The Historic Origins Of The Goat Hoof Shoes That Have Conspiracy Theorists Talking

In January 2022, leading footwear brand Reebok and high-end French brand Maison Margiela hyped the Classic Leather Tabi Décortiqué Low, a low-top version of a high-top shoe style released one year earlier, according to the Reebok website. Distinctive to the shoe were cutaway leather panels in the heel area and a bifurcated section between the big toe and the toe next to it, sometimes called the long toe, according to the online atlas of anatomy, IMAIOS. Though the design of the shoe references a traditional type of shoe worn in Japanese fashion, conspiracy theorists have now taken to social media to note that the shoes look like something much more sinister.

On Instagram, Reebok noted the shoes deconstruct the traditional sneaker structure, and are "a revolution of artistic and evolutionary proportions." According to these conspiracy theorists, though, the shoes with their goat-like cloven toes are meant to look like the hooves of the ancient pagan deity Baphomet, and they are a sign of Satanism in our society (per Britannica).

The comparison to Baphomet first showed up on Facebook

According to the New York Post, the first reference to the Classic Leather Tabi Décortiqué Low's supposed resemblance to the cloven-hooves of Baphomet turned up on Facebook. As Britannica notes, Baphomet is a pagan deity with Satanic connotations dating to at least the 11th century. The creature is a winged human figure with the body and feet of a goat. In 2015, the Satanic Temple  commissioned a statue of Baphomet which it placed in various locations as a form of protest against public displays of the Ten Commandments (via NPR).

The Reebok shoe controversy is just the latest example of how unfounded fears of Satan-worship have gripped the American public, as NPR reported. Another instance of Satanist panic showed up in the 1980s as the classic role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons became popular (per BBC). The Reebok-based Satanist furor soon spread to platforms like Instagram, where comments consisting only of the word "Satanic," as well as "Satanic no way will i [sic] ever wear those," showed up in response to Reebok's post.

The shoes look like Japanese tabi

Instead of a reference to the pagan deity, the Tabi Décortiqué Low are patterned after the Japanese tabi, a form of traditional sock-like footwear with split toes worn by the Japanese for centuries, sometimes on the battlefield, as the Japanese tabi manufacturer Kineyatabi website explains. Some tabi designs are also meant to be worn with sandals, explaining the cutaway sections on Reebok's product. Satanic panic aside, it remains to be seen how the Tabi Décortiqué Low will catch on in western markets. 

On that note, one Instagram user wrote, "They look like a tragic work accident with a saw blade," and simply "Those are truly hideous." In March 2021, rapper Lil Nas X baited similar controversy when he collaborated with fashion company MSCHF on so-called "Satan Shoes" with a single drop of human blood in each sole, according to NBC News reporting. Those shoes were tricked-out Nike Air Max 97s. Nike denied involvement, and as a result, the Reebok competitor sued, as The New York Times explains.