All Tied Up - Laces Shootout
article & images by Nick Salazar
Apr 12, 2011  hits 98,343

They look a little different, but they are the PERFECT lace. Seriously.

We gave it away on the first page of this shootout: Xtenex is our favorite of all the laces we tested, and offers a tangible improvement over regular elastics. Xtenex calls its product "The Lace of Genius." We were fully prepared NOT to like these - they seemed a bit gimmicky, and they cost more than double what standard elastics cost. Well, we were wrong. These laces ARE genius, they are the laces we'll be using going forward, and we can easily give them our highest recommendation.

So, after that effusive praise, let's see what's going on here. The Xtenex laces work by keeping what's so good about elastic laces - the elastic! These laces have a round cross-section, like regular cord laces, making them robust and durable. The trick of the laces is that they have little bulges all along their length. Under a high amount of tension, the bulges collapse so they can be threaded through your shoe's eyelets. But under regular tension (the tension appropriate to hold your foot in), the bulges maintain their shape, preventing the lace from moving through the eyelet! It's a brilliant solution to the friction problem. The laces provide that elastic grip without the possibility of moving or bunching up. With the bulges preventing movement through the eyelet, the laces stay in place, and maintain the tension with which they were initially set up. The end result is a shoe that's both VERY comfortable and still super fast to put on. It's really the holy grail of laces.

Best of All Worlds

Even the 30-inch version has plenty of cord to spare on this US size 11 shoe. Extra cord can be tucked away or cut off.

Installation was a breeze - no more difficult than with a standard set of laces. Maybe even easier, because the spacing of the bulges gives you a visual indication of the tension you're putting into the laces. If the bulges go flat, you know you're too tight. It seems that you need less tension in these laces for them to operate, on account of how the bulges work to stop the laces from moving around. Oh, and they work with any kind of shoe, even shoes with funky, proprietary eyelets.

The laces are available in a variety of sizes to fit different kinds of shoes, but every triathlete will want the X300 type, which is the appropriate thickness for pretty much any running shoe. To make matters a little more confusing, the laces also come in several different lengths. The 30-inch laces ought to be fine for anyone up to a size 12 shoe. Beyond that, you might want the 40-inch variety. When in doubt, just order longer laces. You can always trim them afterwards. But the nice thing about the 30-inch version is that it comes in a huge variety of colors. Although we just got black ones, the laces are available in just about any color you can think of, to either match your shoes' native colors, or brazenly clash with them.

Just Get Them

This funny little lace will be on our shoes for the foreseeable future.

So what's NOT to like? Well, we could say the price - these laces are more expensive than standard elastics, by a factor of three. But they're also likely more durable, and likely to outlast regular elastics. This, because they're thicker than many of the elastics we've seen, and also because they don't need as much tension to work. Whether the increased durability is real, and whether it means these laces will last three times as long, we can't yet say. But bottom line, these laces actually DO what they set out to do. The hold your foot securely and comfortably, and they will just fly on your feet in transition. For that reason alone, we'd say they're worth their premium price. And if they outlast other laces - well, that's just gravy. If you're in the market for your first pair of elastics, or just sick of your old ones bunching up, this is your set. They're absolutely worth it. We're planning to pick up several sets to have around long term, lest these ever become unavailable.

Pros
  • Most comfortable laces on the market
  • Excellent retention without bunching or pinching
  • Huge variety of colors
  • Durable
 
Cons
  • A few bucks more expensive than other laces

Hands down, best laces ever. Just get them.
Rating: 5.0


  • 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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