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If you’ve ever stopped to observe the intricate process of tying a shoe, or taught a young child how to do it, you know it takes a lot of dexterity. Putting on a sneaker requires additional muscles and movements, such as reaching all the way to the ground, holding that position while tying the shoe, and returning to standing (or sitting).

Many people with physical disabilities, hand injuries, and other complications find this process impossible, limiting them to slip-on shoes. However, Saucony’s Switchback shoe line is here to solve this problem and does so admirably.

“There’s a lot of different conditions people have that can make these kinds of products helpful, whether it’s Parkinson’s, whether they have really bad arthritis in their hand,” says Dr. Patrick McEneaney, a foot and ankle surgeon at Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists.

“Let’s say they’ve had a stroke and only one hand works, or they have a traumatic brain injury—really, a lot of ailments can affect your fine motor skills in your hand or hands. And sometimes people either lack the dexterity or do not have two hands to do so. As a result, the small wheels allow you to spin the wheel with one hand, causing it to tighten.”

How does the hands-free Saucony Switchback 2 shoe work?
McEneaney is referring to the wheel on the side of the trail running shoes, which uses a pulley-like system to tighten the shoe in the same way that traditional laces would. He adds that people with back problems who can’t stand for long periods of time bent over to tie their shoes might find it useful as well.

The Saucony Switchback 2 appeals to me.
They are precisely as tight as you require.

Another advantage of these Saucony running shoes is that you can more precisely choose how tight you want your sneakers to be. If you tie your shoes the old-fashioned way, you have to start over if you make them too tight or too loose. When it comes to tightness, however, the wheel provides wearers with a much more specific option.

Ideal for beginners and busy mornings.

The shoes are also great for kids who haven’t yet learned how to tie their shoes or for quickly getting dressed before school. The Big Kid’s Switchback 2.0 sneaker has the same wheel function, allowing kids to take control of putting on secure sneakers without the assistance of an adult.

When my 6-year-old tested these, he was pleased that he could finally master laces, and I was pleased that we could cross another item off the getting ready for the day list (though I’m sure it will eventually postpone learning how to tie a shoe the traditional way).

What I dislike about the Saucony Switchback 2 Laceless but not hands-free

While the Sauconies aren’t slip-ons and must be put on with your hands, McEneaney sees this as a plus in terms of added stability. “Slip-on shoes do not always stay put. As a result, I’m not a big fan of slip-on shoes, especially for sports.

“They can come off while walking, causing tripping and falling,” he explains. As a result, these aren’t ideal for someone who needs to put their sneakers on without using their hands.” (If you need completely hands-free shoes, look into Kizik shoes.)

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