Nobody knows shoes

(Or: keeping your shoes on on a shoestring.)

At the end of one of the Put This On online video sensations, Adam Lisagor offered a purportedly life-changing correction to the way most people tie shoelaces:

I watched the clip several times, but the fast-moving mess of fingers and shoelaces only made me confused and sweaty and tearful. “I just changed your life,” says Lisagor confidently. Well, he didn’t, because he overestimated my intelligence or something like that. So I went back about my business, double-knotting like an animal, as my ancestors and I have always done.

But then I remembered seeing, long ago, something in the newspaper about a website, possibly to do with tying shoelaces. Long enough ago that the internet was still scarce and exotic, and so I’d never deigned to investigate further at the time, but the mental note had stuck until this eventual point, this magical confluence of time and attention, and now I could be bothered to investigate, and I did.

Sure enough, from the Guardian in April 2005, “Why I love Ian’s shoelace site”, by Liz Todd:

I’ve spent a lifetime fastening my shoelaces with bulky double knots. I thought I’d grow out of it upon reaching a magical age when suddenly they stayed tied with just one trim little bow. The laces were too slippy, the knot was too slack, the shoes were just wrong, I told myself.

Me too!

So imagine the thrill of discovering Ian’s Shoelace Site.

It’s a terrific website, and easily more comprehensive than Lisagor’s internet-attention-span-length piece-to-camera. There are sections devoted to all different aspects of shoelaces – buying new ones, lacing them through the correct holes, replacing the gristly bits on their ends (called “aglets”), and so on – but the most interesting section to us right now is the section about knots.

Adam Lisagor was essentially correct, about the granny knot and the reef knot, and how one is better than the other. The solution is to change one half of your knotting procedure. Dangerously, I think he assumes that every viewer will do the first half of their knot the same. The key is that the two halves of the knot must be balanced against each other. Liz Todd’s own surmation seems to work flimsily in the other direction:

It’s genius in its simplicity: reverse your starting knot!

All these years I have been going right over left, and I should have been going left over right. That’s it.

Once I’d found Ian’s Shoelace Site, a new regime began immediately. No more double-knotting, and I would adjust my old knotting technique to achieve the correct, balanced, non-crooked knot.

Somehow, it didn’t work. Like, what is meant by “over”? And is the end of the lace on the “left” a different end once the ends have been crossed over? These things were my downfall, and to avoid stumbling and falling, I had to return to my old ways.

Unable to merely amend my old memory of how to tie my shoelaces, I decided to learn a whole new knot, in a separate room of my memory palace. (I’m not a neuroscientist.) There’s a great number of different knots exhaustively detailed on the site, and Ian is frustratingly on-the-fence about which is the best to use, such that it’s like choosing a Linux distribution or something. I decided to learn the Ian Knot, “the world’s fastest shoelace knot”, since he’d named it after himself – like what the Big Mac is to McDonalds, what the search engine is to Google, what the Crispy Pancake is to Findus, or what brown sauce is to Hewlett-Packard.

The Ian Knot is good. There were still tears and blisters, even with the 12 GIFs, but now I feel unstoppable. I really don’t need to double-knot, which makes untying much quicker – and only when I want to, never when the laws of physics are just being arseholes. But here’s Ian’s other comment about the double shoelace knot:

The finished knot is quite bulky, which is helpful for consuming excess shoelace to keep the ends from dragging.

Well, I certainly found that my laces had become too long, too much “at a loose end”. And Ian has that covered, of course he does.