I used to be one of those jerks at the 5k with my shoelaces flopping around my foot, cotton tentacles that flailed and waggled around my feet as if they had a mind of their own and having a seizure. I was a kicker-off of shoes who consistently destroyed the stitching between sole and upper. I was always the last one out of the yoga studio, taking my time lacing up.
Then one day not too long ago, I noticed something different about my sister’s shoes
I’d been eyeing the same model for a while and they looked so snazzy with the matching green laces. I knew from studying them at JackRabbit and online that they didn’t come with those laces. I watched my sister tug the shoes on…. without. untying. the. laces.
My mind was blown.
For a day or two I tried really hard to seem casual about it. I didn’t say a word. I tried not to stare. When she was in the shower I sneaked into her entryway and snatched the shoes, peering closely, which my three-year-old nephew thought was hilarious. I made out like we were just playing around, hoping he wouldn’t expose my uncontrollable fascination with them.
While I hide-and-seeked and put baby’s feet in daddy’s shoes, my brain began working overtime trying to figure out how she did it. Was there a special way she tied them? Were they just loose on her foot?
And what was going on with the crazy knot and the weird little plastic thing that held them together? I imagined the Kermit The Frog bow-biters I had in 5th grade.
Finally, a few days into my visit I caved. “What’s up with those shoes?” I asked casually. I was trying to sound cool. Trying to keep to myself the obsession that had taken complete control over me and kept me up late holding my iPhone out the guest-room window trying to get a signal so I could google it.
“What do you mean?” She asked, trying to figure out what I meant. She looked at them, rolling her foot sideways to expose the sole.
“I mean how you pulled them on without untying them. That’s pretty cool.”
“Oh that’s just the laces. They’re elastic.”
Ding ding ding! It suddenly dawned on me what a moron I’d been not to consider that possibility. I didn’t let on though. “Yeah, but that’s pretty cool that they came with elastic laces.” I was a cucumber. I was ice cold. I was a casual running footwear enthusiast considering a product well-made.
“They don’t. I bought them.” She blinked at me, that fluttering eyelash-batting blink that says why are you such an idiot? I was crushed. My moment of awe in which I had finally figured out the answer to the world’s greatest running secret was shattered with one wrinkle of my sister’s nose.
Later we laughed together over how excited I’d gotten and she even bought me a bunch of speed laces for Christmas!
Who can I thank for this genius contraption? This amazingly simple solution for one of the biggest pains-in-our-toes comes to us from triathletes, who tend to be the efficient, problem-solving sort (runners after my own heart). If you’re not a biker you may not realize that competitive cyclists tend to use special shoes that clip in to their pedals so their legs are constantly keeping their gears in motion. For a triathlete, when it’s time to hop off the bike and run the lady who has speed laces can kick off her clips and pop into running shoes in seconds, whereas the lady with traditional laces might fumble around for a full minute. When you’re racing that time can really count.
How much they cost: $6-$8 a pair. Yeah it’s a drag to spend extra money on your shoes, but damn if that isn’t a small price to pay for never worrying that your shoes will come untied during a race.
They also come in lots of fun colors, so they’re an easy way to snazz up shoes you’re not so crazy about in the looks department. I made a pair of boring gray-and-navy shoes faster-looking with chartreuse laces, and when my Elixirs came in looking a little too purple-and-girly for my taste I put black laces in them to match the logo and I dressed up two pairs with reflective laces for greater night visibility.
Where to get them: Most Local Running Stores carry speed laces, but if yours doesn’t try checking a bike shop or outdoor store–anywhere a triathlete might look for gear. If you don’t have an LRS (but you probably do) or a bike shop near you, you can also get them online. The most popular brands that I’ve seen are iBungee and Yankz. My LRS has iBungee which are simple and straightforward (and cheaper), but I’m curious to try the Yankz lacing system, which secures the laces both at the top and the bottom eyelets.
What you need to know: When you try speed laces for the first time, it’s important to make sure they aren’t too tight! They might feel good at first when they hug your foot, but after a couple of miles you might notice some chafing, tugging at your toes or other common shoe annoyances. My advice here is to check out a few different lacing techniques (these also can help if you have normal laces). Runner’s World has a really nice article with video instructions for several techniques.
Very few non-tri-runners I know have jumped on this super-smart fix but as a filmmaker I can’t help but appreciate the efficiency and elegant simplicity, which makes me want speed laces in every pair of shoes I own.
*Bonus tip: putting catnip in your shoes doesn’t make them faster but it does deliver better photos.
Have you ever tried speed laces? Do you LOVE them like I do?