Relearning to Tie My Shoes

They say you learn something new every day. But it’s not every day that you newly learn an old thing. Or rather that a thing you learned as child, and have done every day since, well, you’ve been doing that thing wrong.

Yes, I recently learned that I’ve been tying my shoes wrong for over 20 years.

You know, I’ve always had a nagging feeling that other people’s shoes looked neater and stayed tied better than mine. I’ve actually been double-knotting my shoes every time to avoid their inevitable loosening. But I convinced myself, You’re a Boy Scout, you know knots,” and kept on keeping on. Then, at the age of 28, when watching a YouTube video1 about alternative ways to lace boots to avoid hot spots, I heard the sentence that split my life into Before and After: If you wrap the loop the opposite way, your knot will be cockeyed and not hold tight.”

For anyone else out there who thinks their shoe lacing method might also be wrong, here’s was my old process:

  1. Cross one strand around the other, and pull tight.
  2. Make a loop (actually called a bight) with the lefthand strand.
  3. Cross the righthand strand under and around the loop.
  4. Push a loop/bight through the loop created between the two strands.
  5. Pull both loops to tighten the knot.
  6. Tie the two loops in an overhand knot to double it.

Can you see my fatal flaw? It turns out that by going over and around the loop with the righthand strand instead will get the knot to sit perpendicular to the shoe, rather than the awkward parallel nonsense that I’d been doing for two decades. It had never occurred to me to try a different method.

Two orange shoes with correctly and incorrectly tied laces.
Left is a work of art. Right is bullshit.

If there’s a profound takeaway to be extracted here, it’s this: It sure is easy to get stuck in our ways of doing things and then never reconsider them. But I wanted to share how, even the simplest bit of knowledge that I took for granted — like how to tie my shoes — could be reevaluated and improved. Even for someone who literally ties life-preserving knots for a living. It’s always good to keep an open mind.

  1. I regret to admit that I can’t find the life-changing video to share. Trust me, I’ve tried.↩︎

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