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Shoelaces Suck. So We Made Them Better.

By Atoms Team on 03.15.2022

Shoelaces Suck. So We Made Them Better.

We always say that the first time you wear your Atoms is the last time you tie your laces. Until now. Our signature Stretch Laces are now available for purchase in 12 sleek colors for a custom look all your own. Here’s how we went the extra mile to build a better lace system.

Between double-knotting, fumbling to constantly re-tie, and the daunting risk of tripping, traditional laces leave a lot to be desired. So when we sought to design the perfect everyday shoe, creating a better lace system was at the top of our list.

But the journey there wasn’t easy. When we began concepting what is now our Model 000 sneaker, we knew we wanted them to be familiar looking — a true go-to made for everyday wear with classic, always-in-style laces to match. We tried countless combinations of materials, different methods of lacing them, unique eyelet shapes — you name it, we tried it.

Prototype Atoms Model 000 with round eyelets and regular flat shoelaces.

And yet nothing quite reached the standard we were looking to achieve. So as any frustrated creator would do, we kept pushing them aside and putting them off.

Until one day during the design process, we were reading a book called Sprint by Jake Knapp, which sparked a burst of inspiration. We decided right there that we were not going to leave the room without deciding what the laces would look and feel like. And we did. We wanted them to be flexible enough so that sliding them on and off was a breeze, but firm enough that they could withstand everyday wear.

Living in San Francisco at the time, we headed to a material shop in Haight Ashbury where we found some pieces of elastic and put them on an old pair of Under Armour shoes. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t look natural. So we put them aside in our home, not thinking much more about it.

But the strange thing was, every time we needed to do something quickly, like running outside to grab something or answering the doorbell, we would subconsciously reach for those janky shoes with elastic laces. Why? Because we didn’t need to take the time to tie them — they just stayed tied. They were so easy to slip on and made an otherwise timely process that much more convenient.

It hit us like lightning. That is what we were ultimately trying to achieve: Ease & simplicity.

From there, we continued to face challenges. Yes, we knew our end goal, but that was only a portion of the problem. The elastic we used on those haphazardly designed shoes looked like… elastic. It was ugly and not something constructed for regular wear. We also wanted the laces to lay flat — not flip or rotate — when tied to stay in place. When the elastic stretched, we needed it to re-conform to fit around the arches of your feet.

This meant new eyelets. Round eyelets allow laces to rotate and shift, so if you took your shoes off, then put them back on — the laces might behave differently. We worked with our team in South Korea to develop what we were looking for and eventually we landed on a great combination of materials.

Recycled brass eyelets used in Model 000.

Oval-shaped eyelets made from recycled brass kept our wide, elastic laces in place, preventing rotation. It was a perfect match. Once we were satisfied with that system, we began to create the final part of our elastic laces: the lace tips.

But again we ran into a problem — the inherent flexibility for elastic would cause the tips to bend when they were applied at high heat. Not sure if you’ve ever tried, but a 75 degree bent lace tip does not make for easy lacing. It’s quite frustrating.

We were in constant communication with our factory to solve this new problem — finding a solution for an elastic tip that wouldn’t bend. They worked diligently at achieving this, eventually getting each tip about 90% straight.

This made us happy, but we wanted that 90% to be 100%.

When we finally flew to our factory in South Korea, we were given an in-person demo where they cut the end of the lace tip, and the lace tip went flying in the air and hit Waqas right in the eye! It was quite a moment and a sign that we had achieved our goal.

Now, we have a proprietary Stretch Lace system. One that took countless hours to get right, but that in the end, accomplished our goal — to create a shoe that’s so easy to slip on and off, you won’t want to reach for anything else.

Our laces were specifically designed to be worn with Atoms shoes. Individually each component is not unique — but together they form a perfect combination allowing our shoes to slip on with ease and simplicity. We couldn’t be more excited to now be at a point where they are available for you to choose a color that fits your visual personality and allows you to customize your Atoms into a look all your own.