The Unraveling

One questions constantly perplexes me: why do my shoelaces always come untied? I think about this a lot because my shoes come unties a lot.  

So what causes my laces to unravel? 

The pictures illustrate my frustration. The jogging shoes make sense. Moreover, while I might be deceptively fast, it seems unlikely my average velocity can loosen laces, but apparently, running even at my speed can jostle laces. Makes sense. However, try explaining those house shoes! What could I possibly be doing to cause those laces to unravel? Am I strolling too briskly through my bedroom? 

The “loose laces” conundrum is a global malady. Entrepreneurs continue looking for the shoelace replacement or accessory that will render the lace obsolete (and their bank account full). The trend reminds me of one of my favorite childhood gifts was Velcro shoes. Just grip and rip to tighten or loosen. No laces!  

A quick Google search reveals pages of loose lace chat room discussions such as “Adults who Can’t Tie their shoes, why?” or “The Real Reason your Kid Can’t Tie Yet” dotting the internet. You can watch TED talks devoted to the topic. The world yearns for an effective solution to loose laces!      

Thank goodness, scientists took a break from saving the world from disease and famine to focus on shoelaces. Mechanical engineers and scientists at the University of California spent over TWO YEARS observing one of their lucky colleagues running on the treadmill as well as their own shoes when just walking around the office. This resulted in an actual study titled “The roles of impact and inertia in the failure of a shoelace knot.”  

So why do shoelaces come untied?  

Well, the act of planting one’s foot carries amazing levels of force for starters. In fact, the study findings determined that the laces experience g-force pressure exceeding the force of a roller coaster. Such force from jogging we might surmise that laces unravel under pressure!   

Yet pressure is only part of the equation. The article title includes the word “inertia” along with impact. What is inertia? A simple definition is “the tendency of a body to resist a change in motion or rest.” Therefore, an inert object like shoelaces could lie dormant or be in motion.  

Nevertheless, the critical difference is the object is resisting change in motion. It could be a dormant object resisting any movement creating force or it could be a moving object going in a straight line fighting a left turn. My pre-teen bike riding self-experienced inertia more than once. My ten speeds barreling down a hill when I suddenly decide the best remedy is applying the brakes. The bike would stop but my body kept hurdling painfully forward. Inertia also causes cars moving too fast on a windy road to miss a curve, which explains why you should heed those yellow signs with arrows while enjoying country scenery.          

But enough about those transportation modes. We need to get back to my running style. Bottom line, external force eventually unties my laces because they resist the change caused by my running or walking. That and my wimpy knots. Frankly, the double knot always works for me. Sorry mechanical engineers! 

A brief summary of the causes for unraveling laces syndrome according to intrepid scientists: 

  1. The laces experience extreme force from an external source (my running) which is applying pressure for the laces to move in whatever direction my awkward strides create.  
  1. The laces resist the pressure to move from the external force. Specifically, the laces fight the pressure to change direction.   

Now-this does not explain my house shoes. Running shoes yes. So there is probably an internal force which is I do a poor job tying my shoes. 

Two things cause “The Great Unraveling: 

  1. The pressure I place on the shoes and laces.  
  1. How the laces respond to the pressure  

 

Of course, the shoes/laces have no skin in this game. I do. So, the response is mine.  

Possible Solutions 

  1. Double knots 

Again, this is my default position and frankly, it never fails.   

  1. Do a better job tying shoes 

Scientific research unveiled the optimal shoe tying method that leverages the position the lace position at the top of the foot to maximize movement adaptability. Yes, I just wrote that sentence about tying shoelaces. It sounds like a NASA launch sequence. Still liking the simplicity of the double knot.      

  1. Seek an alternative 

I did opt for the Velcro option, which lost 80% of the reading audience. And companies are fast-tracking research and development departments to concoct the magical lace elixir. Again, the double knot remains my first option because it must be so much cheaper than digital age alternatives.    

 

This illustration begs another question. Why do I spend so much time fretting over my shoelaces? How many people take time out of their day researching solutions to this perpetual conundrum? Granted, constantly tying shoes is annoying and time consuming. Bending over or kneeling is a pain. Perhaps the causes for unraveling laces are also the reasons other aspects of my life are constantly unraveling.     

For example, consider the Christian walk. The g-forces of life exerting full power and my response is to call upon the full reservoir of resistance. This is how things go astray. How should we respond? Subscribe to the Wonkyfied podcast to learn how to respond when life comes unraveled.       

 

 

14 responses to “The Unraveling”

    • The great unraveling is an issue I dealt with up until middle school. Before hand, I had been stopping to tie my shoes four to five times a day. I thought velcro would have been a practical alternative solution. However, though functional, velcro is not the most “trendy” solution. I would argue that the greatest solution to the unraveling must be the double knot. This idea is not a noticeably unpopular solution, nor is it only a partial solution. I can count on one hand how many times I have stopped to tie my shoes in the middle of my day this past moth. This is coming from someone who has a very active jobs and regularly goes on runs for exercise.

      I would never have known that mere walking has a greater impact on shoelaces than running. Moreover, it was a surprise to find out that walking exerts the same g-force as a roller coaster. Not that I face the problem of shoelace untying, rather that I am surprised at the why behind the what. I have been purposely tying my shoes tighter and with greater accuracy before my 5k runs, but now I will focus before I go on my stroll to class.

