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How to tie a reef knot? Some call it a square knot, others a Hercules knot, but let’s stick with ‘reef’ for today. It’s a simple, symmetrical binding of two ends of a rope or string. It’s been around for centuries, used by sailors, climbers, and even in our day-to-day lives, like tying our shoelaces. I’m here to walk you through not just how to tie this ancient knot but to show you eight different ways to do it that might just make your life a bit easier, or at least more interesting.

Why bother learning multiple ways to tie the same knot? Well, the beauty of the reef knot lies in its simplicity and versatility. It’s quick to tie, easy to untie, and holds well under tension – but only if you do it right. Do it wrong, and you’ve got yourself a granny knot, which is neither strong nor particularly useful.

But we’re not just here to talk about many knots in the abstract. Oh no. We’re going to dive into how these variations can apply to the very shoes on your feet. Ever heard of Loop King Laces? They’re the premium shoelaces that might just change the way you think about tying your shoes. But more on that later.

For now, let’s embark on our knot-tying journey. Whether you’re a seasoned sailor, an enthusiastic hiker, or just someone who appreciates the little things in life (like a perfectly tied shoe), there’s something here for everyone. So, grab your rope, or your shoelaces, and let’s get started.

1. The Classic Reef Knot

Ah, the Classic Reef Knot – it’s like the bread and butter of knot tying, a fundamental skill that transcends time and trends. At its heart, the reef knot (or square knots, as it’s affectionately known in some circles) is all about simplicity, efficiency, and symmetry. This knot has been a trusted companion for sailors, scouts, and adventurers around the globe, celebrated for its straightforwardness and reliability when it comes to joining two ends of a rope or string of similar thickness.

The reef knot is recognized for its flat, square shape when tied correctly. It’s a binding knot, typically used for securing objects together, like the reef sails on a ship from whence it got its name. The beauty of the reef knot lies in its ease of tying and untying, especially under load. However, it’s not suitable for joining two ropes of different diameters or for situations where it’s subjected to varying levels of tension, as it can slip under such circumstances.

How to Tie the Classic Reef Knot:

  1. Hold the Ends: Start by holding one end of the rope in each hand. Let’s call them the right end and the left end for simplicity’s sake.

  2. Cross Over: Cross the right end over the left end, creating an “X” shape. Imagine you’re starting the simplest of knots – the first step in tying your shoes.

  3. Wrap Under: Take the right end (now on the left hand side) and wrap it under the left end, pulling it up through the loop you’ve created. You’ve now essentially done a basic overhand knot.

  4. Cross Over Again: Now, take the end that’s now on your right (originally the left end) and cross it over the other end.

  5. Wrap and Pull: Just like before, wrap this end under and pull it through the loop. Ensure both ends are pulled ends tight.

  6. Tighten: Gently pull on both ends in opposite directions. The knot should form a neat, square shape. If it looks twisted or uneven, you might have tied a granny knot by mistake.

And there you have it – the Classic Reef Knot! This knot is a testament to the adage that sometimes the simplest methods are the most effective. Whether you’re securing a tent, tying up a bundle of sticks, or even fastening your shoelaces in a new, adventurous way, the reef knot has got you covered. Remember, it’s all about the symmetry and the tension – get those right, and you’ll have a reliable, sturdy knot every time.

2. The Slippery Reef Knot

The Slippery Reef Knot, sometimes known as the “Slip Knot” version of the classic reef, introduces a clever twist to the traditional reef knot, making it an intriguing variation for those who love a bit of flair in their knot tying. This knot retains the essence of its predecessor’s simplicity and effectiveness but adds an easy-release mechanism, making it perfect for situations where a quick undoing is necessary, such as when securing a temporary mooring for a boat or fastening a bundle that needs to be opened and closed frequently.

The Slippery Reef Knot is characterized by its distinctive loop, which allows for a rapid release by pulling on one end. It’s an adaptive knot that combines the reliability of the reef knot with the convenience of a slip knot. This blend makes it a favorite for tasks requiring both security and quick disassembly. Despite its added functionality, it’s as easy to tie as the classic reef knot, with just a small modification to one of the steps.

