Aerating your lawn is a vital part of lawn care, as it helps to improve drainage, reduce compaction, and promote healthy root growth. Lawn aerator shoes, which some people call lawn aerator sandals, have been around for a very long time.
Lawn aerator shoes are a relatively inexpensive and easy-to-use option, but they do not provide the same level of aeration as hollow tine aerators. When it comes to getting some air and moisture into your lawn there are a few other choices. There are rolling aerators, the coring style aerators, electric and petrol type commercial aerators and of course aerator shoes.
These sandals really do divide opinion in the world of gardening. A few people believe they do a good job, but the vast majority of gardeners say they are a complete and utter waste of time.
Lawn aerator shoes do get into the ground as long as the lawn is soft enough to allow the spikes to get down into the soil. Too soft and the spikes will clog up and if the soil is too hard the spikes won't get into the lawn.
The vast majority of these shoes look like spiked sandals. They are a one size fits all and you put them underneath your shoes or boots, and then attach them with straps. There is normally a small heel which prevents them from sliding off.
On the bottom of the shoes, there will be a number of spikes. When you walk on the lawn these spikes will go down into the lawn and make small holes. These small holes are supposed to allow moisture and most importantly air to get at the roots of your grass and that encourages healthy growth.
They have been designed to be one of the simplest solutions to aerating your lawn quickly.
Do Spiked Sandals Really Aerate Your Lawn?
Spiked sandals will allow moisture into your lawn as they create a series of holes but they do nothing to allow air into your lawn. So, in terms of proper aeration they are a failure. They do not do a proper job of aerating your lawn.
There is some truth in that they are better than doing nothing which has some merit. In our opinion though these shoes/sandals would be a waste of most people's money as there are simpler and much better methods.
Almost all of these are made from a plastic mould with sharpened spikes on the bottom of them. They are held on with velcro straps attached around your shoes. some of them have a heel on the back that is supposed to keep them on.
Walking in these - Assuming your lawn is soft enough to walk on, then walking normally does nothing. You have to walk in very small steps up and down to push the spikes into the lawn. It looks weird and we wouldn't advise doing it if anyone can see you. You don't walk normally when wearing these and we assure you in a few minutes your legs will be throbbing. For elderly people these are useless and even for fit people they are a real struggle.
Falling over - If one sandal gets stuck in the lawn it is very easy to tipple over and not only is that embarrassing, you can also hurt your ankles or knees. That can cause a niggling injury.
Sandal falling off - When walking on sticky ground the straps loosen and often break and that means these will keep falling off. You may persist the first few times but you will get so frustrated. Some models have now improved these catches by looping the straps together, but even then, they still loosen.
Spikes breaking - If you are using these and happen to hit a harder part of your lawn the metal spikes can break or bend.
Hole size - If the lawn is soft, then these do make holes and that will allow moisture in. The holes however are not big enough to loosen soil to make room for the grass roots to spread out and grow. So despite your hard work, there will be no significant improvement to your lawns.
One Size Fits All - When it comes to shoes or sandals there really is no such thing as one size fits all. For these even to be remotely effective they need to have a tight but comfortable fit, and a one size all, is ridiculous for that to happen.
Value for Money - Spiked sandals cost £20-£30 so for a piece of plastic with spikes and a few straps, they are not good value for money, and they don't properly aerate your lawn.
For us, there are much better methods that properly aerate your lawn. Our advice is to not waste your money buying these as they don't work and for us that is a waste of your money.
Scarifying vs Aeration
When it comes to working on lawns, these two terms get mixed up a lot of the time. We will explain the difference in these as we think it's important to understand.
- Scarification - Scarification is removing dead grass blades, lawn clippings and moss from around the stems of grass in your lawn. The combination of clippings, moss and dead grass forms a brown thatch over time and stops the grass from growing healthy and green. This is normally done by raking the lawn or by using a lawn raking machine or a scarifying machine.
