Forget Lawn Aerator Shoes & Spikes

Written by Hannah Miller. Fact Checked by Paul Farley. Published to Blog on the 3rd of June 2021.

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Hello, my name is Hannah Miller, and I’m the co-owner and contributor here at DIY Gardening.

On this page, I will try and convince you not to buy lawn aerator shoes but to try something completely different.

Is your lawn struggling to grow?

Is the soil under the grass heavily compacted and feels solid?

You may have been told that lawn shoes or lawn aerator spikes are the answer.

I think you should read my guide first, and I’ll show you how professional lawn experts aerate lawns.

They certainly don’t walk around with lawn shoes on their feet.

Hannah Miller

Hannah Miller

Lawn Aeration: Why?

According to the Royal Horticultural Society, the soil underneath lawns can become compacted, suffer drainage issues, and lack aeration, which all combine to prevent the roots from penetrating deep enough to find moisture and nutrients.

This causes the grass to weaken and eventually die off or, at the least, struggle to thrive.

In short, grass prefers soil that isn’t too hard and compacted.

Lawn Aerator Shoes: The Claims

Lawn aerator: shoes and spikes

The manufacturers of lawn aerator shoes claim that all you need to do is buy a pair of their shoes, strap them on and walk around your lawn, then all your problems will be solved.

Apparently, lawn aerator shoes:

  • Punch holes deep enough to let light and moisture into the area under the roots.
  • Will cure drainage issues and prevent flooding.
  • Help the lawn to become greener and healthier.

The Truth

Professional lawn experts use machines to pull out plugs of soil, here’s a photo of how a lawn aerator works:

lawn plugger machine

Lawn shoes don’t remove the soil; they compact it by pressing it downwards and sideways; this is exactly the opposite of what you should be doing.

Also, by walking over the area so many times with ineffective shoes, you’re only compacting the ground even more.

The spikes on lawn aerator shoes are also so thin that they don’t allow anywhere near enough light or air to penetrate through the soil.

Also, they aren’t nearly as long as they need to be. Machines used by professional lawn experts create holes or tubes three to four inches deep, lawn shoes are usually between an inch or two, and this is far too short.

Finally, most lawn aerator shoes are very flimsy and won’t last long. Go take a close look at these shoes on Amazon; I can see these breaking easily, can you?

Alternatives to Lawn Aerator Shoes

Lawn shoes don’t work and will never work but you still have two options if you want to aerate your lawn:

  • Hire a professional with a lawn plugger machine to give your grass the once over.
  • Buy a manual plugger and put in some hard work.

The Best Manual Lawn Pluggers

There are plenty of cheap and flimsy lawn aerator pluggers on sale, and most have terrible reviews; I’ve read through hundreds of rating and reviews, and most of the bad ones are due to the quality of the product. 

In short, flimsy pluggers break easily and don’t last very long.

Try this product instead:

Walensee tine aerator

Putting this hollow tine aerator to the test

Closeup of the hollow tine aerator during our test

Closeup showing the ejected soil cores

As you can see from the photos above, this product actually removes plugs of soil and is very similar to the machines that professional lawn experts use. The only difference is that you’ll need to put in some hard work and it could get tiring if you have a large lawn!

This plugger leaves holes 3.5 inches deep and half an inch wide – perfect for aerating any lawn.

Looking closer at this product, one can easily see how well it’s manufactured, and the welds look solid:

Soil plugs

Avoid These Pluggers

The plugger shown below is sold under several brand names on Amazon and a few other online retailers.

The reviews of this plugger are terrible, and it’s all due to how flimsy it is and how easily it breaks.

One consumer left this insightful review:

“it was scrap metal within 15 minutes”

I don’t think you should buy this product, the main issue is the poor welding:

Poor quality hollow tine


Lawn aeration does work and is a technique used by professionals on sports fields and other lawns.

Spiked shoes will never work and actually compress the soil even further.

There are plenty of flimsy manual lawn pluggers on sale that break easily, but if you hunt around, you’ll find a few that are very well made and sturdy.

If you have a large lawn, it would be far better to hire the services of a professional with a lawn plugger machine or see if your local hire shop has one you can use for a day.

The RHS claims that most people only need to aerate their lawns once every few years if it’s done properly with a plugger rather than spiked shoes.

Find more helpful guides:

Our full review of the hollow tine aerator.

An overview of lawn aeration.

More at our Lawn Care section.

Meet The Author: Hannah Miller

Hannah is a former NHS administrator, mother of two and keen gardener with a horticulture qualification who loves growing new plants and experimenting in the garden.

She enjoys gardening as much as she cares about the environment and likes to share her knowledge with others.

This year is all about pollinators, and Hannah has set herself the goal of only buying new plants that attract pollinators; she aims to make the garden as bee and butterfly friendly as possible.

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