Left Handed Shoelaces?
Left handers naturally tie bows for shoelaces in a different way to right-handers and that can make it very difficult for a right-hander to show them how to do it. I (Keith) remember having great difficulty with laces as a child until I was sent off to a left-handed neighbour who showed me how to do it in no time!
The problem arises because left-handers make the first loop using their left hand rather than their right and then the whole knot works backwards. It ends up being effectively the same, but is tied using a different method. For a right-hander to teach a left-handed child to tie laces, we recommend they sit opposite them and get them to follow as if in a mirror.
If you want a guide the child can use themself or to teach them from, try our download “Shoelace instructions for left-handers” with a series of photos and instructions for each stage of tying the knot.
Which knot to use?
Our instruction sheet is for the “Standard” shoelace knot, but there are many different knots for tying shoelaces and we wanted to find out which is the best. The worldwide expert on shoelaces (though right-handed), is Ian Fieggen who lives in Australia and has a website with a huge section on shoelaces and everything to do with them. We got in touch with Ian to ask a few questions and get advice. He deliberately doesn't provide left-handed instructions and diagrams on his site because of the amount of extra work it would take to re-draw everything backwards and not wanting to confuse his right-handed visitors, but he still has a lot of very useful information.
His advice is (if you are right-handed) to either sit opposite a left-hander to teach them the Standard Knot or, even better, learn the Ian Knot, which is a bit more complicated to do at first but faster to tie and does not have a hand bias.
The Ian Knot
Ian invented his knot back in 1982. As he says…
“One morning, after breaking yet another shoelace, I noticed that it always seemed to be the right end of my lace that broke. Because the regular method of tying shoelaces is not symmetrical, I figured that the end that experiences the most movement simply wears out more quickly. When I examined the knot and found that it could be made symmetrical, I discovered quite by accident that the resultant technique was also much faster, as a lot of time was saved by working with both hands simultaneously.”
(diagrams reproduced from Ian's Shoelace Site with his permission)
The resulting “Ian Knot” is the World's Fastest Shoelace Knot – you make a loop with both ends and simultaneously pull them through each other to form an almost instant knot. Because both hands work at the same time, it can be done in the same way by either right or lefthanders. Ian also found that when his shoelaces used to break, it was always the same one that broke – the right one – and he thought that was because of the uneven wear created by tying the standard knot. (Keith – yes! I find that it is usually the LEFT lace that breaks, and also my laces keep coming undone – see further down for the answer to this).
And here is the video he produced about how to tie the knot and its various advantages.
Do your shoelaces keep coming loose?
We had a comment on our “Is It Me?” page recently from Paul who said:
“To this day, my shoelaces always come untied. (A properly tied knot works with the twist of the lace to keep from unknotting.) No wonder I have always preferred loafers!”
This is a problem that we also encounter and has been mentioned by others before, but we have never really known why. We were not sure about the lace construction idea so Keith contacted Professor Shoelace, Ian Fieggen in Australia to see if he could help. This is what he had to say:
“Great to hear from you. The whole subject of left-handedness as it relates to shoelaces is *very* interesting to me. I've never considered that possibility. Interesting! However, I think it's unlikely because most shoelaces have a symmetrical weave. That is, there are just as many threads crossing in one direction as the other. In recent years we've seen laces of the type made by Mr Lacy that actually do have a noticeable angle to the weave on one side. However, this is negated by the opposite angle to the weave on the other side.
It is far more likely that your laces are coming loose due to you inadvertently tying a ‘Granny Knot'
The Granny Knot is the most common reason for shoelaces coming undone and is caused when the Starting Knot & Finishing Bow don't “balance” each other. It can be spotted by the tendency of the bow to sit crooked (ie. heel to toe) and is easily fixed by reversing one stage of the knot, most easily the Starting Knot.”
And lefthander Keith found on checking his knotting technique that he was doing the starter knot RIGHT-HANDED (that is crossing the left lace over the right then pulling it back under, ending up like the picture on the right), then doing a LEFT-HANDED bow on top of that (ie making the first loop with the left hand) but it seems to result in a good flat knot exactly the same as if it had been tied right-handed, but does still seem to come undone too easily.
We tried a fix of changing the direction of the starting knot, making it by crossing the right lace over the left and then pulling the end of the right lace (now sitting on the left) back under, so it looks like the diagram on the left.
Now adding a bow in the left-handed way produces a strange knot that sits flat but comes out twisted round and needs to be rotated 180 degrees anti-clockwise after it is finished to make it sit properly. We are not convinced this is any better!
We also tried the Ian Knot using the standard method exactly as shown in the video above and on Ian's website. This IS a lot quicker once you get the hang of it and we found it easy enough to tie using the standard method. It results in the same looking knot as the Standard Knot, but it also seems to be a bit tighter and hold better, though we don't know why. There must be something about tying the bow left-handed that twists the laces out of position somehow and results in a weaker knot. We followed this up with Ian and he said:
“One other thing that some people do is to pull the loops the opposite way. For example, take at look at my diagrams. The blue loop is emerging out the front of the knot while the yellow loop is feeding out the back. Instead of pulling the blue loop to the *left*, it can be pulled to the *right* while the yellow loop is pulled to the left. This results in a finished knot with different twists and different holding strength.”
So, if your laces keep slipping, try changing the direction of your starter knot to see if it fixes it for you. If not, you had better learn the Ian Knot!
As always, we are very interested in your thoughts and feedback so please add your comments below.