What Are the Extra String Holes in Tennis Shoes?

Extra string holes in sneakers are about function, not fashion.

Extra string holes in sneakers are about function, not fashion.

Be honest: You wonder about it every single time you shop for athletic shoes but feel a tad embarrassed about asking such a simple question. You're not sure whether those extra lacing holes at the top serve an actual purpose. You never see anyone use them, and you've started to wonder if they're just a useless part of shoe design. Well, wonder no more -- those extra string holes actually serve a purpose.

The Lowdown

Those little holes that run up the sides of your shoes so you can lace them are called eyelets, all of them. The extra eyelets you've been wondering about first came onto the athletic shoe scene during the 1980s, and they've been a fixture ever since. Women's athletic shoes have one extra eyelet on each side of the shoe lacing area. You'll be fine if you don't use these, but in some cases they may make you more effective.

What They're For

Extra eyelets help pull in the uppers and give your feet and ankles a little extra snugness and stability. This can be a big plus for high-intensity workouts that strain your ankles, such as running or jumping rope. That extra stability can be super helpful when it comes to preventing falls, sprained ankles and even broken bones. Next time you're in the market for a good running shoe, check them out when you try on a pair.

Who They're For

Extra eyelets are not made for all runners, so you shouldn't be concerned if you need to unlace them for comfort. They're really only helpful to people who have narrow feet, narrow ankles and/or low arches. And even if you have any of these, you're not required to use them. If you're not sure of your foot type, just ask the sales clerk who's helping you out.

How to Lace

Use the normal crisscross lacing pattern to lace your shoes right up until the extra eyelets. But never use crisscross for the extra eyelets; that cuts into your ankles. Crisscrossed upper eyelets pull too hard, restrict stability and just plain hurt your ankles and feet. So, use the loop method for those holes: Push the laces down through the upper eyelets from the outside of the shoe. Then bring the laces across and push them up through the opposite hole and tie a bow. The loops should be loose so you can still move freely.


About the Author

Christina Lee began writing in 2004. Her co-authored essay is included in the edited volume, "Discipline and Punishment in Global Affairs." Lee holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and politics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a Master of Arts in global affairs from American University and a Master of Arts in philosophy from Penn State University.

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