According to American legend, concrete shoes are used as a method of execution by the Mafia, also known as the mob. When someone is executed with concrete shoes, his or her feet are encased in concrete, and then the victim is tossed into a body of water such as an ocean or bay. The weight of the concrete pulls the victim to the bottom, thereby causing the victim to drown while also ensuring that the body cannot float to the top.
In actual fact, no documentation of the use of concrete shoes for murder can be found. Most people would be understandably likely to struggle while the concrete was setting, and most mobsters do not have the patience to deal with a victim while the concrete sets. It is more likely that the myth arose from the practice of weighting bodies with concrete, cinder blocks, and chains for disposal in bodies of water, with the weight being used to prevent surfacing of the body, rather than as a method of execution.
Legends about concrete shoes are rife in American culture, with some stories dating to the rambunctious days of the 1920s, when criminal groups were very active. Concrete has certainly been used in body disposal, as numerous criminal cases attest, but as a method of execution, it has not been found outside Hollywood films and crime novels.
Some people use the term “cement shoes” to refer to this execution technique, which is technically incorrect, as cement is a component in concrete, and it would be unlikely to see cement alone used in body disposal. Cement is the binding material in concrete, acting to cause the gravel and other ingredients in concrete to stick together, ensuring that a solid mass is formed. If cement alone was used, it would have a tendency to crack and stress, especially if the victim was alive and struggling when the feet were encased.
Alleged victims of this particular form of execution are sometimes said to be “sleeping with the fishes,” a reference to the fact that they are disposed of underwater. Slangy references to “sleeping with the fishes” may also be used to discuss murder victims in general, not just people wearing concrete shoes. Contrary to the desires of mobsters, it is possible for body parts to surface after they have been submerged, as the body begins to disarticulate as it decomposes. As a result, this particular method of disposal does carry the risk of eventual discovery.