- Aeration - Aeration makes small, long holes in the lawn and helps provide the soil with good air circulation and improves the roots of the grass with better water and nutrient consumption. This can be done using aerator shoes, a lawn spike aerator or a hollow tine aerator.
As you can see these two lawn care processes do two different things. With a scarifier you are removing dead grass, old clippings and moss to allow the grass roots to breathe and grow. With aeration you are allowing in more air and moisture to the roots of the grass.
So aerator shoes are made to do the second part of lawn care. Ideally if you have a lot of thatch on your lawn, you should scarify it first, and then aerate it, ideally in the Spring, or in the Autumn.
Spiked Shoes vs Aerators?
When people ask do aerator shoes work, they are likely making the assumption that they are aerating the ground. That isn't actually true in the true sense. The spikes on shoes are usually about 2" long (50mm) and they are solid spikes that look pretty much like nails.
What they achieve is to make a series of small holes. Those holes do allow a little air in, and they also allow some rain in as well. Both of those will help promote healthier grass, and a better looking lawn.
That isn't aeration in the truest sense though. It is always better to use what is called hollow tines. This is when you use a hollow tine aerator that pulls out tiny plugs of soil. You then leave these on the ground to break up and decompose.
Once that is done, you then mow the lawn and that helps the soil return to the holes that were made. That is full aeration and gives better results than spiked shoes. It is worth saying that using aerator shoes is still a good treatment for the lawn as it is still making holes and allowing rain and nutrients down into the grass roots.
Some newer models of lawn aerator shoes have features that make them more effective, such as longer spikes and wider treads.
Common Mistakes made using Spiked Shoes
Aeration involves a lot of work and when first done it does look really unsightly. Electric aerators are expensive, and hand held aerators still involve a lot of physical work. Spiked shoes are really a bit of a compromise.
When aerating a lawn, you are trying to achieve the following:
- Put 2" holes into the ground to allow air and moisture into the roots of the grass
- Topsoil can get compacted, and proper aeration helps loosen the soil
The biggest mistake made with spiked shoes is not covering the whole area of the lawn. You need to walk over the lawn quite a few times to get good results. Even then you have just allowed moisture in and done nothing to loosen the soil.
Better Methods of Aeration
There are many better ways to aerate a lawn and we have explained these below.
Using a Garden Fork
Some people use a garden fork to aerate their garden. If used properly it works very well but is a lot of hard work. We would recommend this for small lawns only.
Pus the fork down into the lawn, and then gently move it forwards and backwards. The fork spikes will make the holes and the movement helps loosen up the soil underneath.
Using a Manual Hollow Tine Aerator
Some people use a manual hollow tine aerator to aerate their garden. If used properly it works very well but is also a lot of hard work. We would recommend this for small to medium sized lawns only.
Pus the aerator into the lawn, and push down on the foot bar. This creates a soil plug that is big enough to let the rain in and also to leave room for the grass roots to spread. This is still hard work but much more effective than spiked sandals so you get the reward for your hard work.
Hollow tine aerators are the most effective type of aerator, as they remove plugs of soil that allow air, water, and nutrients to reach the root zone of the grass. This can help to improve the overall health and appearance of your lawn.
Using a Manual Hollow Tine Aerator Machine
Some people use a manual hollow tine aerator machine to aerate their garden. You can buy one of these or rent one and these are the best by quite a distance.
They really are the only choice for larger gardens and will be a great deal faster for small and medium sized gardens as well. It depends how much effort you want to put in to having your lawn look great.
Paying a Landscaper
The last alternative is to pay a landscaper or lawn care specialist to do this for you. Companies such as Greenthumb have monthly plans that take care of your lawns or you can pay once to have this done. The amount you pay depends on the size of your lawn.
In our experience spiked aerator shoes/sandals are a waste of your money. They are not suitable for older people and even for fit people, they are really hard work. In addition to that, they don't properly aerate your lawn.
Suffice to say, you will never see a professional gardener or landscaper using these to aerate their lawns. Lawn aerator shoes are not as effective as hollow tine aerators and are therefore not a good investment.