If I were to ask you how to tie a shoe, be honest, the first image that would come to mind goes back to your kindergarten days, when your parents or teacher would try to teach you how to tie a knot in your shoelaces (maybe double to be more secure).
In case you had an overly good mom or dad or a pretty accommodating teacher, then you would have Velcro shoes. In this case you must confess: you like to win easy!
Just this small, joking example (laces or Velcro) alone reveals a truth that we sometimes do not consider enough when we go to choose a shoe: there are many and very different closure systems. Yes, there are not only the infamous laces of our childhood, but also many other solutions.
Of the simple and somewhat trivial ones, invented just to get over the trauma of six years old, Amazon is full: Alphapace Pace Locks, Klick & Go, Lock Laces, QuickShoeLace…
There are other systems, however, far more ingenious and innovative, designed for specific uses, to make a shoe easier to put on, to make it secure, to ensure lightness, comfort, and speed of wearing.
Let’s start precisely with Velcro. A system that proves useful not only for children who appreciate its ease of use, but also for the work & safety world. Many work and safety footwear adopt this solution that allows you to do without the usual laces that could snag, loosen, in short, not guarantee the reliability needed in a risky work environment.
This fabric, mechanical, hook-and-loop fastening method -invented in 1948 by a Swiss engineer who was inspired by the hook-and-loop pollination system devised by Burdock flowers – has many advantages: it is easy to apply and use, it is light and fast, and, if the system is designed correctly, it allows for customized adjustment and thus a “custom” fit.
Ladies find it easier to remember this closure system usually adopted for boots. This is also very practical and quick to use, but compared to Velcro it is heavier and sometimes less reliable in terms of breakage, but more secure in mechanical hold. It does not allow customization of the fit, the measurements set by the designer those are and those remain.
The world of zippers, however, boasts some interesting applications that others struggle to secure. The system consists not only of the notches, the fasteners and the slider with its tab, but also, if not especially, the fabric on which the zipper is mounted. Precisely this material, and how close the notches manage to bring the flaps together, makes all the difference.
One example is YKK’s Aquaseal® zipper used in technical clothing, but also in some boots suitable for those who have a lot to do with water.
Another application of zippers that few, I think, would expect is in the medical field. The Coats Opti S ProtectV is the world’s first range of spiral zippers based on HeiQ Viroblock, an innovative Swiss technology that combines advanced silver components and a special cross-linking. Overall, the system provides protection against microbial contamination.
Magnets possess that level of magic that instantly makes one Harry Potter. They are actually a great, fast and reliable closure system that can also be applied to footwear.
Fidlock has made it its workhorse. Treksta has adopted the STRIPE FW SB20 on the Slay 752 Edition Outdoor model, which serves as an innovative alternative to traditional hook and loop fasteners, offering smooth, quiet opening and closing combined with ease of use.
In contrast, the HOOK rope system, adopted by The North Face, not only gives the sneaker added functional value, but also a wow effect look and fun usability. Thanks to the HOOK rope’s flexibility and magnetic contact, the sneaker can be opened, closed, and adjusted quickly and easily.
The electrocardiogram that measures the level of innovation in closure systems dedicated to the footwear world in 2001 records a pulse that rockets the hitherto flat track. Among the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, BOA Fit System is born.
BOA’s innovative solutions are designed to allow users to enjoy a precise, custom-fit, effortless fit. BOA’s micro-adjustable caster system – now a leader in biking, snowboarding and work & uninform – acts on a series of cables conveniently placed on the upper that are pulled or released, in part by specially designed guides/grommets, so as to ensure a perfect fit quickly and easily, whether closing or opening.
All of which can be controlled with one hand. Completing the perfect functional picture is the choice of ultra-strong, yet very light materials.
A system that can also find applications with a strong social impact, as in the case of Biomedica’s Hemi Cremona: a sports shoe that aims to improve autonomy in hemiplegic patients.
It should be clear by now how the simple act of lacing a shoe actually can bring with it a study and degree of innovation worthy of the best engineering projects.
Two outstanding realities are:
Jet from Hawai Italia, a manufacturer of shoe accessories and components. The company has adapted a system typically used in shell boots for skiing or those for snow-boarding so that it can be applied to other types of shoes as well.
Fast, intuitive, and versatile, it ensures a precise, quick, and secure fit in every wear situation. The micrometric adjustment closure provides a stable, snug and comfortable fit, as well as a perfect fit. This system also allows the shoe to be opened and closed with one hand. Great for the safety world, but not only.
Finally, we close with a true masterpiece of ingenuity: the quick-release system developed by Rosenbauer for the BOROS B4 boots dedicated to firefighters.
The goal of the system was to combine the advantages of all known types of fasteners: simplicity of operation, individual adjustment, and the ability to put on and take off the boot quickly, while ensuring the lowest possible weight. Simply pull the Rosenbauer quick release closure to put on the BOROS B4. Similarly, with a single click, the central buckle releases the tension of the lacing system, allowing the boot to be removed in an instant.
Small custom adjustments can also be made in two different areas.
The fastening system of the BOROS B4 is not only super-fast and heat-resistant, but also extremely practical, as it can be used even while wearing pull-on pants.
Let us enjoy, for now, the convenience of these ingenious innovations, because in the second installment of this article we will return to the much-hated laces. After all, they too have a lot of interesting things to say.
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