Your Shoe Color Can Symbolize How You Relate to the World

Set of bright colored women's shoes on a background with different colors

Shoes are an important part of our lives. Sometimes we put a lot of thought into our choice of footwear. For example, hikes will call for shoes which provide firm protection and traction. Meanwhile fancier events might require a high degree of color coordination to achieve our desired effect.

But take a moment to consider how you actually feel when heading out in different pairs of shoes. We know on an intellectual level that what we wear influences what we’re capable of. We’re not going to make a great impression at a high class party if we’re wearing dirt brown hiking boots. Likewise, broken and mud caked white high heels aren’t going to make a good impression on a hike with friends.

The structure of our shoes heavily influences how good of a time we’ll have on any given occasion. But color is just as important. In fact, the symbolic meaning of different shoe colors will often have a subconscious impact on both the wearers and those encountering them.

The Strange Case of Red Shoes

Top view of stylish female spring or autumn shoes in red colors

Red shoes typically signify that someone is going to stand out in the crowd. The exact nature of such an iconoclastic move isn’t set in stone. Sometimes someone might wear red shoes in a desire to impress. Other times red shoes might indicate a desire to dominate discussions. But red shoes typically symbolize someone who stands out from the crowd.

The visual power of red shoes can be witnessed in the story of an iconic movie. We all remember the ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz. But did you know that they weren’t red in the movie’s source material? The famous shoes were silver in the original novel. The now famous shoes were made red to catch people’s attention. And that’s exactly what red shoes often do.

We can see an example of this in action with a small, recent study on perceived status. In the study a professor wore a traditional suit with very non-traditional red sneakers. When surveyed his students actually perceived him as having a higher status. This was even more so with students who put thought into the concept of social status.

The change in status was due to two factors. The first is that people saw the non-traditional shoe choice as a power move. When we see someone breaking social norms without any fear or hesitation we often assume it’s because they’re the ones who set those norms. We assume they have a greater social standing than ourselves. And of course the red helps to draw attention to the shoes. Much like in The Wizard of Oz the professor knew that people’s eyes are drawn to red. This is why red shoes in general symbolize distinction from the crowd.

Other Bright Colors Such As Orange

Woman with bright orange shoes walking on bridge in a park

Other bright colors are also associated with people pushing against social norms. We tend to see bright personalities wearing bright shoes. However, a study showed that color choice in shoes can’t really show introversion or extroversion. Instead it suggests that the wear and tear of those shoes tells more about our personality. Both an introvert and an extrovert might wear orange shoes. But the extravert is more likely to have worn out those orange shoes without feeling a pressing need to quickly replace them.

Brighter colors can symbolize someone who wants to be seen in any given situation. But this doesn’t always mean someone is introverted or extroverted. As such brighter colors do symbolize a desire to stand out in a given situation. But we should look at the wear and tear of a shoe before assuming that this is something directly tied to personality type.

Getting a Solid Base With Earth Tones

Casual shoes in earth tones with bright laces and colorful autumn scene with fallen leaves

Earth tones, especially browns, are one of the more versatile choices. Brown tends to be applicable to almost any situation. This color choice tends to suggest a certain level of preparedness.

Earth tones also fit in with natural surroundings. If someone’s hiking in brown shoes then mud isn’t going to be as much of an issue. This also suggests someone who’s heavily prepared for the harsh terrains found on difficult hikes. Basically, earth tones tend to symbolize everything we think of when talking about nature. Earth tones portray a solid strength. When we see someone in earth tones, and especially brown shoes, we think of solid endurance.

The Serious Side of Black Shoes

Woman in black leather shoes with a handbag standing on stone steps

Black tends to be associated with business and power. This fashion fact is as true for shoes as it is for clothing. Black shoes speak to a more traditional type of power structure than red shoes. Red is typically a more fiery attempt to redefine the social structure of an environment. Black shoes are more about fitting in with business as usual. As such black shoes usually symbolize a desire to fit in with a larger power structure.

However, black shoes are often easily tarnished. As such a well tended pair of black shoes also symbolizes someone who knows how to work within the system. It points at someone who wants to be a part of a system’s upper echelon.

The Individual Meaning of Color

Group of people as colored silhouette profiles symbolizing individuality

In the end it’s also important to keep in mind that our color preferences are highly personal. Sometimes our color preferences will differ from our peers due to cultural differences. For example, blue is considered a masculine color in Western cultures. But blue is also considered feminine in China.

We often link important moments in our lives to color as well. To return to an earlier example, consider the case of red shoes. Red shoes normally symbolize a more fiery nature. But imagine if you had a beloved red blanket in your childhood. There’s a good chance that you’d grow up associating red with the comforts of youth.

It’s important to consider how other people relate to colors. After all, people’s reactions to you will change depending on their own preconceptions and color preferences. But you should also take a moment to really consider how your shoes make you feel. Do you, personally, feel more powerful when you wear red shoes? Do you feel more down to earth when wearing brown shoes? You might even want to spend some time considering where your color associations came from.

Going back to look over how we learned to associate color with emotion can bring up some valuable memories of the past. It can also help inform our choices so that we feel confident and in control when heading out into the world. Color is an important and vital part of life. With the right color choices, our shoes, and clothing in general, can help us be our best possible selves. It’s worth a moment of reflection to ensure that your shoe color is helping you become an artist painting the tapestry of your own life.