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Elegnano Shoe Shopping Survey - The difference between men and women when shopping for shoes

In September 2021, we did a survey about shoes. Just because we were curious. There is not much scientific research available about shoes and shoe shopping. And since Elegnano's company identity is rooted in science and technology, we wanted to learn a bit more. Not that this survey qualifies as scientific research, but with over two hundred male and female respondents from Europe and North America it does reveal a few interesting facts and figures.

Let's start with our feet. Shoes function as support, protection, and decoration for our feet. How do we really feel about them? It is not the first question you would ask someone, even though 1 in 2 (50.4%) surveyed women reported to suffer from one or more foot problems (like hallux valgus, bunions, ingrown toenails, etc.). The results from our survey show that women's emotions about their feet are slightly more polarized. Almost half of us seem to like or really like our feet: 48.1% of women and 47.2% of men. When it comes to disliking our own feet, the sentiment is much stronger among women with 13.4% disliking their feet compared to only 1.4% of men. The remaining 38.5% of women and 51.4% of men felt neutral about their feet - they don't particularly like or dislike their feet.

Does how we feel about our feet matter when we buy shoes? If any - we cover our feet with footwear. Almost 1 in 5 women (18.7%) is most conscious about their shoe size when shopping for shoes, wanting to make sure their feet don't look too small or too big in shoes. About 17% of female respondents is most conscious about their toes. However, the winner has nothing to do with our feet! More than 1 in 4 women (27.4%) pay most attention to their legs and how they look in the shoes when shopping for footwear. That might be one reason why (high) heels are still around and popular after so many years despite a reputation of being uncomfortable. They make your legs look great. And as it turns out, 60% of women prefer to wear heels for a night out, like a dinner, drinks, party, event, etc.

Women love shoes; it is a cliché we are all familiar with, but is that really true? We asked our 200 men and women for what reason they would buy shoes. Almost 1 in 2 women (48.1%) don't really need a reason. When they come across a pair of shoes they like, they might just buy it. However, that is also true for almost 1 in 3 men (32.9%). 28.1% of women claimed they only buy shoes when they need them, in the sense that they don't have another suitable pair already. 41.4% of men admitted that is how and when they shop - when they don't have a pair like that already, but they could use it.

Of course, the definition of "need" is not waterproof. In the Western world, each of us buys between 5 and 6 pairs of shoes every year. It is hard to find someone who owns only one pair of shoes. In that sense, every adult has a reasonable amount of practice in shoe shopping, so we should know what we are looking for in a shoe. We asked our respondents what they cared about when buying shoes. The top five for men and women is very similar:


  1. Style (73.3%)

  2. Comfort

  3. Quality

  4. Fit

  5. Good Price


  1. Style (71.4%)

  2. Quality

  3. Comfort

  4. Fit

  5. Good Price

Women find comfort more important than quality. For men, the reverse is true. Otherwise the ranking is identical. Note that sustainability did not make it to the top five (despite it being a focus in the marketing and branding of a lot of (big) fashion and footwear brands.) Only 14.8% of women and 11.4% of men thought sustainability was important when buying shoes.

The brand itself wasn't listed in the top five either... Fashion companies spend millions to create a brand image with the help of celebrities and influencers. Once upon a time, we were made to believe it was important to wear brands and visible logos. In our survey, 38.5% of female respondents and 45.7% of male respondents said they don't care at all about the brand when buying shoes, meaning the majority still cares. Just not as much as we care about style, comfort or quality. More than a third of women (37%) said they cared more about where the shoes were made than what brand they were from versus only 18.6% of men.

Finally, we wanted to know if our respondents have warmed up to online shopping. 54.8% of women and 47.1% of men have bought dress shoes online before. And we feel even more comfortable buying sneakers online. Is the next step going to be renting shoes or buying second hand shoes? From our survey, it seems both men and women still need to warm up to that idea, but there is some interest. 9% of women and 5.8% of men said they would be interested in renting shoes. 67.2% of women don't find the idea appealing at all and even more men agree with that - 82.6% of male respondents said they would not want to rent shoes. We are curious to see how this metric will evolve over time.

Thank you to everyone who has filled out our survey. Want to participate in our surveys in the future and/or hear about the results? Subscribe to our newsletter.

Note: While we've used the words men, women, male, and female in this article for simplicity, the respondents didn't have to reveal their gender. Instead they had to select what type of footwear they were generally buying and wearing: men's shoes or women's shoes.

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