5 Different Types of Shoelaces

Ryan Brown
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What Are shoelaces Made From?

How would you describe the texture of a shoelace to a blind person?

Most of us would probably use words like smooth, rough, or waxy.

But describing it as simply smooth or rough isn’t enough detail for most people. How smooth? Rough how?

For the most detailed shoelace descriptions, you’d probably have to cut a piece in half. Well, you can’t, because most shoelaces are made from one continuous piece of material.

If you cut a traditional shoelace in half crosswise, you’ll see that the underside looks like it’s been braided from several strands of material. This can give you some ideas about what type of material you’re dealing with. Look for sections of the shoelace that look smooth, like they might be synthetic.

Now try to remember the last time you had a shoe with a smooth synthetic upper. Can you picture it in your head? Good! That means it probably has waxed cotton or paracord shoelaces.


Cotton shoelaces have been my standard for years. It’s one of the first shoelaces I learned to tie (the bunny-ears), and I’ve displaced it for the lack of fancier alternatives at several points in my life.

But there are definite upsides and downsides to this lace. Cotton doesn’t hold its shape as well as others do, often making it easier to trip and fall. Cotton is also the most breathable of all the types of shoelaces; good, assuming you like having dry, less smelly feet.

Textured Polyester

This is the most commonly found type of laces in shoes. They come in a variety of widths and lengths and feature the standard bow as well as welded eyelets.

Textured polyester laces are not going to damage your shoes in any way. But they are not the most durable option either.

Being made of very light material, they have a tendency to break very easily. This is especially the case with shoes that feature a quick-release system.

Use these laces in canvas shoes as they work really well within that material.

Spun Polyester

Spun polyester shoelaces are thin shoelaces that are generally intended for athletic shoes. This is because they are flat and non-stretch, which means they hold their shape well while running and are also unlikely to cause blisters when walking.

They are also fairly strong and resist sun damage very well.

Spun polyester laces are commonly available in various colours and length.

The downside is that they generally don’t look as good as other types of laces such as nylon, which looks a bit better with leather shoes. And they also have a tendency to look grubby over time.


How nylon shoelaces are used:

Nylon laces are great for outdoor shoes, such as hiking shoes or high tops. They do not absorb water (unlike leather laces), won’t stretch, and don’t get pulled out of shape when wet.

Their disadvantage is their bulkiness and stiffness, which make them hard to fit into eyelets in some shoes.

In addition to eyelets, some shoes use buckles. This is not a disadvantage per se, but will certainly make them slightly more difficult to lace up compared to shoe laces that easily slide through buckles. They are also much harder to adjust.

Shoelaces of this type are commonly seen as replacement shoe laces for football and rugby shoes.


Cord Laces:

Unlike other laces, elastic cord laces let your feet recuperate at night.

They stretch, especially in warmer temperatures.

They’re commonly mixed in with other shoe laces during the manufacturing process. This makes them difficult to use for certain footwear in addition to reducing their lifespan.

Nearly every casual shoe or running shoe these days comes with them.

Don’t Forget the Aglet

Don’t forget the aglet! This is the base of your shoelace, usually covered with a plastic material.

If you cut the aglet off, you’ll find that the laces start unraveling faster. They are more likely to get tangled as well.

This is because the aglet keeps the shoelaces stiff. Without it, you’ll have 4 loops that will get tangled up and crisscross more easily.

Some shoelace manufacturers actually advise against cutting off the aglet altogether. It’s good to keep it as long as possible.

Also, the aglet is the spot where you can pull out your shoelaces, should you ever need to.

If you’re wondering what the spot is for, you can also find it at the tip of the tongue of a shoe.

Types of shoelace Styles

There are different types of shoelaces, each with its own purpose. It’s essential to know the difference to know what lace to use for what purpose.

Bow Ties/Bubble Laces

These are used to make bows along the sides of the shoes. They cable the shoes well, especially for running shoes.

Boa Lacing Cord

This cord is made of high-quality elastic that has a pair of hooks on each end. One side has a lock that can be moved easily. It is used to make a locking bow at the top of the shoes.

Cable Laces

These are thick and heavy shoelaces which are known to be more durable and long lasting. Typically, they are thicker and stronger than the normal ones.

Lace-up Cords

This is the most common type of shoelace. It’s a versatile and comes in a variety of colors. It’s used for securing any of the shoe’s fittings.

Pleat Laces

These are thick, heavier, woven, cord-type shoelaces. They are usually 20 to 22 inches long.

Criss-Cross Lacing

When it comes to Criss-Cross lacing, you will need to tie your shoe just like a normal shoe.

Shape the shoelace so that the right side is over the left side and the left side is over the right side. Repeat this until your foot feels shoelace tight. (This part is pretty much the same as any normal shoe lacing, so we won’t go into details here.)

During criss-cross lacing, you should keep the shoelace pretty loose. Because of that, it’s best to use a thicker shoelace.

Make a loop with the shoelace by crossing the left end over the right part and the right end over the left part.

Straight Bar Lacing

During the early years of shoelace history, shoemakers would double the laces and criss-cross them in straight vertical lines. The straight straight-bar lacing, the most common type of lacing and the one used for most athletic shoes, has two sets of eyelets.

One set is located near the top of the shoe and other set is located near the bottom of the shoe. Each set is laced with one over one criss-crosses until the entire length is laced.

The over criss-cross directly opposite the first runs from the top to the bottom of the shoe and is known as the heel lacing. The heel lacing is usually longer than the eyelets near the top of the shoe to accommodate for the long length of the shoe and provide additional support. This lacing style creates a snug and supportive grip around your foot.

Commando Lacing

If you were hanging out with the military, you will notice that they all use this type of lacing method to tighten their combat boots. It’s called commando lacing because it was a standard issue for the British airborne troops during World War II.

After inserting both ends of a lace through both eyelets, you secure the two ends together by interlocking them under two of the loops.

This type of lacing keeps you in the middle of the action. From World War II until present day, this technique has been used to achieve maximum combat readiness and efficiency.

The name itself was given by the British, referring to the laces as strings that take you from your own boots to the boots of another commando.

Sawtooth Lacing

This is one of the oldest shoe lacing patterns known to man, but it is fast becoming popular with modern day athletes. It is commonly used in baseball and football shoes.

Why it’s great: This design provides a little more stretching, but it still can’t be beat for speed or convenience.

As a variety of knots can be used, it is not as restrictive as the German lace, and using this method means you only need to tie one knot in the middle of the shoe. If you are in an outdoor situation and need to remove the shoe quickly, this is the best option.

When to use it: This is a good choice for playing sports with a nearby changing room as it is fast to undo.

Hiking or Biking Lacing

This is my preferred design for lacing. It is just the right combination of firmness and comfort. The long end runs through twice which adds to the grip.

The design also allows you to loosen off the top loops to make the shoe fit more comfortably. This is especially useful when you have a limited shoe size range.

Each end of the long lace is threaded through the loops on both sides. The lace is tightened and each end can also be adjusted separately.

This design is ideal for thinner shoelaces, as they can’t get undone by accident as easily as standard thicker laces.