What Does Shoe Is On the Other Foot Mean?

Shoe is on the Other Foot Meaning

Definition: The situation has reversed; you and I have traded places.

Origin of Shoe is on the Other Foot

This idiom originated in the 1800s. Initially, the exact wording was a little different: the boot is on the other leg. The idea behind this was related to the feeling of discomfort you would have if you put your left shoe on your right foot, and vice versa.

Winston Churchill used this original phrasing in 1908 in My African Journal:

  • Here…the boot is on the other leg, and Civilization is ashamed of her arrangements in the presence of a savage.

This idiom shows that changing positions can be uncomfortable, both with shoes and other situations. For example, imagine that you had a powerful position and refused to help someone in a less powerful position. A year later, that person has a more powerful position than you, and you need that person’s help. You would likely feel uncomfortable asking for assistance.

Examples of Shoe is on the Other Foot

shoe on the other foot synonymThis example shows two college students who are discussing a difficult assignment that one of them is struggling with.

Frank: I have no idea how to solve this calculus problem. Could you help me?

Karl: I asked you for help with my Chinese homework just yesterday, and you told me you were too busy.

Frank: I’m sorry about that, but I really was too busy. I’ll help you next time. I promise. Please help me with math.

Karl: Now the shoe is on the other foot. If you wanted help from me, you should have helped me when I needed it.

the shoe is on the other foot originIn this example, two friends are discussing the advice that one of them should give her mother.

Lily: My mom is having trouble dealing with a friend of hers who is kind of a bully.

Grace: It’s strange to give advice to our parents, isn’t it? They gave us advice for so many years. I feel weird now that the shoe is on the other foot.

Lily: Yeah, I agree. I’m not sure what to tell her.

More Examples

This excerpt is from an article about how the general manager for a professional baseball team learned to deal with the media.

  • David Lunhow continued: “I am the one that feels I have learned more by witnessing Jeff’s experiences with the press and seeing what it’s like with the shoe on the other foot, so to speak. I think journalists sometimes treated him unfairly, or made things too black and white in search of an angle. –New York Post

This excerpt is from an article about how to improve student performance at public schools.

  • Providing less directives and more funded teaching personnel at our schools would be a blessing. Maybe putting the shoe on the other foot and letting parents and teachers rate the performance of the NC Department of Public Instruction would also be enlightening. Who knows what ideas might flow from thinking outside our education box. –Asheville Citizen Times

Summary

The phrase the shoe is on the other foot is another way to say the roles have changed so I am in the position you once were, and vice versa.