Dyspraxia & laces – what is there to help?
Tying shoe laces is, I feel, one of the most common difficulties talked about in relation to dyspraxia, due to our difficulties with fine motor skills. But what can be done to help? I’ve personally found that there are so many different options out there for different types of laces that it can be hard to know which type to get. In addition, some people may have never heard about some of these laces before. So for that reason I thought I would write a blog where I essentially review different types of ‘laces’ I have used.
However, before I start I thought I would give a bit of a background for those who may be wondering exactly what it is that those of us with dyspraxia struggle with when it comes to laces. It is mainly our difficulties with fine motor skills that cause tying laces to be difficult, although our short term memory problems and difficulties in following multiple instructions may also play a role.
When I was younger I really struggled with shoe laces. Apparently I had a board, a bit like the one below, which I could use to practice tying laces (probably at around the age of 6). I cannot remember it at all though!
However, I still struggled to tie my laces so all my shoes were either slip-ons or velcro.
What I do remember though, is one day going up to my bedroom (perhaps around the age of 8) and randomly getting a pair of shoes out which had laces and after a few attempts I was able to lace them!
Although I could lace them I don’t think I was able to do them very well, so I’m not sure if I still avoided shoes with laces (until I eventually had no choice because of my shoe size). But anyway, even when it came to secondary school I found that I still had trouble with my laces. I could do them up, but: they’d take me a while to do; sometimes it would take me a couple of attempts; I wasn’t really able to do them very tightly; and they would often keep coming undone – even when I double-knotted them, believe it or not!
For a few years whilst I was competing in disability athletics I would always get someone else to do my shoe laces for me before a race. I remember one time I did them myself as I thought they’d be okay and they ended up coming undone mid-race! However, I have noticed it depends on the type of lace. When wearing trainers with rounded laces they would be more likely to come undone. On the other hand, my spikes (which I got after a few years of competing) which had flatter laces stayed done up better – so I did those myself. This has also been the same for other shoes with these types of laces.
Despite the difficulties I did have with laces, I’d kind of just got used to it. So although in more recent years I saw lots of posts about various types of laces on dyspraxia Facebook groups, I didn’t think I needed to try any of them at first. I think I felt as though the other types of laces were more for people who couldn’t do their laces at all.
One day, however, I decided to buy some alternative laces. I’d seen a video on Facebook and thought “Actually, they do look really helpful!” I think it was the Hickies elastic bar laces I first ordered, followed by Zubits magnetic closure laces, then the knot elastic laces and more recently the elastic lock laces. Over time I’ve experimented with these different types and have been able to work out what works best on different shoes for me. So here’s some reviews, one by one. I’ve included hyperlinks in each of the titles.
These laces are essentially elastic bars which go across each pair of eyelets of your shoe with closures in the middle.
I found that in terms of putting these laces in initially, they were quite easy to do. Doing up the closures was a little tricky at first but once I’d got used to doing them they weren’t too bad. The good thing is that once they’re done up you don’t have to undo them again.
At first I used the standard method of having one bar going across the two eyelets. The only problem was that when it came to putting my shoes on I found that because the elastic was so tight they were quite hard to put on! I then looked into the different methods of lacing them and found that you can have them looser or tighter.
Compared to other types of laces there’s not a massive amount of flexibility in terms of how tight or loose you can have them, but I’ve found I’ve been able to get them to the right amount of tightness for me.
I’ve found that these types of laces seem to work best on Converse/plimsoll type shoes. I tried them on Vans once and they were way too loose unfortunately! There needs to be a fair amount of distance between the eyelets for them to work properly. The useful thing with these laces though is that you can transfer them between different shoes.
Although it does depend on the style of shoe, I’ve found that what works best on most styles is to lace the first three laces (at the bottom of the shoe) with the bars going straight across and then the next lace using the above ‘loose’ method (and for the lace inbetween have the bar going straight across).
The laces have popped open a couple of times when getting them on, but the majority of the time they’ve been fine. I have heard of some people’s snapping with other types of similar laces they’ve used – which just go straight across like this:
These are magnetic closures used with your normal laces.
What particularly appealed to me about these at first was the fact that you used normal laces with them, so your shoes don’t look that different from before and don’t massively stand out. When buying some new shoes with some friends it wasn’t until I was putting my shoes back on that my friends asked about these magnetic closures – they said they hadn’t even noticed them before!
