Feng Shui is a Chinese system of geomancy that purportedly uses the laws of Heaven and Earth to improve man’s life by receiving positive qi. It prescribes rules on, among others, the orientation and structure of buildings as well as the furniture and fixtures it contains. This includes shoe racks.
Feng Shui divides the height of a house into three –at the top is Heaven, in the middle is Man, and at the bottom is Earth. Each has its own role to play in man’s life, and the things we do or own are assigned to any one of them.
In the case of shoes, they belong to Earth. The reason is shoes typically carry a lot of soil or dirt. When storing shoes, therefore, they should never exceed the level of Earth, that is, one-third of the height of the house, otherwise the homeowners will become ill. Related to this is the restriction of the number of shelves to a maximum of five, with the shelves representing the Five Elements (Metal, Fire, Water, Wood, and Earth).
The idea makes sense because raising dirty shoes brings to a level where the dust and dirt collected by their soles, and the bacteria and fungi sometimes growing in them, can be more easily inhaled. This can lead to all kinds of respiratory ailments. Besides used shoes are often smelly and raising them brings them closer to the nostrils.
Feng shui geomancers also advise that closed shoe racks are better because door covers block the dirty shoes’ bad qi from pervading the inside of the house. The bad qi in this case can easily be interpreted to refer to the dirt and microbes on the shoes, not to mention the unsightly look of soiled shoes.
To further assure that bad qi is kept out of the house, Feng Shui suggests that shoes should be left near the entrance. This, however, does not apply to shoes or other footwear worn only inside the house. This, again, is another effort at keeping dirt from getting farther inside the house. The shoe rack can be included with the coat closet near the door into the house.
There clearly are elements in Feng Shui that reflect good planning and design although it provides different reasons. As far as shoe racks are concerned, what the Chinese geomancers call bad qi are nothing more than dust, dirt, and microbes.