Tuesday, October 29, 2013

TSA Travel Tips Tuesday – What Causes Shoes to Alarm Metal Detectors?



Photo Courtesy of qa.shpnc.nc.gov
Some travelers, by policy, are not required to remove their shoes, but if their shoes alarm during the screening process, or if they require secondary screening for another reason, they might be asked to remove them.  So let’s take a look at what can cause shoes to set off a metal detector:
  • Shoe Shanks – Many shoes have what’s known as a shank, which is embedded between the insole and outsole. It’s there for support, and can be made of steel, Kevlar, or fiberglass. If it’s steel, there is a chance it could cause your shoes to alarm. Here are some pictures of shoe shanks if you’re wondering what they look like. 
  • Nails – Cowboy boots and a variety of shoes have nails in the heal.  
  • Zippers, Buckles, Eyelets, D-rings, and Hooks – Some shoes and boots have large metallic zippers, buckles, eyelets, D-rings, and hooks. 
  • Steel Toes – Steel toes in shoes and boots.  
  • Roller Shoes – If you’ve ever seen someone suddenly begin to skate in their tennis shoes, you’ve seen roller shoes. A wheel pops out of the heel and allows the shoes to double as roller skates. The wheel mechanism can cause the shoes to alarm. 
  • Light Up Shoes Light up shoes have wires and a battery that can cause an alarm.

So, now that you know what can cause shoes to alarm, let’s discuss some alternatives:
  • Airport Friendly Shoes - Some brands offer “airport friendly” shoes that are manufactured without metal. If you have trouble finding a pair, a quick internet search should do the trick.
  • Slippers & Flip Flops – If you have a pair of shoes that you know will alarm, you can pack them in your carry-on bag and wear slippers or flip flops through the walk through metal detector. After security, you can put your favorite shoes on.

The following groups may not be required to remove their shoes during screening:


See you next Tuesday with more travel tips!

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36 comments:

Anonymous said...

Since shoes are no danger to anyone, why do you require anyon to remove them in the first place? The US is the only country in the world to have such a stupid policy. You people should be ashamed of yourselves.

Anonymous said...

I dont see any shoe shank pictures, too bad I was curious.

Anonymous said...

We should start a trend to travel barefoot.

Anonymous said...

How do I explain to little Timmy that the day he turns 12, his favorite shoes become potential IEDs?

Anonymous said...

Trying to bolster West's silly assertion that TSA's shoe rule is a "deterrent" to the non-existent shoe bombers comment from a few days ago, I see.

Anonymous said...

I suggest that the TSA review blog content prior to posting to avoid tips that terrorists can use to their advantage to defeat controls. Of course it's not just the bloggers - some of the rules themselves don't recognize reality. No such thing as a 76 year old terrorist with a shoe bomb? A removable steel shoe shank knife? The list goes on and on.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget about metal zippers in our pants. We should be taking off our pants to get through the metal detectors!

Anonymous said...

Since I wear boots with metal inserts and I'm 85 yrs. old, can I have a card that enables me go through security?

Anonymous said...

But what metal found in a shoe is actually a threat to a plane? I can get a knife from an airside restaurant and all sorts of stuff from an airside store. More importantly, the cockpit doors are locked and the passengers would beat the crap out of me if I attempted to menace anyone with a bit of metal. Even drawing a gun would get the crap beaten out of me.

Bubba said...

Why are my shoes dangerous when I fly within the US, but not when I board a plane abroad and then fly over or into the US? I´ve been asking this repeatedly, but get no answer. We are talking here abut the same shoes, on the feet of the same person.

Anonymous said...

I think that an important message here that you still may be asked to remove your shoes even if you are one of those selected for Pre Check. As I understand it you still have to meet a minimum amout of screening you arent exempt from screening all together. It seems like those selected for Pre Check that don't know about the program seem to think that they do not have to take their shoes off period no matter if they are asked to. Communication is the key and it will help to expedite the screening area for everyone.

Anonymous said...

This answers my question of why footwear should be removed! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

The word is "heel." Not "heal." The TSA treats everyone as a heel. Doctors treat their patients so they heal. So concludes your proofreader's lesson in homonyms for today.

Anonymous said...

Love the pics of the veal shanks, or were they lamb? Those types of shanks are allowed, right?

GSOLTSO said...

Anon sez - "I dont see any shoe shank pictures, too bad I was curious."

Many shoes have a metal shank that is located in the sole, in most cases it is simply a stip of metal used to give some extra support in the sole. A picture of a basic form of shank is found here, along with some information on shanks:

http://the-last-shall-be-first.blogspot.com/2007/10/on-shanks.html

Anon sez - "We should start a trend to travel barefoot."

While I enjoy tooling around the house and yard barefoot myself, many settings that checkpoints are located at are not suitable for extended barefoot traversal!

Anon sez - "Since I wear boots with metal inserts and I'm 85 yrs. old, can I have a card that enables me go through security?"

At this time, there is no program I know of that makes this allowance. You will still have to process through screening and any alarm on the shoes would have to be resolved.

Anon sez - "This answers my question of why footwear should be removed! Thanks."

