Poll says women own an average of 17 pairs of shoes – but only wear 3 pairs on a regular basis

When I started my Shoe Challenge this year, and started collecting all of your shoe totals, I was reassured to find that my own shoe collection (currently sitting at 71 pairs) wasn’t particularly out of the ordinary: sure, there were a lot of people with fewer shoes than me, but there were also lots of you with many, many more pairs, so I figured that while my collection is just a little bit on the extravagant side, I wasn’t too unusual in my shoe-buying habits.

Apparently I was wrong about that, however, because according to the results of a poll released this week by ShopSmart, the “average” amount of shoes owned by women over the age of 18 is… 17 pairs. Now, while I haven’t bothered to actually work it out, I suspect the average for readers of this site is a little higher than that (When I was adding Shoe Challenge participants to the member’s list, I felt like the average number of shoes was probably somewhere in the mid-twenties), although that result is probably a little skewed, given that people who read this site are much more likely to have a higher than average interest in footwear, but the statistic that really interested me in this poll, is this one:

Of those 17 pairs of shoes, most of the women surveyed admitted to wearing ONLY THREE PAIRS on a regular basis.

And that right there is why I started my Shoe Challenge last year. I can well believe that most people out there are only getting regular use out of a small percentage of their shoe collections, so at least those of you taking part in this year’s challenge can take comfort in the fact that you hopefully won’t be one of those statistics. In the meantime, here are some more shoe-related stats for you, all from the same survey:

Buying Shoes

  •  Almost a third (29%) of American women buy shoes online, a significant increase from four years ago when only 14% were buying shoes online.
  • Over one third (39%) of those who have purchased shoes online have made a return.
  • Nearly one-fifth (19%) have gone shoe shopping to cheer themselves up.
  • Although the majority of women (86%) are up front with their spouse or significant other about their shoe purchase, 14% admit to hiding at least one purchase.

Shoe Choices

  • Over one quarter (28%) 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 (51%) 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 inches 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% vs.49%—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.

Shoe Injuries

  • 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.


  • I think that our sample group doesn’t really represent the population. We’re women who own a computer, have access to the internet and love shoes. So naturally we have more than 17 pairs)
    As for the 3 pairs that these woman wear on regular basis.. I mean, you don’t wear your summer shoes in the winter and vice versa, or the high heels party shoes every day? does it still count to be “on regular basis” or not?
    Ever since I studied statistics, I don’t believe in it.. the result too much depends on the questions asked, their sequence, the sample group etc.

  • Wow! I guess that makes me incredibly abnormal. I try to keep my collection no higher than 100, which I’d say I’m currently bordering. I consistently edit my collection of shoes not worn in a year which means I’m pretty good about wearing all of my shoes. I am also not average in the fact that I dont own heels under 3″. In the winter I do tend to wear more boots and flats as I live in Alaska and have had some close calls with icy sidewalks. I would definitely say I’m a shoe-aholic but I tend to count it as a hobby. Some people collect stamps or coins, I collect shoes! (more practical too since I use them!) All in all, apparently I’m not anywhere near average, but I don’t care. I love shoes and that’s usually how I determine my outfit for the day. Oh well, I prefer not being average… It’s a lot more fun!

  • “Only 8 percent of women wear heels over 2 ½ inches on a regular basis.” Well, I’m part of the 8% then… I wear high heels everyday, and I’m very comfortable with the idea… Mmhhh… I can’t think of myself having only 17 pairs of shoes, but alas, last month I had only 8 with me (the trip!), and I wore only 6… where I was I didn’t need more than that number… and yes, thanks to the challenge we are able to wear many more shoes!

  • As I said on Twitter, perhaps average women only have 17 pairs but shoeperwomen have more!

    More seriously, I do think it sounds about right as I know loads of people who think I’m insane and that 5-6 pairs is plenty.

    I agree that weather dictates too often what shoes we can and can’t wear. It’s not feasible for me to wear heels everyday and the variety is much more limited in the winter than in the summer. I’d still probably wear about three/four different pairs of shoes/boots a week though… on average ;o)

  • When I started posting about the current Shoe Challenge in my blog, I got a comment from a female friend who just couldn’t understand how anybody can be interested in owning “so many” shoes. (I have 30 and am miles away from being a shoe or fashion lover.) She added that she owns a total of 4 pairs and doesn’t need more. At all.
    I think she’s the other end of the statistic. (I’d like to add that she is just not the type for heels of any kind, and as long as one doesn’t want to dress up for family parties or going to the theater and stuff, you just don’t need many different shoes.)

