The other day, I reprimanded a friend for putting his shoes on a table. He looked at me like I was some sort of insane person and I can understand why. Where on earth did I get this superstitious idea from? My only answer is that it came from growing up with my mother’s long list of weird Irish and British superstitions she would relay to us on a daily basis. I chatted with my sister and my thoughts were correct, in particular about new shoes on a table. I really wanted to know where this superstition came from so did a little bit of googling as I did think it was some crazy English saying and from what I can find, I was right.
This quite uncommon superstition is that bad luck will come to a person who places shoes on a table, whether in the form of a family argument, or risking death to a family member. It is believed that the superstition originates from new shoes originally having the soles affixed by hobnail and that these would cause scratches on a new table if they had not already been worn down.
One of the thoughts is that it came from a common North of England (where I am from) tradition that relates to the coal mining industry. When a miner died in a colliery accident, his shoes were placed on the table as a sign of respect. By extension, doing so was seen as tempting fate or simply as bad taste.
Bad luck or scratching your lovely dining table, it is probably just downright unhygienic to put shoes anywhere need food and I will likely keep this little superstition going in my house.
Sources: Wikipedia, Bloomsbury International British Superstitions