Calgary’s lost soles

The fascination of abandoned shoes

As a street photographer I always stop and photograph items that have been either dropped, misplaced or discarded. In particular I love to photograph abandoned or lost footwear, sometimes the shoes may even be new and fashionable. For many street photographers, myself included, they’re fascinated by the context they find lost shoes; intrigued by how they became lost. 

  • What’s the shoes story? 
  • Who wore it/them? 
  • Didn’t the person realize that they’ve lost a shoe? 
  • Was it thrown away or abandoned deliberately and if so why? 
B.U.M the brand not a reflection on society

Out of all the things I find left on the sidewalk, abandoned shoes seem to be the most prevalent, especially here on the streets of Calgary. A lot of people would associate lost shoes with the homeless population. However, in my opinion this isn’t the case. The homeless use many things as currency and items of clothing, shoes are no different. Even a single shoe has value on the streets.

Abandoned boots
A fine pair of boots abandoned or lost

Why so many shoes?

There are many hypotheses about why this phenomenon seems to more often involve footwear than other types of clothing. 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. 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.

Shoe tossing and urban legends

Shoe tossing, the act of using shoes as projectiles or improvised weapons is part of a number of golf sports and practices. Today, shoe tossing refers to throwing a pair of shoes whose laces are tied together onto raised wires such as telephone wires and power lines, as well as trees or fences. Urban legend tells that hanging shoes denote the location of a gang murder. In urban areas, hanging shoes can signal that a drug dealer is nearby or that drugs can be purchased in that area. For the most part, shoe tossing is purely recreational, often done as a prank. Dangling shoes may also symbolize local culture or traditions, including insults. Such is the fascination with abandoned footwear there are even groups on Flickr where people post their latest finds. 

Shoes are often tossed over power lines

Dreaming about shoes

Shoes are also strongly associated with dreams. In general, shoes represent your approach to life. Wearing shoes in your dreams suggests that you are well-grounded or down to earth. If you dream about changing your shoes, then it refers to your changing roles, or maybe just looking forward to the January sales! Losing your shoes can indicate you’re losing your self confidence, while shoes that do not fit or pinch means you may be questioning your goals. How much you believe in dream analysis is a personal thing but I’m lead to believe that dreaming of shoes is a very common occurrence. So my wife tells me anyway!

Another lonely lost soul

There’s always a story to be found

Their original owners may never be found and the shoes themselves may never tread another step. Whatever the reason a shoe finds its self abandoned and a lost sole (pun intended), street photographers around the world will continue to find them fascinating and photograph them. I know I will.