This picture is being shared online with the claim that these shoes are spy shoes from the Second World war, they were made back to front to fool the enemy.
That’s not true.
Just looking at them you can see that the story doesn’t quite fit.
They’re civilian shoes, that means you’re supposed to wear them in public and yes, they are very very weird looking.
So any secret agent who is planning to fool the enemy with their shoe prints would have to avoid being seen by anyone before they get to do the forwards walking backwards thing.
And if you’re not first going to walk around a public place, why not just wear special army shoes or fake soles you can stick under your normal shoes?
Why bother making such nice and well made but odd looking urban shoes?
Besides it just being a strange story, the shoes also just don’t look 1930s-40s at all.
To prove that the story is fake history I tried to find where the photo was taken, the shoes were clearly in a museum somewhere.
You can see a glass cabinet with shoes in the background and the edge of what appeared to be a sign could be seen in the corner.
Probably a sign that explained exactly what these shoes were all about but no matter how much I looked, the shoes, the museum and the little sign remained out of reach.
So I used the most powerful research tool there is; I asked the internet.
I have quite a lot of followers on Twitter and some of my tweets reach hundreds of thousands of people so I just shared the picture and hoped someone would recognise it, surely one of all the people who saw it would remember seeing them in a museum somewhere?!
Eventually someone recognised them.
Krystel Contreras found them and the whole mystery was finally solved!
The shoes are exhibited in the Deutsches Schuhmuseum in Hauenstein, yes, a German Shoe museum.
I haven’t been but from the website it looks like a fantastic museum with not just a bunch of shoes but wonderful and fun exhibits as well.
Once the location of the shoes was found it was of course easy to look for more pictures and just ask the museum about them.
The museum gave me the real story behind these shoes.
A couple of decades ago a certain Herr Wolf who worked for a shoe import firm got sick and tired of customers always complaining about the new collections he got, there was always something that wasn’t right.
So he had a pair of silly joke shoes made, perhaps to put on display in his office or to bring out ever time someone found something to nag about.
Yes, the shoes are simply just a wonderful example of that famous German humour you’ve heard so much about!
Real spy shoes do exist though.
For instance smugglers and bootleggers used shoes with soles that looked like wrong way around footwear, but they only fool your average police officer or border guard because anyone who has a bit of experience in examining tracks knows that if a human walks there is a difference in pressure on the heel and the toes, you can see where the front and back of a foot are regardless of how the print looks like.
Which is another reason a professional spy on the run from highly trained Nazi guards would perhaps not bother with these kind of gadgets.
But there are much more effective shoes that let you confuse your pursuers!
Moonshiners in the 1920s had shoes with cow hooves under them, leaving very different prints.
And possibly the coolest I’ve seen are the ‘decoy sneakers’ used by the SOE during the war.
These were rubber bare foot casts that you tied under your regular shoes so that a when for instance you were landed on a beach somewhere, any passing guard who might see your footprint would just assume it was a regular bather or maybe a native in stead of someone wearing a suit and shoes.
Another case closed.
- A Most Ungentlemanly Way of War: The SOE and the Canadian Connection, by Bernd Horn
- Imperial War Museum
- Deutschen Schuhmuseum Hauenstein
If you like my work, please consider supporting me on Patreon;
Picture(s) found online, used for (re-)educational purposes only.
I do not own the copyrights to these images, I only share them here for educational purposes to try and make sure the real story behind it becomes known and people will stop spreading false information.
If the copyright owner objects to the sharing here, kindly contact me and I shall alter the article.
If you’re interested in using any of the images here get in touch with the copyright owners mentioned in the article.
Feel free to contact me with questions.