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 even fences.
An unusual abundance of abandoned shoes was found on Miami's Palmetto Expressway on Friday, 2 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.
The theme of abandoned footwear and their untold story is explored in detail in Julie Ann Shapiro's novel, Jen-Zen and the One Shoe Diaries. The titular 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 her novel's backstory:
|“||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!||”|
At the end of "Underdogs", Season 3, episode 12 of Friday Night Lights, about-to-graduate senior and team captain Tim Riggins leaves his cleats on the football field after the state championship game, bidding a final good-bye to his high school football career.
An emotional Rulon Gardner prepares to leave his shoes on the mat -- a symbol of retirement.
After the referee raised Gardner's hand in victory -- first to one side of the arena, then to the other -- Gardner grabbed an American flag, wiped away tears and parked himself in the middle of Mat B like "a 33-year-old kid" and took off his size 13 shoes. First the right one, the one that contains the constant reminder of the snowmobiling accident that almost took his life two years ago, then the left.Then the super heavyweight bronze medalist stood up, bowed his head at each side of the mat and walked off, leaving his shoes behind, a wrestler's signal that he had fought his final bout.
- Shoe-icide - and other mysteries, Wichita Eagle, August 7, 2005, pp. 1E
- Dave Barnett (13 August 2007), Shoewatch update, Bradford Telegraph & Argus
- Steve Harvey (Dec 14, 1995), The Case of the Sidewalk with Two Red Shoes, Los Angeles Times, p. 4
- Sole Survivor So That's Why Those Shoes Lie Alongside the Road, Rocky Mountain News, April 9, 1992
- That's Shoe-Biz, San Jose Mercury News, January 29, 1993, p. 1E
- Litter Reduction Program
- "Thousands of Shoes Appear on Miami Freeway", The Washington Post, January 3, 2009
- Brantley Hargrove (Jan 6, 2009), "Nashville Charity Corrals Thousands of Abandoned Shoes on South Florida Highway", Nashville Scene
- Mervyn Rothstein (November 9, 1990), Seeing New York With a Poet's Eye, New York Times
- Paul Gifford (2005). Love, desire and transcendence in French literature. p. 184. ISBN 978-0-7546-5269-4.
- Gary Warth (January 29, 2008), One shoe at a time, North County Times
- Sepinwall, Alan (April 3, 2009). "Friday Night Lights, "Underdogs": Clock management". The Star-Ledger.
- Skalko, Sherry (August 25, 2004). "Gardner leaves shoes, legacy behind". ESPN.
- McNutt, Myles (January 8, 2009). "Friday Night Lights - "Underdogs"". Cultural Learnings.
- Lynch, Marshawn. "Shawn Lynch on Twitter". Twitter. Twitter. Retrieved 23 June 2016.