The use of laces is one of the oldest methods in securely wearing footwear. Two of the earliest known shoes discovered–the Areni-1 shoe and Ötzi the Iceman's shoes–were securely put on by tying ropes and strings.
The Areni-1 shoe is a 5,500-year-old leather shoe found in the Areni caves in Armenia. The neolithic shoe is a simple, one-piece bootie that is made of folded leather. Its only seam runs lengthwise on the top, and it is sewn using a leather cord.
Ötzi the Iceman's shoes, on the other hand, is constructed in a more complicated fashion. An internal rope netting acts as the liner that keeps its hay stuffing in place to insulate the foot. An external layer of leather then sandwiches the hay padding. A twine is tied around the ankle area to keep the shoe from falling off. Even up to the medieval ages, a streamlined yet highly similar construction was still in use. The more recent shoes were just secured, however, by knotted leather cords and straps.
As time went by, shoes became more ornamental and more sensitive to style more than function. Several locking mechanisms mechanisms were refined, and footwear trotted a different path as buckle shoes replaced ribbon-fastened ones.
Special metals were used for the buckle, which were further embellished with special stones. Buckle shoes especially became popular during the Baroque period. In the 19th century, buttoned boots became widely worn due to the invention of the buttoning machine. The Industrial Period allowed the mass production of this type of shoe.
It is important to note that the use of laces was never replaced by any lockdown mechanism. Although the more recent years saw more lockdown innovations such as the use of straps and slip-on construction, the use of laces has never gone away.
Today, lace-up closure is the most widely used lockdown type especially for sports and utility footwear because it offers the best foot containment and is able to withstand heavy stress. What makes laces more superior is the full-length fit and security that it provides. Starting from the forefoot up to the collar, laces can securely keep the foot within the upper material.
The Top Lace-up Basketball Shoes by Brand
Lace-up basketball shoes are the preferred gear for the sport as basketball involves a lot of rigorous footwork and high impact movements. Basketball players need not only the skill to play the sport but also the peace of mind in knowing that their gear won’t fall apart when clutch time happens. Imagine using buttoned footwear for those hard cuts? Pretty cringey when you think about it.
As mentioned, lace-up basketball shoes are fairly common in the market, the shoes discussed below are some of the most lace-up elite basketball shoes from leading footwear brands such as Adidas, Nike, Jordan, and Under Armour
Founded by a German cobbler named Adolf "Adi" Dassler and his older brother Rudolf, Adidas started in the brothers’ mother's kitchen where they initially created bespoke running spikes. The small-time company started to gain traction and proceeded to become the Brothers Dassler Shoe Factory. Their sports footwear gained the attention of Josef Waitzer, an Olympic coach to Germany’s track-and-field team. This proved useful to the optimization of the shoe's designs and to making it accessible to sports professionals.
The first time Adidas released a lace-up basketball shoe was in 1969. The shoe was called the Adidas Superstar and was worn by one of the top five basketball players of all-time, Kareem Abdul Jabbar. The sneaker, however, has crept out of the court and into the streets. The shelltoe silhouette is said to be much more akin to the sneaker culture than basketball.
The following are some of the top performing Adidas lace-up basketball shoes of the modern times:
- Adidas Crazy Explosive 2017 Primeknit. An upgrade to the previous year's explosive release, the Primeknit iteration of the Crazy Explosive is given a more streamlined silhouette in 2017. It also has a sturdier and supportive upper with the help of Forged Primeknit–a type of textile that is woven using durable TPU strands. Some parts of the shoe are heavily padded. Combined this with the rigid upper, and internal slipping surely becomes a thing of the past.
- Adidas Explosive Bounce. Considered to be a sleeper hit, the Explosive Bounce did not get much hype when it was released. It, however, made a name for itself as the basic techs in it are well-implemented. It has breathable mesh in the upper, full-length Bounce in the midsole, and organic tread pattern on the outsole. It has a great price, too! The shoe is versatile in that it can accommodate different styles of play.
- Adidas D Lillard 3. One of the more popular basketball sneakers that brought traditional lace-up systems a step higher is the D Lillard 3, which is also known as the Dame 3. Requested personally by Dame Dolla himself, the shoe's core feature is its innovative lacing system. Riding on the idea that everyone's foot shape is different, the shoe has multiple lacing holes in the midfoot that can be adjusted according to the width of the wearer's foot– a really good news for wearers who have irregularly wide and narrow feet.
