Why do you have to take your shoes off at airport security? Security measure explained

The great summer getaway has begun and you may be faced with security measures when flying.

Getting through airport security can be one of the most stressful parts of your journey.

From making sure you have your liquids in the right package to the long queues seen at airports in recent weeks, it can be a source of worry.

But one element you might not be expecting is having to take your shoes off and then having to put them back on again after, adding extra time to the process.

On Friday (22 July) passengers reportedly had to remove their shoes at London Heathrow Airport while going through security.

If you have ever had to remove your shoes at airport security and wondered why, here is the reason.

Why do you have to remove your shoes at the airport?

The main reason for this security measure is the result of an attempted terror attack by Richard Reid in December 2001.

He attempted to detonate a shoe bomb on a flight from Paris to Miami, not long after 9/11.

A passenger takes off his shoes as other passengers put their carry-on luggage in trays for x-ray inspection before they pass through a security check-point at Dulles International Airport. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

As a result of this attempted bombing, TSA introduced shoe searches to prevent a future incident.

While the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) are American, it is a measure that has been copied at airports in other parts of the world - including in the UK.

In 2006, the removal of shoes before proceeding through scanners was made mandatory for all passengers - this was relaxed in 2011 to allow children 12 and younger and adults 75 and older to keep their shoes on

Also in the UK if you trigger the metal detector arch when going through security you will have to remove your shoes and other items such as belts (if you had not done this already) and repeat the process.

What other security measures are in place at UK airports?

There are restrictions on the amount of liquids you can take in your hand luggage. If possible, pack liquids in your hold baggage (luggage that you check in).

Liquids include:

  • all drinks, including water
  • liquid or semi-liquid foods, for example soup, jam, honey and syrups
  • cosmetics and toiletries, including creams, lotions, oils, perfumes, mascara and lip gloss
  • sprays, including shaving foam, hairspray and spray deodorants
  • pastes, including toothpaste
  • gels, including hair and shower gel
  • contact lens solution
  • any other solutions and items of similar consistency

If you do take liquids in your hand luggage:

  • containers must hold no more than 100ml
  • containers must be in a single, transparent, resealable plastic bag, which holds no more than a litre and measures approximately 20cm x 20cm
  • contents must fit comfortably inside the bag so it can be sealed
  • the bag must not be knotted or tied at the top
  • you’re limited to 1 plastic bag per person
  • you must show the bag at the airport security point

Food items and powders in your hand luggage can obstruct images on x-ray machines. Your bags may need to be checked again manually by security. You can put these items in your hold luggage to minimise delays.

You can only carry 1 lighter on board. You should put it inside a resealable plastic bag (like the ones used for liquids), which you must keep on you throughout the flight. You cannot:

  • put it in your hold luggage
  • put it in your hand luggage after screening