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Why don't more people wear shoes with Velcro fasteners?

ImageLearning to tie one's shoelaces was a childhood rite of passage long before Swiss inventor George de Mestral obtained a patent for Velcro in 1955. Since then, Velcro has been replacing zips, hooks, laces and other traditional fastening methods in a host of applications.

As a method of fastening shoes, Velcro offers clear advantages over laces. Laces can become untied, for example, causing people to trip and fall. And fastening shoes with Velcro is much quicker and easier than tying a pair of laces. But although it once seemed that Velcro might drive laces from the marketplace, the proportion of adults who wear shoes with Velcro fasteners remains small. Why have shoelaces survived?

From the beginning, the most popular applications of Velcro in the shoe industry have been in shoes for children as well as the elderly and infirm. Velcro's popularity for children's shoes is explained by the fact that many of the youngest children have not yet learnt how to tie shoelaces.

Among the elderly, Velcro is popular for medical reasons. Some older people have difficulty bending down to tie their shoes, for example, while others have difficulty because of arthritic fingers.

The upshot is that Velcro fasteners on footwear are associated in the public mind with incompetence and fragility. Even though shoes that fasten with Velcro are in many ways more serviceable than lace-ups, shoelaces are unlikely to disappear in the near future.