Shoes are one of the few universal objects that occupy two extremes of symbolism – positive and negative. Read on to learn more about the shoe symbolism.
What You'll Learn Today
What do shoes symbolize?
One one hand, or leg, shoes enable us to navigate the world, whether it’s walking to the grocery store or hiking up in the mountains. They protect our feet and provide much-needed comfort and warmth.
On the other hand, shoes occupy the lowest position of our body and are constantly in contact with dirt and grime. So they are often seen as dirty and unworthy. Many cultures see removing shoes before entering a host’s house as a sign of respect.
Even in the bible, Moses had to remove shoes when the burning bush appeared since he was on holy ground.
Shoes also carry a lot of meaning on their own as part of our clothing. For many people, the design and type shoes they wear are an extension of their personality and life experiences. No wonder we have idioms like ‘being in someone’s shoes’ and ‘walk in someone’s shoes’.
Shoes can also symbolize certain aspects of culture, nationalism, and religion.
What do shoes symbolize in literature?
From Cinderella’s glass slipper to Dorothy’s red shoes in Wizard of Oz, shoes are prominent in literature the world over. They are especially used to define a woman’s character, personality, or passions.
The type of shoes a character is given can depict her as playful, outgoing, rebellious, or plain.
Some literature, especially fairy tales, also tie shoes to a character’s fate and life journey. The right shoes can change her life, as in Cinderella’s tale, while the wrong ones doom her to a life of suffering.
In novels, going from worn out boots to high heels can signal a character’s leap into a better life.
What do shoes symbolize in psychology?
Whether you are studying your own shoe collection or checking out what someone else is wearing, shoes can provide some insight into individual psychology.
And this is proven by science. Several studies have found that people can, to a high degree of accuracy, guess wearers’ personality traits just from looking at their shoes.
For example, people who wear newer shoes or shoes in very good condition tend to have a needier personality. That is, they are likely to seek assurance from those around them. On the opposite end, those who wear older shoes that appear worn out tend to be more emotionally stable.
And if you see someone with high top shoes, chances are they are an extrovert.
In the end, however, it’s a bad idea to psychoanalyze someone from their footwear. Shoes reveal only a tiny slice of ourselves, and even then it’s easy to get it wrong.
A good example is that people assume wearers of flamboyant shoes are likely to be extroverted. But studies have found introverts are just as likely to wear showy and brightly colored shoes.
What do ballet shoes symbolize?
Ballet shoes are a powerful symbol of a certain type of femininity associated with grace and elegance. You can get a ballet shoes tattoo to represent such a personality.
If ballet shoes appear in a dream, they may represent approaching a situation with the grace, care and skill of a ballet dancer.
What do shoes on the floor symbolize?
Shoes on the floor, on their own, triggers an image of incompleteness. Shoes are not complete without their wearer standing in them.
So shoes on the floor or on the ground can indicate the temporary or permanent absence of their owner. For example, shoes are often left on the ground of many memorial sites to remember the departed victims of a disaster.
In a dream, shoes on the floor can be an invite for you to wear them and get going. Perhaps you are in a rut or are afraid to take the next step. The empty shoes symbolize your yearning to grow and move.
If you would like to learn more about various meanings of symbols, here is our latest article about rock symbolism.