  1. I really liked the comparison of unraveling shoelaces with aspects of life “unraveling”. It sometimes seems that no matter what we do, things always seem to “unravel”. In the case of shoelaces, there’s always the option of wearing slip-on shoes, which would help the problem. However, (as is with life) that would simply be avoiding the problem, not necessarily solving it!

  2. Honestly this was a great blog post. I honestly can say that I never have studied why my shoes come untied. So, this was really helpful to gain information form you that I had never sought out for myself. Personally I tuck my shoelaces into my shoes one for a style choice and also I do not like my shoes to be tied in general because I find it more comfortable.
    Overall I found this content informative and helpful for something that is not thought of by most people. I am glad you did the research for this conundrum.

  3. In life there are different things that are always “unraveling”. There are things/situations that we have no control over and sometimes they just fall apart. In these situations it can be easy to get frustrated and upset with ourselves and God. In these times we can make the choice of how we respond to the trials that we face. “How the laces respond to the pressure” is just like how we respond to the pressure. Are we going unravel when things get hard or are we going to press on and rely on the Lord for our strength? A lot of the time, the way we respond to earthly trials, can show the people around us the goodness and grace of God. I feel like in today’s society it is “normal” for people to quickly respond with hate and anger. It isn’t common for someone to be kind, patient, and respectful of others opinions or current events.

  4. It is interesting to me how much a shoelace can relate to our walk with Jesus. The longer we go without “re-tying” our relationship with God the easier it becomes undone. But overall great blog, I myself as an entreprunerhsip am constantly looking for the substitute to everyday items as well!

  5. In life there are different things that are always “unraveling”. There are things/situations that we have no control over and sometimes they just fall apart. In these situations it can be easy to get frustrated and upset with ourselves and God. In these times we can make the choice of how we respond to the trials that we face. “How the laces respond to the pressure” is just like how we respond to the pressure. Are we going to unravel when things get hard or are we going to press on and rely on the Lord for our strength? A lot of the time, the way we respond to earthly trials, can show the people around us the goodness and grace of God. I feel like in today’s society it is “normal” for people to quickly respond with hate and anger. It isn’t common for someone to be kind, patient, and respectful of others opinions or current events.

  6. “The Unraveling”
    This is relevant to the course because this semester we have talked about things that have happened in American that cause things to theoretically “untie”. A specific example would be the election and controversy between Trump or Biden. Also, the part of the blog where it talks about possible solutions could metaphorically be solutions to solving why things in the political world fall apart or “come untied”. The event is why shoelaces come untied and how metaphorically that connects with real-world events. The blog also talks about different types of laces and the amount of time it takes them to untie in a certain atmosphere. I chose this article because my shoes always come untied and I am always curious why. Even my house shoes will come untied which is so weird considering that I don’t run, jog or move around in them hardly at all. It was interesting to me to see the possible solutions. I would address this problem by testing products and trying to figure out the best formula for laces that would come untied the least often or come up with more slip-on shoes that do stay tight to your foot and do not need laces because if there are no laces in the first place then they won’t come untied ever. There are currently slip-on shoes but they are not as secure as shoes that tie so if I was able to make a pair of shoppers that stayed as tight at shoes that tie but did not need laces that would be the best solution.

  7. That is such a good analogy when compared to the things that we face in life, as external forces sometimes causes things to go undone. I liked how you went deep for the reason why shoe laces come undone, and I would never know if it wasn’t for this blog. So, thank you!

  8. The issue of weak shoelaces has also troubled me my whole life. Something that has always bothered and confused me is how I can run around in my sneakers for hours having no trouble with the tightness of my laces. But when just walking around, it seems like my shoes suddenly revolt, and my laces fall apart. This has me curious about the physical differences between running and walking. For example, running shoes tend to have better shock absorption when compared to other shoes. this could in turn be reducing the amount of force shoelaces experience while walking or running.

    Furthermore, people are often more conscious of their running form than they are of how they walk. I am curious if this could also cause a differing level of force on laces. Consider the mechanics of running versus the mechanics of walking. While running, we actively work to absorb energy to save our joints, feet, and back because of how much force we are exerting on our bodies with each step. Practically speaking this happens via larger limb movement, increased resistance in our muscles, and rebounding after each step instead of sinking. This is quite different from walking in which most people sort of slump around. We often throw our entire weight with each step and have no means of absorbing that force. I propose that perhaps shoelaces are less protected from the force while walking as opposed to running. it would seem to me that more research is needed.

  9. I find that I commonly feel that my life is unraveling. My shoes definitely came untied all the time when I was a kid. So much so that I only own two pairs of shoes with laces as an adult. I was just discussing with my gym partner the other day, how you can tell a person is having a frazzled day because they will always manage to accidentally turn on the flashlight on their phone. So maybe if you do not have shoelaces to come unraveled, you always have a phone flashlight to accidentally turn on. I like to think that when my life is unraveling, however, that one of two things is occurring. Either, one, I have strayed too far from the path that the Lord designed for me and everything I am trying to hold together in my own power is falling apart. Or, two, the Lord is doing things in my life that are bigger than I knew I could handle and He is preparing me for something great. I can usually tell which one it is by thinking back on my last quiet time. I thought this blog post was very insightful and a bit ironic that I was discussing a similar topic just the other day.

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