The 'Shoe Theory': Why You Should Think Twice Before Gifting Footwear To Anyone

It almost feels like for every other experience you have; there is a TikTok out there theorizing exactly why and how it happened. This is especially true when it comes to romance and relationships. From the "Red Nail Theory" to TikTok user @Tinx's box theory, there could be an entire hand guide filled with every possible romantic circumstance along with a protocol to follow based on these viral videos.

Just like every other gift-giving season, in December 2022, people were pressed, trying to figure out the best present to gift their S.O. For anyone who spotted their partner's shoes looking a little raggedy and thought to surprise them with a pair of 2022's best sneakers — TikTok had them thinking twice. According to TikTok's "shoe theory," gifting your love interest with some high-tops could ensure you two are destined to break up. It might sound a little far-fetched, but plenty of videos under the hashtag #theshoetheory say otherwise.

The shoe theory explained

So you might be wondering how on earth a pair of Dr. Martens could be the demise of your loving relationship. Well, in a video posted by TikTok user @hillaryhelennn, she described how her immigrant mother passed down this belief about shoes long before TikTok was invented, saying, "The shoe theory is the theory that if you give your significant other a pair of shoes ... that essentially it's bad luck, and they will 'run away from you.'" She then continues to say that she thought this was only a Chinese custom her mom had imparted to her and not one that anyone in the U.S. knew of.

@hillaryhelennn added, "When I was younger, whenever I would go through a breakup, my mom would blame the fact that I gave my significant other shoes as the reason why we broke up." In another TikTok, user @angela.chaan gives the origin story of this Chinese superstition. She explained that "Basically, in Chinese, the word for 'shoes' sounds the same as the word for 'bad luck.'"

Could the shoe theory be true

News of this superstition led to an onslaught of TikTok users telling stories where the theory proved true while a verse from Lana Del Rey's "Mariners Apartment Complex" played in the background. One user, @beluga113 posted a video of herself in this format with the text, "POV: you're about to go to bed when you find a TikTok explaining shoe theory and realize your ex gifted you shoes right before you broke up." @beluga113 is just one of the many individuals sharing stories like this on #theshoetheory page.

However, other users challenged the theory. For instance, @solcosmica writes in her TikTok post, "i got my bf shoes for christmas when we first started dating & are about to celebrate 8 years together, so take it with a grain of salt." If you do happen to give your partner shoes as a gift and get nervous about the "shoe theory," @angela.chaan posted a follow-up explaining a loophole. In this video, she suggested you have the person you gifted shoes to give you a dollar. If this is done, you can rephrase the situation as though they paid you for it. And then, voila, the shoes will no longer be considered a present.