There is no piece of equipment more inextricably linked with the sporting experience than the shoe. Shoes make us run faster, jump higher, grip the ground better. Shoes have been painstakingly designed to accommodate the specific motions of the specific sport we are trying to play. We cannot imagine sports without shoes.
But at the end of the day, they are still just shoes. They're these sometimes hard, sometimes soft things we have to loosen to shove over our feet, then have to tighten using strings to keep them on our feet. Sometimes, they fail us:
This is Bowling Green lineman Mike Minns, who lost a shoe against Tennessee. His reaction was to frantically run around waving his shoe, and then make a spur of the moment decision to fake his own death in hopes of getting the referees to call a timeout.
In the end, it worked: the refs stopped the play. But it almost didn't: by sprinting to the wrong side of the line, he almost gave Tennessee a play against 10 men -- and a free one, since the penalty against him for being offside would've allowed the Vols a redo if they didn't score. By maniacally running around waving the shoe, he showed everybody he was very much not injured, which could -- and probably should have -- prevented the refs from granting him an injury timeout.
Minns is not alone. Shoes fall off athletes all the time, and when these athletes lose their shoes, they FREAK OUT. They've spent their entire athletic lives playing with two shoes. Then, on a big stage, they lose one. This slight inconvenience feels like the biggest thing in the world to them. They often beat themselves far before an opponent can use their slight disadvantage to beat them.
We want to help these players, so we've studied past shoe mishaps to provide a field guide. Here are the dos and don'ts of how to react when your footwear fails.
DON'T: Allow your shoe to fall into enemy hands
Perhaps the worst thing an athlete can do is just let their unattended shoe sit there, allowing the opposition to get to it first. While Article 3, Section 8, Paragraph 31 of the NBA rule book categorizes throwing away an opponent's shoe as "a total dick move, bro" (you should read that thing sometimes, it's surprisingly mean), there isn't actually a rule against it. NBA players should pounce when they see an opponent's shoe fall off and discard of it as quickly as possible, leaving them in a frantic, shoeless state for as long as possible.
In this instance, Dorell Wright of the Sixers slips and loses a shoe, and by the time he regains his footing, Jarrett Jack has thrown it way into the stands.
Wright sprints back and forth like a man possessed trying to foul somebody to stop the play, but he's too slow -- perhaps because of the lack of a shoe. The defense easily passes around him, and Jack drills a three because Wright allowed his shoe to get repossessed, allowed it to get hurled into oblivion, and then cost his team three points.
Look at how completely defeated Mike Bibby is here after Dwyane Wade tosses his shoe:
He shrugs at Wade as if to say, "What the hell, man?" and slinks off to retrieve his shoe. The Knicks will have to run the fast break with just four men.
Steph Curry was smart enough to pick up his teammate Marreese Speights' shoe, but then he tried to toss it to Tyson Chandler. Who swatted it out of play:
The toss let the shoe fall into enemy hands. Don't let your shoe fall into enemy hands. They will do bad things with it, and you will be shoeless. Try to grab that shoe before them.
DON'T: WIELD YOUR SHOE AS A WEAPON
So, you should pick your shoe up. But you should try to either put it on quickly or safely dispose of it.
Here Marc Gasol's shoe comes off, and he picks it up and tries to play defense against Derrick Favors. He attempts to steal the ball from Favors by slapping at him with his shoe-holding hand:
This might not have been a foul if he hadn't been holding the shoe! But the refs saw Gasol swinging a shoe at a dude and blew the whistle.
Your shoe is probably a good weapon, but your game's referee will probably not let you use it. Best to avoid.
DON'T: THROW YOUR SHOE
Here, Ronnie Price's shoe fell off and he slipped and turned the ball over. The Warriors went on a fast break, so he THREW HIS SHOE TO TRY AND STOP THE FAST BREAK.
Not only was there, like, a 2 percent chance of this working -- Did Price really think he could knock the ball away from Andre Iguodala with an underhand shoe toss from 15 feet? -- but the refs called a technical foul on Price. Technically, you could say that he stopped the fast break, although in doing so he gave the Warriors an extra shot and they kept possession.
Arda Turan threw his shoe at a ref:
This was the easiest yellow card ever. It really should have been a red card!
In the NCAA Tournament, Rashad Madden's shoe fell off, and he disposed of it by getting it out of bounds and attempting to carry on. But one of his teammates threw it back on the court, and Arkansas got a delay of game warning:
DO: Try to stop play
What Minns did earlier LOOKED crazy, but it got the job done:
He successfully looked dead enough to get the ref to stop play. That allowed his team to substitute him out, and get someone with shoes on the field at no penalty to his team.
This is pretty much the ideal. As noted earlier, I question Minns' execution -- he shouldn't have made such a big deal out of his shoelessness before feigning injury -- but the end result was perfect.
DO: Believe in yourself
When Mike Miller's shoe came off in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, he kept playing:
His defender left his shoeless mark to double team LeBron James, in part because you have to double team LeBron and in part because he assumed Miller wouldn't be able to do anything with just one shoe on. Instead, Miller hit a three. Later, Ray Allen would hit one of the most famous shots in NBA history to force overtime to force Game 7. But if it wasn't for Miller's shoeless shot, Allen's shot might not have mattered and the Spurs might have won the 2014 championship.
This is Northern Irish soccer player Ross Clarke. His shoes -- both of them! -- flew off, but he kept fighting and made a beautiful pass for an assist:
Kevin Durant's shoe fell off, so he figured he'd hold back to put it on. But his teammate turned it over, and he realized he needed to play defense with just one shoe on. He made the block:
American runner Jenny Simpson's shoe started to fall off just over halfway through her 1,600-meter run. She could have quit. Instead she ran on:
Her foot got cut and bled, but dammit, she kept running.
What I said earlier: Shoes make us run faster, jump higher, grip the ground better. Shoes have been painstakingly designed to accommodate the specific motions of the specific sport we are trying to play. Our shoes make us better at sports.
But in that frightening moment when a shoe falls off, the last thing an athlete should do is panic. If you can't stop the play, you should try to keep on playing to the best of your abilities.
Shoes help you use your talent, and you will probably be worse without your shoe. But the talent isn't inside the shoe. It's inside you. And you can still try the best to make that play. You might be surprised with the results.