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The nightmare of undone laces

Do you remember when you first learned to tie your shoelaces? Who taught you? How many times have you tied them since then? Have you ever stumbled or fallen because they were undone? How do you tie a knot? And what can we learn from these ribbons that we use every day to keep our feet in our shoes?

Shoelaces are ancient technology. While there’s a dubious claim that they were invented in 1790, Evidence suggests that shoelaces may have been around for more than 5000 years

The world's oldest known leather shoe has been found in an American cave.

The shoe is laced along seams at the front and back with a leather cord, and the laces to tie the shoe were made of leather.

Unfortunately, since early times and even today shoelaces come undone multiple times daily.

Scientific discoveries often stem from curiosity about everyday questions. Study co-author Oliver O'Reilly, a professor of mechanical engineering with the University of California, Berkeley, wondered for years about why his shoelaces kept untying no matter how carefully he knotted them.

Recently, when he was teaching his young daughter how to tie her shoes, he noticed that there were plenty of instructional videos online demonstrating the process — but nothing that explained why they come untied.

O'Reilly and his colleagues borrowed a high-speed camera and filmed the shoe-clad feet of co-author and avid runner Christine Gregg, a researcher and doctoral candidate at UC Berkeley, as she ran on a treadmill.

Nothing happened for a really long time and then, all of a sudden, the shoelace unravelled really quickly. This unravelling and how fast it happened really surprised them and they set about trying to find out how it happened.

To see how running deformed the knot, they used an accelerometer — a device that measures motion — and discovered that the gravitational force, or g-force, acting on the shoelace knot was surprisingly high: up to 7 G. To put this into perspective, the very powerful roller coaster — the Tower of Terror in Johannesburg, South Africa — produces a g-force of 6.3 G.

Shoelaces are subjected to this force with every running step.

As running action repeats, the knot begins to deform and loosen. At the same time, the bows and ends of the lace are flapping back and forth, and they begin to slip through the knot, much as they do when you deliberately untie a bow.

The flapping motions back and forth actually increase inertial forces on the free ends that exacerbates the imbalance. They pull through, and voilà! — your laces are flopping around, looking like overcooked spaghetti.

In the 1980s, laces were replaced by Velcro in some shoes. The fashion industry soon decided that these were unfashionable. Zippers are used in some shoes, especially on long boots, but rarely on shoes.


Things are changing. We at E3 are also tired of laces frequently getting undone, which pushed us to a solution. Are we nearing the end of traditional shoelaces?

Our Elastic no-tie lace and Silicon laces were all tested by us, in real-life. The laces we sell are tools, a means to an end; that can be used by anyone. In the end, it’s all about you and your comfort.

We have different laces for different needs, and we cover from the sporty look, being really active, the corporate look and a oh so cool kiddies’ range.

We have the solution. No more tying and bearing with the endless frustration of untied knots.

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