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Barefoot Captives

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Freedom is their sole desire.

In both fiction and Real Life, prisoners, slaves, and other captives are often made to go without shoes and other footwear. This can be done for practical or psychological reasons, or some combination of the two. Since wearing shoes tends to be regarded as the norm, the captives' bare feet can also serve as a visual indicator of their lack of freedom both in-universe and in the real world, particularly if no other clothing changes are involved.

Normally an Invoked Trope where the character is deliberately deprived of their shoes by their captors. Alternatively, the character may have ended up without shoes while attempting to flee from or fight off their captors or may have been somewhere where shoes are optional or forbidden when they got captured; in either scenario, the captors have little or no incentive to provide replacement footwear given the factors mentioned in the introduction. The trope does not apply to characters who are routinely barefoot for one reason or another before being abducted, imprisoned or enslaved.


On the other hand, being forced to go barefoot in captivity may change a character into someone who Does Not Like Shoes, even after escaping or being freed.

May overlap with Go-Go Enslavement or Barefoot Poverty. A sister trope to Shirtless Captives (though the captive could end up both shirtless and barefoot).


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • In the Earthworm Jim graphic novel Fight The Fish!, Luana (AKA Princess What's-Her-Name) is kidnapped while barefoot. She stays this way throughout the entire story, even after changing out of her dress and into a jumpsuit. (Of course, the antagonist of the story is a fish with cat minions who don't wear shoes either, so it's unlikely they'd have any shoes to provide her with.) During her imprisonment, Luana meets another prisoner clad in the same kind of jumpsuit and nothing on her feet; this turns out to be Luana's long-lost mother.
  • In Monstress, Arcanic slaves of the Federation of Man are kept barefoot.
  • Superboy (1994): The human slaves on the anthropomorphic animal's island have their shoes taken from them.
  • Wonder Woman
    • Wonder Woman (1942): The slaves of the Empire of Saturn are not allowed shoes, and those that arrive with shoes have them taken from them in short order.
    • Wonder Woman (1987): Sangtee Empire slaves have their clothing, including footwear, taken from them and replaced with plain work clothes and no shoes to help discourage attempts to run away.

    Fan Works 
  • Still Stand in the Sun: Katara and the other Southern waterbenders are dressed only in ragged tunics and forced to go barefoot while they're imprisoned by the Fire Nation. Even after escaping, Katara has to endure Barefoot Poverty, since she's living in hiding and on the run in the wilderness.

    Films — Animation 
  • Subverted in Tangled, whilst it may Rapunzel is kept barefoot as part of her imprisonment in Mother Gothel's tower, she appears to be barefoot purely by her own choice rather than by Gothel. Indeed, even after escaping the tower she continues to go barefoot for the rest of the movie and in the Sequel Series Tangled: The Series (where it is expressly stated that she Does Not Like Shoes).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • ''The Betrayed'': Jamie's captors even tell her that her shoes have been taken away "for [her] own protection".
  • Big Fish: The town of Spectre steals the shoes of new visitors, forcing everyone to be barefoot so that they stay to the soft grasses of town and not leave through the painful woods around it.
  • Captain Marvel (2019): Carol is captured by the Skrulls and wakes up in restraints with her boots removed. She quickly breaks free and during her escape from the Skrull ship, she finds her boots and puts them back on.
  • Oanh, the Vietnamese captive from Casualties of War after being abducted by the GIs, spends the entire film walking throughout the jungles of 'Nam shoeless.
  • The Deadly Knives: The film's Damsel in Distress, Chiao-chiao, after being abducted and knocked out by her Japanese captors. She then wakes up and finds her shoes missing, never mind she's wearing socks prior to her capture.
  • The Disappearance of Alice Creed: As soon as the protagonist is kidnapped, they take off her shoes and she remains barefoot throughout the film.
  • Dune (2021): Paul Atreides and Lady Jessica are barefoot when they're captured by the Harkonnen soldiers, with a few shots of their feet emphasizing the fact.
  • ''Life of Crime'' (2013): An example of the "Relaxing without shoes before being made captive" variation; "Mickey"'s bare feet (along with resulting Agony of the Feet due to some breaking glass) actually get pointed out by one kidnapper before the other insists that "she don't need no shoes".
  • King Kong (2005): Ann gets kidnapped by the islanders as she was getting ready for bed, and is thus in bare feet at the time of her attempted sacrifice... and for the rest of her time in the jungle for that matter.
  • No Retreat, No Surrender 2: Sulin loses her shoes after getting abducted halfway through the film and remains in this state until the end credits.
  • ''Rescue Dawn'': Part of how captured US airmen and other Pathet Lao prisoners are treated.
  • Saw: Jigsaw's victims often wake up barefoot, although it's possible that at least some of them were that way when they were abducted (he usually takes people from their homes), but it's probably to make the "games" just that tiny bit more uncomfortable for them.
  • The Suicide Squad: Harley Quinn when detained by General Suarez’s army. She manages to escape and take a pair of boots before escaping.
  • The Town: Claire is ordered to remove her shoes for some reason or another during the opening bank robbery, leaving her in bare feet for the rest of the robbery and her subsequent abduction (and eventual release onto a nearby shore).

