Turns out I didn’t know how to tie my own shoes

I had a very odd experience last night. I’ve started running, and my shoes have untied themselves twice now while I’ve been on a run. It occurred to me that somebody might have some advice or a cheap product to improve this situation, so I did a little surfing. And what did I discover? Turns out I’ve been tying my shoes – for my whole life, I presume – with the wrong knot.

The knot I have been (inadvertently) using is the “granny knot” which is apparently “the most common reason for shoelaces coming undone“. (Note: this link, and others to follow, should be recognized as my first entry into a whole subculture of people who care deeply about shoelaces – I don’t claim to belong to or represent this group, but they did provide some interesting info.)

Anyhow, the granny knot unties itself as it’s put under stress. Something to do with being unbalanced and so on – I don’t really care about its motivations or emotional baggage, I just want a knot that stays tied.

That one is the “reef knot“. Basically, if you’re a granny-knotter, just reverse the direction that you cross the laces at the very beginning of the knot, and then proceed as usual. Directions get confusing pretty quickly, because the left-hand lace becomes the right-hand one, and which way is “behind” anyway. I found it easier to just switch that first “one lace over the other” – which felt almost morally wrong, by the way – and then do the loops part of the knot the way my hands do it on their own.

You can test the result, of you’re sitting with a shoe in your lap as I was at about 1 in the morning, by pulling on the laces “beneath” the knot (where they’re coming out of the shoe, where they would be stressed by normal wear). If you’ve grannied, the knot will come undone. If you’ve reefed, the knot will tighten itself.

There are other options – “Ian’s Secure Knot” is the highest rated of these, on a site with more information about tying shoes than I could believe. I’m going to give the reef knot a try first, but the “both ears through the hole” advanced approach does sound like a ton of fun.

The unsettling part about this is that I’ve clearly been doing it wrong for as long as I’ve been tying my own shoes. Aside from dalliances with Crocs and sandals and boat shoes and the like, that’s been my whole life. And my whole life, I’ve been doing an extra knot with the loops, in an effort to keep my laces tied. This raises the uncomfortable spectre of other unwitting errors. There are a lot of things in my daily life, and I presume in the lives of others, that could be done wrong without those around us even noticing. Just little annoyances that we assume are part of the background noise of our lives.

For the next while, I’m pretty sure I’ll frequently be wondering, “Am I doing that wrong?” Maybe I’ll find the cure to life’s ills – or at least notice something that might be dealt with more gracefully, and then google that cure.