- Adidas Harden Vol. 2. Boost is life; and the Harden Vol. 2 has the thickest and densest Boost Adidas has ever crammed into one midsole. This results in the most comfortable and impact protective shoe within the German company's roster. As James Harden's second signature shoe, the Vol. 2 sports the sleek silhouette that was made popular by the Vol. 1. Constructed as a one-piece bootie with TPU panels on the side, this lace-up sneaker borrows the Adidas Dame 3's customizable lockdown system.
- Adidas D Rose 7. After eight seasons of highs and lows with the Chicago Bulls, Derrick Rose was traded to the New York Knicks as their newest point guard. Adidas pays tribute to the MVP's home state through Rose’s seventh signature shoe. In an interview, D Rose shares, “Chicago’s always been my home and this shoe represents the city that made me the man I am today... It’s the perfect tribute to the city and fans that helped raise and support me. It’s built for my game and gives me an added incentive knowing that I’m carrying my city with me on every play.”
The now sports giant Nike was founded by track-and-field coach Bill Bowerman and his athlete Phil Knight. The company started as a sports shoe distributor for Japanese brand Onitsuka Tiger, and it was then called “Blue Ribbon Sports.” Back then, Bowerman and Knight would sell shoes from the back of their car during track-and-field meetings. Bowerman would later on try his hand at making his own shoes through the use of his wife's waffle iron. The momentum that they gained from there eventually ended their relationship with the Japanese footwear company.
The Swoosh's first lace-up basketball shoes were the high-top Nike Blazer and the low-top Nike Bruin. Funnily enough, these silhouettes slowly made their way into Nike’s skateboard line. Through the years, Nike’s basketball line has produced several successful signature and non-signature shoes. The following are just some:
- Nike LeBron 15. The lion bows down to no one. As King James continues to dominate the court, his sneaker game is just as on point. His Nike LeBron 15 features an innovative material called BattleKnit. This is a Flyknit-inspired textile that is sturdier more supportive than the original version, making it such a perfect gear for battle. For comfort and impact protection, the midsole is equipped with a combination of full-length Air Max and Zoom Air–a specialized cushioning system made specifically for LBJ. Since the shoe is a one-bootie piece, Flywire is integrated with its lacing system.
- Nike Kobe 8 System. After four rounds of Kobe low-top basketball sneakers, Nike’s low-top technology reaches its climax with the Nike Kobe 8 System. The shoe has padded engineered mesh in the upper for a good balance of breathability, flexibility, and support. The midsole features a removable Lunarlon insert that is responsive and able to disperse impact energy during foot strikes. It also provides a more pronounced court feel.
- Nike Hyperdunk 2014. Nike’s answer to Adidas’ Crazy Explosive line, the Nike Hyperdunk line is a must-know for any basketball sneakerhead. Although its releases are far from being a budget models, you really can’t go wrong when choosing a Hyperdunk; it’s an is all-around shoe that serves players of different positions. The 2014 version of the Nike Hyperdunk was endorsed by now Nike signature athlete Paul George, and it focused on good-quality cushioning through the targeted Lunarlon in the midsole. Its upper is made of flexible mesh with cutouts on the side panels for added breathability.
- Nike Air Force 180. Worn during the 1992 Olympic Basketball game in Barcelona by legendary power forward Charles Barkley, the original Nike Air Force 180 was a high-top basketball shoe that served Sir Charles’s ground-and-pound style of play. Outfitted with layers of leather and synthetic materials in the upper, a lace-up and strap lockdown system in the midfoot, and Air Max cushioning at the heel; the sneaker proved to be a solid performer when the American "Dream Team" won the 1992 Olympics Gold Medal after defeating Croatia's basketball team.
- Nike Zoom Evidence. Another prime example of a solid yet budget-friendly non-signature shoe is the Nike Zoom Evidence. Designed for anyone who likes a gimmick-free basketball sneaker with all the basic specs, the Zoom Evidence is armed with a forefoot Zoom Air unit, a Phylon heel cushion, an aggressive herringbone pattern on the outsole, and an asymmetrical Flywire-reinforced upper.
Air Jordan began as a Nike signature line for legendary NBA player Michael Jordan. Due to the line's popularity, Air Jordan grew to become a separate entity and has been functioning as an independent company ever since.
The lines first shoe is the Air Jordan 1, which features a silhouette that is similar to the Nike Airship. It’s a high-top basketball sneaker that is paneled with layers of leather. The shoe, interestingly, met its success when it was banned by the NBA Commissioner because its colors violated uniform regulations. For Nike, however, it was a marketing opportunity. They paid the $5,000 per game fine for the shoe and asked MJ to continue wearing the Air Jordan 1 throughout the season. The shoe’s “rebellious” reputation caused shoe sales to skyrocket.
