Fast Triathlon Transitions- Are Quick Laces Worth It?

Many triathletes find that the sport can get expensive rather quickly. The pursuit of aero bikes, buoyant wetsuits, and next generation running shoes is all great but if you spend 20 minutes getting it all on it defeats the purpose. We picked up some quick tie laces from Amazon and made T2 much easier.

While transitions are by default the shortest portion of the race, they are an easy place for a new triathlete to optimize. One of the major triathlon specific products to help with this are quick tie shoe laces.

It may seem like tying your shoes is a quick activity, but with tired, shaky, numb hands from a bike this challenge can be time consuming. We take a look here are what quick laces and elastic laces are, and look to determine how much time they can save you in transition.

What are lock laces and elastic shoe laces?

Fast tie shoe laces take a few varieties but are all designed to do the same thing, make it quick to put on a shoe while still maintaining stability.

Most fast tie laces wind up being made of elastic material. That makes it possible to pull the tongue of the shoe open and slide your foot in without having to retie them.

Lock laces, and other elastic laces then have to be secured. Mostly this is done with some sort of clasp. Some shoes come with this by default, including ones like Salomon Speed trail shoes which come with Salomon’s version of speed laces “Quicklace”.

It is also worth understanding that since quick laces are not standard, there are some shoes that are difficult to use them with. Nike Tempo, which we have reviewed before, have an angled lace design and a sock like ankle opening. In our experience not all quick laces work with all shoes, including the Nike Tempo.

If you want quick tie laces for the mechanical lock, because your shoes always come untied during the run, then consider changing how you tie shoes. There are objectively different knots, with many people defaulting to what they were taught as a kid.

If you tie shoes the “wrong” way, you may save time on the run just by teaching yourself the right knot. This pdf from Adobe has some good visuals to understand and see if you tie a strong vs. weak knot for your laces.

How much time can quick laces save a triathlete?

We look below at what the benefits and drawbacks of various laces are, but since the reason to use them is about being efficient in transition we want to focus on the time savings.

Below are the results of testing out how long it take to put on shoes with each lace type. We tried eachof these methods 3 times, and averaged the time of each. The time starts from first touch of the shoe and stops at the first step taken with them.

Not that there are also faster and slower ways to simply tie your shoe. Every person’s method will differ. As an easy example, double knotting your running shoes may increase the time by a few seconds total.

Lace TypeTotal Time (s)Notes
Double Knotting20 secondsSame as “traditional” but with an extra knot
Traditional17 seconds
Lock Laces10 secondsInexpensive and easy to install
Salomon Quicklace11 secondsIncluded by default on some Salomon Shoes. Takes an extra step to tuck away the laces
Caterpy No Tie Laces13 secondsNot as secure as mechanical locked laces. Time savings are lost if you have to adjust them while running.

All of these tests were done relatively fresh. If you have numb hands or are tied and shaking coming off the bike, the benefits may be more. Even so, we found that quick tie laces will only save triathletes around 10 seconds in transition, and maybe an additional 10 seconds if you assume a shoe comes undone at some point during the run.

If you are racing at the front end where losing contact with competitors makes an impact, or where 10-20 seconds will mean the difference in a race, then go for it. If not switching to quick tie laces is often not worth it for many racers.

Why NOT to use Quick Laces for Triathlon?

As with any choice of gear when doing a triathlon, using quick laces on your shoes is a personal decision. We have spoken to dozens, maybe hundreds, of triathletes and each one has a slightly different opinion on how useful little items like laces are.

The drawbacks of elastic quick lace system though land in one of three camps. Comfort, speed, and complexity.

Comfort. No doubt an elastic lace will not hold your foot the same way as a woven lace. If you are prone to blister or instability in your shoes, consider that many runners find locking laces to be less functional on comfort. On the flip side, especially for swollen feet, elastic laces may have an advantage for some runners.

Speed. At the end of the day the savings of time from quick laces is relatively small. For longer events, 70.3 and Ironman, the time savings is often less than rounding error. There is also the risk that a swollen foot from a 112 mile bike doesn’t slide nicely into a shoe. Either way, unless you are fighting for a podium spot or focused on every second, lock laces are unlikely to make the difference in your results.

Complexity. While often the third category here would be due to the cost, speed laces can be purchased for about the cost of a coffee or two. Instead, just the simple fact that you have to replace your new shoes, or swap over laces the day before a race is enough to deter some folks. We adhere to the triathlete mentality that nothing should be new on race day; which means running in speed laces all the time.

Of course if a lace comes undone, or the clasp breaks, fixing them can be more of a hassle than normal laces. Nothing is broken when it comes to traditional laces, so if you want to simplify things in a sport that is great at over thinking decisions, consider skipping the speed laces.

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