How to Tie the Slippery Reef Knot:

  1. Start with a Classic Reef Base: Begin as if you’re tying a classic reef knot. Hold one end of the rope in each hand, crossing the right end over the left side and wrapping it underneath to form a simple overhand knot.

  2. Create the Slip Loop: Instead of proceeding with a regular second half knot, make a bight (a loop of rope) with the end that is now on your right hand rope.

  3. Finish the Knot: Take the left end (which should now be on your right side after the first half of the knot), cross it over the bight, and then tuck it under and through the one loop you created in the first step, just as you would to finish a classic reef knot.

  4. Pull to Tighten: Gently pull the standing part of the rope while holding the bight to tighten the knot. The knot should resemble a classic reef knot but with a loop sticking out on one side.

  5. Quick Release Feature: To undo the knot, simply pull on the end of the rope that forms the loop. The knot will slip apart easily, hence the name “Slippery Reef Knot”.

The Slippery Reef Knot is a fantastic choice for anyone looking for the practicality of a reef knot with the added convenience of quick release. Whether you’re a camper, sailor, or someone who appreciates the utility of a good knot, this variation can add an extra layer of versatility to your skill set. Remember, the key to a successful Slippery Reef Knot is in the creation of the bight, ensuring that it’s secure yet easy to untie when the time comes.

3. The Double Reef Knot

The Double Reef Knot, a robust variant of the traditional reef knot, brings an extra layer of security to the tried-and-true classic. This knot is particularly suited for situations where a single reef knot might not suffice due to the risk of slipping or coming undone under heavy loads or when the ropes are slick. The Double Reef Knot essentially doubles down on the security, making it an excellent choice for securing heavy bundles, sails under tension, or even for applications in climbing where a secure, non-slipping knot is paramount.

This knot features two complete reef knots tied one after the other, creating a stronger bond that resists slipping much better than a single reef knot. Its doubled-up structure makes it slightly bulkier but significantly increases its holding power. Despite its enhanced security, the Double Reef Knot remains relatively easy to untie, assuming it hasn’t been subjected to extreme tension that can cause any knot to jam.

How to Tie the Double Reef Knot:

  1. Tie the First Reef Knot: Start by tying a classic reef knot. Hold the ends of the rope or laces in each hand, cross the right over the left, wrap it underneath, and pull it through. Then, take the end now on the right, cross it over the left, tuck it underneath, and pull it through. Tighten to complete the first reef knot.

  2. Begin the Second Knot: Without cutting the tension or allowing the first knot to loosen, take the two ends again, ensuring that you maintain the orientation to avoid creating a granny knot inadvertently.

  3. Tie the Second Reef Knot: Repeat the process of tying a classic reef knot directly on top of the first one. Cross, wrap, pull through, and then again, cross, wrap, and pull through.

  4. Secure and Tighten: Pull both ends firmly to tighten the second knot against the first, ensuring a compact and secure double knot.

The Double Reef Knot is your go-to for when you need that extra assurance that what you’ve tied will stay tied, no matter the pressure it faces. While it may take a tad longer to tie compared to a single reef knot, the peace of mind it offers, especially in critical applications, is well worth the extra effort. Whether you’re securing gear, fastening a sail, or simply want your shoelaces to stay put throughout a busy day, mastering the Double Reef Knot could very well be a game-changer.

Lace Your Shoes with Loop King’s Off-White Dunk Laces

If you’ve mastered the double reef knot and are looking for an upgrade, let me introduce you to Loop King Laces. These aren’t your average shoelaces. They’re thicker, more durable, and come in a variety of colors that can add a touch of elegance or a pop of fun to your shoes.

Loop King Laces are designed to complement the strength and simplicity of the reef knot. The premium quality ensures that your shoes stay tied, comfortable, and stylish all day long.

