Abandoned footwear

Abandoned footwear

Abandoned footwear, such as a lone boot or shoe, has often been noted in out-of-the-way places like ponds or by the side of roads. [1][2] Sometimes the shoes may even be new and fashionable.[3]

There are many hypotheses about why this phenomenon seems to more often involve footwear than other types of clothing.[4][5] Shoes, being more sturdily constructed than most other types of clothing, will last longer after being abandoned outdoors. Leather shoes, for instance, are estimated to last for 25-40 years outside.[6] Some shoe abandonment is intentional, as in shoe tossing, in which shoes are tied together by their laces and thrown in great numbers into trees, over power lines, or over fences.

An unusual abundance of abandoned shoes was found on Miami's Palmetto Expressway on Friday, 2nd January, 2009. Thousands of assorted shoes of all kinds and conditions were scattered across the highway, disrupting traffic for many hours. The shoes were collected for the charity Soles4Souls which redistributes shoes to needy people. This unusually large batch of shoes was expected to go to Haiti.[7][8]

Artistic use

Some artists such as poets derive insight and inspiration from abandoned footwear - a form of art known as objet trouvé.[9] The fisherman hauling up an old boot, rather than a fish, is a comic-strip cliché. In Cinderella, the lost slipper is a classic example of the literary device of the 'lost object'.[10]

The theme of abandoned footwear and their untold story is explored in detail in the novel, Jen-Zen and the One Shoe Diaries by author Julie Ann Shapiro.[11] In the novel, her character describes the phenomenon, “The forgotten shoes are everywhere: littering the side of the highway, floating in the tide, going upstream with the Salmon, or occupying a field like a dead body,discarded and left to rot.” The novelist described the backstory of her novel, which offers much insight about the abandoned footwear from an art, societal and philosophical perspective.

In Southern California I noticed flip flops and running shoes left behind on the beach, the freeways, construction sites and parking lots and felt this uncanny urge propelling me to write about them. I couldn’t escape them, nor the unshakable sadness and loss I felt emanating from the shoes themselves. Why singular shoes I kept asking myself? Is it a Cinderella complex? Is this a poem I should write or a short story? I wrote them all and then one pivotal day I remembered a time as a teenager when my friends and I played with a Ouija board and a shoe moved by itself. It was this big aha moment!

The author noted that, "... real life photographer, Randall Louis Hamilton contacted me and mentioned having a shoe photo collection, proving that life sometimes is stranger than fiction." The two artists have since collaborated on their coincidental works.[11]


  1. ^ Shoe-icide - and other mysteries, Wichita Eagle, August 7, 2005, pp. 1E, http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_product=WE&s_site=kansas&p_multi=WE&p_theme=realcities&p_action=search&p_maxdocs=200&p_topdoc=1&p_text_direct-0=10BF662BC5D8FA90&p_field_direct-0=document_id&p_perpage=10&p_sort=YMD_date:D&s_trackval=GooglePM 
  2. ^ Dave Barnett (13th August 2007), Shoewatch update, Bradford Telegraph & Argus, http://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/news/news_opinion/featuresblogs/featuresblogsbarnett/3129176.Shoewatch_update/ 
  3. ^ Steve Harvey (Dec 14, 1995), The Case of the Sidewalk with Two Red Shoes, Los Angeles Times, p. 4, http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/latimes/access/22487390.html?dids=22487390:22487390&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&date=Dec+14%2C+1995&author=STEVE+HARVEY&pub=Los+Angeles+Times+(pre-1997+Fulltext)&desc=Only+in+L.A.&pqatl=google 
  4. ^ Sole Survivor So That's Why Those Shoes Lie Alongside the Road, Rocky Mountain News, April 9, 1992, http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_product=RM&p_theme=rm&p_action=search&p_maxdocs=200&p_topdoc=1&p_text_direct-0=0EB4DA4859F5BDB1&p_field_direct-0=document_id&p_perpage=10&p_sort=YMD_date:D&s_trackval=GooglePM 
  5. ^ That's Shoe-Biz, San Jose Mercury News, January 29, 1993, p. 1E, http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_product=SJ&s_site=mercurynews&p_multi=SJ&p_theme=realcities&p_action=search&p_maxdocs=200&p_topdoc=1&p_text_direct-0=0EF55F711E0B3DE3&p_field_direct-0=document_id&p_perpage=10&p_sort=YMD_date:D&s_trackval=GooglePM 
  6. ^ Litter Reduction Program, http://www.recycle.ubc.ca/littermain.html 
  7. ^ "Thousands of Shoes Appear on Miami Freeway", The Washington Post, January 3, 2009, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/02/AR2009010202326.html 
  8. ^ Brantley Hargrove (Jan 6, 2009), "Nashville Charity Corrals Thousands of Abandoned Shoes on South Florida Highway", Nashville Scene, http://www.nashvillescene.com/pitw/archives/2009/01/06/nashville-charity-corrals-thousands-of-abandoned-shoes-on-south-florida-highway 
  9. ^ Mervyn Rothstein (November 9, 1990), Seeing New York With a Poet's Eye, New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/1990/11/09/arts/seeing-new-york-with-a-poet-s-eye.html 
  10. ^ Paul Gifford (2005), Love, desire and transcendence in French literature, p. 184, ISBN 978-0-7546-5269-4, http://books.google.com/?id=mzpbyNXLwLsC 
  11. ^ a b Gary Warth, One shoe at a time, North County Times, http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2008/01/27/books/9_13_441_26_08.txt 

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