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Boots hanging from electric cable
Image: picture-alliance/Z. Okolicsanyi

German idioms involving shoes

Dagmar Breitenbach
May 12, 2021

Germans use many idioms, including quite a few shoe-related ones. Are you "fit as a sneaker" or just a "house-shoe hero"? Here are some you can try on for size!


In 2017, Germans spent €13 billion ($14.5 billion) on shoes, according to the Statista statistics site. Women buy more shoes than men, and most shoes on the German market are imports, with the majority coming from China.

Magic red shoes, glass slippers, the puss's boots — shoes and boots play a key role in many a fairy tale, too. On the night before December 6, children in Germany put a shoe or boot in front of the door in hopes St. Nikolaus will fill them to the brim with sweets. And brides also traditionally save pennies in a jar for their bridal footwear.

With shoes having so much prominence, it's not surprising that idioms revolving around one of mankind's oldest items of clothing abound in Germany to this very day. 

Some people are as "fit as a sneaker" ("fit wie ein Turnschuh") while others are "bad walkers" ("Jemand ist schlecht zu Fuss"). Have you ever heard of a "house-shoe hero" ("Pantoffelheld")? It's the perfect image of a henpecked husband, a guy who thinks he is a hero but is really just standing by in slippers while his wife runs the show. In another German shoe-related idiom, a person has finally left childhood, figuratively and literally, when they leave their baby shoes behind them.

English-language shoe idioms are just as colorful, by the way: People can be on a shoestring budget, or described as being tough as old boots, or even a goody two-shoes — perhaps while waiting for the other shoe to drop.

You'll find more from Meet the Germans on  Instagram., Meet the Germans on YouTube or at dw.com/MeettheGermans.

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