Everything To Know About The “Shoe Theory” Going Viral On TikTok

The lore has been passed down in Filipino and Chinese cultures for decades — and it’s going viral on TikTok.

Originally Published: 
Screenshot of TikTok user Angela.chaan explaining the shoe theory.

Giving significant others presents is generally believed to help the relationship (particularly if your partner’s love language is gifts) — not contribute to its demise. Need proof? Just look at pop culture. Contestants on The Bachelor fall in love with kinda boring leads after shopping spree episodes. Even Gossip Girl’s Blair Waldorf, who can afford to buy her own clothes, melts at the sight of a new package, forgiving Chuck Bass of any and all transgressions.

There is one fashion item, however, that has the opposite effect and could cause a relationship’s downfall — at least according to TikTok. Enter: the “shoe theory.” The theory, which populated FYPs in December, posits that if you gift your S.O. footwear, you will eventually split up. Apparently, it’s a curse that befalls a shoe-gifter/giftee partnership.

After videos began making the rounds, users flooded the app with their own stories confirming the theory with their own breakup tales. One user even linked the theory to a Taylor Swift song. “Taylor swift confirmed the shoe theory is real with this line,” user kksparkleprincess captioned a TikTok featuring Swift’s song “Bejeweled.” In the song, Swift croons: “Didn’t notice you were walking all over my peace of mind in shoes I gave you as a present.”

One user sought to explain the panic-inducing theory — which now has over 25 million views — noting that the superstition isn’t new. In fact, it’s been passed down throughout generations.

“I have been hearing about the shoe theory from my mom since I was young, and it essentially says that if you gift someone a pair of shoes, they will eventually walk out on you,” user angela.chaan explained in her video. “You don’t really want to give your significant others or your loved ones a pair of shoes because that means that you’re destined for breakup or that your relationship might eventually fizzle out.”

The TikToker further explained the superstition’s origin. Apparently, the Mandarin word for “shoes” sounds the same as the word for “bad luck” or “evil,” which is likely why the two get conflated.

If you’re also in a shoe predicament, having gifted or received a pair, not to worry. There is a workaround. In a follow-up video, Chan proposed: “If you’ve already gotten someone a pair of shoes for Christmas, they can just give you a dollar in return so that technically, they bought the shoes off you and then it’s no longer a gift.”

The theory isn’t just common in Chinese cultures, but in others as well, including Filipino culture. Growing up, my own Filipino mom taught me a similar version. Her version, however, was less about romantic relationships deteriorating and more about people walking away from you or all over you. The solution, actually, is eerily similar: hand the giver a bit of cash so that it becomes a fair trade.

TikTok is a hotbed of relationship theories and superstitions, so take the theory with a grain of salt. If you want to play it safe though, maybe buy your partner a bag to make it even. That’s always a welcome gift in my book.

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