Shoe Laces Tailor Made for Autism… or Not.

Tying shoe laces. It becomes an issue when you have a kid with autism. And after their feet reach a certain size it gets really difficult to find velcro shoes. Well, we’re at that point.

Braden, our son with autism, is 9. And his shoes are size 7. Braden goes through shoes like the Cookie Monster goes through cookies. His scooter has a foot brake, but he prefers to put his foot down directly on the cement. His bike, foot down. Getting off the swing, drag those feet hard on the ground. Ugh.

I know it’s hard to see, and that’s half the point, but the shoes in that picture above are fitted with iBungee Stretch Laces. They look pretty normal, don’t they?

Follow up:

There are drawbacks to elastic laces. Kids can accidentally snap themselves, as if with a rubberband. My son has done that once. He was tightening his laces the other morning after putting on his shoes, and the laces slipped from his right hand, and snapped his left hand. Ouch! But the big drawback is that the little plastic goodie slides up and down when you’re tightening the laces and that creates friction, which quickly causes the laces to fray and then break.
In fact, my son had these laces on his shoes for about 2 months before they broke. Done. Then we needed to find a new solution before school the next morning.
So, these alternative laces, what are they? If you have a kid with autism, you might want to know. I wasn’t sure which ones would work best for Braden, so I bought a couple different ones, Yankz and iBungee. Well, once the iBungee laces failed, we turned to the Yankz.

Both brands come in a virtual rainbow of colors. I wanted the laces to blend in with the shoe, so I went with plain ole black. Maybe I should’ve gotten some blue ones for him.

iBungee also makes “Zero friction fittings” that you can use on a pair of shoes to make it easier to tighten and loosen those handy dandy speed laces. Problem is, the zero friction fittings don’t stop the friction from the tightener. They only stop friction from the lace holes. But the friction that killed the iBungee laces was caused by the plastic tightener goodie, thingy (whatever it is).

These things are marketed toward triathletes, runners, and general fitness nuts. So they have that sort of image, which is cool. They’re not really “special” shoe laces at all and that makes me like them all the more. After all, trying to keep our kids with ASD in the “in crowd” or looking cool is a constant challenge.
Yankz laces are a little different from iBungee. To be accurate, they’re labeled as Yankz Sure Lace System. OK, whatever. It seems they have a marketing department. Yankz has a little goodie that attaches to the bottom lace so they’re not just hanging free. The laces are tethered nicely. I guess that makes them more organized. It also eliminates friction from tightening the laces, because once you install them, you basically don’t tighten and loosen them.

After the iBungee laces broke, I installed the Yankz. And I wish I wasn’t “yanking” your chain when I say they lasted only 2 days. Yep, deuce days. Are you kidding me? I hope Yankz last longer for typical people, but for my 9-year-old with autism they only went two days. And they aren’t cheap either.

The day after they broke, I came home from work, gathered the wife, kid, and dog and went straight to the local Vans outlet store. We found a pair of velcro shoes that Vans still makes. I didn’t pay attention at the time, but these shoes are called Prison Issue #23 and apparently some California prisons actually issue these shoes to inmates. Well, now my son has ‘em. And in some ways our house is a prison, so I guess they’re appropriate. Since Vans sizes these prison shoes all the way up to a men’s 13 we may keep Braden in these shoes for the foreseeable future. They’re $45 which is a little more than we want to spend, but hey, the kid’s gotta have shoes.

So, in review, if the elastic laces work for your kid – great! As for our house, we won’t bother with them again.

There are other elastic laces I haven’t checked out. I know there’s one called Xtenex, which looks interesting. And there’s those funky curly laces called Coilers which I think are ridiculously ridiculous and I never considered buying them.

Anyhow, if you have a child with autism sooner or later you’ll be looking to solve the shoe laces dilemma. Now you have some options. And you might want to stick with the slip-on variety. Vans work for us!

Oh, one more thing; If you’re ready to tackle tying shoes with your kid, autistic or not, you may want to try One, Two, Tie My Shoe. Although I haven’t tested it yet, you might find it to be helpful!