Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Review: Snap Laces speed lacing system.

As a triathlete, I've always loved any kind of laces that allow me to easily slip on a pair of shoes without having to go through the hassle of having to tie them over and over again.  Actually, scratch that.  AS AN INCREDIBLY LAZY PERSON, I've always loved the convenience of just throwing on a pair of shoes and not having to worry about the laces.

Outside of the aforementioned ease of putting shoes on - having laces that allow someone to put a shoe on without having to tie them up do have additional benefits.

- It allows for quick transitions in triathlons.  Having to stop and spend 10 - 60 seconds tying your shoes in transitions can be the difference in a race.
- It allows you to retain the fit of the shoe.  If you are constantly having to tie and untie your shoes - you run the risk of the fit of the shoe "changing" depending on how you tie them - which can have negative effects on your run.
- It completely negates (for the most part) the possibility of your shoe laces coming untied in the middle of the run.  That, in turn, negates the possibility of you tripping over said shoe lace, having to stop to re-tie said shoe lace, or from looking like a dork because you're running with your shoe lace untied.
- MOST speed lacing systems are tight to the shoe - which prevent laces from snagging on things - which can cause trips, falls, and disasters of unimagined proportions.

It's because of these benefits that I have had some form of speed lacing system on just about every pair of running shoes I own.  It's just become synonymous with how I run (there are a few exceptions to this - mostly dealing with shoes that have a specific type of lacing system built in that can't easily accommodate special laces).

The downsides I've had with some of the speed lacing systems I've tried are mainly two-fold:
- Some of the lacing systems have "stuff" hanging off to the side (either the laces themselves which are positioned off to the side or "overfray" from where you cut the laces).  Not only does this (imo) not look very clean, but it also presents the "snag hazard" that I spoke about briefly above.
- Some of the systems rely on a "clamping mechanism" to hold the elastic laces - and that can, at times, put pressure on the foot where that clamp is.  At least, that's been a problem for me on a lot of the laces and one I've actively tried to solve.

With all of that said, enter the latest contender to the speed lacing realm, Snap Laces.

The Snap Laces card that comes in the pack with the laces.
I was fortunate enough to have been offered two trial pairs of these to see how they work for me and give my thoughts and opinions on them.  So keep that in mind with the following review - but please know that I would have happily bought them to try them out (I've paid for a variety of different laces which all have worked and not worked to various degrees for me).

Before I get in to the ins and outs of the system and how they work - I thought I'd briefly give a glimpse to what I thought with them.  I really liked the system.  The clamp didn't put any pressure on my foot (despite my initial thoughts to the contrary), the laces hold firm and don't move (again, despite my initial thoughts to the contrary), and the system looks and feels great.

Snap Laces are pretty unique in the way they approach how to lace a shoe.  Instead of using one piece of cord through each eyelet of the shoe, they instead use two (or three, if you prefer) separate cords and lace them through eyelets on the shoes.  

The "How to" instruction card that comes with each pair.
Basically, as the card above explains, you loop a "smaller" (compared to a "full" lace) cord through two of the eyelets and attach the cord to their clasp.  Then, you bring the clasp over and across the shoe and attach it to the loop to secure the lacing.  

See below for "step by step" pictures featuring my new pair of Skora Fits.  

Simply lace in the bottom two (or any two - depending on how you want it to fit) eyelets and attach the clasp to the cord.

Closer look at the clasp and how the cords attach.

Once looped through, you want to insert the cord as shown....

.....and pull it through so there's a bit of "slack."  This slack will allow you to adjust the laces so that they tighten to comfort.

Once adjusted, you simply fold the clasp over and hook it to the other side - as shown.  The leftover lace can be cut or tucked as needed, but be sure to leave a bit for future adjustments if necessary.
One option is to tuck the lace into the opposing eyelet.

Another is to simply cut the lace off.

