Shoe laces typically fall under two categories for me: they work well enough that I don't notice them, or I hate them. You can imagine my surprise when I discovered a third category of shoe lace: love. Is it possible to fall in love with shoe laces? Am I that much of a shoe geek now? (like Stanley's love for pins in Going Postal?) - don't answer that!
If you are anything like me, you use the laces that come with your shoes and put-up with whatever hand you have been dealt. The impression I get from shoe manufacturers is that not a lot of thought goes into shoe lace specs. As long as they are string-like and look good with the shoes, pretty much anything goes. OK, maybe it's not that bad, but sometimes I wonder...
A Bit of Shoe Lace Geekery
The basic characteristics that affect my fondness for shoe laces are diameter, shape, length, and squishiness.
The interplay between these various characteristics is actually quite complicated. For example, fat round laces that are not squishy won't hold a knot very well. Probably the finest example of this can be seen on the current VIVOBAREFOOT Breatho Trail - our family unanimously agrees that these are quite possibly the worst shoe laces ever; Almost too fat for proper double-knotting, and when you succeed you are left with a huge bulbous mass on the top of your shoe.
Inov-8 has on occasion used skinny, stiff, round, cord-like laces on some of their shoes. While the skinniness of the lace helps with holding a knot, the wiry stiffness of the fibers make them very prone to coming untied - even with double knots.
Usually a medium-sized flatt-ish/oval-ish lace with some squishiness is standard on most athletic shoes. This design holds a knot relatively well, and falls under the category of "usually don't notice them". I.e. they work well enough that they don't merit complaint.
The Best Design I Have Seen to Date
The only shoe lace design to ever illicit a love emotion from me was made by New Balance. I first encountered this design many years ago on a pair of MT-790 trail shoes. For those of you shoe geeks out there, the MT-790 was what I would consider the ancestor to the Minimus line: a light weight, low-profile trail shoe that was remarkably flexible, and comfortable. A shoe ahead of it's time.
What made the laces on the MT-790 different was their unconventional shape: a bumpiness or string of bubbles, reminiscent of a chain of sausages. The first time I saw them I thought it was a gimmick. After actually using them, I saw the light.
The bumps/bubbles on New Balance Sure-Laces do two things: When pulling the laces tight they help lock the lace into the eyelets to prevent slipping. Secondly, once knotted the bumps create resistance to slipping making the knot much more secure. They have a strong propensity for staying tied, even with a single knot. Here is a brief video I found that shows how they work:
Do They Work?
Absolutely. New Balance Sure-Laces may be the only laces you actually want to keep when discarding an old pair of shoes. Are they the worlds best shoe laces? I don't know, have you found anything better? Let us know in the comments!