Excess Shoelace Length
Many shoes come with shoelaces that are excessively long. Here's some theories about this phenomenon, as well as some practical solutions as to what to do about it.
Why The Excess Length?
The most likely reason for the excessive shoelace length is that manufacturers select from a smaller range of “stock lengths” rather than tailoring the length to each new shoe style.
For example, suppose a new sneaker design requires an ideal shoelace length of 47 inches. The manufacturers have several options when choosing which length to supply:
- Tailored length 47 inch laces (which are costly to produce);
- Stock length 45 inch laces (which may be slightly short);
- Stock length 54 inch laces (the next size longer).
Of those, the third option is likely the cheapest alternative while guaranteeing that no-one will be left short. Alas, that results in laces that are about 7 inches too long!
Multiple shoe sizes
It's also possible that manufacturers choose just one stock shoelace length to suit any new shoe model, even though each model comes in several fitting sizes. If the length was calculated to suit the largest fitting size for that model, then everyone – regardless of their shoe size – would receive shoelaces suited to the maximum size.
For example, here I've photographed New Balance shoes in size 10 and size 20. Admittedly not the identical model – but you get the idea. The shoelaces from the larger shoe would still work in the smaller shoe. You'd just end up with excessively long ends.
Does Excess Length Matter?
Shoelaces that are excessively long can be anything from a minor nuisance to a health hazard – even an outright danger:
- Long shoelace ends “flop around” more and thus exert greater forces on the shoelace knot, plus they have a greater chance of incidental contact with their surroundings – trouser cuffs, furniture, long grass – all of which contribute to pulling the knot undone.
- While walking, one foot can step on the trailing shoelace end of the other foot. When the other foot steps off the ground, the forward motion of the airborne foot can also pull that shoe's knot untied.
- Worse, if the airborne foot's shoelace is being stepped on firmly enough, that foot's forward motion will be halted, forcing the foot to drop to the ground in mid-stride. This can cause a person to lose balance and fall forwards. This is the classic way that one “trips on a shoelace” (even though it isn't a “trip” in the strict sense).
- Another way to “trip on a shoelace” is for one foot to step on its own loose end on a hard, smooth surface such as a tiled floor, causing a roll or slide on that surface. In this case, it's really a “slip and fall”.
- A long shoelace end can get caught in an escalator. This happens to several people every year. At the step-off point, they discover that their shoelace has caught on a step and is continuing its journey deep into the mechanism, cinching down painfully on their trapped foot. Some victims have been fortunate to have their shoelace break before any serious injury was sustained. Others have not been so fortunate.
- Long shoelace ends are also prone to getting tangled elsewhere. I've read many news stories of car accidents, sporting accidents, even workplace accidents that might have been prevented if the shoelace ends were shorter.
- Long shoelace ends that drag on the ground can come into contact with all sorts of things that we'd rather not be touching, such as mud, animal waste, lavatory floors, etc., the germs from which can happily live and multiply in the fabric of a shoelace until we next touch them.
- To prevent long shoelace ends from dragging, additional effort is needed each and every time the laces are tied in order to take up all of the excess length by extending the length of the loops. A small effort, but nonetheless a daily nuisance.
In conclusion – yes, excess shoelace length really does matter! Fortunately, there are several solutions.
Excess Length Solutions
Some people wrap excess shoelace around the top of the boot, particularly on tall hiking boots or skates. Wrapping several times may also increase ankle support, though at the risk of compression injury to the muscles or tendons.
Many people resort to tying a bulkier shoelace knot that consumes more shoelace, such as the Double Knot or the Double Ian Knot. This only shortens a limited amount, plus the knots are much more difficult to untie.
My own preferred method whenever I buy new shoes is to shorten the ends, then replace the tips (which are called Aglets). You'll find several methods of replacing aglets in my Aglet Repair section.
The excess length can instead be cut from the middle of the shoelace, then the two halves tied together with a joining knot such as a Reef Knot. Using two different colored laces creates a bi-colored lace suitable for Half & Half Lacing.
One simple alternative is to use a different lacing method that consumes more shoelace. For example, Spider Web Lacing effectively “shortens” lace ends by about 11%.
Replacing the shoelaces with the correct length is the best alternative. While you're at it, choose a different material, color or pattern to better suit your individual preference.