There are a lot of normally two-handed tasks that over time I have learned how to achieve by using only my one working hand, but very occasionally there comes a task which I find completely impossible to achieve with one hand. One such job is tying shoelaces. Sure, there are quite a few one-handed techniques for accomplishing the task out there, but if you take a closer look most of them are only achievable if you have strength in either your other arm (ie taking the "one-handed" term literally, and is only useful for amputees.) or in both of your legs.
Added to this the need to buy certain shoes in order to put a raise on the left shoe (ie shoes with flat soles which can easily be sliced off.) which rarely come with fastening that is easier and securer than laces, I'm pretty much screwed.
Therefore, over the last few years, I have been trying out various so-called "no tie" shoelaces.
I started out trying Greeper Laces, these looked good as they appear like normal laces. The problem was that the device that replaces the actual tying of the laces is only really designed for ease of unlacing, as opposed to lacing and unlacing., though I could just about make my shoes tight by contorting my fingers, I could never really get them tight enough.
The other issue was that to fit the laces, you needed to cut the laces at the bottom and secure them with a knot, and a clip to cover them ( as seen in video below.
This not only means once you've secured them you are stuck with the choices you have made, but you also need to get someone to do it for you. (and then explain how to tie them.) So I was quickly looking for a replacement.
It is hard to describe exactly what Hickies are, so please watch this video
On paper, these looked perfect, no tying, plus I could easily fit them myself. But unfortunately, I found these didn't live up to expectations. Before I explain why I should add the caveat that of course these were not designed with AFO's in mind, and therefore they can be forgiven somewhat for the first issue, which was they were not as adaptable as I would have hoped. I'd have to link two or more together to get my left shoe lose enough. However, my biggest gripe is that after about 3 months they would begin to snap, and this would be on my right foot, where there would be no extra strain. Though the pack you bought would have some spares, you would quickly run out - and at around £15 a pack, they are not cheap!
I was recommended QuickShoeLace by my cousin who works as an Occupational Therapists, but yet again they looked great in theory. One thing I came to realise with all these products was, though they had thought about the fastening of the show, the other thing they should have put more thought into is the securing at the opposite end. Much like the Greeper Laces, QuickShoeLace secured itself by way of a knot at the bottom. The annoying and frustrating thing, however, is that as it came out of the tin, this shoelace had almost the perfect stopper. Unfortunately, as with the Greeper, you have to cut to size, therefore making that stopper irrelevant. If they had somehow engineered a proper stopper this could very well have been a contender.
There was one other aspect that ruled this one out. Again, I must repeat the previous caveat I made about Hickies, they were not designed to get around AFO's. However, there is a general issue with all elastic based laces and that is they often have too tight a fit. When you are dealing with getting over something cumbersome like an AFO, you want something that is adjustable, so the shoe can be easily put on, but then can easily stay on as well. The QuickShoeLace did allow for this, except that the ring, which isn't something you can tighten, would slip off because the lace wasn't taught enough. Infact this would occur in both shoes, and usually at the most inopportune time.
So we finally come to the Xpand Shoelaces. These laces are probably the closest thing you could get to proper laces. They are threaded exactly the same way as normal laces, the only difference being that instead of needing to be tied, they have a clasp which holds both ends in place at the top. It is up to you whether you have the lace ends discreetly hidden inside, or hanged down on the outside. Like the QuickShoeLace you do have to trim them to fit, they do recommend wearing them tied for the first few days to make sure of the fit but this wasn't an option for me. I must admit giving the issues I had with the previous laces this did worry me, but actually, I needn't have been. As, Xpand allow you to have them extended slightly, so if I found them initially to lose, it wouldn't have been too hard adjusting them. Saying this, as I got the fit right pretty much the first time I haven't yet tested how easy it is to unfasten these laces.
If like me, you do choose to have the fastening on the outside, because the lace is looped around, it isn't noticeable that you are wearing anything unusual unless someone looks closely, which for me is huge. The biggest thing, however, is that they have thought through every little detail, including creating tabs which you can place on the end of the laces once they have been trimmed down, enabling longevity and decent appearance.
At the moment the only downsides I can currently see are, firstly, not being able to fit them myself, and having to ask a friend to accomplish this for me. Secondly, at £9-10 they are not as cheap as normal laces, but then again none are - and these are pretty much the cheapest you will find. Therefore I recommend these to any person with similar impairments to mine. You can buy these off Amazon below.