    However I have to agree with the “3 pairs in regular rotation”. Before I read this blog and joined the Shoe Challenge, my standard choice before I left the house was: “Black sneakers or blue sneakers? Oh, it’s raining… black leather boots then.” And that was it. Sure I also wore sandals in the summer or warm boots in the winter, but for the most part of the year those three pairs were all I needed…

  • This is fascinating. I wonder how the “older than 18” demographic skews the stats. That demo includes 20-35 year-old-professional women as well as 85 year-old grammies. I think my mum has more than 17 pairs of shoes, but I know for a fact that she’s got at least 10 pairs of Crocs in different colors. (She calls them her “gardening shoes” but she definitely wears them everywhere. I figure, hey, she’s 70 and has collapsed arches, she can wear whatever she wants!) My sister wears steel-toed boots to work everyday, so other than hiking sandals, and the aforementioned boots, I don’t think she’s got more than two pairs of heels. I assume there are a lot of uni-goers who own tennis shoes and maybe one nice pair of heels, as well as older women who wear the same shoes everyday.

    I love shoes, and have trouble comprehending how people get by with only black and brown ones (it’s so boring!), but most of the girls at my fiancé’s office wear the same ugly black clogs everyday. I’m sadly adjusting to the fact that we’re the minority.

    I think it’s worth it to encourage someone we know who only owns a few pairs of shoes to step outside her comfort zone. If she only wears flats, how about a 2 inch heel? If she only wears black shoes, how about wine or navy? It always makes me feel a little like the fairy godmother. Heh.

  • In the winter, I definitely wear only about 3 pairs of shoes, but that’s because the snow is around and boots must be worn. It’s finally starting to warm up which means I can start wearing the rest of my shoe collection. YAY!

    Currently, I’ve been wearing my rubber boots. We got a lot of snow dumped on us, which means monster puddles when it warms up.

  • I’m just coming into the world of shoes, but I already have more than you can count on two hands and I am planning on two more. I converted my friends too and I take full responsibility for their new-found addiction 😛

  • I’m under 18 and have approximately 30 pairs of shoes. Does this mean that when I’m, say, 25, I’ll have 75 or 80 pairs of shoes? I’m perfectly fine with that 😉

  • I was out for dinner once with a group of people and my hubby mentioned my shoe collection so I asked the other 2 women there how many they had (thinking they’d match me or at least be near) they both had around 10 pairs each….which made my 50+ seem a bit over the top!

    I’m making up for when I was at uni…I only had one pair of doc martin boots!

  • Hmmm, I think I have a problem with all these ‘average’ statistics anyway? Where is this ‘average woman’ … the picture that we’re all meant to fit in to? If we all did exactly the same, and had exactly the same number of shoes, bags, dresses etc as the woman next door what a boring world it would be. Also, it wouldn’t do the economy much good as everyone would get to their 17 pairs of shoes quota and stop buying. I like to think my shopping habits are supporting the growth of the economy 🙂 There, now isn’t that the best justification you’ve ever heard?

  • I’m ashamed to say it, but I probably own less than 17 pairs. But I’m an unemployed student who shares a bathroom with my next door neighbors, so I can’t really afford things like new shoes. However, I have a huge list of shoes I want to own, so maybe when I’m older and richer…

  • Where are those purple shoes in the photo from? – they are gorgeous. I have no idea how many pairs of shoes I own (definitely more than 17 pairs). I purposely haven’t counted so that I can’t blurt it out when drunk or under torture. There are 7 days in a week, so there’s 7 pairs needed straight away.

  • Don’t forget that this average probably counts the shoes we don’t count (flip flops, running shoes, snow boots). So the average shoeperwoman reader most likely has way more than the average woman.

  • I’ve got about 40 pairs of shoes and I don’t wear all of them on a regular basis, but most of the ones I don’t wear give me blisters but I can’t bear to throw them away. I could reduce my collection to 18 pairs and cope but once it goes much below that and I would have serious problems getting shoes to match outfits (Everyone has a pair of trainers, flip flops ect. and what with summer shoes, winter shoes, casual shoes and formal shoes that’s really not many options!)

    Also who are these people who have never had a blister?

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