Meaning of “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People

Pumped Up Kicks is a song by the American indie pop band Foster the People. The song, which is arguably the band’s most famous song till date, has lyrics that are written from the point of view of a very troubled young man filled with homicidal thoughts and intentions. Speaking with CNN, Foster the People frontman Mark Foster said he wrote the song after reading about the shocking rise in teenage mental illness in America. According to Foster, while writing the song, he said his aim was to enter the mind of an isolated and psychotic youth and try to bring to the attention of Americans the issue of gun violence among American youth – a problem Foster feels is caused by things such as lack of love and isolation.

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Foster the People's Pumped Up Kicks at

The phrase “pumped up kicks”, which is the title of the song, refers to a type of expensive sneakers that only the rich could afford. And the other kids whom the troubled kid wants to murder own pairs of these “pumped up kicks”, which clearly shows that they are more privileged than he is. In the lyrics, it is not made clear the motive behind the troubled youth’s homicidal thoughts. Could it be as a result of jealousy? Could it be because he was bullied by the other kids? Or could it just be as a result of his mental illness getting the better part of him? We don’t exactly know what his motive is. But what we do know from the song’s lyrics is that he is planning a mass shooting.

Pumped Up Kicks

The line in which Foster sings about one Robert having a “quick hand” has been over the years said to refer to the 19-year-old gunman Robert A. Hawkins who perpetrated the notorious Westroads Mall shooting in Omaha, Nebraska, U.S. on 5th December, 2007. The incident claimed the lives of 9 people, including the perpetrator and left six others injured. Despite the band’s publicist denying that, Foster and the other members of the band are yet to deny or confirm the speculations.

It is noteworthy that over the years, Pumped Up Kicks has been criticized by a number of people for glamorizing and promoting youth violence. Many even called radio stations to express their displeasure about the song’s lyrics. However, according to Foster, instead of condoning violence, the song is rather doing the exact opposite.

Facts about “Pumped Up Kicks”

  • Pumped Up Kicks was written and produced solely by frontman Mark Foster.
  • The song was released on September 14, 2010 as the debut single of Foster the People.
  • Being a slipper hit, the song did not become famous until several months after its release.
  • The song entered the top 10 in many countries around the globe, including the United Kingdom and the United States where it peaked at number 18 and number 3 respectively.
  • Since its release in 2010, Pumped Up Kicks has appeared in numerous films and TV series including Homeland and The Vampire Diaries.
  • A number of publications, including NME voted the song as one of the best songs of 2011.
  • At the 2012 Grammy Awards, the song was nominated for a Grammy in the category of the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance but lost to Body and Soul by Tony Bennett and Amy Winehouse.


10 Responses

  1. Thomas Simone says:

    What’s a slipper hit?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Technically it shouldn’t be in the quotation marks.

  3. Dave says:

    “Slipper Hit” means lots of people like listening to it in slippers? I would’ve thought most people would wanna wear Pumped Up Kicks while enjoying the song.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thanks 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may also like...