Xtenex Laces Review


From the Slowtwitch forums several months ago, I noticed a call for product testers for Xtenex laces. I was lucky enough to be selected to receive some free laces to try out. I was intrigued to see if they could be any better than run-of-the-mill elastic laces, which I used prior to Xtenex.

Before continuing, some info that may be pertinent:

Test period: early May through September 2009
Product received: white 30″ X300, black 40″ X300, navy 20″ X200
Shoes: Asics Gel Kayano
Shoe size: Men’s normal width 11.5
Weekly mileage: minimum of 50mpw and 75mpw maximum

When I received the laces, I was rotating two pairs of Kayano 14’s. I laced them up with the two pair of X300 laces. The directions state to lace the shoes with your foot in the shoe, which I did. The instructions tell you to lace them up so that you can pull up the laces ~1.5″ from the tongue of the shoe. I did that, but it still ended up being too tight on my foot. The laces are sneakily restrictive across the foot when you first put them on.

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I used both of the X300 pairs, one pair of shoes had 30″ laces, and the other had 40″ laces. After making some adjustments, for my size shoe and my comfort, the 30″ X300 (white) extended out from the top eyelet by about 3 or 4 knots.

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The 40″ X300 required me to tie the laces across the top as one would with a typical shoelace.

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After a few runs in each pair, the dominant thing I noticed was that I actually prefer to NOT have laces come across the top of the shoe’s tongue and be tied in a knot. I want to say that there’s more freedom of movement without the extra lace and knot at the top, but I don’t really think that’s the case. I believe that it’s merely less restriction and stress on my foot, and it feels kind of nice.

I continued to run in these 2 pairs of Kayano 14’s until they wore out. I bought and received 3 pairs of Kayano 14’s. At this point, I changed over the 1 pair of 30″ X300 to a new pair of shoes. For the second pair of shoes, I ditched the 40″ X300, and I laced up the 20″ X200. Again, for my size foot and my comfort, I was able to lace up the X200 to the top eyelet with a single knot sticking out.

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For the third pair of new shoes, I replaced the normal laces that come with the shoe with normal elastic laces. I took them out of an old pair of Mizuno running shoes that wore out quickly from the summer of 2008. I hadn’t used the laces since that time, and they were still in good condition. I laced up the elastic laces to what felt comfortable and stable.

The 40″ X300 laces were unused for the remainder of the summer except for a one-time use on a pair of light hiking boots. While at Rocky Gap State Park for an XTERRA race, I hiked the Rocky Mt. Trail in the boots with the Xtenex laces. Keeping in mind that A) this was a one time observation and B) that I also hiked with trekking poles and C) the terrain wasn’t anything horrific (class 2 at best), I’d say that the laces performed satisfactorily. My foot stayed in place reasonably well overall, and while trekking poles help a lot with downhills, my foot wasn’t sliding forward very much going down Evitt’s Revenge.

While the 40″ laces may be serviceable for light hiking, there is no chance that I would use them for anything beyond that. I wouldn’t consider them for my backpacking Kayland Vertigo High’s. I highly doubt that I would even bother trying 36″ X400 laces for anything other than light hiking.

Back to the running shoes…

I continued through the summer rotating the 3 pairs of Kayano 14’s. I never had to make any adjustments after the first setup. I never felt or noticed any of the knots within the laces slipping through the eyelets. While I never noticed a considerable difference in feel or comfort and the stability of the shoe on my foot, I have a suspicion that the laces have stretched. I haven’t yet taken the laces out and measured them, and I don’t think that it would really matter since if one did notice a difference in performance of the laces, then they can be easily adjusted back to the desired tension.

Xtenex lists its laces’ advantages here. Let’s examine that.

Xtenex states that lace migration is a source of footwear pain and discomfort. Xtenex defines lace migration as the movement of the shoelace towards the forward bend of a shoe. First, I had never heard of lace migration before receiving the Xtenex laces, and second, where exactly is the forward bend of a shoe? I would assume that the forward bend is not the arch area, and it is over the forward joint of the metatarsals. Next, I have never noticed laces bunching toward the front of the shoe or at the bottom eyelets. Trying to imagine that, I get this mental picture of the dudes from high school who were the head bangers and tied their shoes super tight. The shoe would be super tight across the top of the foot, and there’d be like a cavity at the bottom of the tongue. You could hook your finger in there.

