Explaining Women’s Shoe Obsession

Discussion
Mar 28, 2011
Tom Ryan

Many a sociologist, marketer and stand-up comic has tried to discern
women’s apparent obsession over shoes. A new survey at least tries to quantify
it.

Among the findings from the survey from ShopSmart magazine, a sister
publication of Consumer Reports, women own an average of 17 pairs of
shoes (excluding athletic), although some own three times as much. Still, on
average, women only typically wear three of those pairs on a regular basis.

The
survey of 1,009 American women comes as the footwear industry is on an upswing
after faring comparatively well during the recession.

“Shoes never make your butt look big, you don’t have to worry about squeezing
into them if you’ve put on a couple of pounds, and they can instantly make
you feel sexier,” said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart, in
a statement. “Maybe that’s why, despite the economy, we’re still buying
shoes.”

Other findings:


  • Women typically purchase three pairs a year and, on average, spend $49
    on a pair of shoes. Nearly one-third (31 percent) have never spent over $100
    on a single pair.
  • Nineteen percent have gone shoe shopping to cheer themselves up.
  • Over one quarter (28 percent) feel shoes are an important part of their
    outfit. About half (51 percent) typically notice shoes other people are wearing.
  • Forty-six percent of women have bought an ugly pair for comfort, but more
    women are willing to tolerate pain for fashion — 60 percent versus 49
    percent — than they were in a similar survey in 2007. Forty-eight percent
    have had a shoe-related injury (blister, break, sprain, etc.), 35 percent
    had an evening ruined by an uncomfortable pair of shoes and 24 percent have
    fallen because of their shoes.
  • Although the majority of women (86 percent) are up front with their spouse
    or significant other about their shoe purchases, 14 percent admit to hiding
    at least one purchase.

Discussion Questions: Why do you think women love shoes so much more than men? What, if anything, does this say about the differences in shopping behaviors between women and men? How can women’s retail shoe departments be improved?

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11 Comments on "Explaining Women’s Shoe Obsession"


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Dick Seesel
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

It’s hard to avoid this discussion without generalizing and stepping into stereotypes, but here goes: Women will tend to buy more shoes than men since they view them as fashion accessories, not just as functional footwear. So the need for shoes appropriate to “the occasion” (the office, evening wear, casual wear) is much greater. Add the issue of color–women are more attuned to coordinating shoe color with the rest of their outfits; men are satisfied with black and brown.

At the same time, I’m speculating that men have a broader assortment of shoes in their own closets than in the past…but they still have some catching up to do. Does this constitute an “obsession” on the part of women? No…they are simply operating at a higher level of accessorizing “consciousness.”

Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

I want to wish every male responding to this the best of luck and to say that it’s been nice knowing you. There are some mysteries of the universe better left unexplored, and this is one of them (right up there with one sock disappearing in the washing machine).

Susan Rider
Guest
Susan Rider
10 years 1 month ago

To women it’s about accessorizing and creating the perfect ensemble. The “shoes” are like icing on a cake. In fairness to women, the designers/merchandisers have developed shoes of every color and every design while men shoes remain somewhat basic.

Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
10 years 1 month ago

There’s a little too much mystique assigned to the topic of women’s footwear. As a group, women tend to want to feel fashionable, a discussion that could (and does) fill books, blogs, and magazines. With this in mind, the so-called “obsession” with shoes is simply an example of female pragmatism. Shoes are a relatively inexpensive way to keep up with the current fashion trends without replacing entire wardrobes every fall. This same practicality extends to the entire accessories market–costume jewelry, handbags, belts, and so on.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
10 years 1 month ago

Men are more color blind and less peripheral than women. A lady wants her carefully selected dress to be complimented by her properly accessorized shoes. It’s her code. For men to better understand that, put it in the Budweiser commercials.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

Some things in the universe lack rational explanation. Even though the US government doesn’t think there is a difference between men and women, there is one.

Shoes are just one part of that magical difference.

Roger Saunders
Guest
10 years 1 month ago
Hey we’re generalizing here, right? Women are more observant and detail oriented than men. In addition, they enjoy, perhaps appreciate, shopping more regularly. Shoes are an item of clothing in the world that are a step into a ‘necessity’ just being the loin cloth. Prosper surveys consumers around the globe. The pattern remains consistent. Women like their shoes. Our ‘China Quarterly’ survey from December,2010 for example points out that over the next 90 days, 24.85 of Females were planning to spend more on Shoes, while only 19.3% of Males said they planned to spend more. Further, 67.2% of Females in China said they search online for Clothes/Shoes on a regular basis, and 40.1% Searched for Shoes online before buying them in a store over the last 90 days–in both instances, well above Men’s practices. The ‘Blond Bombshell’–that lovely bride of the past 36 years–has mystified me over the number of pairs that are “must have.” I gave up a long time ago, and attributed it to genetics. And, as I travel the globe, my ‘horseback’… Read more »
Ann Keeling
Guest
Ann Keeling
10 years 1 month ago

Shoes are like lipstick–when the economy is down, women continue to buy both. They are not only a killer accessory, they also provide emphasis to your fashion personality. The shoes a woman wears send a message to other women (and men too)–if you wear Payless shoes or Manolo Blahniks, women KNOW.

David Livingston
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

Men can get by with two pairs of shoes for the most part. Women seem to need a different pair of shoes for every outfit. I’ve even seen women buy shoes that will match their purse. No complaints; it looks fashionable.

Doug Fleener
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

We actually work with a number of retailers who sell shoes, and have wondered the same thing. Most women who own a lot of shoes see them as much as an accessory as a bracelet and earrings. They also update their shoes with the seasons and to remain fashionable.

Some men do the same, but most of us are guys who buy shoes when the old ones wear out.

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
10 years 1 month ago

Not adequately explored in the articles is the idea of womens’ shoes as investment. A quality, classic leather ladies’ shoe (leather upper, leather insole, leather inner lining and leather sole) can cost upwards of $200. but also can last a decade or more and look great with proper care.

Also, many of us consider beautifully designed shoes to be wearable works of art. Color and fabric are only the beginning. Just consider the variety of shapes in heels: stiletto, stacked, louis, kitten, wedge, flat, comma, block, etc. Then add the various toe shapes, vamp shapes and myriad types of straps and closures to understand the full range of possibilities for us to express ourselves via footwear.

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