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Matt:

I don't mean to be morbid, maybe just inappropriate, but over the years I keep hearing of pedestrians being hit by cars who literally fly out of their shoes. I'm not talking about your basic Birkenstocks or slippers, but rather laced or buckled shoes. Is it the tremendous force that cause a person to fly out of their shoes or is something more going on?

-- Inappropriate Paul, the net

Lucky for us, firefighter-paramedics love talking about this stuff. We checked with the San Diego service and hit paydirt. Yeah, people do get knocked out of low-cut, tie-on shoes (not hightops or lace-up boots), but maybe not with he frequency you suspect. From one medic's personal experience, it happens when someone is hit with tremendous force in the upper torso. That knocks the upper body back, the legs trail behind, then snap forward. Under certain shoelace circumstances, that would fling footwear many yards from the accident site. He has seen shoes left near the point of impact, but the mechanism would be similar. The trailing foot somehow slides out of the shoe as the body curves backwards with the impact. If the unfortunate victim didn't do a good job of securing his Nikes before he set out, the force acting on the body will be different from that acting on the shoes. Our source says all patients he's seen who have been knocked out of their shoes were in really bad shape from the vehicle impact so he was a little too busy saving lives to see how well the victim's shoes were tied. He also recalls that a firefighter working at the side of the freeway was hit and knocked out of his turnouts-- those big, black, honkin' thigh-high boots they wear. But they're not secured to your feet or legs, so you can be lifted right out of them. So see? Once again Mom was right. Stop and tie those shoe laces. Otherwise you'll not only end up with a major crushing chest injury but be out $80 for new footwear.

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