There is no shortage of speculation on why the remains of human feet are washing up on British Columbia's shores, with theories ranging from a serial killer to a morgue worker with a morbid sense of humour.

Susan Allen, a UBC professor of Earth Sciences, studies tides and currents in the Strait of Georgia and believes all the feet that are washing up came from the Strait.

"If these shoes are floating, and the surface currents tend to exit, not enter the Strait of Georgia, (it's) unlikely these shoes come from outside, almost most definitely from inside the Strait of Georgia system," she said.

In one of researcher Gail Anderson's experiments in the ocean off Victoria, B.C., a pig carcass is dragged about by crab activity, allowing her to discover clues about how bodies decompose in water.

Anderson, of the Simon Fraser University Centre for Forensic Research, said that it is difficult for police to study what happens to bodies in water.

She believes the shoes are linked to one or two events.

"Even with seismic activity, there are all sorts of things happening on our sea floor, something has released this, and of course now everyone's looking," she told CTV British Columbia.

Criminal lawyer and crime author Michael Slade discussed his views on a Vancouver radio station, speculating a serial killer could be at work. In one of his books, a serial killer puts body parts along the shores of the province to taunt police.

He said that there are several questions he has:

  • Why are only feet being found?
  • Why are they all clad in runners?
  • Why are they being found in the same area?
  • Why have none been found in the U.S.?

"We also have to consider that this could be a serial killer," he said. "Somebody who right now is underneath the radar. That has to be on the table."

More than 20 happy and healthy young men have gone missing in B.C. in the past several years but Slade admits that there is no evidence that their lives came to a violent end.

But he adds, "If those men are all athletically healthy, well you've got a tie-in to running shoes right there."

Police have said that they don't suspect foul play, but Slade believes authorities have been slow to make the connection in other high profile cases like that of Robert Pickton. 

A plane crashed in that area carrying five people in 2005, but so far DNA has not matched any of the feet to the victims.

Callers to the radio show on which Slade was a guest proposed theories from a morgue worker playing tricks to tsunami victims.

Richard Thomson, a physical oceanographer with the federal Institute of Ocean Sciences on Vancouver Island told The Globe and Mail it "could be a rather sick hoax by someone with access to cadavers and running shoes."

But he says there are other explanations, and he thinks flotation and currents are the key to explaining it.

So far most feet have been found north of the mouth of the Fraser River:

  • A right foot in a size 12 Adidas running shoe was found on Jedediah Island
  • A right foot in a size 12 Reebok, was found on Gabriola Island
  • A right foot in a size 10 1/2 running shoe, was found on Valdes Island
  • A right foot in a sneaker was found on Westham Island
  • A left foot in a shoe was found on Kirkland Island

Thomson said possible sources include the Fraser, the Squamish river, the Gulf and San Juan Islands, Burrard Inlet, and sites in northern Washington State including Birch Bay and Boundary Bay.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's St. John Alexander and Carrie Stefanson