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4. The Twisted Reef Knot

The Twisted Reef Knot adds an intriguing twist, quite literally, to the foundational reef knot, offering a unique variation with a touch of flair. This knot is not just about aesthetics; it provides a nuanced difference in the way the rope or laces lay and hold, making it a fascinating study in the versatility of knot tying. While maintaining the essence of the classic reef knot’s simplicity and effectiveness, the Twisted Reef Knot introduces a spiraling tension that can be visually appealing and functionally distinct.

Characterized by its twisted loops, the Twisted Reef Knot creates a more textured and secure grip, especially useful in scenarios where the rope or laces might otherwise slide too easily. This knot is particularly handy with smooth, slippery materials where a standard reef knot might not hold as firmly. The twist adds friction and a bit of decorative charm, making it a favorite for crafts, decorative gift tying, and even fashion applications where the knot itself is part of the style statement.

How to Tie the Twisted Reef Knot:

  1. Start with a Single Twist: Hold the ends of your rope or shoelaces. Before proceeding with the traditional crossover step, twist one end of the rope around itself once, creating a single coil.

  2. Form the First Half of the Knot: Cross the twisted end over the other end as you would when starting a classic reef knot. Proceed to wrap the twisted end underneath and pull it through the loop you’ve created, just like the first step in a basic reef knot.

  3. Add Another Twist: Before completing the knot with the standard second half knots, twist the end you’re about to wrap over again, creating another single coil. This adds the second “twisted” element to the knot.

  4. Complete the Knot: Now, cross the newly twisted end over and proceed to tie it as you would the second half of a regular reef knot. Ensure both twists are incorporated properly as you tighten the knot.

  5. Adjust and Tighten: Gently pull on both ends to tighten the knot, ensuring the twists remain in place and add to the knot’s overall security and aesthetic.

The Twisted Reef Knot is a testament to the creative potential inherent in the world of knot tying. It demonstrates how a simple adjustment can transform a functional knot into something visually intriguing and even more practical for certain materials. Whether you’re dressing up a package, adding a decorative touch to your crafts, or simply exploring new ways to tie your shoes for a snugger fit, the Twisted Reef Knot offers a delightful twist on a timeless classic.

5. The Reversed Reef Knot

The Reversed Reef Knot might sound like a contradiction at first glance—after all, how can a knot be reversed and still maintain its integrity? Yet, this variation of the classic reef knot serves a specific purpose and offers a different approach to tying that can be particularly useful in certain situations. It’s essentially the reef knot’s mirror image, tied in a way that might seem counterintuitive but still results in a secure and effective binding.

This knot maintains the simplicity and effectiveness of the classic reef knot but is tied in reverse order. The Reversed Reef Knot is especially useful when the direction of tension is opposite to what a standard reef knot can handle best. It’s an excellent choice for situations where ropes or laces are being pulled in a particular direction that might cause a traditionally tied reef knot to loosen or slip. This reversal technique ensures the knot remains tight and secure, making it an invaluable addition to your knot-tying repertoire.

How to Tie the Reversed Reef Knot:

  1. Start Oppositely: Hold an end of the rope or shoelace in each hand. Contrary to the classic start, cross the left end over the right end, creating an initial crossing that’s the mirror image of the usual first step.

  2. Wrap and Pull Through: Take the end that is now on your right (originally the left end) and wrap it underneath the other end, pulling it up through the loop you’ve created. This mirrors the classic reef knot’s first half.

  3. Cross in Reverse: Now, take the end that’s on your left (originally the right end) and cross it over the right end. This step continues the reversed pattern.

  4. Complete the Knot: Wrap the left end underneath and pull it through the loop, just as you would in the final step of a standard reef knot but in reverse.

  5. Tighten Securely: Pull both ends firmly to tighten the knot. The finished Reversed Reef Knot should look identical to a classic reef knot but achieved through reversed steps.

The Reversed Reef Knot’s unique approach offers a fresh perspective on a traditional technique, highlighting the importance of direction and tension in knot tying. Whether you’re securing a load that pulls in an unusual direction or simply exploring different ways to fasten your shoelaces for comfort and style, this knot proves that sometimes, going in reverse is exactly the right way forward.

