Why Do Shoes Have Loops On The Back? (6 Reasons)

You have probably noticed the loops on the back of shoes, sneakers, and boots. Some people believe they are useful, while some do not. So why do shoes have loops on the back?

The main purpose of the loop on the back is to help you slip into a shoe easily. By pulling on the loop with your finger, your foot will slide into the shoe effortlessly. Some shoes also utilize the loops on the back as reflective panels for safety during a night run.

Other than that, the loops can be used to hang shoes to dry after washing. In this post, let’s explore the purpose of these loops on the back of shoes and boots.

What is the Loop on the Back of Shoes Called?

The loop on the back of shoes is called a bootstrap. A Bootstrap is a tab, loop, or handle at the back of a shoe (near the heel) to help slide your foot into a boot or a shoe.

Some brands also refer to the loop on the back as a pull tab.

Although they are called bootstraps, these loops can be found not just on the back of boots, but on the back of shoes and sneakers as well.

It is believed that the term bootstrap has been around since the early 19th century. The saying “to pull yourself up by your bootstraps” means to succeed or elevate yourself without any outside help, using the existing resources you have at your disposal.

Today, the bootstrap found in shoes and boots is used not only to pull the footwear on but as a design element. It can also be used to hang the shoe to dry.

3 Uses of Loops on the Back of Shoes

There are three important functions for the loops on the back of shoes. In addition to helping you wear the shoes easily, these loops often house reflective panels for nighttime visibility.

The loops can also be used to hang or attach the shoes without deforming them. Here are the three uses of loops on the back of shoes explained:

1. Help you wear the shoes easily

The main purpose of the loop on the back of a shoe is to help you wear it easily.

On sneakers, it helps you pull on the loop with your finger as you slide your foot inside. Without the loop, you may damage the heel counter as you struggle to wear the shoe.

On boots, it helps you slide your foot in easily, especially inside boots without laces. Since they have elastic sides to secure your feet, you need the loop to get inside the boots. 

There is a reason why popular sneakers, like Vans, are difficult to put on. It is because they do not have bootstraps at the heel area, making them harder to wear.

If you are not convinced by the use of the loop, try wearing your footwear without holding onto the loop. Chances are, you will have a hard time getting your foot into the shoe.

The heel loop not only lengthens the life of your footwear but also allows you to keep your shoes and boots fitting snug for longer as well.

2. Place for reflective panels

Another purpose for the loop on the back of shoes is to house a reflective panel. This is more common for running shoes intended for night runs.

The main purpose of the reflective material on heel loops is to offer daytime visibility and night-time conspicuity. Basically, it is made to reflect light from a distance.

If you are a night runner, being seen is a matter of road safety in urban areas. Motorists can pick up reflectivity from a few feet away for better situational awareness.

So, in addition to wearing reflective clothing, it’s a good idea to wear running shoes with reflective material on them if you are planning to run in the dark.

3. Hang shoes without deforming them

Another great use for the loop on the back of shoes, although probably not part of its original design, is to hang the shoes without deforming them.

Whether you have put your sneakers inside the washing machine or the shoes have become wet due to rain, hanging your shoes is a simple way to dry them out.

Without the loop, the only way to hang them securely is through the laces. Which is fine until a strong wind pulls them through and your shoe dries with the toes all squished up.

What you can do instead, is attach a carabiner through the loop and hang them to dry. Not only would the shoes dry quickly, but you won’t cause damage to the uppers.

Other Unorthodox Uses For Bootstraps

The 3 above uses that we have mentioned above are the main purposes of bootstraps. However, some people like to use the loops on the back of shoes in unusual ways.

Here are some of the most unorthodox uses for bootstraps:

  1. Marking shoes in public laundry – In the United States, where large public laundries are very typical, people use the loops on the back of the shoes to identify their shoes by attaching a bright-colored string through them.
  2. Tying the laces around the loop – Some laces are longer than normal. To keep the laces tied, some people tie the long laces around the ankles and through the heel loop. While it may not look pretty, it helps keep supremely long laces at bay.
  3. Insert a timing chip – Most running races require athletes to wear a small, lightweight chip that identifies them. These chips are often attached to your shoelaces, but some can be attached to the loops on the back of shoes.

Bottom Line

And there you go, the answer to the question: why do shoes have loops on the back? These loops, called bootstraps or pull tabs, are designed to help you wear the shoes effortlessly.

Some also have loops with reflective material to allow you to run safely at night. You can also choose to hang the shoes without deforming them by using the loops.

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