A foot with a shoe on

The shoe is on the other foot

Meaning: The advantage in a situation has reversed

Originated in: 🇬🇧 United Kingdom

Original quote: The boot is on the other leg

Earliest attestation: Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 24 (November 1828)

This idiom refers to a reversing of roles as if you reversed your shoes. Where once one foot may have had a fancy shoe and the other some worn-out clodhopper, now the pampered foot must suffer and the poor foot be pampered. So it is typically used for people to refer to an ironic reversal of fate, often with karmic undertones.

A rich man may have once neglected to help the poor, but when he becomes destitute and asks for help from a former beggar, the shoe is on the other foot. A bully may have beat up weaker kids, but when they later outgrow him, the shoe’s on the other foot. A country may have have extracted huge tariffs from a poorer country, but when the supply dries up and that country can name its price, the shoe’s on the other foot.

Whether it refers to a positive or negative change, this idiom reminds us that life is unpredictable and that we should treat others with empathy and kindness. As the second greatest commandment states, we should treat others the way we want to be treated as we never know when the shoe may be on the other foot.