6. The Triple Reef Knot

The Triple Reef Knot takes the concept of doubling down on security to the next level. Building on the foundation of the classic reef knot and its double variant, this knot introduces a third layer, making it an even stronger and more secure option for tying. It’s especially useful in situations where the utmost security is required, such as securing heavy loads or in applications where the knot will be subjected to constant, varying pressures that could cause lesser knots to fail.

This knot effectively triples the security offered by the classic reef knot, adding bulk and complexity but ensuring that the binding is significantly less likely to slip or come undone under stress. Despite its increased security, the Triple Reef Knot is still relatively straightforward to tie and untie, provided it hasn’t been overly tightened or subjected to extreme loads that could cause any knot to jam.

How to Tie the Triple Reef Knot:

  1. Tie the First Reef Knot: Start by tying a classic reef knot. Cross the right end over the left, wrap it underneath, and pull it through. Then, cross the end now on your right over the left again, tuck it underneath, and pull through to complete the first reef knot.

  2. Add the Second Knot: Immediately after the first knot, without cutting the tension, proceed to tie a second reef knot on top of the first. Ensure that you follow the same steps closely to maintain consistency and avoid tangling.

  3. Complete with the Third Knot: Without loosening the existing knots, tie a third reef knot on top of the second. This final layer reinforces the security and integrity of the overall knot.

  4. Secure and Tighten: Carefully pull all ends to tighten the triple knot, ensuring each layer is snug against the last. The completed Triple Reef Knot should be compact, with each part neatly aligned for maximum security.

The Triple Reef Knot is an exemplar of how traditional techniques can be adapted and expanded to meet higher demands for strength and reliability. While it may be overkill for everyday tasks, in scenarios where failure is not an option, this knot provides an extra degree of assurance. Its application is a testament to the ingenuity inherent in the art of knot tying, showcasing the endless possibilities of combining basic elements to achieve greater functionality.

Coil Shoelaces by Loop King Laces: Superior Quality Laces

Once you’ve gotten the hang of the triple reef knot, why not pair it with Loop King Laces for the ultimate shoe-tying experience? These laces are not just about looks; they’re about performance.

The combination of Loop King Laces and the triple reef knot means your shoes can handle anything from a brisk walk to an impromptu sprint without coming undone. Plus, the laces’ superior quality ensures they’ll last as long as your adventures do.

7. The Flat Reef Knot

The Flat Reef Knot stands out as a variation of the traditional reef knot, designed to lie flat against surfaces, making it an ideal choice for applications where a low profile is desired. This knot combines the simplicity and reliability of the classic reef knot with a slight modification in the tying technique to ensure that the finished knot is as unobtrusive as possible. It’s particularly useful in clothing and shoelace tying, where bulky knots can be uncomfortable or unsightly, and in packaging, where a flat knot can create a more appealing and secure presentation.

The key to the Flat Reef Knot’s appeal lies in its ability to distribute tension evenly across the knot, allowing it to sit flush against the tied material. This flat profile minimizes snagging, reduces bulk, and can be more comfortable against the skin when used in garments or shoelaces. Despite its streamlined appearance, the Flat Reef Knot retains the strength and security that the reef knot is known for, making it a practical choice for a wide range of applications.

How to Tie the Flat Reef Knot:

  1. Start with the Basic Cross: Hold the ends of your rope or shoelaces. Cross the right end over the left end, then wrap it underneath and pull it up through the loop, just as you would begin a classic reef knot.

  2. Adjust for Flatness: Before tightening the first part of the knot, flatten the crossed sections against the surface or between your fingers, ensuring that the rope or laces lay neatly on top of each other without twisting.

  3. Complete the Knot: Cross the end now on your right over the left hand rope, tuck it underneath, and pull it through to finish the knot. As you tighten the knot, pay careful attention to maintaining the flat orientation of both parts of the rope or laces.

