There are running shoes that stay tied and there are others that don’t. If you are a runner, I’m sure you know the scenario. You're happily running along, enjoying the trail and the scenery and then you feel a loosening of your favorite running shoes.
Sometimes, it takes a running friend to tell me that my laces are starting to unravel. This means I need to stop, retie my laces and hope they will stay tied for the rest of the run. Even when I double-knot some laces, they still manage to find a way to come untied mid-run. It’s even more annoying when laces loosen while running a race, because it means I lose valuable seconds or minutes stopping to tie my footwear again.
Running shoes that loosen can pose a potential danger, too. Footwear should be adequately supportive for safety on the trails, while a loose lace can cause you to trip and fall if you are not careful.
I decided to try to find out some tried-and-tested – or tied-and-tested – solutions to stop the annoyance of the laces of running shoes becoming loose.
Why do laces come undone?
The ability of shoe laces to work themselves free is one of life's little irritations, but as scientists at the University of California have shown, it's the result of some surprisingly strong forces.
The repeated impact of shoes on the floor generates forces of up to seven times that of gravity, which then loosens the knot. The force will be more for runners.
Add to this the swinging motion of our legs, which creates more forces, and you can see why laces have tendency to loosen.
Check out your laces
There are some laces that are much more likely to become loose than others. In my experience, smooth and stiff laces in running shoes tend to work themselves free more frequently than softer and stretchier laces.
The stretch that you can achieve while tying the lace appears to keep the knots more securely tied.
Flatter laces, rather than round laces, also seem to loosen more quickly. However, it does depend on the stretch and materials of the laces so you need to test different laces to find out which ones work best for you.
Are your laces smooth or nobbled?
The best laces for staying tied are the ones that have what I call “nobbles” along them. The nobbles are small bulges in the laces, located at even spaces, and these stop the laces from loosening so easily.
Replace with elastic laces
Another solution for laces that constantly come undone is to replace them with elastic laces. Elastic laces usually have a toggle fastening and once secured that very rarely comes loose.
Some runners find that it is more difficult to adjust elastic laces to give a looser fit at one point along the shoe and a tighter fit at another place where needed. In other words, elastic laces tend to be evenly tight or looser and this might not suit all feet.
However, elastic laces are a good way to achieve a secure lacing that stays tied while you run.
Lace lockers or toggles
You can buy toggles that you loop laces through and then secure to stop the laces sliding apart.
How to tie your laces
If you prefer to stick with the laces that come with the shoes – I don't blame you since new laces cost more – It’s a good idea to use a doubled bow knot, rather than a single knot because that will be less likely to fail.
But did you know there is a way to tie a shoe lace knot that has been proven to be more secure? The science team at the University of California concluded that one way to reduce the likelihood of laces loosening is to use a “square” knot. To achieve this, first cross the laces and thread one under the other as normal, but then form the bow by crossing and threading the laces in the opposite direction. Find out more.
Keep laces neat
If you have long laces, the subsequent tied loops will be long, too. The longer loops have a greater chance of catching on vegetation at the side of the trails, which means they could come loose. Also, laces that are too short to effectively tie will also come undone. Instead, try to use laces that are just the right length for a double knot.
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Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, who is better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favourite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing, both downhill and back country. Her target for 2021 is to finish the final nine summits in her first round of all 282 Munros, the Scottish mountains of more than 3,000ft high. Aside from being outdoors, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy the great outdoors, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors.