By Jake Weiss
Statistics show that the average parent will tie her kid’s shoes roughly 47 times per week. I’m no average parent however; I’m the recess coordinator at a Portland public school. Tying shoes is my #1 job responsibility.
But even after six years of graduate studies, I never learned how to tie a shoe the right way. Sure, I’d seen the TED talk. I mean, which parent hasn’t? And I’ve read many scholarly articles on the subject from distinguished authors such as Bill Nye the Science Guy. I even immersed myself in the UC Berkeley study that used high-def slow motion cameras to capture the dynamic forces at play on the laces of the shoes on the feet of a distance runner on a treadmill who happened to be a Ph.D. student and co-author of the study, Christine Gregg. She and her colleagues discovered that the impact of feet repeatedly hitting the ground at seven times the force of gravity will loosen the knot, and the force applied by swinging legs will tug at the free ends of the laces, causing the swift and total collapse of the knot structure. They further determined that the widely-used granny knot is about five times weaker than the near-identical square knot that almost no one practices, even though it only requires the very easy modification of looping underneath instead of over the top.
But all these scientists are wrong. About the best knot, that is. While the square may top the granny, there is a knot that is stronger and better than all by far. Discovered by a shoelace connoisseur and savant named Ian Fieggen, aka “Professor Shoelace,” it is the last knot you’ll ever need. Its name? Ian’s Secure Knot, unsurprisingly.
Anecdotally, I can say with certainty that Ian’s Secure Knot (referred to in other texts as the Double-Slip) is the finest shoelace knot in the universe, a veritable holy grail of sneaker tying. My 6-year-old son, who set a land speed record in 2017 for undoing two quadruple knots in under 10 minutes during a furiously active lunch recess, has worn Ian’s Secure Knot for 2 weeks now, and his laces look freshly tied. I don’t throw the term miracle around often, but there is absolutely no other word to describe the phenomenon.
So how is Ian’s Secure Knot performed? Rather simply, actually. It starts with the same two familiar steps: the initial crossover and bunny ears. But then it gets a bit trickier. You bring one bunny ear behind the other and loop it forward, over and in, then bring the other ear backward, over and in. Then pull, and it creates two simultaneous, parallel knots that can be tightened by pulling on the free ends. These two knots meet in the middle and keep the structure secure. Counterintuitively, pulling on the free ends tightens the knot and makes it extra strong, but if you pull them all the way, it undoes the knot quite easily. It’s basically witchcraft.
I implore all parents to learn and use Ian’s Secure Knot with the utmost urgency. For the safety of your children, for the knees and backs of school personnel, and for the good of the world. Knot even joking.
Jake is an educational assistant at Abernethy Elementary, where his two kids attend. He also volunteers with foster youth and coaches Little League baseball. Follow him on Twitter @dadlifePDX.
- Review: “Impulse” at Oregon Children’s Theatre - January 16, 2020
- Tied & True: My Search for the Perfect Shoelace Knot - December 29, 2019