Lawn aeration is an essential step towards healthy, thriving grass. One of the several tools you can use to aerate your lawn is a pair of aerating shoes; although they’re easy to use, there is some debate over their effectiveness.
Lawn aerating shoes do work for some purposes, while being less suitable for others. You can use aerating shoes to improve seeding efforts or as a natural form of grub control. However, when it comes to actual lawn aeration, aerating shoes are not the best tool to use compared to alternative methods such as core aerating.
What Are Aerating Shoes?
Aerating shoes are a type of footwear similar to sandals that attach to the soles of your shoes. Their intended use is to take the labor out of the aerating process; all you have to do is strap the sandals on and walk across your soil, and the metal spikes do the rest of the work.
Across most brands, aerating shoes have the same basic makeup. The spikes on the soles of the shoes are typically 2 inches long and ⅛ inch in diameter, appearing very similar to roofing nails. The soles attach to the bottom of your shoes using an adjustable strap. You can attach aerating shoes to any kind of footwear, including sneakers or workboots.
To summarize the aerating process with aerating shoes, you simply strap them on and walk across your lawn, covering the entire soil surface or focussing only on areas of compaction. As you take each step, your bodyweight pushes the spikes of the aerating shoes into the soil. This leaves the lawn full of small holes from the puncturing action of the spikes.
Do Aerating Shoes Work?
The answer to whether aerating shoes work depends on what you want them to work for; aerating shoes do work for some purposes, while being unsuitable for others.
For instance, if you want to aerate your lawn and reduce compaction, aerating shoes are not the best choice. While the spikes are able to create small holes in the lawn, the holes aren’t large enough to provide sufficient spaces for the purpose of aeration. There are better tools for aerating that are more laborious to use, but ultimately worth the effort, as they provide better aeration.
On the other hand, you could use aerating shoes before seeding to increase the number of seeds that successfully germinate. Also, aerating shoes are an effective tool to use as a natural form of grub control; we explain these benefits later in this article.
Why Not to Use Aerating Shoes for Compaction
There are a few reasons why you should avoid using aerating shoes to aerate your lawn. Using aerating shoes on your lawn can actually worsen issues with compaction, cause the degradation of your soil, and may inhibit the growth of earthworms and lawn-friendly microorganisms.
Spike Aeration May Worsen Compaction in Soil
The process involved in using aerating shoes is a form of spike aeration. This method of aeration is the least effective, especially when compared to the alternative method of core aeration.
Firstly, the spikes on the aerating shoes impact too small of an area. Although the shoes are very easy to use, you would have to walk over your lawn repeatedly to get the full impact of a sufficient aeration job.
The action that the shoes use on the soil can also worsen compaction rather than improve it. The metal spikes on the shoes are solid; as the spikes penetrate into the ground, they only displace the soil, pushing it sideways and downward. The result is a lawn full of small holes and more tightly-packed soil.
Aerating Shoes May Cause Degradation of Soil
In addition to worsening issues with compaction, the action of the aerating shoes can degrade the general growing condition of the soil. Aerating shoes may actually worsen all of the problems that aerating should solve.
As the soil becomes more compact from the shoes’ spikes, it prevents your grass plants from growing extensive root systems. This stunts the growth of the grass, weakening it and making it more vulnerable to stress like drought, pests, or fungal infestations.
The compact soil also prevents your grass plants’ roots from accessing essential elements like water, air, and nutrients. Any fertilizer that you add over the holes will likely be lost to run-off as the grass’ roots are unable to take them up fast enough.
Aerating Shoes May Inhibit Organisms in Soil
Using aerating shoes on your lawn may reduce populations of lawn-friendly microorganisms and earthworms. This is another issue that comes from the worsened compaction that aerating shoes can create.
The living organisms in your soil play an essential role in maintaining the healthy growth of your grass. There are some nutrients in your soil that your grass plants are unable to absorb until they’re processed by microorganisms such as earthworms and bacteria.
Compact soil will limit or stop the activity of these organisms altogether. As a result, this impacts the amount of nutrients your grass plants take up from the soil.
When to Use Aerating Shoes
Although there are several reasons why not to use aerating shoes for aerating purposes, these tools aren’t completely useless. You can use aerating shoes before seeding or as a natural method of grub control.
Using Aerating Shoes Before Seeding
As we’ve mentioned, aerating shoes can be useful if you’re planning to seed or overseed your lawn.
The small holes create more gaps in the turf for the grass seed to fall into. In the holes, the seeds are more protected from external conditions like being washed or blown away, or eaten by birds. Ultimately, this can increase the number of seeds that successfully germinate, thus improving the success of the seeding process.
With that said, you should keep in mind the potential downsides to using aerating shoes in terms of worsening soil compaction. This method is not recommended before seeding a lawn with a compaction-prone soil type, such as clay-heavy soil.
Using Aerating Shoes for Grub Control
Another great use for aerating shoes is as a natural form of grub control.
Not only are grubs unsightly, but they can also cause extensive damage to lawns when present in high numbers. You can treat a grub infestation with a chemical pesticide; however, it’s best practice to avoid using chemical treatments on your lawn where possible.
Aerating shoes provide an effective alternative to chemical means of grub control. As you walk around your lawn, the spikes will pierce and kill many of the grubs hiding in the turf.
What is the Best Tool to Aerate Your Lawn?
The best tool for lawn aeration is a core aerator. These tools use a different action on the lawn to reduce soil compaction while improving aeration.
While aerating shoes have solid spikes, core aerators puncture the ground using hollow tines. Instead of just penetrating the turf, core aerators punch and remove whole plugs of soil. This action creates more space in the soil for water, air, and nutrients to circulate the grass’ roots. Leaving the plugs on the lawn also provides your soil with free fertilizer; the plugs break down over time, returning the soil’s nutrients back to the grass plants.