I’m a sucker for novel inventions that solve real problems. Enter the Endurus XCR Boa by The North Face. It may not solve a problem that a whole lot of people face, but it’s a real innovation for long distance runners.
In The Perfect Human, Dean Karnazes — a man who ran 50 marathons in 50 days — shares his 12 secrets for success. Among them: Go laceless.
One of the biggest annoyances in long-distance running is lace management. After banging out 50 miles, it can be hard to squat or even bend over long enough to tie your shoes. The North Face recently responded to Karnazes’ complaints and came out with the $130 M Endurus XCR Boa. Its laceless upper is enmeshed in thin steel cables that connect to a tension dial at the back. A simple turn cinches the shoe onto the foot. No more slowing down to fiddle with laces.
I love it. Turn the dial to tighten or loosen the shoes. Neat thinking. And according to The North Face, “This unique closure automatically micro- adjusts with foot movement to eliminate pressure points, kind of like a suspension system.” Further reading about the lacing system if you’re interested.
--Joshon 03 Jan 07
Nice, but it has been done before. I don’t remember the company, but I worked in a shoe store during high school (early 90’s) and one of the major companies had a couple running shoes, a cross country shoe, and a basketball shoe with a similar system. The dial was positioned on the front or the side depending on the model.
W. Andrew Loe IIIon 03 Jan 07
BOA has been used on Snowboard boots with marginal success over the last few years. They have now finally released a “dual” system, where the lower foot and ankle each has its own dial and wire system. This seems to work better, but still not as well as laces (in my opinion). If the shoes are a perfect fit, basically if your foot is close to the last, its great. If not, it sucks.
Geof Harrieson 03 Jan 07
Speaking of snowboard boots, I finally got a new pair (2007 Burton Ion) with their own version of the BOA system, sans dial and a whole lot simpler all around.
The Ion’s are incredibly fast to lace up, stay tight throughout the day and are endlessly customizable. My old lace up boots seem so archaic.
BOA was the first dial system on the market, but as W. Andrew Loe III has pointed out, it’s been met with marginal success with most snowboarders. The whole thing is really bulky and finicky, or so I’ve heard.
Burton, on the other hand, appears to have met a nice compromise with its product. Simpler and cleaner than the competition. How 37s of them :)
Jacob Thurmanon 03 Jan 07
I would love to have this in a pair of cycling shoes… lace management on a bike is horrendous. First off, with no laces, this shoe would need far less adjusting than a laced shoe. Second, if it DID need adjusting in mid-race, you can do it quickly and with one hand, never unclipping your shoe from the pedal. It would be great!
Aleksandaron 03 Jan 07
Looks like a re-invention of Puma Disc System from 15 years ago.
Roberton 03 Jan 07
Aleksandar, I’ve had those kind of shoes (not those ugly colors though). They worked pretty well :)
Ferran Barbaon 03 Jan 07
Take a look at this lacing solution, for any kind of shoes:
Chrison 03 Jan 07
I own a pair, and they are great. But I didn’t buy them specifically for the laces. I’m a college student, so tend to wear trainers a lot (British, too). Ever walk about in the pooring rain and accidentally step in a deep puddle, getting your feet soaked? I have several times, and it annoyed me, so I got a pair that have a Gore-Tex layer, making them totally waterproof. The grip and comfort of these trainers are only a bonus.
Danny Hopeon 03 Jan 07
Not exactly a paragon of simplicity though is it.
Maxon 03 Jan 07
Puma Disc System, circa mid-’90s. They had this.
WmDon 03 Jan 07
Didn’t you have them Nike Frees? I still love mine.
jmon 03 Jan 07
@ Jacob Thurman
Pearl Izumi makes 3 models of road cycling shoes that use a dial system that zig zags across the foot for a uniform cinch. I’ve been using the Flow shoes for a the past year and they work well.
Scotton 03 Jan 07
Sidi has had a dial on their cycling shoes for years.
soxiamon 03 Jan 07
Jacob – Besides Pearl Izumi and Sidi (theirs is actually a different system), Specialized was the first company to produce “Boa” system. It’s actually a thin filament of braided steel threads so it’s pretty strong and supposedly quite comfortable and effective.
~bcon 03 Jan 07
I remember wanting a pair of those Pumas in middle school, and my parents wouldn’t let me buy them. They said if that gadget that replaced the laces broke, I’d have a useless pair of $80 shoes. If laces break, you can replace them, cheap and easy.
Currently I sport a pair of Merrells that have a bungee-like cinch system to close, which are great. If they break I can get a pair of laces and run them through the same holes… graceful degregation.
