If you took an earthworm and force fed it whole peas, not only would it be rather cruel, but you’d end up with an earthworm that was unable to crawl through tight gaps and in earthworm terms that’s pretty unfortunate.
I’m not sure if the guys at Xtenex have something against earthworms or not, but that’s definitely the principle behind their bobbly-worm shaped boot laces so it’s easy to imagine some evil professor feeding hordes of captive worms different sized petit pois in a laboratory somewhere.
Earthworms aside, what Xtenex laces are all about is stretchiness. They’re elasticated lengths of bungee cord with knots/bobble in them every 15mm or so. When you stretch the laces, these bobbles go flat.
Why would you want elasticated laces, I hear you ask. Well, Xtenex say that they make for a more comfortable boot because as you walk they ‘give’ slightly and thus avoid compression on the top of the foot.
I’ll be honest and say that, for the week I’ve been wearing one Xtenex lace vs one normal lace, I’ve not actually noticed any difference in comfort or support from my boot. That said, they are well-padded and quite stiff boots, so perhaps you’d feel more benefit in a lighter, more supple boot.
However, the Xtenex laces do have a couple of advantages over traditional laces that I DO agree with. Firstly, due to the knots it is possible to adjust the fit of your boot at different heights on the lacing. That is to say that you can leave the lace fairly loose at the toe end and fairly tight higher up, if that’s what you prefer. The knots and bungee ensure that the laces don’t slip through a boot’s eyelets, so your custom fit will remain.
The other possible advantage, for those of us who are lazy or have difficulty tieing laces (children, the elderly, arthritics) is that your boots effectively become slip-ons – you don’t have to loosen the laces below your ankle bone to get them on and off, which is neat. And certainly in the case of the traditional metal C-shaped lace hook (as seen at the top of my boot picture above) you don’t actually need to tie a knot in the laces at all. I’ve not had them knotted for the last 3 days and they haven’t come loose from the lace hooks during walks.
On the downside of things is the difficulty in threading the Xtenex laces in the first place. If one of the advantages is that they’re great in use for those with less hand control, then that’s negated by the faff that is trying to get them through lace eyelets initially. It’s not easy!
Price wise, they come in at £10, which is 5x more expensive than branded trekking laces.
Are they worth it? Well, I think that if I had difficulty getting my boots on and off, or suffered from a localised pressure-spot on my foot that required me to have a variable lacing pressure, then yes. Compared and contrasted to normal laces on a normal boot for normal feet, probably not.
SUMMARY: Xtenex’s weird looking elastic laces are a novel idea and the principle of being able to custom fit a boot to different pressure points is a good one. I had trouble discerning any difference on a well-fitting boot though. The advantage of turning a boot into a slip-on, and not having to tie a lace knot could be important to some readers, and for them I’d recommend the Xtenex laces, but I can’t see any need to swap all my boots over ‘just because’. They’re expensive, compared to normal laces, so this has to be a very conscious purchasing decision and I’d view them almost like a medical product, rather than an outdoor accessory.
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