Help me with my shoestrings

Somewhere between the time we landed men on the moon and a genius decided to put sausage into a biscuit and sell it for breakfast, America did about everything that was worthwhile. Well, almost.


Now maybe someone will find a replacement for shoestrings. There have been alternatives over the years, of course. Shoes that slip on used to be very popular for men, and still are for women. Some shoes even use hook-and-loop fasteners instead of laces, but mostly in children’s sizes. We adults still must pull and loop and knot before we get out the door in the morning.

That shouldn’t be a problem, so long as we’ve mastered shoe-tying. It’s a relatively easy phenomenon, unless we stop to think about it. Tying our shoes is very much like that proverbial first bicycle we learned to ride: Hey, this is easy as pie.

If we ever stop and ponder all the physics that goes into that bike lesson, though — acceleration, angular momentum, balance, centrifugal force, hand-to-eye coordination — we would never get onto the street.

Like biking — and even like the typing I’m doing right now — tying our shoes is something we do without thinking. (Years ago, my older brother, who lives near where we grew up, encountered a former classmate of mine. She asked how I was doing and remarked to him that I used to be such a good student. My brother said he just shook his head and told her, “It’s a sad story, Marilyn. Glynn has really gone downhill. He can barely tie his own shoes anymore.” I have a lot of brothers who support me when I’m not around.)

For the record, I can still tie my shoes. The trouble is, in a time when other manufacturers are cutting down on packaging to save a penny, the makers of shoelaces have gone nuts. Shoestrings in new shoes are simply too long.

Every pair of footwear I have, from sneakers to dress shoes, comes with laces so long that I step on them and untie them as I walk.

If I remember correctly, replacement laces come in standard lengths such as 18, 27 or 36 inches. When a lace breaks, all we have to do is measure the remaining string and buy a new pair that fits.

During the weekend, however, I pulled the lace from a brown leather shoe I wear to work. Using my trusty 25-foot retractable measuring tape, I measured the lace. It stretched nearly 55 inches! (I have been double-tying the laces to keep them from dragging on the floor, and I now know that these laces are more than three-quarters as long as I am.)

Am I missing something? Has it been so long since I learned to tie my shoes that I don’t know the modern way of doing it? Should I be wrapping the laces around my ankle or under the shoe soles and back up again? All my shoelaces are too long, so either the industry or I have lost touch.

Maybe my brother was right, after all.