The first time I put them on my shoes they took me absolutely ages to do – over an hour! They were quite awkward to adjust too when changing the tightness of them. Once you’ve laced the magnetic closures with the relevant side lace you have to put a plastic bit on the end to keep the laces in place. The instructions say you’re meant to cut the laces after this, but I didn’t like the idea of cutting them in case I changed my mind and wanted to adjust them! However, they were a bit easier and quicker to do the next few times when putting them on other shoes once I’d got the hang of it.
One thing in particular I really liked how about these was quick and easy they made shoes to put on. It meant that the shoes could open really wide to put your foot in. On the other hand, it meant that you couldn’t really do shoes up tight enough. At first I just put up with it for a while, but then everytime I put my shoes on I’d say they felt ‘weird’ and needed to be tighter. I’ve heard it mentioned that this is a particular issue for dyspraxics who often need the tightness as proprioceptive input (which is essentially to do with your brain telling you where your body is in space). This was when I used Zubits, rather than Hickies, for Converse. However, I’ve found that Zubits are perfect for winter boots which have quite a bit of room anyway meaning they don’t need to be done up as tightly.
Some people who have used similar magnetic closures have mentioned the magnets coming out, but this hasn’t been an issue for the ones I bought. Of course one of the major advantages of these is that, as long as the magnets don’t come out, they last for ages as there is no elastic involved. Just a warning though, it does hurt when you get your finger trapped between the magnets!
These are essentially like normal laces, they’re even laced like normal laces, but they’re elasticated and have knots to hold them in place.
They did take quite a long time to lace initially and were a bit awkward to do as you have to pull them tight to get them through each eyelet. But again, once they’re done and you’ve got the tightness right you don’t need to do anything else. I did make the mistake at first of not tucking the excess laces in, which really hurt from where it was rubbing against my feet. But after tucking them inbetween the laces and the tongue of the shoe they’ve been fine.
I haven’t tried these on any other shoes, but I’ve found that they’re perfect for trainers! The elastic is tight enough to be able to go walking or jogging in them, but at the same time it’s not so tight that it makes it awkward to get them on. They’re also really cheap too (I think I only paid about £2.50 for them)!
You may be thinking “Does she not have enough already?!” The only reason I got these ones was because I couldn’t find any others that matched the colour of these shoes. These are similar to the laces above where you just lace them like normal laces.
Lacing them itself was alright, but the last bit was a bit difficult as you have to get the length right, knot them and then cut them. I was a bit worried I’d cut it to the wrong length but they were only cheap like the ones above so it wouldn’t have mattered too much if I had to buy another pair. I actually found the plastic closure a bit difficult to use though. I’m not sure if it was just because they were new but it was quite stiff. However, I found that due to them being elastic you don’t really need the closure (unless you want to adjust the tightness of them).
I’ve only used these on trainers but have found they work quite well once you’ve got them laced initially. I do like the fact that compared to the others they’re relatively easy to adjust in terms of the tightness. On the other hand, unlike the others you can’t transfer them between shoes when your current shoes wear down (which is quite common for us dyspraxics!) But then at around £2.50 each that doesn’t really matter!
So, here’s a quick recap:
- Quite easy to put in initially & take out again
- Easy to adjust if necessary
- Work well for converse/plimsoll type shoes
- Can take them out and use them for other shoes
- Only work on certain types of shoes
- Not a lot of flexibility in how tight/loose they are
- Can’t open shoes as wide to get them on
- Can use them with normal laces
- Make shoes easy to put on – opens wide
- No elastic involved – last for a long time
- Work well for winter boots
- Can take them out and use them for other shoes
- Take a long time to lace initially
- Quite awkward to adjust tightness
- Can’t have shoes done up tightly with them
- Hurts when you get your finger trapped in the magnet!
iRUN Elastic Knot Laces:
- Keeps shoes tight enough for jogging
- Stretch enough to get shoes on easily
- Work well for trainers
- Quite awkward to lace initially
- May not look as nice on other shoes? (only available as rounded laces)
Elastic Lock Laces:
- Relatively easy to adjust tightness
- Quite easy to lace – like normal laces
- Stretch enough to get shoes on easily
- Work well for trainers
- Final bit of initial lacing a bit awkward – have to knot and cut them
- Can’t transfer to other shoes
- Plastic closure quite difficult to use
- Plastic bit at end annoying – have to tuck it in
Or the other option is to use shoes with velcro (which there definitely aren’t enough of)!
While googling something for this blog post I actually came across another type of lace on Amazon! These look great, as they look just like normal laces too! From what I can see the end looks similar to the end on Zubits, so they might be a bit awkward to adjust. I definitely think these will be next on my list to try though! If anyone has already tried these then please let me know what they’re like!