humanities

Symbolism of Shoes in Dreams

The Symbolism of Shoes in Dreams: Shoes are symbolic of our lives, representing a significant meaning of the paths, hardships, and dreams we take on through life.

Shoes are the physical and symbolic embodiment of the past, present, and future paths we walk. They are a recurrent motif and theme discussed throughout diverse cultures, Bibilical references, dreams, and more. Shoes can represent endurance, protection from the environment, sometimes even subjugation and struggle, but also ambition, determination, and direction.

Shoes Symbolism in Dreams

Barefoot Symbolism: No Shoes

Depending on the context of the dream, walking or running barefoot without shoes could signify loss, endurance, or light-heartedness. When running barefoot on hard stones, sharp shrubbery, and harsh terrain, this could symbolize endurance of pain and hardship. The absence of shoes makes one vulnerable to the environment and harshness of surroundings, whether physically or emotionally. You may be experiencing poverty and lack of mobility, whether from work or at home.

Yet, at the same time, going barefoot with no shoes could also symbolize a sense of carefree joy and comfort. Especially if surrounded by family, friends, or a positively lit dream, having no shoes can mean you feel safe and open, exposing yourself to the warmth or forthcoming warmth of others. This also indicates your playful personality, positive outlook on life, strong support network, and ability to bounce back from even the harshest of the hardships.

Worn-Out Shoes Symbolism

If you’re dreaming about worn-out shoes or wearing worn-out shoes, this could possibly indicate a hardship you’re experiencing in your current life or an adversity that you’ve encountered in the past. You are working hard towards your dreams that you’ve physically worn out your shoes. You may feel exhausted, frustrated, or burnt-out. Yet, the manifestation of worn-out shoes in your dreams may also show your tremendous work ethic, pushing away myopic desires to pursue long-term and more meaningful goals. You will soon find success after years of hard work and diligence.

Fancy Shoes Symbolism in Dreams

Ever dreamed about wearing fancy shoes? That coveted latest Nike edition? Or perhaps, those expensive golden stilettos you’ve been eyeing? This means you have high-achieving ambitions, and if you continue to put efforts into building your dreams and making small steps, your future ahead will be steady and bright. In some cultures, brides and grooms are gifted new shoes during their weddings, symbolizing prosperity, fertility, and good luck.

Shoes that Don’t Fit: Symbolism

But what about wearing uncomfortable, unfitting shoes? When shoes don’t fit, they suggest something in your life is currently out of place. You may be still searching for your identity or finding the right friends group or still adjusting to your workplace. Tight shoes means you’re restricted. Perhaps, it is time for you to reevaluate your goals and direction in life. Loose shoes in dreams however could indicate that you still have room to grow. With the proper guidance, dedication, and mentorship, you have the potential to expand your skills and knowledge to become a better person, in some shape or form.

Here, we analyze the poem Pairs of Shoes by Nguyen Quyen and examine the meaning of shoes and their symbolism.

Pairs of Shoes by Nguyen Quyen: Poem

My future lives come to me in dreams

Come silently with torn soles.

I am like a skilled shoemaker

Greeting the wandering breath of these feet.

These dreams-my other selves

Sprawl out to sleep like a litter of puppies,

Pinches of ashy fur standing up in tufts

Their young hair like hens fluffed feathers

They lie on their stomachs, pressing against my shadow.

Pairs of shoes from yesterday will come tomorrow

Am I their native land, or a land foreign to them?

Their house, or an inn?

Which road guided them to me?

Tonight I decide to open myself to these dreams,

As anxious for their arrival as a child yearning for milk.

Perhaps fireflies will draw them in a different direction

And perhaps the shoes are no longer ripped.

I feel as empty as a new-born creature.

I spread out like a homeless evening

To meet these footprints turning toward me.

Translated by Ben Tran

Pairs of Shoes Poem Analysis

Symbolism of Shoes: Beginning Hardships and Dreams

The speaker initially perceives own dreams negatively as loose and undeveloped but also understands that these dreams will eventually take shape and embrace the possibility of bright inevitable future of dreams at the end. Through the contemplation and reflection of the speaker’s feelings on dreams, the speaker comes to the revelation that only through the speaker’s own embrace of dreams, not leaving them alone or refused, will allow speaker to finally open to his/her own inevitable future. The speaker states in the beginning that his/her “future lives come to me in dreams/ Come silently with torn soles/ I am like a skilled shoemaker/ Greeting the wandering breath of these feet” (Quyen, lines 1-4).  The speaker suggests that speaker’s dreams represent speaker’s future life when using personification to compare the “future lives” in dream form to a person “[coming] silently with torn soles”. Soles, the shoes’ bottom, is homophonic with the word “soul”, and because the speaker’s “future lives” come as “torn,” this reflection suggests the worn out soul of the speaker’s own self and also hints a possible broken future that the speaker views from these dreams. By using “torn” describing the shoes, the speaker also illustrates that these torn shoes parallel to his/her own loose, incomplete, or unachievable dreams, evoking a beginning dismal tone.

