Pop Culture

People hearing about 'shoe theory' for the first time worry they'll be dumped on Christmas

Many are concerned this common Christmas gift will spell relationship disaster, thanks to an old wive's tale going viral.

shoe theory, shoe theory tiktok, what is shoe theory
Canva, @barbeeherrinfam/TikTok

The viral 'shoe theory' has people second guessing their Christmas gifts.

Of course we’re leaving some things as a surprise, but one thing my husband and I each got for each other this year happened to be a pair of shoes. What can we say, we saw a sale at Macy’s and couldn’t say no—him to a pair of tan Nike’s that will go with everything, and me to a bedazzled pair of Betsy Johnson boots that will go with exactly nothing, but are just so beautiful.

But had we known of the “shoe theory” currently taking over the internet, we might have chosen otherwise if we wanted our marriage to last, apparently.

Countless folks can be found in the #Shoetheory section of TikTok, sharing their own fears (and horror stories around this trending topic.

As the superstition goes: if you give a significant other a pair of shoes, they will “eventually walk out on you,” leading to an inevitable breakup.

As Angela Chan, aka @angela.chaan, explains it, this theory stems from Chinese culture, since the word for “shoe” in Mandarin sounds similar to “bad luck” or “evil.”

While this old wive’s tale might have been around for a long time, many people are only just now hearing it…after having already bought a pair (or two) for their beau.

@bu99zie Nope. #fyp #christmas #bf #shoetheory ♬ original sound - <3

Needless to say, people are concerned.


Merry Christmas, we had a good run x

♬ original sound - angela chan
@kate61143 we’ve been through long distance and praying THE SHOE THEORY isnt the thing that breaks us up #shoetheory #fyp #fypシ゚viral ♬ original sound - <3

And to make matters worse, many do have anecdotes of post-shoe breakups, indicating there might be something to the theory after all.

“I left my ex a week after he gifted me a show for my Birthday.. He even took the shoes back,” one person shared.

In a different TikTok, a woman wrote “I didn’t even get to give them to him” in the caption as she’s seen throwing a pair of sneakers in frustration.

Another said, “”Every boyfriend I’ve had I bought them shoes, and every single one of them has walked straight out my life.”
@fayemart Have I lost it or is this shoe theory thing the real deal?! #shoetheory #boyfriend #christmaspresents #shoetheoryexplained #viral #trending #fyp ♬ original sound - faye

Even former skeptic @ok.kati.2 admitted that she thought the theory was “dumb” at first, but then had a “lightbulb moment” when she realized “I had gifted an ex of mine a pair of shoes … and they definitely walked out of my life.”

This all has spooked shoppers second guessing their gift choices. But for many, it’s too late.

“I don’t know what to do about these shoes now. I bought the shoes for him a while ago, so I can’t return them now,”@jessicageary1 lamented. “Now, do I need to burn the shoes I got my boyfriend for Christmas? They were expensive though. What do I do?”

But fret not, there is a possible solution: have your SO pay you a dollar for the shoes.

@izzle.b explains in their comment to @angela.chaan’s shoe theory video”

“My mom told me this when my bf first gifted me shoes lol I had to technically ‘buy’ the shoes off my bf for $1 and that’s what we’ve been doing since.”

Smart plan. And the least expensive investment ever!


And if your not then why u buying him shoes anyways💀 if he leaves hes simply✨not the one for you✨

♬ original sound - speakerbleed225

If a relationship ends, odds are there’s more to its demise than an ill-fated gift. But still, this theory is such an interesting example of the deep connection humans have with symbols. So many people feel as though the universe is constantly communicating through signs.

If you do fall into this camp, it can be easy to see how offering up shoes—those vehicles in which we roam and wander the world—might be an intuitive invitation to our partners to go on their own path.

But regardless of whether you believe in omens or not, it feels safe to say that all of us want a relationship that can withstand something as innocuous as shoes.

All I can say is: I hope my Betsy Johnson boots aren’t made for walking.


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