  • The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes: When the tributes of the 10th Games arrive, the outfits they are given by the Capitol seem to have been inspired by Roman slave garb, including the lack of footwear.
  • Chalion: When Ista surrenders herself to the Jokonans in Paladin of Souls, they remove her sandals to humiliate her: "You will walk barefoot and bareheaded into the presence of the August Mother, as befitting a lesser woman and a Quintarian heretic." As an aversion, they leave Ilvin his boots, driving home his inability to protect Ista.
  • Dragon Jousters: Serfs such as Vetch aren't even allowed the cheap straw sandals given to slaves. The dragon-boys go barefoot on duty as well, but that's practicality rather than this trope — sandals would just get lost in the sand wallows.
  • Typical for slaves in the Gor novels. "It is a high girl, and a rare girl, who is permitted sandals."
  • The Halfblood Chronicles: In Elvenbane, the elven lords keep their human harem women barefoot. When one of the women asks why, she is told that it's done to make it harder for the women to run away.
  • "The Pit and the Pendulum" illustrations and adaptations sometimes depict the protagonist as barefoot while imprisoned.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Part of Margaery and then Cersei's Riches to Rags treatment when imprisoned in A Feast for Crows, having been stripped of all clothing and then given a sackcloth robe only.
  • Vorkosigan Saga: In Borders of Infinity, the prisoners in Dagoola #3 are issued trousers and a tunic, but no shoes. The gang that attacks Miles on his arrival are thus all barefoot, but their lack of combat boots doesn't help Miles very much.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24: Live Another Day: Kate Morgan during "Day 9: 4:00pm-5:00pm"
  • Blindspot: In "Mans Telepathic Loyal Lookouts", a psycho kidnaps Patterson and she wakes up in his cabin barefoot. When she tries to escape, it is snowing outside and they are in rocky terrain, so her feet really suffer and they are bleeding by the time she is rescued. A similar situation, again involving Patterson, occurs in "Nor I Nigel, AKA Leg in Iron".
  • Many female characters on Criminal Minds have their shoes removed when being held hostage.
  • Game of Thrones: Season 5 is adapted from A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons and therefore replicates Margaery and Cersei's sackclothed and barefooted imprisonment in accordance with the original books.
  • In an episode of Ghost Adventures set in the Shanghai Tunnels in Portland, Oregon it's explained that after being dropped through a trap door a target would have his shoes taken, and broken glass scattered around the tunnels meant the kidnappers could follow the blood trail if he got out of the cell. Eerily, the discarded shoes are still there in a pile over a century later.
  • In Spartacus: Blood and Sand, all the slave characters are barefoot almost all the time, except for the gladiators when fighting in the arena.
  • It happens in Doc Martin, of all things. Doc is kidnapped and held hostage in order to perform surgery on one of the Portwenn's inhabitants (who doesn't even need it). His shoes and socks are stolen (among the other predicaments).

