Why do we have to take off our shoes in airport security checks?

Most people are of the opinion that some ‘security measures’ in airport checks are simply senseless, and some, such as invasive pat-downs, are not only senseless, but also criminal (sexual harassment). But what is the deal with taking off our shoes though? What do shoes have to do with security? Turns out, there’s a very good reason why airport security people are paranoid about shoes, especially closed shoes, and we have suprisingly innovative terrorists to thank for that.

The shoe bomber.

In 2001, a guy by the name of Richard Reid unsuccessfully tried to detonate explosives in an American Airlines flight headed to Miami, Florida, from Paris, France. How did he manage to sneak in the explosives into the plane you ask? If your answer is that he hid them in his shoes, you’re wrong. He did not hide the explosives in his shoes, his shoes were the bomb. Literally.

Richard Reid, a British citizen, lived for years as a petty thief before he decided to take his criminal career a notch higher. Following advice from his father, also a career criminal, Reid converted to Islam after his incarceration in 1995 for petty theft because ‘Muslims get better food in prison’. After he was released in 1996, he went straight to a mosque, fell in with an Anti-American cleric by the name Abu Hamza al-Masri, got radicalised, spent 1999 and 2000 in Pakistan, trained as a terrorist in Afghanistan, returned to Britain, hang around with other terrorists in Israel, went back to Pakistan and to Afghanistan in November 2001, then boarded the Miami-bound flight in 22nd December, 2001, while wearing his special shoes. Passengers on the plane subdued him once they learnt what he was up to, and he was arrested once the plane made an emergency landing in Boston, Massachussetts.


While observing airport security protocols, the terrorists noticed that shoes were not checked. It was there that they got the idea to make a shoe bomb. Reid and a second guy named Saajid Badat were then given the shoes during their last visit to Afghanistan. Both were arrested, with Badat being arrested later on after Reid’s unsuccessful attempt.

After this incident, airport security protocols changed so as to cover the shoe loophole. And that, all you souls (dare I say soles?😆) inconvenienced by airport security, is how it came to be that we take our shoes off while going through airport security checks.




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