Something about the way most runners were brought up results in them simply accepting a lacing that ‘fills every hole’ with a criss-cross lacing pattern that has little logic or benefit.
From school days we seem bound by the standard criss-cross fill every hole approach, but truth be told there is no logic to this.
Good Lacing like feet, should be considered as an individual requirement. The choice of where to restrain, where to add support and where to have firmness is one of personal taste.
The objective of lacing is surely simply to ensure the shoe does not come off the foot, and lacing style on one foot does not necessarily have to be the same as the other foot – only ONE thing should guide your lacing — COMFORT.
(photo shows the criss-cross / box lacing on right and silicone laces on left)
For years I have promoted the idea of a box lacing which alternates a criss-cross with a straight up style (then criss-cross – then straight up) from bottom to top.
Where the runner requires additional toe box width simply skip the first set of holes – No-one says that laces must go through every hole.
For a while a couple of years ago there was a trend, (actually promoted by a running magazine which i choose not to name), for a loop system to ‘lock the ankle’ to the shoe.
What the ‘L’ were they thinking?
Discussion was around the fact that the ankle / Achilles was lifting out of the shoe… that the foot must be kept in the shoe (or the shoe must be kept with the foot), and so this would secure it in. Really?
By all means use such lacing where a ‘rampant’ pronator requires additional support to hold the heel cup in place, but to prevent the foot from lifting in and out of the shoe (which then leaves a hole in the inside of the shoe’s heel material) – NO!
Such hole is shouting to the owner that the shoe is the incorrect one for the running style!
Shoes are there for only two purposes:
First for protections from glass, stones, thorns, other sharp objects heat and cold
Second for some relatively minimal cushioning to counter the harder surfaces (tiles, road, concrete, paving etc) that have evolved faster than we as a specie have evolved to meet their needs.
Thats basically it:
Consider this; from the year dot in human specie, until circa 1986 EVERY runner used minimal shoes from the canvas plimsole / Taakie to a minimal racing shoe such as Tigers, NB 200’s, Adidas racers / then SA Runners…. essentially no ‘miraculous’ technology no major heel drops, not torsion bars, plates etc
The above shoes are open for everyone to see at the Comrades marathon House Museum: from the left:
Shackleford’s 1922 tennis shoe – Clive Crawley’s 1961 taakie, Max Botha’s Tiger’s completely rebuilt for his own wedges, Alan Robb’s winning Tiger shoes, Fordyce’s NB200 racing shoes, Fordyce’s Nike Vendetta (circa 1987), then the start of the larger heels 1990 Charl Mattheus Reebok.
Suddenly in late 80’s we are all ‘marketed’ into technology that we had survived without for centuries (not decades).. and companies made millions from our constant search to be faster or more ‘comfortable’ – Guess what running (particularly comrades oceans or a marathon) will always have a muscular impact … suck it up.
(that said the introduction of better energy return midsoles is indeed a benefit – but they do not need added devices and restrictions – and SHOULD result in longer shoe life – yet strangely shoe companies do not promote this?!)
Lacing is just as simple:
Its there to make the shoe fit better – (customise to each persons foot if you will):
To hold the shoe on the foot
To allow the shoe to be put on and taken off easily.
It truly is that simple:
Puma is a recent example of a manufacturer who understand this when a couple of year ago they introduced the Netfit Lacing system: This net of holes provided a myriad of holes and options through which laces could be put to totally customise the fit of the shoe. That was revolutionary and only just the ‘awakener’ for many runners.
The Netfit Ignite on a speed 500 midsole remains one of my favourite distance shoes with easily customised fit, good (ignite) cushioning, and great flexibility allowing a natural (perhaps one should say NORMAL) running style:
They have maintained the principles in some of the latest shoes:
Entrance and exit of shoes is even more important to triathletes:
I was introduced to Triathlon / Duathlon etc in 1983 in Durban and quickly grew an affinity to this multisport opportunity. it even prompted me in 1984 to work with others to be founder president of the SA Triathlon Federation which in unification was renamed Triathlon SA.
While my personal preference was to ultra events, where my running allowed me to make up for the deficit of swimming, as with running i knew that being faster at the shorter events was the key to being better at the ultra events. Transitions from swim to run or cycle to run was about shoe changes: I have tried everything – elastic cord laces, velcro, Lycra shoes, lace locks and so on — My experience with the single rubber laces has been the best to date (always but always keep searching for something new, a new advantage)
The true benefit of these ‘single lace’ silicone pieces is that you can fit them where you need / want them in ANY shoe.
Ok so they are so strong you may need a pair of pliers to pull them through the lace holes, but once you have sorted out your optimum set up for each foot, these laces are there to stay, but ‘flex’ to give you an amazing fit.
Pulling shoes on and off takes seconds, and has allowed me to use my favourite short distance / quality training shoes (Puma speed 100) from long lace, (which with my box and cross style needs excess length of lace put under the other lacing in front), to a compact, elasticised slip-on that is not only fast and efficient to swap, but so comfortable to run in.
These single lace links come in different lengths allowing total customisation of shoe and lacing pressure – THERE IS NO CORRECT LACING – NOT EVEN FOR TWO SHOES IN A PAIR.
The ONLY thing that should determine YOUR lacing is YOUR preference and COMFORT.
So whats the message?
No matter if you are a runner or a triathlete lacing is about making your shoe comfortable to wear and take time to try different lacing set ups and styles:
Don’t do complicated – Do comfort and yes i would truly consider abandoning ‘normal’ lacing style and even ‘normal’ laces … i doubt i will look back from the combination of elastic laces as fit and comfort are more important to me than school boy tradition of criss-cross! .. and speed of shoe-change always helps
more info on silicone laces – www.fitlab.co.za