WIRED (USA) Interview

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Oct-2007: An interview about shoe lacing methods, from which four popular methods were chosen and featured in a small “How to:” article.

Interview Details

  • WIRED (USA) logo Interviewed for: WIRED (USA)
  • Interviewed by: Mathew Honan
  • Interviewed via: E-mail
  • Interviewed on: 03-Oct-2007

Interview Transcript

MATHEW: How did you become interested in lacing techniques?

IAN: It was visitors to my web site that first sparked my interest in shoe lacing techniques. For several years, my site had featured only shoelace knots. In 2003, an Australian mathematician, Burkard Polster, sparked worldwide interest in shoe lacing methods when his mathematical paper on the subject was published in “Nature” magazine [journal]. Suddenly, people from around the world were asking me about lacing techniques! I therefore applied my drawing skills to document those methods that I already knew, then set about both researching and developing others.

MATHEW: Where did you learn and gather your lacing techniques?

IAN: Being somewhat of a “professor”, it was natural for me to begin by experimenting in order to figure out the variations of some common methods. Many new techniques came about as a result of a direct request from a web site visitor, who asked questions such as how to “Bar Lace” or “Checkerboard Lace”.

Once I started adding these lacing methods, visitors to my site began suggesting others, or telling me of specific applications or of different names for methods that I'd already added. I also discovered that those visitors came from some other interesting sites, such as footwear discussion forums, on which there were often photos of trendy shoes laced in crazy ways.

Finally, there's nothing like looking at people's footwear “on the street” for inspiration. Several years of travelling on a crowded train, hanging out in the city centre at lunchtime, and looking into shoe store windows, gave me some interesting ideas.

MATHEW: What is the advantage of using a sport-specific lacing technique, such as the hackey sack technique or the lock lacing for running shoes?

IAN: “Hackey Sack Lacing” (or ”Footbag Lacing”) is a great example of a technique that I could probably never have conceived myself because I like things to be neat and orderly. This method is instead designed to distort the front of the shoe, pulling open the sides to form a larger, rimmed toe area. The result is a bigger surface for stalling or otherwise controlling the hackey sack, giving a competitive advantage over anyone using a regular lacing method.

There are dozens of other lacing methods that sportspeople use to give them a similar competitive edge. Runners use various methods (eg. “Bar Lacing” or “Bow Tie Lacing”) to reduce the pressure points, which could otherwise cause blisters, or “Lock Lacing” for a super-tight finish to prevent heel slippage. Skaters use various methods (eg. “Zipper Lacing” or “Knotted Lacing”) to hold the lower sections tight while working up the skate.

In addition to lacing methods, all sportspeople can benefit from learning a more secure shoelace knot, or at the very least, making sure that they are not inadvertently using a “Granny Knot”. Having a shoelace knot come undone during a competitive sport can be frustrating, could destroy competitiveness, or could even be dangerous.

MATHEW: What are some of the most popular methods you have profiled?

IAN: The most popular by far are the many decorative lacing methods, with “Lattice” and “Checkerboard” the stand-out favourites. While the woven look makes them more difficult to lace, the end result is very eye catching. The recently added “Spider Web Lacing” is proving popular as well; this can also be woven for an even more intricate result.

Many people have told me that once they've laced with a decorative method, they received many positive comments from others, so it's no wonder they're popular.

Published Article

“How to: Lace Your Shoes”

By Mathew Honan, WIRED (USA), 27-Nov-2007


Article Transcript

How to: Lace Your Shoes

Before you tie 'em, you have to lace 'em – and you can choose from among 43,200 perfectly legitimate ways to do it. A smart stringing strategy can actually improve your game, sportswise and otherwise, so Wired turned to Professor Shoelace (aka Ian Fieggen, an Australian programmer with a lace permutation fetish) for a rundown of the ins and outs. Here are four techniques to help your kicks kick ass.

[Image of four different lacing methods – see gallery above]

1) Runner's stitch Are your dogs yapping after a jog? This method alleviates pressure points inside the sneaker to give your pups some breathing room. Start with a horizontal lace across the bottom eyelets. Go straight up and emerge from the second set, cross over to the third, and go up to the fourth. Repeat.

2) Hacky weave Popular in footbag circles, this method opens up the front of the shoe so there's more room to “catch” a hacky sack. Lace across the third eyelets, then dive into the second and emerge from the first. Now run the laces up, into the fourth eyelets. From there, crisscross to the top.

3) Skater special We're talking ice skating, not skateboarding. To keep the instep tighter than the upper half of the boot, lace normally to the ankle at the desired pressure, then tie a square knot (right over left, left over right) and continue crisscrossing up the calf.

4) Two-tone tie This one's pure fashion statement. You'll need two laces of different colors. String the first one across the bottom eyelets: Tuck the left end into the shoe; thread the right side through the second eyelet, then across to the opposite side, and repeat to the top. Now take the second lace and weave it through the first from bottom to top and back down. Weave until you run out of room. Then stuff the loose ends into comfortable spots inside the shoe. Kick it with your posse.

– Mathew Honan

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