Symbolism of Shoes and Torn Soles & Souls

The speaker also compares him/herself to a “skilled shoemaker,” suggesting that he/she believes the possibility of fixing these problems of the “torn sole” or “torn” soul even though he/she initially perceives the future arriving toward him/her as depleted of energy and even possibly hope. The use of diction of “wandering” with a lost, almost hopeless connotation further reveals the scatteredness of these dreams. However, the words “greeting” and “skilled” both words of warm experienced connotations depict that the speaker now views self as a guidance to these “wandering…feet”, revealing a minimal but gradual change of pessimism to slight optimism, a beginning of his/her understanding of embracing the dreams.

The speaker describes the dreams as “my other selves/Sprawl out to sleep like a litter of puppies/Their young hair like hens fluffed feathers/They lie on their stomachs, pressing against my shadow” (Quyen, lines 7-9). Speaker describes the dreams as “my other selves” and “pressing against my shadow”, implying that the dreams are part of the speaker’s identity since “other” demonstrate speaker’s future self while ‘shadow” symbolizes the past. Using many euphonic words, such as “fluffed” and “sleep”, the speaking uses similes to compares these dreams to innocent animals,  not only illustrating the innocent and youthful ideals, but also portraying the fact that these dreams, like inexperienced puppies, are incomplete, dependent and incapable of becoming a reality by themselves. The word “tufts” and alliteration of “fluffed feathers” pertain to the imagery of tangled hair, depicting the youth and premature image of the puppy, reinforcing the fact that the dreams are not developed and completely formed, due to the fact that it has only vague forms and are not completely reality yet.

Pairs of Shoes Symbolism: Home

As the speaker continues reflecting, he/she begins to wonder if these “Pairs of shoes from yesterday [coming from] tomorrow” view the speaker as “their native land, or a land foreign to them? Their house, or an inn?” (Quyen, lines 11-12). By asking multiple questions, the speaker questions self if these dreams, the paths that the speaker is currently walking on with the pair of shoes, are truly his/her own. “Native land” has a warm homely connotation, whereas “land foreign” has a connotation of dismal lostness, a land of the unknown. This juxtaposition of the known of comfort and unknown of mysteriousness is emphasized further through the word “house” and “inn”, two contrasting words of connotation depicting the dichotomy of warmth and home and the other alienation of simply shelter, further highlighting that he/she is not sure whether the dream are necessarily even his/her own. The use of question marks are purposefully used to also emphasize the hesitated confusion about the whereabouts of these dreams. Where is the final destination of these shoes?

Finding Direction with Symbolic Shoes

At this point, the speaker finally decides to “open [self] to these dreams/…Perhaps fireflies will draw them in a different direction” (Quyen, lines 14, 16). The speaker finally embraces his/her dreams positively, willing to allow these dreams to freely come to him/herself. “Tonight” word reveals that before the speaker has refused or pushed away these dreams. However, by noting “fireflies will draw them in a different direction,” the speaker shows that these fireflies, a symbol of brightness and hope in the darkness, will enfold this brightness into the dreams. In other words, the speaker finally understands the possession of these dreams and looks at them with a better and more positive perspective. The fireflies have thus enlightened the speaker’s viewpoint and is now eager and open to these dreams. Therefore, the mention of fireflies brings hope and light into the poem as a whole, contrasting from the torn and broken beginning, suggesting the contemplative tone turning to a reflective tone and thus conveying the speaker’s final turn of understanding that his/her embrace of these dreams will allow self to walk forward into the future. The entire poem, separated by five stanzas, is organized in such way that it shows the transition of thoughts of the speaker, until the last stanza when he/she finally concludes the meaning of dreams to his/her life and the symbolism of shoes that will carry those dreams forward.

Did you have a recent dream about shoes? Share your thoughts and comments with us below.

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