You don’t have to do many triathlons to learn that fast transitions can enable you to move up several places on the finisher list. In addition to practice and preparation, equipment can make a difference in how quickly you transition. One of the least-expensive ways to cut down on your transition time is by using speed laces, aka, stretchy or stretch laces or the brand names Yankz, Speedlaces, or Locklaces.
Be careful, though. You are very likely to become hooked and start to use these laces on everything from cycling shoes to the ones you do yard work in.
For the sake of using a generic term in this article, I will refer to them as speed laces in the lower case.
How Speed Laces Work
Speed laces replace your shoes’ shoelaces. Instead of being a lace that you tighten and tie each time you put the shoe on, the speed laces keep the shoe snug on your foot while enabling you to set them at the exact tightness you are looking for, every single time. Perhaps the most important benefit, though, is that the typical speed lace has just enough give in it so you can pull your shoe off in about a second without having to untie it. Think of it as using a bungee cord for a lace instead of a rope.
The process of putting speed laces on your shoes takes about 15 minutes, and then some additional time and testing to be sure you have the tightness just right for you. Once they are on, they stay on.
If you want a tutorial on how to put speed laces on, we did an entire piece on it here. It will take you step-by-step through the process of putting one common speed lace design on your shoe.
If you are like most triathletes, you will quickly not tolerate shoes that have anything but speed laces on them. They make transitions that much faster, and are just plain convenient when you are doing something as simple as going for a quick training run. We hear of many people who get so used to speed laces that they begin to use them on all footwear for the ease of getting them on and off.
Our Favorite Speed Laces:
While there are several makers of speed laces, three major manufacturers dominate the market and have captured triathletes’ loyalties.
Lock Laces. Lock Laces (branded as such) are simple but work very well. They are a typical elastic / stretchy lace that locks into place with a plastic piece that goes on the center of the shoe front. Reviews on Lock Laces are always excellent, and they come in over a dozen colors. If coordinating colors with your ensemble is important to you, you will like these laces. The simple circular design on the stay is one that is basic but works well. The only issue is that it doesn’t always “lay down” on your show, but that is a pretty minor thing. Overall, they get five stars from us and we are big fans. Find here.
Speed laces. Speedlaces iBungee laces use the same concept as the Lock Laces, with a high-stretch material and a plastic lock that keeps the laces set to the level of tightness you want. One trait of Speedlaces are that they tend to be reflective, so can add an element of safety to those of you who are early-morning or evening runners. Speedlaces have been named the top in class by Triathlete magazine and have a strong triathlon following. The plastic stay is a little more involved and complex, but perhaps provides a better hold long-term. Lock Laces are slightly easier to put on in our opinion, but the difference is marginal. We like Speedlaces as well. Find here.
Yankz. Yankz have been around for a long time and are a solid product, as are the others listed here. One unique feature of Yankz is the double lock system. A plastic lock at both the bottom and top of the shoe front helps keep the tightness adjusted precisely, and better spreads the pressure across the entire foot front. We have used Yankz and have been very happy with their performance, and price-wise they are going to be very much on-par with the other options listed above. Find here.
There are other stretch laces on the market, but we find that the three listed above are the “can’t-miss” brands in terms of quality for triathletes. You can’t go wrong with any of them. Considering that they all retail for less than $10, it will be one of the best bargains you will find to increase your race times and make your training more enjoyable.
Be careful of some of the aftermarket brands that you will see on major retailers’ websites. They are usually knockoffs. While the quality might be OK, you do not want a plastic stay that doesn’t work. If that piece doesn’t work, the entire lace is pretty worthless.
If you are looking at speed laces, you are probably in the market for other triathlon gear. Don’t miss our authority piece on triathlon clothing. We describe what to think about from head-to-toe. While you are at it, our piece on bike shoes might be useful if you are getting into triathlon and road bikes. You can use these speed laces on your bikes shoes as well, for a quick getaway at your transition 1 and 2.