Imagine walking along a peaceful Canadian shoreline. You see something at the edge of the water. A fish? A piece of driftwood? As you draw closer to investigate you see it’s only an old shoe, so you glance at it briefly and start to move on. Only to discover that inside the shoe, there lies the intact remains of a severed human foot. Since 2007, a slew of human feet, not hands, no heads, just feet, have washed up in the Pacific Northwest, to be found by very shocked and now traumatized folks out for a peaceful stroll. “Serial killer” thought some. “Conspiracy!” cried others. But the real explanation actually speaks of huge accomplishments and innovations… for the footwear industry.

You probably already know this from the title, but fair warning: it’s about to get a little graphic. The Salish Sea is a beautiful area encompassing the region containing the Strait of Georgia, Puget Sound, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. And it’s home to lots of crustaceans and fish that can strip a corpse of flesh. Lovely. It wasn’t a deranged murderer creating those bodies though, the victims had all died of various causes and their bodies had sunk to the bottom of the water. They became a feast for hungry scavengers… except for their feet. Their feet were protected by athletic shoes, which stopped fishies from munching on them at first. When the watery scroungers ate through the dearly departed’s ankles, the feet were buoyed by the light weight foam of their shoes. Then the current took them and eventually brought them to shore.

This only began occurring in the recent past because the materials commonly used in the footwear industry today are relatively new. Innovations in materials sciences meant that Nike and New Balance have access to more lightweight, durable, easily accessible substances than ever before. Finally, not to be a dick or anything, but everyone knows that the first rule of “how not to drown” is to take your damn shoes off.

Check out some more Cracked true crime reads like the aftermath of true crime docs, asking if Shakespeare was the father of the genre, and the freaks on Etsy getting their merch on.

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