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How to Tie Boat Shoes? – 5 Most Common Ways

Written by Anthony Roberts / Fact checked by Jonathan Larson

How to Tie Boat Shoes

Boat shoes are far from being the most fashionable footwear. Some even despise them because of how ridiculous they look. Nonetheless, you can make it more stylish by tying it properly.

There are five main ways of tying boat shoes – barrel knot, chain knot, tassel knot, fishtail, and surgeon’s knot. They seem intimidating at first, but they are very straightforward to do.

Read on as I will guide you on how to tie boat shoes.

What You Will Need to Tie Boat Shoes


You will need only your boat shoes and laces to follow the things I will share below. Pack a little patience and the willingness to learn. It does not take too much to learn how to tie boat shows and elevate your fashion.

Step-by-Step Guide

The steps will vary depending on the type of knot that you will make. In this section, I will take you to explore five different ways of tying boat shoes.

1. Tying Boat Shoes with a Barrel Knot

A barrel knot is a type of slip or friction knot. It self-tightens upon the application of force or when you pull the laces. It has a stopper, which prevents the end of the knot from loosening.

Watch this short video for a quick visual guide to tying your boat shoes with a barrel knot.

  1. Start by making a loop at the end of the laces. Do this by folding the laces, leaving up to four inches of tail.
  2. With the non-dominant hand, hold the loop’s top part. Meanwhile, position the index finger and thumb of your non-dominant hand on the base and twist. At this point, the curve should appear twisted.
  3. Wrap the tail on the loop that you have just created. I recommend you to do this at least five times or until you have fully covered the laces, making sure that you leave a bit of the lace.
  4. Insert the lace’s end on the open part of the loop. Push the knot to tighten the curve.
  5. Repeat the same steps on the other side of the shoe.

2. Tying Boat Shoes with a Chain Knot

The chain knot is almost the same as the sailing knot, often used for shortening or decorating ropes. It is a bit more complicated and fancy but creates a tight lace, making sure that your boat shoes fit perfectly.

Here is a short video showing the basics of tying a chain knot.

  1. Use your non-dominant hand to hold the lace and create a loop.
  2. While holding the first loop, use your dominant hand to make another loop.
  3. With two loops at this point, insert the smaller loop into the larger one. Then, entwine the base of the curve until it is inside the other loop.
  4. Tighten the lace by pulling it out of the one.
  5. Make another loop similar to the second loop that you did earlier. Insert on the end of the curve and tighten.
  6. Repeat two more times or until you have already looped most of the lace. See to it that you leave a bit of the lace.
  7. Tuck the end of the lace into the end of the loop. Pull until it is tight. Complete by adjusting the links evenly so that the spacing looks good.

3. Tying Boat Shoes with a Tassel Knot

Tassel knot is a more complicated version of the barrel knot. But, the same time, it is a better option if you want a tighter lace, minimizing the chances that your shoes will loosen when you are moving.

  1. Start by creating an X pattern. Do this by putting the right lace under the left lace. Then, tighten.
  2. Put the left lace over the right and create a square knot.
  3. Hold the end of the lace and create a loop.
  4. Wrap the end of the lace on the loop that you have created, pull, and tighten. It is similar to the step for making a chain knot.
  5. Repeat on the other side and tighten to adjust the fit depending on what you are most comfortable with.

4. Tying Boat Shoes with a Fishtail

The fishtail knot is a frequently used knot for making paracord bracelets. As the name suggests, it looks just like a fishtail. It requires looping several times to create a tighter fit.

  1. Start by threading the shoelace in a parallel line. The lace should be on top, which means that it must be visible.
  2. Make an X pattern by crossing the laces and pulling it down towards the tip of the boat shoe.
  3. Insert the left lace on the right line. Pull until it is tight. Repeat on the other lace. Do this up to three times.
  4. Tuck the end of the laces in the shoe to secure the fit.

5. Tying Boat Shoes with a Surgeon’s Knot

A type of surgical knot, this is common for fly fishing. With this knot in your boat shoes, you maintain tension, which, in turn, will keep the shoe in place.

  1. Tie the initial knot by crossing the left and dexter side laces. Pull opposite the laces to create a tight fit.
  2. Create a loop with an opening of at least an inch, close to the initial knot.
  3. Pull the right shoelace to the left and encircle the first loop.
  4. Put the lace on the right loop that you have just created. Pull and tighten as you would with regular shoelaces. Wrap on the left curve and repeat.
  5. Pull the loop until the fit is tight and repeat on the other side.

Pro Tips


Below are some tips to keep in mind when you are tying boat shoes:

  • Start with new laces. They are cheap and easy to find but can do a lot in making the final look amazing.
  • Always lock the laces. This way, the knot is difficult to untie your laces. Therefore, the laces will stay in their original position.
  • Pull tightly to create a stiffer fit. It will keep your foot in a secure position even with aggressive movements.
  • Sit down when tying your shoes. It is easier to do the different knots when you are in a comfortable and balanced position.


Say goodbye to boring shoelaces. Take your style to the next level by following the steps above for tying boat shoes. You can choose from different knots depending on how tight you want the fit to be or the style that you like.

Did you enjoy reading this tutorial on how to tie boat shoes? Are there other tips that you would like to add? Leave a comment below and share what you think.

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