How to stop your running shoelaces coming undone

Runner on road fastening loose shoelace
(Image credit: Getty)

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.

Runner sitting on steps tying shoelace

The repeated impact of running can cause your shoelaces to loosen (Image credit: Getty)

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.

Runner tying shoelaces on road

There are different ways to keep running shoes laces tight (Image credit: Getty)

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. 

Fiona Russell
Outdoor writer

Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favorite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing (both downhill and backcountry). Aside from her own adventures, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy getting outside and exploring, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors.