ASK FATHER: Regular genuflections and… shoes

13_03_05_b16_shoesFrom a reader…


All my previous shoes I used during the liturgy [?] died from the same plague. The sole of the right shoe is broken, presumably, due to regular genuflections. I guess the wisdom of the Church should be aware of this problem. Do you have any advice?

You are suggesting that genuflecting is not good for the sole?

My first inclination was to say, “Go to the Novus Ordo in a suburban parish: you won’t genuflect nearly as often.”

For that matter going to a beautiful Eastern Divine Liturgy would do that too.  But you mentioned “liturgy” instead of Mass, so I don’t know what’s going on.

Yes, this is what happens. The shoe tend to wear faster because of genuflection. It can also be tough on certain areas of the pants, were the fabric get’s stressed.

Look, pal, I can’t help you with your shoes, okay?  The only thing I can think of to suggest is, take good care of them.  Keep them polished and treated so that the leather stays flexible.

That’s the way it is.

Why is it so?

Perhaps God hates shoes.

NO! Rather, God loves cobblers and shoemakers!

Should the Church be aware of this?  By all means!  You should write, immediately, to the Holy Father and tell him to channel the ghost of Bugnini and take all the genuflections out of Mass.

No.  Wait.  Don’t do that.  Really.

As far as your sole, and your soul, is concerned, apply the best correctives.

Examine your sole and go to the cobbler.

Examine your soul and …


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Charles E Flynn says:

    Clearly, you have identified a niche market for black shoes, to be sold to frequent genuflectors in triplets, with one left shoe and two right shoes. The boxes would be handy for storing larger items that do not fit into a conventional shoebox.

    [Like buying a suit with two pairs of pants. We need to find someone without a right foot and the same shoe size to go in on another pair.]

  2. Cafea Fruor says:

    Hmm. Never had this exact problem.

    I find the tops of the toes of my shoes are what wears first, since they rub the ground while I’m kneeling. I find it a nice tell or clue, like a secret handshake or something, on meeting someone new. That is, if the tops of their toes are worn, chances are, they’re a fellow frequent-Mass-going Catholic. :-)

  3. tzard says:

    Perhaps buy some good leather-soled shoes. Then a cobbler or shoe repair shop can easily re-sole or repair them. Or even re-sole just one side.

    I remember the old style bowling shoes had different soles on each side. Some top-of-the-line newer ones have Velcro attached soles so you can customize them. Perhaps the reader can design some specifically for genuflecting for minimal slipping. Different soles for carpet, marble, linoleum, wood….

  4. Barnacle says:

    Just did that (the second suggestion, that is!) For the first time in my life the priest gave me a decent penance to do, somewhere closer to being commensurate with my offences. I was so surprised , and pleased, I blurted out ‘Brilliant, thank you!’ My previous experience has been more that the penance smacked of tokenism, with the priest leaving me with the impression he didn’t really believe I’d sinned (let me assure you, I had)… I will be joyfully carrying out my penance all this week.

  5. Felipe says:

    There’s nothing like a good shoe shine. Maybe we need to start an action item to buy some Allen Edmonds for priests! Burkenstocks don’t seem to hold a shine quite as well AND they’re made in he great country of U.S.A.

  6. jazzclass says:

    It would amuse me if I somehow started a trend with priests and seminarians with this. I used to be in marching band back in high school. Therein, for competitions especially, we had to wear these special shoes, called “Vipers,” as a part of the uniform. They have extra support in the heal, look like real dress shoes, depending on the style you buy, and are uber-flexible. See here —–>

    TL;DR: Special shoes I use for liturgical events and every day use that don’t have the problems above.

  7. thecatholicshoemaker says:

    Yes, keep them shoes healthy! Mostly I just wanted to reply to this because the name I use for my Catholic YouTube channel and other social media (taken from my last name) is actually “The Catholic Shoemaker”. I had a good chuckle when reading this line: “NO! Rather, God loves cobblers and shoemakers!”

  8. JABV says:

    I have read that when meeting one’s own bishop or any cardinal or the pope, one ought to kneel on the left knee. Perhaps this fellow needs to spend more time around one of these folks to wear out the other shoe evenly? :)

  9. JBinSA says:

    Had the same problem when I was a baseball catcher in college. When I would buy a new pair of shoes, I would go to my local cobbler and have them attach an additional layer of leather the same color. For about 15 dollars, the shoes would last twice as long.

  10. Grumpy Beggar says:

    I can believe God loves cobblers and shoemakers (I know they have greatly helped me out on more than one occasion) . . . but God is also known to take someone who fails as a shoemaker, and get that person to build something really kicka** .
    From’s article Saint André Bessette: Montreal’s Miracle Worker:

    “He simply did not have the physical stamina required to perform the chores asked of him. Then his uncle sent him to a cobbler to learn the shoemaking trade, but this didn’t work either. The poor lad was so clumsy that he was constantly pricking his fingers with the sharp cobbler’s awl. This scenario was repeated over and over again: He would take a job and work at it as hard as he could, but always his poor health made it impossible for him to continue. Here are Brother André’s own words describing these years of his life:

    “. . . ‘When I was living with my uncle and was very young, I could not go to school much because I was always sick. Once I tried to become a shoemaker, but I could not stand bending over and being inside the place so much, and my health made me give it up.’ ”

    I serve a lot of Masses kneeling on hard floors. Trying to lift that second leg on the way up often drags the toe and has consequently caused the sole to separate at the toe on several pair of shoes. Thank God for cobblers – they help keep me kneeling when I serve. Hmmm . . . how’s that for a coincidence ? . . . A shoe starts dying too when the sole separates from the body.

