For my first triathlon, I had never heard about elastic laces. So I used my normal running shoes and struggled during the second transition. Indeed, it was quite chilly on that day and my fingers were cold and numb from the cycling. It took me longer than usual to manage to tie my laces. But really it felt like a burden.
That’s when I noticed most people were just putting their feet in their shoes and went straight off running. It looked like magic!
Actually, it was just triathletes using no-tie laces because transition time is key in triathlon! Every second counts.
What laces do triathletes use?
Triathletes generally use no-tie shoe laces on their running shoes, generally known as elastic laces or quick laces. It makes the transition between the bike and the run smoother. It is a way to shorten the transition time from the bike to the run.
Like many triathletes, I use the elastic laces from “lock laces”. That’s the one you can see in the image above. They are great, simple to install, and come in many colors. The pair cost around $10 and can be bought here on Amazon. They are really great, do not hesitate to buy a pair!
Note it is not mandatory to wear quick laces in a triathlon. Some people even think it is not recommended to do so. I will review this point later in this article.
Should you wear elastic laces for a triathlon?
Elastic laces are definitely something you should consider for your triathlon competitions. Wearing elastic laces may save you around 30 seconds in the bike-to-run transition (T2). That’s non-negligible in a competition, especially short-distance triathlons.
Here are reasons I believe elastic laces are a must:
- A recipe for fast transition
- Less stressful – it works like magic each time
- No risk to have your shoelaces get untied during the race
- Way easier in chilly weather or with numb fingers
However, some people do not recommend elastic laces because the feet are not tightened in the same manner as regular shoes. While some people don’t have any problem with that, others feel like they lose stability. But that could simply be due to different running forms.
In my opinion, there is no problem with using elastic laces in a triathlon competition. The worries about stability are something to consider if you use elastic laces too often. So it’s more of a question about using it for training or during regular running. That’s what I will cover now.
Are elastic shoe laces good for running?
Elastic laces can be used all year long for running. No scientific studies determine whether it is good or bad to do so. Elastic laces tend to add extra bouncing movement when running which can lead to instability when running. It is commonly thought that it could lead to injuries.
But there is no scientific proof to confirm this. And each athlete will tell you something different. I know people who have been running with elastic laces for years without getting any injury. So it can’t be that bad.
When you wear elastic laces, you have a bit less freedom to tighten your shoe as you like it. With normal laces, you can adjust the pressure all along the forefoot while elastic laces can generally only apply one pressure to the top of the shoe.
Also, with normal laces, when you run your feet will be maintained in the shoe, while with elastic laces there is a small forward motion that can appear. Let me explain: the forward acceleration you create when running will add a force onto the top of the shoe.
With elastic laces, the top of the shoe is blocked with material that can extend. Even though it is already in a stretched position, the laces still have a bit of margin to stretch even more. And this will happen each time your foot hit the ground.
It is very subtle, some people notice it, and others don’t. The issue with this extra movement is that it gives a little extra space for your feet to move inside the shoe. It can lead to extra rubbing (and getting blisters) and generate some kind of instability.
It is not the end of the world if you run from time to time with elastic laces, but if you do long trails on already unstable terrains you are more likely to get injured at some point.
This is why elastic laces are generally considered not ideal for running all year long. If you only run short distances and not very often, you probably won’t notice the difference. But generally, runners tend to train several times a week and regularly run long distances. This is when elastic laces are not the best idea.
Also with time, the elasticity of the laces will change and you need to be careful about it. It will tend to become loose and unstretched, so be aware of the changes in pressure. A shoe not tight enough can lead to injuries, especially on rocky grounds.
Running shoe manufacturers sell their shoes with normal laces, and even though elastic laces exist and have been used by triathletes for years, it has not become the norm to use elastic laces. Some reasons are:
- most models provide fewer adjustments possibility to the runner
- most models tend to put lots of pressure on the forefoot when adjusted correctly
- it can lead to injuries by overstraining the foot due to unnecessary movement
One exception though is “On Running” which sells a model with elastic laces on. The way the elastic is tied up is different from most models of elastic laces, which seem to help to better distribute the tension along the forefoot.
How do quick laces work
Quick laces replace regular laces on your shoes. The elastic band will allow the shoe to be tight as if you just tied up the laces while allowing you to pull on the tab to stretch the laces and wide open the shoe to fit in your feet.
So, when you pull the tab it opens up, and when you stop thanks to the elastic laces it returns to the same tension as before. The tension shall be adjusted to your preference when you install the laces on.
How do you use triathlon elastic laces?
- Install the elastic laces on your running shoes, as per the brand’s instructions
In general, it consists of replacing your normal laces with elastic laces in the same way you put on normal laces. Once fully laced up, you need to gather the two ends of the elastic laces and fit them into the plastic device provided.
In the following video, I show you how to put on Lock laces, one of the most common brands of elastic laces.
- Pull on the tab of your shoes to stretch the laces
- Put your feet inside the shoes and let the elastic laces unstretch
- Test the laces outdoors
- Adjust the tension
It should not be too loose as they have to maintain your foot in the shoe but they must allow putting your feet in easily.
- You can cut the excess laces if needed
- Your laces are ready to use each time you want!
Elastic laces: better for training or in races?
Elastic laces will definitely save you time during your T2 transitions. So for races, they are a huge yes! For training, considering you may lose stability, I do not recommend using them often. But that may depend on your foot form. So have it a try and be conscious of how your feet feel.
Naturally, you can use them in a couple of training sessions prior to a race to make sure you are used to them. But I would not recommend them to become your standard way to tie your shoes. I would also avoid them totally for trail running.