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All Tied Up - Laces Shootout
article & images by Nick Salazar
Apr 12, 2011  hits 44,149

All sorts of new retention systems have been popping up lately.

Elastic laces have been a staple of the triathlete's arsenal for decades. The idea is simple - by eliminating the need to tie your shoes, you gain a whole lot of free time in transition from bike to run. Just roll into T2 with bare feet, rack your bike, lose your helmet, slip on your shoes, and get going. If you've ever tried racing without elastic laces, you know how much time you can lose doing the lacing, and how helpful elastics really are.

The problem with these laces is, and always has been, their potential to be uncomfortable. They typically have less friction against shoe eyelets than regular laces, and as a result, tension is typically inconsistent across the shoe. More often than not, the laces will tend to bunch up a bit towards the top, pinching the foot at its hinge point.

Xtenex laces are probably the weirdest-looking in the bunch, and they also work the best.

There are three new systems that attempt to solve this problem, each of them using a different method. These are the Flatlines rubber laces, Speedlaces Zero Friction, and the Xtenex laces. Each of these systems basically attempts to create uniform shoe tension for a more comfortable fit, while maintaining the speed of "traditional"elastic laces.

Read on to see how each set did, or use the navigation up top to skip ahead to any specific review. We'll give away the conclusion though - Xtenex wins, by a mile. Its only drawback is that it costs more than the other sets, but it's also probably more durable too. Read on, and enjoy.


  • The Flatlines laces are simple and effective, but we question how long they'll last.
  • The Flatlines are basically like a thick swim goggle strap for your shoes.
  • Flatlines work pretty well.
  • The Flatlines look OK from afar ...
  • ... up close they look a litte cheap.
  • The Zero Friction lacing system.  Way too much hardware, and no payoff.
  • You have to install these twelve fittings with twelve little plastic screws ... and the laces still aren't comfortable.
  • ...at least they come in a cool orange color.
  • Save your time ... skip the Zero Friction fittings.
  • Xtenex absolutely NAILED it.  They look funny, but they just plain work.
  • Pulling the Xtenex laces taut flattens them so they can be laced.  After that, they stay put.
  • All laced up, the Xtenex laces look slightly funny, but they're totally worth it.
  • Excess lace for the Xtenex can be either tucked in or cut off.

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