Money: Shoe Shopping and You – Where Do You Rank?

A new poll in the April 2011 edition of ShopSmart magazine, from the publisher of Consumer Reports, found that:

  • Women own an average of 17 pairs of shoes (down from 19 four years ago) yet only typically wear three of those pairs on a regular basis. 
  • Over half of women (51 percent) own more than 10 pairs and 13 percent have more than 30 pairs (not including athletic shoes). 
  • Women typically purchase three pairs a year and, on average, spend $49 on a pair of shoes, while nearly one-third (31 percent) have ever spent over $100 on a single pair.

“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. Maybe that’s why, despite the economy, we’re still buying shoes,” said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. “So we’ve compiled a guide to share the hottest trends, the most addictive shoe-shopping websites, how to pick a pair that won’t kill your feet, and an investigation into the difference between a $30 and $575 pair of shoes.”

Online ‘Sole’ Searching

  • Almost a third (29 percent) of American women are buying shoes online, a significant increase from four years ago when only 14 percent were buying shoes online.
  • More than one third (39 percent) of those who have purchased shoes online have made a return.
  • Nearly one-fifth (19 percent) have gone shoe shopping to cheer themselves up.
  • Although the majority of women (86 percent) are up front with their spouse or significant other about their shoe purchase, 14% admit to hiding at least one purchase.
  • Over one quarter (28 percent) feel shoes are an important part of their outfit indicating that they put a lot of thought into selecting them each day. Plus over half of women (51percent) typically notice shoes other people are wearing.
  • For everyday footwear, women prefer flats as 39 percent of women indicate that it is the preferred heel height. Only 8 percent of women wear heels over 2 ½” on a regular basis.
  • Despite a preference for flats, one quarter have worn heels 4” or higher on at least one occasion.
  • Forty-six percent of women have bought an ugly pair for comfort, but more women are willing to tolerate pain for fashion—60 percent vs. 49 percent—than they were in 2007.
  • Women take precautions for the pain as 61 percent have carried a second pair of shoes to a party or event to change into.
  • The Taming of the Shoe
  • Forty-eight percent have had a shoe-related injury (blister, break, sprain, etc.).
  • Thirty-five percent of women had an evening ruined by an uncomfortable pair of shoes.
  • Twenty-four percent have fallen because of their shoes.

ShopSmart’s Tips on Finding a Great Fit and Avoid Shoes That Look and Feel Cheap
HEEL CUP This is the curved back of the shoe that contains and supports your heel. It should fit snugly enough to provide support and prevent slipping while walking, yet not be so tight or stiff that it causes discomfort, which can lead to blisters.
STRAPS A strappy sandal or pump provides extra breathability. Straps and laces also let you adjust shoes to fit your foot. Just make sure they don’t rub. Elastic is better than rigid straps, as long as it doesn’t cut into your foot. T-straps support the front of the foot.
PADDING AND ARCH SUPPORT Press down with your fingers inside the shoe: The more springiness, the better they’ll feel. Some brands incorporate extra cushioning at key pressure points (Cole Haan with Nike Air technology, Hush Puppies, Kenneth Cole’s Gentle Souls line). A shoe’s arch should match the location of your own.
THE HEEL If you like a heel, aim for one that’s between a half-inch and 2½ or 3 inches max. Anything higher can cause foot and back pain. The wider the heel, the more stable the shoe: A platform or stacked heel trumps a stiletto. The heel should be positioned under the center of your own heel, not set too far back. And of course, a closed heel adds stability to a shoe or sandal.
DEGREE OF INCLINE A gradual ascent puts less pressure on the ball of the foot.
THE SOLE You want some firmness and note that a softsoled ballet flat is no better than a slipper. Rubber or leather beats flimsy plastic.
ORNAMENTATION If the shoe has buckles or other decorative trimmings, make sure they’re not attached where your foot bends, like across your toes, or they might be killers.
TOP STITCHING Shoes with tiny chain stitches around the top can’t be stretched, and the leather is less pliable. Exposed stitches inside shoes can rub and irritate toes. So can linings that peel back, so look for a full lining, top and bottom, heel to toe. Calfskin is more breathable than cheaper pigskin (which can be identified by small, visible pores).
THE UPPER Go natural. Suede is the softest, foot-friendliest material, followed by breathable leather. Fabrics are fine if they’re not stiff. Patent and mirrored leathers have coatings that make them less pliable, and synthetics are the least forgiving.

I just bought these Danksos from Zappos and can’t say enough good things about them.

THE TOE BOX Round or almond shape toe boxes mirror the foot’s shape and have room for toes to spread out. There should be enough room for your toes to move as you walk, yet not so much that your foot slides around in the toe box. Pointy shoes aren’t necessarily bad; make sure the exaggerated tip starts half an inch after the base of your toes.

COMMENT: What’s your favorite place to buy shoes?

Vanessa McGradyMoney: Shoe Shopping and You – Where Do You Rank?

Comments 1

  1. Kathlyn

    Nothing like bunions and wide feet to keep you from being a shoe addict. I have five pair, not counting running shoes or the flip flops. Two of those are pumps worn only for interviews and really fancy occasions. I really hate my feet, but I do occasionally think with gratitude how having foot problems has saved me thousands and thousands of dollars – god knows I can’t walk through the shoe department without looking at everything!

    Thanks for the tips – will be helpful the next time I do have to hunker down and buy some!!

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