- Air Jordan 11 Retro. In 1995, Michael Jordan went back to the NBA from his first retirement. During the time that he was away, he briefly played for the Chicago White Sox in minor league baseball. After Orlando Magic's Nick Anderson said that the three-time NBA MVP "didn't look like the old Michael Jordan" at the end of their Game 1, the Greatest of All Time bounced back with fury by scoring 38 points in Game 2. Although the Chicago Bulls eventually lost to the Orlando Magic, Michael Jordan was still able to re-establish his domination on-court while wearing the Air Jordan 11. He was infamously fined $5,000 by the Association for wearing the “Concord” colorway, which did not match his team’s colors.
- Air Jordan XXXII. The 32nd Air Jordan carries luxurious elements from its Italian-influenced ancestor, which was released three decades before it. Common features include the ribbed heel counter and the wing panels on the sides of the ankle collar. The upper’s sturdy and premium Flyknit is made with high-tenacity yarn that allows it to conform to the foot's shape. Lockdown is not a problem. Its thick laces are held in place by sturdy loops that rise like Flywire from underneath the knit. The Air Jordan 32 go head to head in terms of performance with the Air Jordan XX8.
- Air Jordan 7 Retro. Big and bulky with layers of paneling in its upper, the Air Jordan 7 is still a memorable Jordan sneaker due to MJ’s great achievements in the 1991-1992 NBA season. He won the year's NBA championship trophy, earned annual scoring titles, bagged both Finals and Regular season MVP awards, and took home the gold at the Olympics in Barcelona. Indeed, it was Michael Jordan’s golden year. The lace-up Air Jordan 7 was designed by Tinker Hatfield who took inspiration from African art. These Air Jordan basketball shoes were the first to not feature a Nike Swoosh, a foretelling of the brand’s would-be independence.
- Jordan Why Not Zer0.1. Russell Westbrook is known to be one of the most fashion forward and most dynamic players in the league; no wonder Jordan brand signed a sneaker deal with him. He embodies what the brand stands for–high-quality style and peak performance. The 2017 MVP's first signature shoe, the Why Not Zer0.1, is made for explosive play. Created as a one-piece bootie, the sneaker hits the nail on the head with its foot-hugging lockdown system. Its laces are hidden underneath the synthetic shroud, and it has a midfoot strap that helps keep the foot in place.
- Air Jordan 13 Retro. Unbeknownst to Air Jordan footwear designer Tinker Hatfield, Michael Jordan was intimately nicknamed "Black Cat" by his close friends because his play style made him undetectable on-court, until he pounces. For Hatfield, Jordan was a panther that is ready to strike on his prey. This was his inspiration for the thirteenth iteration of the Air Jordan shoe. These lace-up basketball shoes comes in dimpled leather upper. Its outsole resembles a feline’s paw. The Jumpman logo is on the lateral side, in a circle hologram that looks like a panther’s eye.
As told by Kevin Plank–the company’s founder and CEO–himself, the now multi-billion-dollar Under Armour came into being due only to Plank’s excessive sweating when he played football for the Maryland Terrapins. He noticed one day that while his cotton undershirt was already drenched in sweat, his compression shorts stayed dry. This led him to create a t-shirt that used the same moisture-wicking materials as his shorts. The company started with sports apparel and uniforms, then proceeding to footwear, and then sports gear and accessories.
The footwear company’s first lace-up basketball shoes were released in 2010. Called the “Micro G Collection,” four models were debuted: the Micro G Black Ice, Micro G Fly, Micro G Blur, and the Micro G Lite.
Since then, a lot of basketball shoes have been created. The following are some of the most notable:
- Under Armour Curry 2.5. Released several months after the UA Curry 2, the 2.5 is deemed to be an upgraded and cleaner-looking version of its predecessor. These Curry basketball shoes were created for the 2016 NBA Postseason, or the time when the Cleveland Cavaliers came back to win the championship title. The Curry 2.5 features a burrito-type upper that wraps around the foot when the asymmetrical laces are tightened, providing a well-defined fit. The shoe is made characterized by its PU covered mesh upper and the embossed “I CAN DO ALL THINGS” on the medial side of the forefoot.
- Under Armour Curry 3. A noteworthy feature of the Curry 3 is the huge TPU heel counter that sports the SC-30 logo. The rear portion of this shoe is padded with AnaFoam, which is basically a mix of lightweight foam and UA’s stretch textile. On the outsole is a Golden-Gate-inspired herringbone pattern. As for the lace-up system, it uses the traditional punched eyelets on the medial side while it utilizes webbed eyelets on the lateral side. Tightening the laces pulls the upper toward the medial side, effectively making the lateral side firmer and more supportive.