Lace the top loop in much the same way as the bottom. Ideally, you want the clasp working the same way on the top as it does on the bottom.
So, as shown above, installation is a breeze.  You don't even need any other tools (i.e. no scissors or a knife or anything) as tucking the access strap is just as comfortable and easy as cutting it is.  

Once installed, it slides on nice and easy and looks pretty sweet as well.

Laces are tucked for this picture - which I found didn't interfere with the fit of the shoe.

Side view of how it looks with the laces installed.

I opted for the reflective laces for this pair and they really show when you take a picture with the flash on.  You can see I have both shoes going the same way - this was done thinking I could easily "swipe" them off in transition (which I'll get into later).

Showing how they fit once put on.  Full disclosure:  I ended up slightly loosening the laces from this picture.


To be completely honest - I had a few negative first impressions of the lacing system when I received my sets.

First and foremost - I thought that the laces would put the dreaded "undue pressure" on the top of my foot.  Just the way the clasps situate seemed to indicate this would happen for sure.

Secondly - the clasp itself looks like something that would come undone fairly easily - resulting in the shoe loosening up and having to stop to "re-clasp" it.  That would kind of kill the point of speed laces.

Lastly, I thought that the way the cord hooks into the clasp would not hold.  It just seemed that - with a bit of effort - the clasp would easily come undone from the cord and would fall off mid-run to be lost forever.

I've put around 120 or so miles in these in the month or so that I've had them (between this pair of Skora Fits and a pair of Skora Phases that another set is on) and I'm happy to report that none of the above first impressions came into play in any real shape or form.  
I've not had a single time where the clasp came undone - and that is with some light trail running mixed in.  Perhaps with some heavier trail stuff (I might lace up my trail shoes with a pair of these to try it out in the future), you may run into sections where roots, bushes, etc will snap and unclasp the lace.
As for the foot pressure - I think Snap Laces has a real solution to people who were experiencing similar issues to me (where the tightening mechanism on other speed lacing systems would produce a "pressure point" on the top of your foot).  Despite the visual evidence which seems to indicate that having two mechanisms resting on top of your foot would produce pressure - I actually found that to not be the case.  In fact, I didn't feel the clasp at all (no pressure, no extra weight).  They're an extremely comfortable lacing system.

Here's a video of me running in the laces.  You'll have to excuse the complete amateurism cell phone video.  Unfortunately, this blog's budget doesn't allow for a professional photographer (at least, not until *I* become a professional photographer - which is never going to happen), so we make due with what we have (which is my shoddy attempt at filming a video haha).

I think Snap Laces does just about everything you need in a lacing system.  They're comfortable, lightweight, easy to install, come in a variety of colors (for people who need to match), easily adjustable, and allow for the shoe to come off and on easily without having to relace or re-do the who system.  

It's not really rocket science - they're shoe laces.  But, with that said, there's a whole host of lacing systems out there that don't really fit all of those needs - so it's pretty cool to find one that's a bit different that works absolutely perfectly.

Now, I did overthink things a bit when installing them on my shoe.  I figured that if I put the laces in the same direction - I could simply swipe them off allowing for an easy take off.  Turns out - it's completely unnecessary to do that.  The shoes slide right off without requiring you to mess with the clamping mechanism at all.

One thing I did run into while doing a duathlon was that - if you're not careful - the clamping mechanism can "unclasp" while the shoes are untied.  Meaning if there is no pressure on the shoe and it gets tossed around, the clasp can come undone.  I found this out the hard way as when I came back for the second run, the top clasp on the right shoe was undone.  Not a huge deal (it took all of .25 seconds to clasp it back on), but something to keep in mind.

All in all, this is an outstanding lacing system that will grace just about every pair of racing and training shoes I own.  I couldn't be happier with it and would recommend it to anyone (runner or triathlete) who is in a need of a speed lace system.  To top everything else off, they're not expensive either.  So that's always a bonus too.

Check them out at https://snaplaces.com/ and see if they're right for you.

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