Shoes on a wire, theories in the air

Gerri MacLeod documented some local shoe tossing in Minneapolis and shared it MPR’s Flickr photo pool. Not all footwear looks this artful:

image courtesy Gerri MacLeod

MacLeod notes, “Now in college, there was a tree that you threw your shoes up on after losing your virginity (or something like that). Is it the same thing even for tossing them on electrical wires?”

According to the urban legend & folklore resource,, there are many theories on the secret language of sneakers. News Cut familiars might note the suggestion they “increase visibility for low-flying aircraft” as one proposal ideally suited to irritate your usual host.

What are your own theories? Do you notice shoes-on-a-wire in your neighborhood? Are shoe trees really a tourist attraction?

I’ll hang up and listen.

  • Bob Moffitt

    I can’t speak to why other types of footwear would be hanging from wires, but there is an old tradition of getting rid of your combat boots that way after you leave military service.

    I didn’t do it. Still got my boots, it’s the only part of my uniform I can still fit into.

  • Elizabeth T

    In 1988 I was visiting Bloomington, IN often. On one of the streets near the university, there was about a block-long stretch looking like this – tennis shoes hanging off of the power/phone lines. No one I knew could explain it. It was, however, in the section of town which was primarily student housing.

  • Brad

    It’s no theory. As a student at the University of Minnesota, we all know our shoe tree adjacent to the Washington Ave. Bridge is the loss of virginity arboreal pantheon. I loved those airwalks, and they’re still there.

    To doe-eyed tour groups, and for official purposes, the University goes with… ” the tree’s branches are loaded with the shoes of University alumni who tossed their kickers into the tree to celebrate their graduation. ”

    Take it from a veteran tour guide. Virginity tree.

  • Gerri MacLeod

    @Brad Yup, that was the same tree I was talking about – I used to pass it everyday on my walk to the west bank and wonder what was the real story was after heard the same thing about “celebrating graduation”. It wasn’t until my last year that someone finally clued me in on the truth 🙂

    Now these wires in the picture aren’t near any student housing by a long shot. Are people just sad they never got to participate the first time around?

  • Momkat

    Maybe that’s the answer to the occasional shoe you see along side many roads. Missed a tree.

  • Stacy

    I have heard many times that in lots of places, shoes tossed over electrical wires are an indication that drugs are available for purchase on that block.

  • Ed Kohler

    Shoefiti rocks. I love unsolved mysteries like this.

  • Lisa

    I had a young “inner city” client tell me that it was done to a pair of shoes that belonged to a person that had been killed in the neighborhood.

  • Dirk

    Maybe its the same college kids that were at the party that turned into a riot?

  • Sam

    shoes over a powerline definitely mean that drugs are being sold on that block as a pair of nikes means one drug is being sold and reeboks are another, there is a correlation between what shoe and what drug is being sold there.

  • Ian

    Shoes on a wire are a signal for where to buy that bomb dope