- Under Armour Curry 3ZERO. Pretty much like the shoes in LeBron's Soldier and Kobe's Venomenon lines; the Curry 3ZERO is considered a take-down version of a main model, which in this case is the Curry 3. Instead of the Curry 3’s Threadborne upper and AnaFoam heel, the shoe is made of regular mesh and a less exaggerated heel cup. To retain the upper's durability, fuse overlays cover the toe rand. An added feature is the adjustable ankle collar that allows the shoe to expand and accommodate an ankle brace.
- Under Armour ClutchFit Drive 3. The ClutchFit Drive was Under Armour’s mainstay shoe line for basketball before Curry’s signature shoe line came into play. The Drive 3, like the others, has as its most significant feature a ClutchFit upper, which is basically mesh with TPU overlay. This upper offers a dynamic fit: specific zones are able to stretch while other areas that need support are made more rigid. Its lacing system is composed of webbed eyelets that are attached to the midsole, allowing the upper to grasp the foot from both sides when the laces are tightened. A strap stitched to the shoe’s tongue acts as an extra measure to keep the tongue from moving side to side. It also makes the shoe feel like a compact unit.
Best Way to Lace Up Basketball Shoes
The best thing about lace-up basketball shoes is that you can customize the shoe’s fit by tweaking the way you lace your shoes. One can lace their shoe in such a way that the midfoot or the forefoot will feel tighter–depending on the wearer’s preference or foot type. Below are some of the suggested shoe lacing techniques:
- Wide forefoot - this lacing technique helps give the forefoot some slack.
- Wide feet in general - provides loose but secure fit, perfect for wide-footers.
- Too tight on top - for players who don’t love to feel the extra pressure from their laces.
- Toe pains - this allows the toe area to have extra space.
- Swollen feet - if your love for basketball exceeds the discomfort of swollen feet, this lacing technique will help.
- One-handed lacing - for people who would like to lace their shoe with just one hand, this is for you.
- One area too tight - everyone’s foot has its own unique shape, and this technique allows the wearer to adjust or loosen a specific area of the shoe.
- Narrow feet - for an overall tighter fit, this is great for people with skinny feet.
- Narrow heel and wide forefoot - this provides a snug fit in the heel and collar area, while the forefoot remains roomy.
- High arches - high-arched players usually feel discomfort in the midfoot, this technique helps to remove the lace pressure in that area.
- Heel-slipping - for shoes that have heel-slippage issues, there’s a workaround to fix it.
- Flat feet - this technique gives arch support to flat-footers, helping them avoid plantar fasciitis.
Keeping It Neat: Tips on How to Clean Basketball Shoelaces
To deep clean shoelaces that are made of cotton, jute, hemp, nylon or synthetic materials, it is best to soak the laces in a warm soapy solution and then rub them together to lodge off any dirt and grime. Do not soak them too long as the fibers might degrade and lose strength, or the laces with metal aglets might start rusting. It is important to note that using bleach should be avoided unless necessary as it can also eat up the laces' fibers.
Laces with washable material, such as those mentioned above, are also safe to toss into the washing machine for an easier clean-up. Just place them inside a mesh bag or a sock to avoid stretching and tangling.
As for leather shoelaces, start by making a solution of warm water and a mild soap. Dip the laces into the solution, and then wipe the lace from end to end using a dry clean cloth. Repeat if needed. Avoid soaking the leather laces for a long time to avoid ruining the tan or dye. Wipe with another dry cloth.
Lastly, when cleaning waxed shoelaces, prepare a soft sponge and clean cold water. Dip the sponge in water and wipe the lace from end to end with the sponge until it comes clean. Waxed laces need to be cleaned gently or else the wax will be stripped off from the material.
What composes the lockdown system of lace-up basketball shoes?
The modern shoelace is composed of three elements:
- The lace loops or eyelets - this is where the laces are threaded into. These are usually reinforced by fuse or metal eyelets.
- The shoelaces - this is the rope or cord that strings together the shoe upper, providing proper lockdown and containment.
- The aglets - these are the tips of laces and are usually covered in metal or plastic. These rigid areas help the lace thread into the holes without fraying.
- The toggles or lock laces - while some Jordan models have them, they are not too common with other brands. These tiny devices lock the laces in places and stop them from getting undone during motion.
How can I fix frayed lace tips?
When using shoelaces with plastic tips, the aglets usually wear and fray, making it hard to rethread one’s laces. To fix this, dab some glue onto the laces’ frayed tips, this will allow you to gather them into a roll. Wrap a piece of thread tightly around the hardened glue tip and then coat with toothpaste. The toothpaste acts as a sealant. If you do not have any thread and toothpaste lying around, you can also use dental floss to wrap around the tip.
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