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000: How the average prisoner of the Dark Eldar ends up. This can also happen to Imperial prisoners (or at least those found guilty of heresy) if the miniatures and artwork for the Penitent Engine are any indication.

    Video Games 
  • A Plague Tale: Innocence: Part of the Clothing Damage sustained by Beatrice de Rune during her time as a prisoner of the Inquisition.
  • In Command & Conquer: Generals, GLA Workers, who are implied to be slaves (judging by how one of their Stop Poking Me! quotes is to yelp in pain and agree to work), don't have shoes, and will ask for them. In the expansion kit, they get them (they're a researched upgrade that increases the Workers abysmal resource gathering rate and speed), and their voices are filled with palpable gratitude.
  • Life Is Strange: One photograph of Rachel Amber's time in the Dark Room shows her like this. Since other people winding up in the Dark Room still wear their shoes, either she was wearing relatively loose shoes or it's another clue that she was taken to the Dark Room by Nathan rather than Mr. Jefferson.
    • At one point during Max's endgame nightmare in "Polarized", she imagines herself ending up in the Dark Room while wearing her nightclothes from "Out of Time", resulting in this trope.
  • Max Payne 3:
    • Fabiana once kidnapped by the Comando Sombra in "Nothing But the Second Best"; she's still wearing shoes up to and including when she's bundled into the gang's helicopter, but all her subsequent appearances play the trope straight.
    • Giovanna is kidnapped at the same time as Fabiana and is barefoot when brought up to the helicopter; given her earlier struggling and her quickly attempting a successful getaway as soon as the Comando Sombra mooks are momentarily distracted however, as well as her wearing less secure shoes than Fabiana's strappy heels, it can easily be an example of Losing a Shoe in the Struggle too.
    • In "Here I Was Again, Halfway Down the World", two barefooted female NPCs, having presumably run out of a building without shoes or having lost them along the way (or simply being favela residents), are seen being made to get down on the ground by UFE forces and are later seen being forcibly marched behind a UFE vehicle.
  • In King's Quest V, Princess Cassima is clad in rags and bare feet, while being held as a scullery girl by an evil wizard.
    • She's also held captive in her bedroom, in King's Quest VI, though she's dressed in more elegant clothing and does appear to be wearing shoes (at least after she's taken from her room anyway).
  • Inmates of Camp Omega in Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes are held in jumpsuits and bare feet, as are those prisoners held by the Soviets encountered in Afghanistan and the various South African mercenary groups encountered in Angola during Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Quiet is an odd example; she's kept barefoot while caged between missions on Mother Base, but somehow hangs onto her boots when captured by the Soviets and made to look like any other Soviet prisoner.
  • In the Legion expansion of World of Warcraft, one of the main story quests sees the player rescue a captive Maiev Shadowsong. She is clad in tattered clothing and bare feet, until the player gives her her armor and weapon; which she equips.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: People imprisoned by the Fire Nation are dressed in nothing more than rags and bare feet. The most prominent example of this are the Southern waterbenders.
  • In Kim Possible, Kim first meets Dr. Drakken and Shego when she and Ron are sucked up into his base from underwater. Kim's flippers are removed off-camera and she goes barefoot the rest of the scene.
  • Steven Universe: The captives in Homeworld's People Zoo don't have shoes, illustrating how naïve and absurdly sheltered they are in their Gilded Cage. And because their captive ancestors existed before shoes were commonplace.

    Real Life 
  • Historically, prisoners and slaves have often been kept barefoot, as described in the Other Wiki. Changing attitudes to prisoner welfare mean that most nation states no longer practice this, either letting inmates keep their shoes or giving them a substitute pair.
  • An integral part of the foot whipping torture method; since virtually all footwear provides some protection to the sole, it makes sense for the torture victim to be kept barefoot for at least this part of their captivity in order to provoke a "better" pain response.