  4. Tighten and Adjust: Gently pull both ends to tighten the knot while keeping it flat. Adjust as necessary to ensure the knot sits evenly and snugly without any twists or bulges.

The Flat Reef Knot is a testament to the versatility of knot tying, offering a blend of aesthetic appeal and practicality. Its ability to combine strength with a low-profile finish makes it a favored choice in numerous situations where both functionality and appearance are important. Whether you’re securing a parcel with a neat, flat knot or simply prefer your shoelaces to lie flush against your shoes for comfort and style, mastering the Flat Reef Knot can add a refined touch to your knot-tying skills.

8. The Decorative Reef Knot

The Decorative Reef Knot elevates the traditional reef knot into the realm of visual appeal, transforming a utilitarian bind into an aesthetic statement. This knot is not just about securing things together; it’s about doing so with style and flair. It’s perfect for situations where the look of the knot is as important as its functionality—be it in crafting, gift wrapping, or even in fashion, where it can add a unique touch to garments and accessories.


What sets the Decorative Reef Knot apart is its emphasis on symmetry and balance, making it pleasing to the eye while retaining the simplicity and reliability of the classic reef knot. This variant often involves using materials with different colors or textures to enhance the visual impact. The Decorative Reef Knot is particularly popular in macramé projects, nautical-themed decor, and anywhere a touch of elegance is desired alongside practicality.

How to Tie the Decorative Reef Knot:

  1. Choose Your Materials: For a truly decorative effect, select two ropes or cords of contrasting colors or textures. This contrast will highlight the knot’s structure and beauty.

  2. Tie the Basic Knot: Start by tying a classic reef knot. Cross the right end over the left, then under, and pull it up through the loop. Ensure the materials lay flat and neatly against each other to enhance the decorative effect.

  3. Enhance the Symmetry: As you complete the knot by performing the second half (crossing the right end over the left again, tucking it underneath, and pulling through), pay close attention to how the materials align and adjust to maintain a symmetrical, balanced appearance.

  4. Adjust and Tighten: Gently tighten the knot while keeping the materials flat and the pattern visible. The goal is to create a tight, secure knot that also serves as a focal point.

  5. Finish with Flair: Once tightened, the ends of the ropes or cords can be arranged or trimmed in a way that complements the overall design, adding to the decorative appeal of the knot.

The Decorative Reef Knot is a beautiful reminder of how functionality and aesthetics can come together in the art of knot tying. It showcases the ability to turn a simple task into an opportunity for creativity and expression, making it a favorite among hobbyists, artisans, and anyone looking to add a touch of beauty to their practical endeavors.

The Finale: Premium Shoelaces by Loop King Laces

As we wrap up our knot-tying adventure, let’s not forget the role of a good pair of shoelaces. Loop King Laces are the epitome of what premium shoelaces should be. They’re not just durable and strong, perfect for securing your shoes with any version of the reef knot; they’re also a statement piece. Whether you prefer the understated elegance of their luxury leather laces or the vibrant pop of their waxed cotton varieties, there’s a Loop King Lace for every shoe and every style.

So, next time you tie your shoes, remember that the right knot and the right laces can enhance the quality and looks of your shoes and making it into something a little more special. It’s not just about keeping your shoes on your feet; it’s about expressing yourself, taking care of your belongings, and maybe even preserving a bit of history in the knots you tie.

Miles Anthony Smith

Miles is a loving father of 3 adults, devoted husband of 24+ years, co-chief sneakerhead (along with his wife Carolyn) at Loop King Laces, author, entrepreneur, investor, & owner of several businesses (AmaLinks Pro, Why Stuff Sucks, & Kompelling Kars). Miles has been featured in New York Magazine, Escapist Magazine, FashionSpot, Menswear Style, & Men Style Fashion. Loop King is trusted by sneakerheads JumperMan Kris, jumpmanbostic, ajinchicago, among others.


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Gold Tip Shoelaces


Gold Tip Shoelaces


Gold Tip Shoelaces