    Have a very blessed Holy Week guys.

    God bless you Father Z. Thanks for nudging us towards the confessional on a regular basis.

  11. Grant M says:

    A trade, sir, that I hope I may use with a safe conscience, which is indeed, sir, a mender of bad soles.

    Julius Caesar, Act One, Scene One

    [I could kick myself for not coming up with that before you did!]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  12. Mike of Arkansas says:

    Wear on shoes and clothing will be the very least of your troubles during genuflection, once you get into your Medicare years.

  13. VexillaRegis says:

    Fr. Z, is there a formal rule that hinders you to genuflect with the right knee up and the left one on the floor? That way the left shoe will be bent. Change side once a week and the problem is solved :-)!

    [In general, we use the right knee for God and the left knee for objectively lesser beings such as bishops. (Shhhh about that last bit!)]

  14. padredana says:

    In seminary we had a priest professor suggest that part of the solution this very problem would be to have a pair of shoes kept in the sacristy that we use only for the Holy Mass. The daily wear and tear would not have an effect on the Mass Shoes, nor would the frequent genuflections during Mass have an effect on the daily wear shoes. Thus, both pair of shoes – the daily wear shoes, and the Mass shoes – would last longer. Maybe everyone here could buy their priest a pair or two (or three if they have three parishes as I do) of traditional buckled shoes for them to wear for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Maybe Fr. Z and his faithful friend John from Leaflet Missal [Hey! I have a “sidekick”!] could start a campaign called “Buckles Shoes for Priests!” I know I, for one, would happily take advantage of such a campaign especially given that I would need three pair of shoes to have one pair in each sacristy.

    [You see, dear readers, why I am constantly amazed at what turns up here.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  15. Joe in Canada says:

    Would it be “mutual enrichment” for him to go Coptic and serve with bare feet?

  16. VexillaRegis says:

    Interesting piece of information, Fr. Z! I never genuflect myself, you see, I curtsey. Right leg forwards, left foot goes behind the right one and then I curtsey in the classical European style (no knee onto the floor and straight back.) I find genuflecting to be too masculine for a lady or a girl :-).

  17. mike cliffson says:

    Quote “Perhaps God hates shoes.

    NO! Rather, God loves cobblers and shoemakers!” Unquote

    Hmm , But Father! But Father! I recall a Jewish lady author, Michelle Guiness I think , writing “Exodus ! worst 40 years in the entire history of Jewish footware makers and cobblers.”

  18. eileenlucia77 says:

    I myself learned how to genuflect from my RCIA sponsor 13 years ago. I’m glad I learned how to do it! On Sundays, I wear comfort fit black shoes from Sketchers. I planned to get some Kiwi shoe polish to keep these shoes healthy.

  19. Deo Credo says:

    My shoes wear out quicker at the toes from kneeling. My eldest son serves at every mass EF, and his wear out in the top crease from genuflecting. the solution is….better shoes. Get a pair of Allen Edmunds and they last through mass. They can also be fixed either by the company or a local shoe repair place. I think they might even be on sale this weekend or week. Made in America, Wisconsin I believe, and durable enough for serving mass.

  20. jc464 says:

    Have you considered simply alternating left and right leg for genuflections? I don’t believe there is a rule as to this.

  21. bobk says:

    Can I suggest the symmetrical-wear solution of a prostration?

  22. APX says:

    I have never seen this to be a problem with the shoes of priests who have served at our parish. Maybe it’s time to invest in a pit of high quality shoe. Failing that, one could genuflect differently. Keep your back foot completely perpendicular to the floor and put the weight on your left leg while genuflecting and push up through your left heel to rise again (the way one would do when doing a lung). This also has an added bonus of a great leg exercise.

  23. Andrew Lomas says:

    I have at least 4 pairs of shoes that are the same so over time they wear out slower.

    I am a little perturbed that Fr Z referred to trousers???? Under a cassock??? Surely not! Oh! Father!

    [Breathe. Relax.]

  24. Mary Jane says:

    I’m in my 30s, been an EF goer all my life (I’m a parishioner at a wonderful FSSP parish now). The way I was taught to genuflect puts creases in the tops of the shoes, it doesn’t wear out the toes or soles). Kneeling can wear out the toes…but have you ever noticed – driving wears out the back heel (or heels, depending on whether you drive with two feet or one). We (and our shoes) are not made for this world…

  25. VexillaRegis says:

    This reminds me of the terrible shoe expenses of professional ballerinas – for example: one night’s dancing in the Swanlake will wear out two (2) pairs of pointe shoes for one of the main characters. Those silk shoes cost 65$ each, not including the ribbons. According to my source, it’s not unusual for a ballerina to have to buy a hundred pairs in a year…

  26. VexillaRegis says:

    Edit: 65$ a pair.

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