensate by tight lacing their shoes, damaging tendons or pinching nerves and restricting blood flow.   


Round laces roll over the foot and there is a limit to the amount of tension you can achieve with these.  Flat laces tend to twist and tangle, and many dancers will find that these become uncomfortable with wear or are too time-consuming to untwist.

For an interesting Q&A session from a few years ago with Craig Coussins of Hulluchan about dancer foot health and lacing issues, click here.

Have a strong opinion on lacing and its effects on the foot?   Take our poll and/or leave a comment.



Though non-standard for dancing, you might want to try some of these lacing solutions for sneakers and see if a modified version for your dancing shoes creates the necessary leverage and relief for pressure points to help any dancing feet issues. 

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