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Eating Shoes

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Do you want laces with that?

"There once was a man from Peru,
Who dreamed he was eating his shoe.
He woke with a fright
In the middle of the night,
To find that his dream had come true"

Out of all the unusual things that someone can eat, shoes tend to be the most popular choice in fiction. Probably because they are the type of clothing one misses the least - if male. Also, they tend to be made of leather (which resembles food the most out of anything else you'll ever wear).note  Trope Maker is probably Charlie Chaplin, who did it first in his classic The Gold Rush (1925).

A subtrope of Poverty Food and Poverty for Comedy. Not to be confused with a Marshmallow Dream, in which a shoe may be eaten by accident (as shown in the Limerick above). Nor with It Tastes Like Feet; though shoes presumably do taste like feet, that trope is about actual food that's claimed to taste like feet or other non-food objects. When done as part of a bet, it's Clothes-Eating Wager.


Anime and Manga

Films — Live-Action

  • The Gold Rush: Charlie Chaplin and Big Jim, the man he's rooming with at an isolated cabin, are so starved that they start eating one of Chaplin's shoes. It seems to taste to him very well, by the way, in fact it Tastes Like Chicken. Fun fact: The shoe was made out of licorice. They shot so many takes that Chaplin had to be rushed to the hospital for an insulin shot.
  • In Jan Švankmajer's short film "Food" two customers wait in vain until a waiter comes to take their order. They start eating everything in sight, including their shoes.
  • In Cannibal! The Musical the characters also start eating their shoes before eating each other.
  • The ogre Winston in Time Bandits eats old boots along with other junk dredged up in his fishing net. Or he used to, before anti-pollution laws ruined his livelihood.
    "Now it's prawns all the bloody time!"


  • Discworld:
    • In Hogfather the manager of the restaurant in Ankh-Morpork, a former chef, is able to make meals out of mud and old boots (after Death steals his food stocks to feed the beggars — and replacing it with the beggars' own "food") by a combination of skill and "headology" (people will eat anything in a fancy restaurant if the menu is in French... er, Quirmian). In Nanny Ogg's Cookbook it's noted that mud and old boots-based cuisine eventually caught on across the city's posh restaurants.
    • You don't carry Dwarf Bread to eat. You carry it so that your shoes taste better by comparison. And if you've run out of those, your own feet.
    • One of the wizards mentioned having to eat boots in desperation when, as a student, he and some classmates undertook an expedition to find the UU Library's legendary Lost Reading Room. They didn't find it, but they did find the remains of the previous year's expedition... and ate their boots, too.
  • In The Milagro Beanfield War, Joe remarks about how he and his family are "tired of eating stewed tennis shoes instead of meat".
  • In Ghost Story, ghostly Harry rushes back into the Corpsetaker's lair to stop her from eating all the Lecter Specters so as to grow more powerful, and arrives just in time to see her gulp down one of the child-ghosts' shoes.
  • In the short story The Shoe Tree, the Martins find an old boot in thier garden, and re-bury it. It grows into a tree that produces small boots as fruit. These are perfect for little children to wear, but are also discovered to be tastily edible.
  • In a variation, the title character of Life of Pi doesn't eat his shoes, but he does use them as fishing bait while surviving on a lifeboat at sea.
  • In The Adventures Of Captain Wrungel, Lom attempts it when the crew is stranded at a barren island without provision. Two days of cooking with no result; he didn't take into account the sailors have switched from leather to synthetic rubber.

Live-Action Television

  • The Terror: One of the starving sailors of the Franklin expedition, marooned in the Canadian Arctic in the 1840s, stares off into space for a while, then bites a hunk out of his boot and eats it.
  • Yellowjackets: After months stranded in the wilderness, the group is starving. "It Chooses" features a variation, when Van finds Jackie's leather belt and gives it to Mari, hoping to add it to the soup as a source of protein.


  • "Mr. Green Genes" from Frank Zappa's album Uncle Meat.
    Eat your shoes
    Don't forget the strings
    And socks
    Even eat the box
    You've bought 'em in
    You can eat the truck
    That brought 'em in

Video Games

  • In The Sims 2, an unlucky fisherman can wind up Fishing for Sole and actually cook this catch (though no Sim will enjoy eating the results).
  • In Dragon Age: Inquisition, one of the ambient NPC conversations you can hear around Skyhold involves a down-on-his-luck nobleman that assumes the conclusion of the Orlesian civil war means a change in fortunes. Later, a female NPC challenges him about his supposed riches, pointing out that he's never bought a round at the tavern and probably never will. He then admits to poverty with the following statement: "Yesterday, I ate a pleated leather shoe."

Web Video

  • In one stream, Jerma985 said he would eat his shoe live in front of his viewers if Sans from Undertale were added to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. When Sans was indeed added as a Mii Fighter, Jerma kept his promise, kinda, since the "shoe" he ate was actually made of white chocolate.
  • A collaboration between PBS Origins (here) and Tasting History (here) covered historical cases of people eating leather shoes and clothing, with Max Miller actually cooking and eating some rawhide leather. They do not recommend trying to do so unless you're really, really desperate, and Max warns that most leather clothing contains potentially harmful chemicals.

