Mystery of why Human Feet Keep Washing Ashore in the US and Canada Took 10 Years to Solve

A total of 21 shoes were found along the coast of Canada and the US. What’s more is that each of the shoes contained human feet and appeared over the course of 10 years. The unsolved mystery got so much attention that people speculated sinister and absurd possibilities over the shoes’ origins. Thanks to modern technology, and coroner Barb McLintock, we now know the sad truth.


The First Discovery

On August 20th, 2007, a young girl was at the beach on Jedediah Island between British Columbia and Vancouver Island. She found a blue and white Adidas sneaker and took a peek inside to find a foot. Although this was strange and likely traumatic for her, something more mysterious happened only a few days later.


So Many Human Feet Followed

On August 26th, 2007, another shoe containing remnants of human feet was discovered on Gabriola Island located around 30 miles southeast of Jedediah. Weirdly, both shoes were the same size. This time, a black and white Reebok sneaker. The Royal Canadian Mountain Police were stunned, and the similarities offered no answers. Garry Cox of Oceanside RCMP said, “Finding one foot is like a million to one odds, but to find two is crazy. I’ve heard of dancers with two left feet but come on.”


A few days later, he announced the answer to one question. “We have been informed that it looks like both feet had separated from the body by natural decomposition, possibly while in the water,” he said. Coroner Rose Stanton further explained, “Both feet were decomposing, but still had flesh on them.”


Police still didn’t know where the feet came from, which created worldwide speculation. Many believed it to be the mob, while others speculated a serial killer. Other outlandish theories were aliens or illegal immigrants who were in shipping containers and then dumped to the bottom of the ocean.


Mystery Still Unsolved

Although it was still an unsolved mystery, human feet weren’t discovered on the coast again for a few months. However, less than a year later, on February 8th, another male shoe washed ashore. This time on Valdes Island. Another few months went by, until May 22nd, when another shoe washed up, a blue and white New Balance sneaker on Kirkland Island. In contrast to the first shoes containing human feet, this one belonged to a woman. This changed things significantly because until now, investigators had only considered male “victims” and would now have to account for women as well. It seemed; they were even further now from figuring out the mystery of the human feet. Less than a month after that, on June 16th, two hikers found a shoe on Westham Island, matching the shoe discovered on Valdes Island.


At the time, police believed this to be a Canadian issue. Until now, the human feet had only washed up in Canada, but that was soon to change. On August 1st, 2008, a camper discovered the first sneaker to make its way to the US Coast in Pysht, Washington. It was only around 10 miles south of the International Maritime Boundary Line.


Closing in on Answers

The next shoe would wash ashore in the Fraser River in British Columbia on November 11th. DNA testing confirmed it matched the shoe found on Kirkland Island. Between 2009-2012, 4 more human feet would wash ashore. By 2019, when the last shoe considered part of the “phenomenon” was discovered, there were 21 total reports of shoes containing human feet. This one was found in the US, off Jetty Island near Everett, Washington.


By this time, speculation grew so much that hoaxers began tossing shoes filled with non-human feet along the coast. This likely made things harder for officials. On the other hand, technology has come a long way, and DNA testing played a major role in helping the RCMP piece together some answers. They could identify a handful of the human feet and cross-reference them to find matches in missing person reports.


It turns out a few of the human feet belonged to people suffering from depression or were reported as committing suicide. Meanwhile, another pair was confirmed to match the DNA of a fisherman that had been reported missing since the late 80s.


Finally, Understanding the Human Feet Mystery

DNA wasn’t the only helpful hint police discovered. Another factor was improvements in running shoes. Since the early 2000’s running shoes have come along way, they’re now designed to be lightweight and even buoyant, containing several air pockets. “We pretty well think we know what happened in every case. There’s none that have any suggestion of homicide. in every case there is an alternate, very reasonable explanation,” McLintock said. “It really didn’t come up until we had running shoes that floated so well. Before, they just stayed down there at the bottom of the ocean.”

In 2021, experts finally believe they finally solved the mystery of the human feet. Firstly, they believe each shoe belonged to a person who’d either drowned or committed suicide. Their bodies then sunk to the ocean floor. The following information is unpleasant, to say the least. However, it offers a more thorough explanation for why the human feet have suddenly reappeared.

Karan Raj is a surgeon with the National Health Service in the United Kingdom. He explained on TikTok, where he has over 4 million followers, “It was actually because of the footwear industry. When a human corpse sinks to the bottom of the ocean it’s quickly set upon by scavengers.” He continued, “These scavengers are lazy feeders; they prefer to tackle the softer parts of our body than the tough grisly bits. Some of the softest parts of us are the soft tissues and ligaments around our ankles,”

The mystery of human feet washing ashore certainly doesn’t provide the same thrill as a serial killer or extraterrestrial activity. On the other hand, it’s comforting know officials were able to finally solve the case after so many years.

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  1. Why 21 severed human feet washed ashore in Canada and the U.S.Big Think. Frank Jacobs June 120, 2022.
  2. All but 1 ‘severed’ foot case in B.C. have been solved: Coroner.” CBC News. Chad pawson. February 7, 2021.
  3. Mystery of why human feet keep washing ashore in the US and Canada took 10 years to solve. UNILAD. The UNILAD Team. February 18, 2023.