Cultural Experience | All Experiences

Shoe Addiction: Deconstructing the Common Illness in Females

 “Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world.”  Yeah…I’ll just take those in every colour please.


əˈdɪkʃ(ə)n/ noun  The fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance or activity. Synonyms: dependency,   dependence,   craving,   habit,   weakness,   compulsion,   fixation,   enslavement

Hello everyone, my name is Lizi and I am an addict. I am a shoe-aholic. I know that I am not alone so feel greatly encouraged that I can overcome this illness – with the right support and Dr Phil’s 7-step plan – now that I have made my first step of acknowledging the issue. Who’s with me? I bet you all are. Yes, us gals worldwide seem to have an impenetrable shoe addiction that is typically characterised by ‘needing those shoes’ under the claim that ‘they are just the perfect fit’. Unfortunately, later symptoms will often follow of regret, insisting you have no idea how said shoes got into your bag and a seriously drained bank balance. We cannot seem to help ourselves from splurging money we simply don’t have on shoesies we simply don’t need. The average British female apparently owns around 20 pairs, with 11 of those typically never seeing the light of day, the poor souls (no pun intended).  Celebrities are even worse, with the likes of Pazza H. reportedly having ‘lost count’ of how many pairs she owns, guestimating somewhere in the region of 2,000. I think I would suffer a cardiac arrest if I could afford 200 pairs, let alone 2,000.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut why do we feel this burning desire to clothe our feet more than our bodies? There are defo a fair few reasons, but I would argue the biggest pull factor is simple: shoes will always love you back. A pair of shoes comes with many promises: they will finish off an outfit, they will never make you look fat and they will lengthen your legs. Think about it, have you ever slipped on a new pair, looked in the mirror and gone ‘oh my god my feet just look so fat and lumpy in these shoes’? Behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings agrees, remarking that “Shoes hold all sorts of promise …They can transform an outfit, lengthen legs and make us taller and appear slimmer and most of all they are so forgiving.” Amen sistah.

They will always fit, even after Christmas and tend to always improve the way you look (N.B. THIS DOES NOT APPLY FOR CROCS). Either acting as the perfect finishing touch or transforming your entire look (i.e. Dr Martens with a floral dress takes you from girly to 90s grunge), we tend to be more adventurous with our shoe choices. Pushing the boat out in fashion terms with just your feet seems so much less scary and invasive than revamping your entire look now, doesn’t it? And more often than not, you’ll receive shedloads of compliments from your galpals on your new purchase (as all girls have a habit of obsessing over shoes) thus acting as a cycle of firm positive reinforcement.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHowever, it’s not just compliments we drool over shoes for. There are proven psychological and physiological responses that come with a pair purchase. Science says that when we shop for clothes, the hormone dopamine (the ‘happy hormone’) is released and levels increase until you swipe that credit card, when it will rapidly drop and become replaced with feelings of guilt. With shoes, we tend to kid ourselves that each purchase is on practical terms (after all, we can’t walk around barefoot, right?) so the sense of joy and fun hangs around for longer (according to Lindstrom). Evidence from the (yes, always take with a pinch of salt) supports this, indicating that 37% of women admitted to buying shoes to cheer them up in a recent survey.

But is it harmful or just harmless? Realistically, shoes are one of the more practical buys to invest money in, but that doesn’t mean you need hundreds of pairs. If you have a pair of black boots, you probably don’t need another with a zip instead of laces as well. It’s unlikely that you will wear 6 inch lurid green stilettoes more than once before coming to your senses, so probably give those a miss too. And no, you certainly do not need to buy those sale shoes in the exact same size and colour three times ‘just in case’. Fashion changes and so should your shoes. Here are some of my favourite (and generally affordable) shoe websites to check out:

  • ASOS (check out ASOS Marketplace too)
  • Urban Outfitters
  • Shellys London
  • Vagabond
  • Vans
  • Adidas, Nike, Puma & Ellesse (New Balance are so old balance now)
  • Schuh, Office and Size? are all great for general browsing
  • And not to forget trusty Topshop

But like I said, admittedly, I am a bit of addict. I figure Marilyn Monroe had the right idea though when she said: “Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world.” Yeah…I’ll just take those in every colour please.

Notes: Shoe addiction is a serious issue. If you are, or you know anyone who is suffering from this illness, please seek further help.

Or just give in…

Lizi Woolgar

University of Bristol | 40 stories

Graduate of University of Bristol. Having spent my first two years of University writing for the student newspaper, epigram and Brighton-based Spindle Magazine, I then went on to edit the Style section of Epigram 2012-2013. Now keen to pursue a career in journalism/editorial work, I look forward to writing my weekly column for The College Tourist, all the while seeing where my writing and travel will take me.

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