You are quite welcome Anon!

Anon sez - "The word is "heel." Not "heal."

Thank you for proofreading for us Anon, now if only spell check would catch them as quickly as you do, we would be in business! Sometimes our brains are out of sync with our keyboard operating devices!

Anon sez - "Love the pics of the veal shanks, or were they lamb? Those types of shanks are allowed, right?"

Veal shanks and lamb shanks are allowed for transit through the checkpoint or baggage, especially if they have been braised in a garlic butter! I highly recommend that you package them well though, so you do not wind up staining any of your other items.

West
TSA Blog Team

Wintermute said...

"...especially if they have been braised in a garlic butter!"

Depends... will the TSAgent find that butter is a liquid? Therefore, the shanks may be banned depending on how much garlic butter is used.

Anonymous said...

So many complaints, so little solution...

In this age of terror we must learn to do what we are told. Our government is our parent, so to speak, and, as with a child, the rules may be too complicated for us to understand the reasoning behind them, but the rules are to be followed none-the-less. This is for the good of all.

FredKlein said...

GSOLTSO said..
While I enjoy tooling around the house and yard barefoot myself, many settings that checkpoints are located at are not suitable for extended barefoot traversal!

And yet, the TSA makes us take off our shoes. Hmm.

Anon sez - "This answers my question of why footwear should be removed! Thanks."

You are quite welcome Anon!


But it doesn't answer WHY a (possibly) steel shank, as an integral part of a shoe, is a threat. As has been pointed out MANY times (and completely IGNORED by the TSA), the locked cockpit doors, and heightened passenger response would stop any 'terrorist' with a sharp piece of metal. Also, why do 'Airport Friendly Shoes' (to use your term) need to be taken off? They have no metal.

Anon sez - "The word is "heel." Not "heal."

Thank you for proofreading for us Anon, now if only spell check would catch them as quickly as you do, we would be in business! Sometimes our brains are out of sync with our keyboard operating devices!


So, the TSA relies on 'spell check' to catch things like this, rather than, I dunno, simply re-reading posts to check for typos before they are put up on an official website? Nice. Real nice.

Veal shanks and lamb shanks are allowed for transit through the checkpoint or baggage, especially if they have been braised in a garlic butter!

Oooh, sorry, no. That's gotta be more than 3.4oz of liquid butter there, fella! I gotta confiscate that!

GSOLTSO said...

FredKlein sez - "But it doesn't answer WHY a (possibly) steel shank, as an integral part of a shoe, is a threat. As has been pointed out MANY times (and completely IGNORED by the TSA), the locked cockpit doors, and heightened passenger response would stop any 'terrorist' with a sharp piece of metal. Also, why do 'Airport Friendly Shoes' (to use your term) need to be taken off? They have no metal."

The shank itself (as long as it is not modified and removable) is not what we are screening for, TSA screens for possible threat items in the shoes - like weapons concealed in them, and IED components concealed in them.

Currently the removal and xray of shoes is a large part of TSA screening because TSA has deemed shoes as a viable way to introduce possible threats.

Fred also sez - "So, the TSA relies on 'spell check' to catch things like this, rather than, I dunno, simply re-reading posts to check for typos before they are put up on an official website? Nice. Real nice."

Not always, but it does make for a nice back up, and anyone that has published/commented frequently or written reports/correspondence can testify that proofreading is not a 100% science, and we all make mistakes from time to time.

West
TSA Blog Team

Bubba said...

West,

Why not answer my question (already unanswered on another thread)? If it is because there is no real explanation, why not solve the problem and stop shoe removal altogether?

Anonymous said...

"Currently the removal and xray of shoes is a large part of TSA screening because TSA has deemed shoes as a viable way to introduce possible threats"

Why is TSA the only air security agency in the world to have reached this conclusion?

Why has no other country suffered an attack via shoe despite the lack of mandatory shoe removal?

Anonymous said...

"Currently the removal and xray of shoes is a large part of TSA screening because TSA has deemed shoes as a viable way to introduce possible threats"

Why is TSA the only air security agency in the world to have reached this conclusion?

Why has no other country suffered an attack via shoe despite the lack of mandatory shoe removal?

Bubba said...

West says: "Currently the removal and xray of shoes is a large part of TSA screening because TSA has deemed shoes as a viable way to introduce possible threats."

Yet it is also well-established that hundreds of flights containing persons who boarded the plane abroad fly over US airspace every day, and those shoes are not threat. And apparently the shoe danger goes away it you are very young, or very old. The shoe threat is also annulled through the payment of US$ 85 toward Pre.

Either shoes are a threat or they aren´t. Based on practical evidence it is pretty clear they are not. So stop with the theatrics and let everyone keep their shoes on.

Wintermute said...

"Currently the removal and xray of shoes is a large part of TSA screening because TSA has deemed shoes as a viable way to introduce possible threats. "

If the TSA truely believes this, then they are, to put it bluntly, morons.

Anonymous said...

GSOLTSO said...
TSA has deemed shoes as a viable way to introduce possible threats.

