I’ve had loose shoe laces all my life. For a number of years I never even tied my tennis shoes, wearing them like slippers. I lost count how many friends. stranges would make a point to ask, “Did you know your shoes are untied?”

I have a memory as a kid, maybe 4 or 5, and my older sisters were trying to teaching me the “right way” to tie my shoes, but I could not seem to master the wrap a loop around a thumb and pull through. It’s along the lines of my elusive effort to learn to fold fitted sheets. Yes, I know there are tutorials and videos, but I’ve ingrained my ineptitude so deep I am afraid to let it go.

My sister did try- she made this practice tool by punching holes in a piece of cardboard and threading a lace through them like it was a show. Maybe my perception problem was not doing it on a real show, it was too abstract.(There was no internet in my childhood, no web site with 18 different shoe knots).

So Judy taught me a hack and this is the way I have been tying all my life, what is called the Two Loop or Bunny Ears knot. I am not sure the schematic diagrams help me, it’s a 3D visualization required.

Videos are better, but I find it interesting they are never filmed from the angle you would see while trying to tie your own shoes

But the Bunny Loops worked for me, though it is now I realize all my life… I have been doing it wrong, in essence creating a Granny knot where a proper Bunny Ears has the strength of a square knot.

My knots have been weak and pulling off all my life. And I would have gone on had I not decided to read a blog post By Bud Hunt including, of all things, a TED Talk on shoe tying.

Yup.

But still, the angle I am watching Terry tie his shoes is never the one I see with my own shoes. Isn’t that important?

He does introduce me though that there are strong and weak forms of shoe knots, but he is demonstrating the loop thumb knot, not the bunny ears. Am I going to have to learn from scratch?

Ironically or serendipitously later that day I heard a Science Friday story on the physics of shoe tying that confirmed the TED Talk and eve more about the forces that lead to shoes working themselves loose. I left feeling re-assured that graduate students at Berkeley were on top of this research.

What I figured was I was looping my bunny ears in the wrong direction, going over maybe rather than under. I tried to loop oppositely and lost it. The muscle memory is really burned into my brain, like the way I can barely zip one of my coats because the zipper is on the opposite side of all my other coats.

Yes I know I could learn, re-wire my brain. I feel old.

But then I came up with a much more doable solution- I am doing my first lace crossing the opposite way, so I just start in my regular way, and then cross them opposite. Now I can do the bunny ears the way my memory does almost automatically.

Here is a video. Notice the angle! I did it wrong too, I know I filmed it from my view, but I am always about 50/50 for getting the iPhone in the actual orientation. (I can go back and rotate my video, but I will instead wave my I Am Wrong flag)

For the last 2 days, on 8 walks with the dog my laces have stayed tied all but one time. I will gather more data, but I think I’m onto something.

Maybe I’ll write a book about this.

Nope…

But my shoes are on tight.

UPDATE: Apr 20, 2017 Thanks Sue for connecting my laces to the backwards bicycle, it’s a direct connection.


Featured image: Screenshot from my own YouTube video which is licensed CC BY.

Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.

Comments

  1. An old dog can learn new tricks!
    I was driving down the road to my house yesterday and saw a little boy on his side under his bicycle. I asked him if he was okay and he said “no”. I got out to help him and he said that he never ties his shoelaces and they were wrapped around the peddle. As I untangled the shoelaces I thought of you! (He was okay.)

  2. thank you for this – you probably don’t believe me but I tie my shoes laces like you for almost the same reasons. However my sisters never tried to help me out in the way yours did – I was the youngest so they just left me to it and I wore a lot of slip on shoes

  3. Oddly the wrong angle thing worked for me when I was little- As a leftie, my grandma sat in front of me and showed me, and I could mirror her. Other people had tried to show me sitting next to me, or moving my hands the way they thought they should go, but it wasn’t until I was allowed to mirror (and learn in a way that befuddled people if they sat next to me) that it worked.

    Glad you found a way that worked :)

  4. Hunh. Nothing you do looks anything at all like what I do, which is not to recommend the way I do it because my laces come untied. Who ever heard of that bunny ears approach? But I DO like bunnies a lot, so I am going to try it your way!

    You do teach me the damndest things…

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