The mystery of the shoelaces… knots untied!

When I asked my friends on Twitter and Facebook how they tied their shoelaces, many got confused and some even asked me if I was serious ūüôā Well, think about it for a second: It’s something you learned at a very young age that you now do without looking at your shoes! It feels as normal as eating, breathing and sleeping.

If you are/were a scout, into boat/fishing related activities, a climber, into search and rescue, a designer, or just trying to tie a tie or a scarf you already know that there are many kinds of knots. So what about shoelacing? Is what we learned when we were young the only way? Is it even the right way?

Let’s start with the regular technique. There are actually more than one but the correct end result will look the same.

At the end, after shaking the shoe a bit, what does your shoe look like?

The second one is the “Granny Knot”, the incorrect weak knot that is certain to fail you.

For Ian, most people will find it easier to re-learn the starting knot than to re-learn the finishing bow, the¬†best way is to reverse the starting knot whereas for Terry Moore,¬†it’s about reversing the ending knot.

Why do we even tie our shoelaces in the first place? Obviously, if we ever thought about it, it ‘s to keep our foot secure inside the shoe. OK, then, safety! How do we measure it?¬†In the¬†shoe lacing world, safety is measured by the ¬†number of units of tension required to pull it undone. Since the regular technique gets undone with only one unit of tension (one pull), it’s not exactly safe. The safest knot ¬†is the¬†Mega Ian Knot which has a triple-wrap of shoelace around the middle and requires 3 units of tension to untie.

But this extra safety comes at the expense of being more difficult than other knots. The solution is to perform a knot which has a doubl-wrap of sholace around the middle. There are several way to do it:

There are several more, but I think that the rest is either too bulky and not so¬†pretty to wear on a shoe, difficult etc.. One particular technique is¬†used by the military:¬†the “Spiralacing” or the Double Helix Shoe Lacing Process. It even got a patent!

People with limited capacity, who are unable to use both hands to tie their shoelaces can use the One Handed Shoelace Knot.

Besides safety, it’s also important to talk about comfort: Different lacing techniques are also available for people who want a right fit. They¬†may (not all of them)¬†be combined with several of the above mentionned¬†knots for more safety.

For people who suffer pain from their feet, lacing differently can help tremendously:

  • 3 methods for tying shoelaces to help keep pressure off the top of the foot.
  • Solutions for the ones who have a shoe¬†rubbing one spot on the top of the foot or a big toenail turned black or a tight fit along the top of the foot or cramped toes or slidding heels.

Shoe lacing has also got itself an application that can be downloaded from iTunes for $0.99!

If you have been tying your shoelaces incorrectly all this time, do not despair. Learning will take a while, but as soon as you grasp it, it will turn into second nature just like when you first learned how to tie your shoelaces when you were young!


2 thoughts on “The mystery of the shoelaces… knots untied!

  1. I bet you got curious about all those knots after watching the TED talk ūüôā
    Some of the knots you’ve displayed are real ugly, I can’t imagine what the uglier one that you chose not to show would have looked like…
    There’s a form of shoe-lacing that’s very popular here in Sweden, it consts of elastic laces with a sliding grip at the end of it, doesn’t need a knot at all, and this stuff is used in high performance sports footgear, so I guess it’s quite reliable.

    • I got curious long before watching TED. I have my share of scars caused by loose shoelaces.The video only pushed me to write the stuff down. This is not a piece about about design. The emphasis is on safety and ease of execution. A person who can’t use more than one hand, will still enjoy independence with the ability to do something that usually requires both hands. I am not talking about buying a new product either. It’s about getting the most from what already exists. I’m not sure what you are referring to exactly but I know tat the Swedish have the Lazylock But that’s something else.

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