A Lace in Point

Sometimes I just live with annoyances and discomfort for years, imprisoned not just by what a brand sells me, but also by my passive acquiescence to what I’m sold. Bikes with stems too short. Or handlebars too long. Handlebar tape that isn’t sufficiently padded, or saddles that aren’t comfortable. Cleats too far forward on the cycling shoe. Foggy or uncomfortable or leaky goggles.

And then I wake up one day and realize that it’s not necessarily the brand’s fault. Yes, sometimes a brand just makes a bad product. But it could be that I just have not made the product mine. We (you and I) are a lot more alike than we are different, which is why Levi Strauss doesn’t have to custom make every pair of jeans. (“Everybody is different is not in practice nearly as true as “everyone is alike.”) However, there is that middle ground, where we have to micro-adjust macro-produced products. Sometimes it’s because “everybody is different.” Sometimes it’s just because the bike brand spec’d poorly, and put an uncomfortable aerobar armrest or cheap handlebar tape, or an uncomfortable $4 saddle on a bike.

Sometimes it costs a lot of money to remedy a badly-spec’d product (a $200 saddle to replace the $4 saddle), but sometimes it’s cheap. I’m going to use as a case in point my retro HOKA Bondi B shoes, which I’m buying several pairs of, because they’re on sale now on HOKA’s site ($119 instead of $160). This was a reissue of the original shoe that made me a HOKA-forever guy (until some other brand induces me to break my lifetime contract). It’s my guess HOKA reintro’d this shoe mostly as a fashion play, but hey! I dug that shoe! For running! From its intro in 2011 until now it’s the best (for me) Bondi edition (up thru the 6; I haven’t run in the Bondi 7).

However, HOKA has been shoelace-challenged for most of its brand life. From the original Conquest, HOKA has tried all manner of funky closure systems, but if you look at the current Clifton 7, Bondi 7, Rincon, Carbon X, Elevon 2 – all the shoes I would and do run in – they’re all now spec’d with soft flat laces. HOKA knew how to make a world leading shoe from the midsole down 10 years ago. It took about 8 more years before it pretty well conquered how to make the shoe above the midsole, and you just don’t see these funky lace concepts in their shoes any longer. (The Kaha, its hi-top hiking shoe, is the only HOKA I own that uses round laces).

But you see round laces in the Bondi B because it’s a reissue, and HOKA has kept true to the idea, and the original round lace in the shoe.

Except it isn’t the original lace. I keep copies of vintage HOKAs – sometimes to HOKA’s chagrin, I suspect – so that I can measure and weigh each new model against the old. The original Bondi B had a larger diameter – and considerably softer – round lace. The current reissued Bondi B has a lace that just makes this very, very good shoe less than what it could be.

Which leads me back to the Case… er… the Lace in Point. I’ve run in these reissued Bondi Bs, right thru 3 pairs of them, probably 350 miles in each pair, with hard round laces cutting into the tops of my feet, before I finally just awoke to my acquiescence. Why don’t I just change the lace? Because it didn’t occur to me. Brain fog. Brain cloud. We are not driven to question our discomfort. We are conditioned to settle.

I took out the existing lace, measured its length, and ordered a set of flat laces. (I don’t care what link you use; I don’t have the affiliate deal.) Actually, I bought 2 sets of laces, because that’s how they sell them. It cost me $8 for 2 pairs. When I measured, the length I came up with was 55”, aka 140cm, there are several places on Amazon you can get your laces, in a million lengths and a billion colors. Done.

As we are on the cusp of the kick-off of our 100/100 Run Challenge (begins in just over 3 weeks, go here, click “Enter”), I’m getting everything prepared in advance, so that I don’t get tripped up, hence this lace issue coming to the fore.

This is not a treatise on shoelaces. It’s a plea to not accept fixable discomfort and inconvenience. I passively acquiesce to discomfort and inconvenience right now, all day long. Shoelaces that don’t stay tied and that dig into the tops of my feet. Can openers that don’t open cans. Kitchen knives that don’t cut. I just live in hypnotic acceptance of it. I wish I awoke more often, and more quickly, to what just doesn’t work for me.