Learn to Tie Shoelaces Correctly

As we were driving home from Florida last week, I heard several radio commentaries maintaining that most of us needed to learn how to correctly tie shoelaces!

The first time I heard this bit of news trivia, I ignored it.  However, it was repeated several times on various NPR (National Public Radio) stations as we passed through Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan before re-entry to Canada. One morning while dressing, the proper method of tying shoe laces was featured on the hotel television.  That old marketing gimmick, repetition, finally forced me to pay attention.

Children Learn Incorrect Methods

For decades most children have been taught the simple method of crossing the laces left over right, forming a loop with the right hand, crossing the left over the right and then repeating the left over right process. For left-handed children, it begins with right over left, etc.  This method forms the traditional bunny bow used to tie lace-up shoes.  Once taught, the tying action is repeated at least daily and becomes habitual.

Learning how to tie the bow on shoe laces using this process makes a simple granny knot.  However, the laces can quickly loosen.  Most of us have been forced to stop in the middle of a street to re-tie a shoe lace. Many of us have observed men taking a personal moment to re-tie shoe laces on their expensive oxfords in board rooms, at receptions, or after tripping on a wayward shoe lace.

Re-tying shoe laces -- photo courtesy of Sweet Ice Cream Photography
Re-tying shoe laces — photo courtesy of Sweet Ice Cream Photography

The problem of laces loosening is easily dealt with by tying a double knot.  The double knot has been my ‘go-to’ solution especially for sports shoes that often come with slippery polyester laces.  It’s aggravating to have to break the pace and stop a brisk walk to re-tie laces.

Many younger people don’t bother to tie shoes and strut about with shoes untied.  Velcro closures on children’s shoes mean that many children never learn how to lace-up and tie shoes.

How to Tie Your Shoelaces

A small cognitive shift is required to learn the correct method of tying shoes.  If you usually begin by crossing the right lace over the left, simply reverse this process and begin with crossing right over left, then form the loop and continue as usual.  This small change forms a tight bow tie that won’t loosen rather than a granny bow tie or a bunny ear tie.

If you want a better explanation of learning how to tie shoe laces, there are many resources on the web.  I found good tips on Ian’s Shoelace Site https://www.fieggen.com/shoelace/knots.htm including methods for teaching children how to tie shoes.

Who would have imagined that I had completed such a basic task incorrectly for sixty plus years! Although initially, I regarded all of this as trivia, I’ve been practising how to tie shoe laces on gym shoes and walking shoes since returning home.  While it feels awkward, the result is tight and does not require a double knot.   Sometimes the small things in life — like tight shoe laces — make a day much happier!

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7 Comment

  1. Bonnie Parkins says: Reply

    I am still amazed that I have lived 66 years tying my shoes wrong! (Ok, likely only 62 years tying them at all.) How many hours of my life have I wasted re-tying laces that came undone? How many times have I tripped? This is definitely a case of not knowing what I didn’t know!

  2. Rose says: Reply

    I enjoyed your post Jeanette and couldn’t help but laugh. I also read the post to my husband because he would appreciate it. Let me tell you my experience. I am 63 years old and I realized last year that I also had been tying shoelaces incorrectly all of my life. I have a pair of moccasins which have waxy shoelaces that are tied in a bow on the top of the moccasin. Of course they always came untied and I was getting frustrated. I googled how to tie a moccasin and came across the sight you mentioned—“Ian’s Shoelace Site”. That’s when I realized I’ve been thing shoelaces incorrectly. I always wondered why my sneakers would come untied and the bow was cockeyed and layed funny. I also would do the double-knot trick to help solve the problem but sometimes that would come undone too. Now my laces never come undone and the bow loops lay flat across the shoe rather than up and down. What a game changer. When my husband came home from work that night I asked him to demonstrate how he tied his shoes and he did it correctly. I proceeded to tell him that I finally learned to tie my shoes correctly after all these years and demonstrated my new technique.
    What’s even funnier is I remember exactly how I originally learned to tie my shoes as a young child. I must had done something wrong and my parents had me sitting in a chair for a time-out. I figured it was a good opportunity to teach myself how to tie shoes and that’s exactly what I did. It served me well for over 55 years but to relearn the process took a while to reprogram the brain. I have it down pat now and usually can do it without thinking. I can’t help smiling and chuckling to myself when I think about it. Like you said “its the small things in life. . .”.

    1. Hi Rose,
      It’s surprising how many people have similar experiences with shoe laces. After reading my blog, someone at my gym told me that she couldn’t master the technique I recommended in the post so I took time to demonstrate. Soon a group of women gathered around us in the locker room. It was interesting to me that only one person had learned the correct technique. She had difficulty believing that so many of us had struggled with shoe laces for decades!
      Be well,
      Jeanette aka postworksavvy

  3. This completely explains why I think learning and changing our brains at any age is possible! Shades of the backwards bicycle. Have a look….https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jmz9HAbDrto

    1. Hi Barb — this video is exceptional! Not only does it demonstrate how many automatic and habitual functions our brains perform but it also demonstrates basic concepts of neuroplasticity. I’m always impressed by how quickly children’s brains learn various skills and how some of the neural connections close off as they grow and develop. I remember why we put our son into Suzuki music at age 4 as it is a well demonstrated method of teaching music to children before early ability shuts down. That it took an adult 8 months to ‘un-learn’ and re-learn how to ride a bicycle when it was built backwards while it took a child only 2 weeks is remarkable.
      Thanks so much for sending the link!
      Be well,
      Jeanette

  4. Thanks Jeanette! With advancing arthritis I prefer slip-on or Velcro … but I’ll definitely master the secure method of tying for the few shoes I have with laces.

    1. I also prefer slip-on shoes or Mary Jane styles with a strap — but I do use lace-ups for walking and the gym.
      My niece alerted me to using the word lycra rather than velcro when discussing shoe closures. I may need more than a lesson in tying shoes correctly! I’m not sure if it was my rush to post this or if my aging brain played a trick on me. Your comment indicates that you also caught my mistake.
      Be well,
      Jeanette

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