...and that's part of why we think you're useless. You worry about a possible, theoretical, shiv in a shoe (which wouldn't allow a terrorist to take over the plane anyway). Yet, on pretty much a weekly basis, TSA employees are fired for theft, or for taking bribes, or for other crimes. You can't even bother to screen your own employees adequately, yet you declare yourselves capable of keeping terrorists off of planes??!?

And the measures you take to do that are extremely useless. Why is a 9-ounce bottle of liquid banned, but three 3-ounce bottles of that very same liquid allowed? If the liquid is dangerous, it shouldn't matter what size bottle it is in- it should be banned. And if the liquid is safe... it shouldn't matter what size bottle it is in- it should be allowed.

While we're on that subject- if a confiscated liquid is indeed dangerous, why is it disposed of in a common trash can, right next to the checkpoint?? And if it's NOT dangerous, why is it not just allowed?

Anonymous said...

Bubba said:
"Why are my shoes dangerous when I fly within the US, but not when I board a plane abroad and then fly over or into the US? I´ve been asking this repeatedly, but get no answer. We are talking here abut the same shoes, on the feet of the same person."
what other country in the world had a person attempt to use a bomb in a shoe against them? the us is the only country thay has had such attempt. i would assume that this is the reason for the removal. just my anonymous opinion.
why is it such a big deal to take off your shoes? is it because you dont understand it?

Anonymous said...

FredKline said:
"But it doesn't answer WHY a (possibly) steel shank, as an integral part of a shoe, is a threat. As has been pointed out MANY times (and completely IGNORED by the TSA"
as i see it the metal detector goes off and the cause has to be determined. should the tsa assume that the cause is a shoe shank or should they confirm it? it appears that they confirm it by having the shoes xrayed so that they can see what is in them. shoes without metal can still be used as richard reid proved, the only time that shoes have been used and it an attempt against the us.

Anonymous said...

"I suggest that the TSA review blog content prior to posting to avoid tips that terrorists can use to their advantage to defeat controls..."

Let's test this. I say a terrorist could get into the cockpit (despite the locked cockpit door) by contaminating the on-board food supply and forcing the door to be opened for the relief of the pilots.* I also take a screenshot of this post in case it is censored.

*As an aside, the threat here would originate in an employee of either the airline or a company that stocks the plane--not in a passenger.

RB said...

GSOLTSO said...

"Currently the removal and xray of shoes is a large part of TSA screening because TSA has deemed shoes as a viable way to introduce possible threats."

.....................................
Then why would anyone be exempt from removing shoes during screening? If the threat of explosive shoes is that high then only a fool would exempt anyone from this screening.

What is the degree of threat from explosive shoes per TSA research? Surely TSA has done the math!

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Burns,
First, my sympathy to the Agency on the recent LAX tragedy. No one deserves to be mortally punished for doing his/her job.
From time to time I check this blog to see if there's anything new since 2010. But unfortunately I find nothing informative today. Many of the comments were questions that came to my mind as well (garlic butter warning included). I do hope that the TSA finds a way to explain their policies coherently. We are not children; we can understand. Perhaps take a lesson from the newly revised FAA policy on e-devices, although not from their overly long evaluation period.

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking that perhaps I should visit the local jail and see if they will sell me a pair of those rubber shoes they wear. I'm afraid to think about what TSA may ask me to take off if they detect the staples from my vasectomy... Yeeech!

Bubba said...

Dear anonymous at 8:13,

Yes, I have trouble following rules I don't understand. But mostly, I find that the combination of shoe removal and full body scanner use is the reason why security in the US takes much longer (leading to long lines), is more demeaning and creates difficulties specifically for the sick or disable.
No security measure should be obtrusive to the point of wasting time and creating risk for passengers, no matter how minute (and yes, taking off shoes creates all sorts of orthopedic risks), since airport security is here to decrease the chances of something that is already very, very, very rare.
And you still haven't addressed the fact that hundreds f airplanes fly over the US full of people who did not remove their shoes every day. I took such a flight very recently - from Central America to Canada.

Anonymous said...

"Slippers & Flip Flops...wear slippers or flip flops through the walk through metal detector..."

I was asked to take off my slippers when going through SFO? Are slippers shoes?

Anonymous said...

I just came back from Ireland and they don't require shoes to come off unless they are a certain type of shoe. You just have to show security your shoes and they say "ok" or "take them off". I was wearing Crocs and didn't have to take them off. Why not same policy in US?

Reina Smith said...

I used to travel around in either my Marchez Vous heels or boots but since its so much of a hassle to remove them at every checkpoint, I just go on flats now. And even with the minimalistic material of my flats, there are times that I'm still required to remove them. Next time I'll probably just travel in flip-flops.

Rob Luckey said...

The shoe removal policy is a load of garbage. Plenty of others in these comments have given good reasons why. I have TSA Pre, but even after that extensive background check etc. I cannot wear my American made Red Wing or Alden boots through the scanner, pretty much negating the whole point for me as a frequent traveler to have TSA Pre. My boots are less of security concern than even my belt, but no one seems to care about the millions of travelers wearing belts. This is yet another example of how shameful it is to be an American today and why the rest of the world just shakes their head at the ridiculous policies of our "security" agencies.