I cannot recall having the problems caused by lace migration as laid out by Xtenex. I’ve never had my foot go numb from having a shoe tied on. I’ve never had a shoe “bind” at the top, or had restricting pressure that wasn’t a result of myself over tightening a shoe. Again, I’ve never had forefoot slippage and looseness over the metatarsal area, and I have only ever had blisters develop during the initial break-in period for a new pair of shoes. I can’t see forefoot looseness resulting unless one is tying their laces too tight at the top of the shoe to begin with. And, if the root cause of lace migration is due to laces being too tight, then there can be more than one answer to the problem than elastic laces. However, Xtenex doesn’t delineate what the root cause is for laces migrating towards the forward bend of a shoe.

Doing a quick Google search on “lace migration” didn’t return any links to articles that were research based or from health professionals discussing the issue of lace migration. The only links closely associated to the search terms led back to Xtenex, which to me initially indicates that this is more a term derived by Xtenex. Clearly, one should see the benefit in a devised loop. This leads me to question; is there really such a thing as lace migration? Additionally, nowhere on the website does Xtenex list any professional journal articles or research studies where the negative effects of lace migration may have been noted previously.

The design of the laces with the knots certainly allows the fit to be maintained, and I believe that’s a certifiable. The laces do allow for expansion as a result of a swelling, and no plastic pieces are required as are used with Yankz. However, regular elastic laces also allow for expansion, and they don’t need the plastic piece as is seen in my photo since a knot is all that’s really needed. Xtenex laces supposedly eliminate “dual-compression impact”. What? I really don’t understand that one, because how does the sole of the shoe and the bottom of your foot NOT impact together? The shoe would have to be really loose on the foot, no? I’m just not buying it. Xtenex also claims the advantages of being able to create tension zones or increase tension along one side of the shoe. I can see how this is possible, however, I never once thought about creating tension zones. For me, there is no advantage of this capability. Once, I had the tension set initially, it felt supportive all throughout the arch, upper and metatarsal area. There was no need to change the tension.

I kept running and rotating shoes each day throughout the summer. After each run in the 2 pairs of shoes laced with Xtenex, I’d consciously be thinking about how it felt or if I felt anything different from the shoes with the elastic laces. For me, it’s a given that just about any elastic lace is better than knotted lace, because you can go on/off quicker, they allow for expansion and they don’t come untied. That’s the basic performance. Therefore, the litmus for Xtenex isn’t outperforming a knotted lace or cloth lace that typically comes with a pair of running shoes, but it has to outperform regular elastic laces.

I could have written this evaluation sooner. Four months to evaluate shoelaces is MORE than enough. However, I kept waiting for something discernible in performance to arise. I kept thinking that it just needed more time. “Just be patient.” Ultimately, I never noticed anything significantly different in terms of feel and performance between the 30″ X300 and the 20″ X200 or between either of the Xtenex laces and the regular elastic laces. Yes, I do like having no lace come across the top eyelets, but it’s not THAT great to be a deal clincher. I don’t think there’s a significant advantage to that either.

I am skeptical of the lace migration concept, and I wonder if it’s a made up solution to a non-problem. I do think that it is an ingenious design and concept, and I will say that the laces do a nice job of maintaining the initial fit. On the other hand, I don’t see the benefit of some of the claimed advantages from creating tension zones. Lastly, I don’t believe that Xtenex laces outperform a regular elastic lace. I don’t believe there is any significant benefit or advantage that would validate the price premium and use over the run-of-the-mill elastic lace. I would not have purchased Xtenex laces if they had not been given to me for trial. I wouldn’t specifically recommend using Xtenex laces to peers.

Thank you to Slowtwitch and Xtenex for providing the laces to me for testing.

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~ by jerseyquaker on September 24, 2009.

3 Responses to “Xtenex Laces Review”

  1. lace migration? and laces that come with instructions? what has this world come to?

  2. Thank you for your review you have saved me a lot of money! I have been looking for a non-biased review for Xtenex before buying. I really don’t trust those B.S. testimonials they post in their website. After all what kind of company will post negative comments regarding their product!

  3. My feet go numb from long-distance running without the proper laces. It’s relatively common, as anyone who knows how to work a computer could figure out. You’re a dipshit.

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