Although Greeper is relatively new to the US market, these laces have been popular in Europe for several years. They were invented by an optometrist in the UK as a solution to keeping his kids’ laces tied. Now they are being used extensively by athletes as well as individuals with various medical conditions which make tying traditional shoe laces difficult. So, what’s unique about this system that hasn’t been addressed by all the other “speed laces” that have come and gone over the years? How easy is installation and how well do they do their job? We’ll examine and test this here from a runner’s perspective.
One of the first things you realize upon unpacking is that the lace bow you see through the clear box window is not just for pretty presentation. The laces are permanently fixed in a bow, with tiny plastic stoppers on the loops to prevent them from coming undone while loosening the system.
Another thing that is immediately apparent is that the laces themselves are made of normal (i.e., not stretchy elastic) running shoe lace material.
For anyone not familiar with installing similar replacement laces, the instructions may seem a bit daunting. Remember, though, that you only need to go through this set-up once for a pair of shoes. Word to the wise: Read the entire instruction sheet first and follow the written instructions on the right in conjunction with the diagrams on the left (if you only follow the diagrams from top to bottom you might end up with a less-than-perfect fit). Also, the diagram of the small plastic “tag” in the lower left could be confusing; after adjusting snugness of the laces across your foot, use a square (“reef”) knot to secure the two ends together, then cut off the excess end of the lace. The tag can be flipped over to hide the knot for a clean, finished look.
Putting Laces through Their Paces
As a longtime triathlete, I’ve tried training and racing with many, many different lacing systems over the years that were intended to be fast in transitions and improve foot comfort…and I’ve been disappointed by each for various reasons. As a result, I admit that Greeper had its work cut out for it if it were going to convince me it was better.
I made sure the laces provided an even, comfortable amount of pressure across my foot, the same as I would with standard running shoe laces. I tightened the center of the loops against the top of my foot, securing my heel without an unnecessary amount of pressure so there was no constriction. Loosening these laces took only a split second, and my foot pulled out quickly and easily. Tightening takes slightly longer but is still much faster than tying. A small, well-thought out detail I noticed is the knurled, grippy texture used on the pull tabs that loosen the laces. In T1 of a duathlon or T2 of a triathlon, this system would indeed be fast.
I tested the laces during a hard hour-long speedwork session on a treadmill which included short pickups at 400m pace, mile repeats at 5K pace, and short hill sprints at 15% incline. If the laces were going to fail, this should have spotlighted their weaknesses.
So, how did they do?
Greeper’s tagline is “Once applied, Always tied” and I am happy to report that I have no reason to doubt this. The laces did not budge, despite the impact force at fast pace OR the pressure against the laces on the front top of the foot while running at steep incline. The fact that these laces are essentially TRUE running shoe laces separates Greeper from virtually every other “quick lace” system that’s come before it, which typically use elastic lacing. This to me is brilliant and FINALLY solves the problems inherent in the use of elastic for performance running. Greeper laces maintained the same even pressure across the foot as when I first secured it, without causing odd pressure points like elastic does; and its non-stretchiness means that the running shoe is able to perform its intended job of securing and guiding the foot through ground strike. This is especially important for people with biomechanical issues and/or for triathletes using speed laces for long- and ultra-distance racing, when fatigue causes running form to break down. The difference in weight between the original laces and the Greepers was negligible, as the plastic used is extremely lightweight. The hanging pull tab was not noticeable to me in any way and did not bounce while running. Installation took a very reasonable amount of time, and after you know what you’re doing, it’s even simpler to repeat the process for another pair of shoes.
In conclusion, Greepers actually work, and work well. Greeper Sport Laces are available online in 11 colors for $15 per pair.
Craig Sheckler has been involved in endurance sports for over 25 years in a multitude of ways — as a triathlon and running coach, athlete, race director, performance center owner, clinic presenter, and volunteer. Craig is the founder and head coach of Endurance Multisport, a coaching business and USAT Tri Club which recently partnered with St. Luke’s Fitness & Sports Performance Center in Allentown, PA as its new home for endurance sports training, including an 8-man CompuTrainer cycling studio. With certifications as a Level II USAT coach and USATF running coach, he provides individualized coaching for athletes of all ages and abilities, beginner through elite, across all race distances. He also runs successful couch-to-5K and sprint tri group training for corporate wellness programs.