Western Animation

  • In The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius episode, "Return of the Nanobots", Jimmy's Nanobots get into the kitchen of the school cafeteria, where their saucer proceeds to "analyze" the sloppy stew by taking a spoon and putting some in an unseen part of its underside. After arguing over whether to "correct" it by adding steak sauce (02) or spicy mustard (01), Nanobot 02 suggests that they just throw in an old shoe, which their saucer proceeds to do before leaving. Hilgo, the lunch lady, then says that she already used shoes as ingredients twice that week.
  • Futurama:
    • In "That's Lobstertainment!", Fry, having been trapped in a tar pit for hours with Leela, wants to eat his shoe. When Leela figures a way out, he still suggests having shoe and proceeds to eat it.
    • In "Godfellas", Fry and Leela imprison some monks in a laundry room and hijack their telescope. One of the monks pleads through the door: "Let us out! We cooked our shoes in the dryer and ate them! Now we're bored!"
      Fry: I'm sure their god will save them, or at least give them more shoes to eat.
  • Pet Alien: Gumper eats everything, including shoes.
  • The Simpsons: In one scene in "Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?" Herb Powell is talking to his fellow beggars sitting around a fire. One of them is Charlie Chaplin eating his own shoe.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Sleepy Time Suds", Gary recites a limerick to Spongebob with this as the punchline in Gary's dream. Long story.
  • In the Tiny Toon Adventures episode "Citizen Max", a flashback shows then-poor Montana Max and Buster Bunny talking about eating a shoe.
  • Tom is shipwrecked in the Tom and Jerry cartoon "His Mouse Friday" and starts eating his shoes and shoelaces. It's worth noting that Tom is generally a Barefoot Cartoon Animal even when he's wearing clothes in other shorts and he was specifically given shoes for this episode just for this gag.
  • Yogi Bear: At one point, when stuck in a cabin in a blizzard, Yogi attempted to serve up a pair of old boots for himself, Boo-boo and Ranger Smith as "Chicken Noodle Shoe" and "Fillet of Sole". When neither turned out palatable, he munched down on Ranger Smith's hat.

Real Life

  • The usual sorts of leather that are used to make shoes are actually perfectly edible, if not exactly palatable — the only problem is that to be water resistant and durable, the leather is generally tanned, which often makes it indigestible, if not outright toxic. Rawhide, however, which is not tanned, remains digestible even after treatment, so in the case of severe hunger rawhide items can be boiled and eaten, or even nibbled as is. There are many well-documented cases of starving humans surviving on rawhide before getting help.
  • Two women in New York went shopping during a blizzard. This led to them getting trapped inside their car from the snow. Fortunately, they just went shopping. Unfortunately, it was light shopping, as they spent most of the time buying some boots for the winter season. They were stuck in there for about two days and eventually they ran out of food. So, as a last resort, they had to eat the leather from the boots they bought. Fortunately, they were able to live long enough for the snow to melt and allow them to get out.
  • During his first descent of the Amazon River, Francisco de Orellana and his crew were starving and a combination of sickness and hostile natives prevented them from landing to forage for food, so they were reduced to boiling and eating their boots.
  • Werner Herzog made a bet with fellow documentary maker Errol Morris: either the latter would fail to complete his debut Gates of Heaven, or the former would eat his shoe. Morris won the bet, resulting in the production of Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe.
  • Supposedly Mao Zedong had to resort to this at one point during the revolution days. He survived, so it at the very least kept him from starving.
  • Arctic explorer John Franklin found himself in such dire straits in an 1819-1821 expedition in the Canadian Arctic that he ate some shoe leather and afterwards was known as "The Man Who Ate His Boots". 11 of 22 men on his expedition died, which was better than the expedition he led a quarter of a century later, when everyone died.
  • In 1960 a self-propelled barge got lost in the Pacific without fuel or radio with 4 men aboard. They managed to stretch their food supplies (several kilograms of potato, a tin of meat, some millet, peas and lard) to 37 days, failed to catch any fish and tried cooking anything made of leather: belts, boot solesnote  — the previous crew left several pairs, parts of accordion. They were rescued after 49 days of drifting.
  • Jean de Léry, a 16th century writer, describes how during his return from America in 1558, the ship crew was so short on food (the navigator was incompetent, so they were sailing for five months) that they were first Reduced to Ratburgers and then this trope (going all the way to leather shields they took from some natives). They sighted the land just before the desperation would have driven them to No Party Like a Donner Party. Fifteen years later, he was one of the city leaders during the Siege of Sancerre, and his experience really helped the citizens to survive. According to him, it was less severe than in his voyage - Sancerre at least had some spices available to season the leather and plenty of water - but they were still eating everything all the way to book parchment. Cases of No Party Like a Donner Party were isolated and punished severely.