Eloyon 03 Jan 07
If Karnazes really had wanted, he could have found a number of solutions already available to avoid tying laces.
As mentioned, this is standard on cycling shoes. Specialized, Lake, Pearl, Sidi, etc…, etc…
Also used often on running shoes meant for du/triathletes.
Mikeon 03 Jan 07
I’m a big hiker, and when I switched to this type of lacing system (Salomon shoes have it, too) it was a big help. When you’re spending most of your day walking, shoelaces can indeed be a big annoyance.
AWon 03 Jan 07
I wonder, why tie show laces at all? If the knob has a capability to immediately release the string pressue so you could take you shoes off – why have laces at all? It does the exact same thing as shoe laces without the tieing part. The elegance in shoes isn;t the laces that flop around. Its the design of the shoe and how the laces are interwoven. Not the mess. Seems to me we’re accustomed to excess with laces. This little gadget solves the mess and time wasting problem.
I would disagree with Jason and say this applies to everyone who wears shoes.
4point44on 03 Jan 07
whatever happened to those “pump-up” shoes? anyone remember those? did they work?
Dave Woodwardon 03 Jan 07
I had a couple pairs of Solomon shoes that had a system of nylon laces sewn into the shoe with a plastic piece that holds them tight at the top of the tongue. Its like laces you don’t have to tie. Very convenient and similar to that boa setup but it doesn’t go around the back of the ankle and it doesn’t seem as “engineered”.
It seems Solomon kept the technology of how the lace tightens the upper the same, they just integrated the lace into the shoe and added a piece that holds the laces tight and called it a day.
These are the shoes I had that have this system.
Carynon 03 Jan 07
Smartlaces will do this on your current sneakers for $12.
Ericon 03 Jan 07
That is pretty slick. I too looked up this shoe after reading the article, North Face is getting a lot of good press off of this.
I imagine in the future there will be even more “suspension” based lacing systems, that don’t require you to lace at all. That provide a better fit. Who knows.
tamimaton 03 Jan 07
Yes it was Puma. The time when they fabricated shoes. Not trends.
Noel Hurtleyon 03 Jan 07
Sounds great on paper, but I wonder how well it translates to real world usage.
Anonymous Cowardon 03 Jan 07
Sounds great on paper, but I wonder how well it translates to real world usage.
Umm, I suspect pretty well if a guy who ran 50 marathons in 50 days says they work.
Randyon 04 Jan 07
What happens when the laces break? You are up a creek without a paddle if you can’t rethread through the dial or through the lacing holes (which look pretty small from that diagram)
Anonymous Cowardon 04 Jan 07
Randy, the laces don’t break so nothing happens.
NurseGirlon 05 Jan 07
@Danny Hope Often the things that are the simplest for the user (turn the dial instead of bothering with all of that tying stuff) is actually more complicated to engineer. That’s often alluded to in the “design decisions” posts around here.
Jeffon 05 Jan 07
You can accomplish the same thing with a $5 set of elastic laces available at any running store and they have the added bonus that you can just slip your feet right in and out the shoe with no adjustments. Perfect for triathletes who need to speed through transitions and super comfortable on a long run. The disadvantage is that it is a little harder to adjust tension when running (when your feet swell after so much pounding) but then again thats one advantage of elastic (it expands). I am also sure that squating down and reaching back to your heel to adjust these shoes is no pleasure on the run.
I have follwed Dean throughout the years, read his book, and met him at a book signing. He is a great guy and is doing wonders for the sport of endurance running/athletics, but just keep in mind that sponsorships go a long way in influencing recommendations.
From quite a lot of personal experience, if you ever plan on running more than 15 miles in one shot, buy a shoe based on fit, not on laces.
Elaineon 05 Jan 07
Reebok made them; I had a pair of the hiking boots in college and adored them! I have very narrow feet & ankles, and those shoes held my feet in place quite nicely.
I wore them until they completely fell apart. I’d buy another pair in a heartbeat.
Oh, and I have a pair of $30 sketchers that have velcro in a diagonal pattern instead of laces. Very comfortable for cycling in particular…and way less expensive than any of these fancy-pants solutions. ;)
Randyon 05 Jan 07
If you don’t think the laces break then you haven’t raced in an ultramarathon, adventure race, or any other crazy endurance sport. It’ll happen. This is why I don’t use Salomon XA Pros…those laces break and it’s impossible to thread a new lace in without having to do some sort of weird fix.
Christaon 06 Jan 07
CHRIS (Re: cycling shoes with laces) Sidi has fantastic sans-lace cycling shoes www.sidiusa.com You may also want to consider some velcro kicks?
This discussion is closed.