In late 1886 and early 1887, Van Gogh indeed painted various still lifes featuring pairs of shoes. He had concentrated on floral still lifes in the preceding summer in order to practice using colour. He couldn’t get his hands on fresh flowers in autumn and winter, so he turned to a different motif.
These worn out shoes appealed to him, he felt they had a certain life about them. In Saint-Rémy, he painted another still life of a pair of leather clogs; after all, shoes made for patient models.