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#StuffCheck: How Many Shoes Do You Own?

The other day I came across a survey reporting that the average American man owns 12 pairs of shoes, while the average American woman owns a whopping 27 pairs. That would make the national average about 19 pairs per person. Wow! Really?

Well, this statistic surely does not describe me. I've never considered myself a "shoe person" or fashion maven. I don't even like shopping very much. After giving it some thought I guessed that I had maybe seven or eight pairs of shoes. To prove it, I dragged out all my shoes — and took the photo to the left.

Grand total: I own 15 pairs of shoes.

I couldn't believe it. 15 pairs! Crawling about on my hands and knees in the back of my closet, I pulled out one pair after another in surprise. Oh yeah, those boots. And these. They were on sale. Sheesh, I forgot I still had these. Hiking boots, sandals, dress shoes, running shoes.

The worst part is, out of the 15 pairs I only wear two of them on a regular basis. The others I wear maybe once or twice a year. I found a couple pairs that I haven't worn since college. Sigh.

How did this happen? How did I end up with two identical pairs of sandals (umm... for back up?) and a pair of virtually unused sneakers that I've held on to for 10 years (dang, I'm getting old)? This is pretty wasteful — not just because of money spent and natural resources consumed, but because I'm underutilizing perfectly good pairs of shoes that someone else could appreciate.

Millions of people around the world have no shoes at all while the average American has nearly 20 pairs each. What's going on here?

It's time for a Stuff Check. I've decided to clean out my closet and give away my excess shoes. How about you? Sometimes we don't know how much stuff we have until we pull them out and take a look.


How many shoes do you own? Send us your photo!

Post your photo on our Facebook page or tweet it to @newdream with hashtag #StuffCheck. Along with the photo, tell us:

  • How many shoes you own & your city and state
  • Any thoughts or surprises about your shoe collection

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Comments

I have 6 pairs of shoes. I’ve got a pair of formal shoes only worn for band events, a pair of snow boots, a pair of rain boots, a pair of gym shoes (for gym, obviously), a pair of tennis shoes that I wear all the time, and a pair of shoes that were recently bought because my tennis shoes are getting a little small. It’s not that bad, considering that the average American woman has 27 pairs versus my 6, for some odd reason, I feel like I have way too many pairs. Why is that?

Posted by Cami at August 7, 2013 at 10:50pm

 I own about 30 pairs of the top of my head, not counting flip flops. I know I have more but I’m not sure how many sandals I own. On the bright side, I’ll have a lot of choicea when I enter highschool next year. Can’t wait to wear my high heels on a daily basis again.

Posted by kimmy at June 18, 2013 at 8:55pm

I own exactly one pair of shoes (boots) and I’ve owned them for about 8 years now.

Only leaving your apartment every couple of months helps of course.

Posted by Florian at June 11, 2013 at 5:06pm

I do not know who writes this blog, but this is amazing. I have started an organization called Save The Feet (www.savethefeet.org) because after going to Haiti on a missions trip, the amount of shoeless people was staggering. I don’t know what all of your followers have done with their shoes, but we accept donations of all shoes and will be taking them down to Haiti this summer. If this sounds cool to you, let me know. You can e-mail me at Jordan.keefe@rockets.utoledo.edu

Posted by Jordan Keefe at May 2, 2013 at 9:12am

If it helps… I have bought the majority of my work shoes off of Ebay (though I will admit that those were in like new condition). I try to be strategic—brown boots, black boots, brown heels, black heels, brown flats, black flats (brown or black will cover most outfits). Metallic sandals (they go with basically everything). Plus… ski boots, running shoes, hiking boots, water sandals, previous pair of running shoes that I garden in… I clean and/or polish my shoes and take care of them, and then when they no longer work for me, they are either donated or recycled. I will admit that it’s hard to be an adult woman with a “white collar” job and get away with less than this.

Posted by KK at March 16, 2013 at 10:52am

I agree with the person above, about shoes functioning for different occassions. Unfortunately women are required to have more shoes. Fashion for women requires that we spend more, buy more. One thing doesn’t go with the other and one must wear one type as opposed to another for certain occassions. I like nice things but hate that fact. Even if I wanted to, I could not just own 12 pairs of shoes. If I lived in the woods or on a farm this would be possible, or if I never went to any social or business functions (and beleive me I don’t attend that many). Besides all this we must find shoes that are comfortable and look nice too. I try to shop smart and buy shoes that can multi-task and work in many different settings. It doesn’t work often enough, even being a person who only wants to own shoes that are good for my feet. That’s expensive. When we resist fashion norms we can scale down. Until then to look pretty or professional or even pleasing to our own eye we will have more than a human actually needs. Wish it were otherwise.

Posted by Bridget at March 14, 2013 at 9:13pm

I own 2 pairs of shoes – one for everyday and one for dancing; both 3 years old.

Posted by Jay Albrecht at March 12, 2013 at 12:10pm

Cultural norms insist that we wear different clothing (including shoes) for different events. This is more true for women than for men. My brother wore the same suit for his wedding, my wedding, and years of working at a law firm. Women can’t do that. Imagine wearing a wedding dress to work! Also, styles for women change much more rapidly than styles for men. I don’t need many different kinds of shoes to keep my feet dry, but I might need them to get people take me seriously. This is a problem that we need to acknowledge and address.

Posted by Anne at March 12, 2013 at 11:21am

Here’s a good one for everyone: your flip flops might be bad for you. Made with phthalates that are absorbed through your feet. Banned in Denmark. Start asking questions of your manufacturer. Public pressure from consumers will motivate change if our governments won’t protect us.

Posted by Monica I. at March 8, 2013 at 11:49pm

I’m with RE. I count 49 of which 6 ‘everyday’ are only fit for gardening & painting now. I have 17 “dress” pairs from my working days which I shall probably own until I die though a few are on their last leg. I buy good quality shoes, well-fitting shoes infrequently and wear them to the bone. I live in California and vacation with family in snowy Great Lakes weather so I require footwear for many occasions. Everyday leather footwear lasts longer if they have a day to rest in between. Could I live with less? Yes. Am I sustainable? Yes.

Posted by PaxDonnaVerde at March 8, 2013 at 6:12pm

TerraCycle.org will take your flip flops! 1/3 of my shoe stash is made up of Old Navy plastic. Bleh.

Posted by Caitlin at March 8, 2013 at 3:39pm

I own about 200 pairs of shoes! http://on.fb.me/WaEVSD

Posted by Thad at March 8, 2013 at 2:43pm

I counted 5 pairs, The problem with shoes, unlike other “collectibles”, is that each person wears them according to the way one walks.

Posted by Annick, Florida at March 8, 2013 at 9:36am

So if I own too many pairs of shoes and people in the world have no shoes, then where can I send my extra shoes so those people can have shoes?

Posted by Robin at March 7, 2013 at 9:35pm

So, I agree that a lot of shoes is a lot of shoes – I own about 16 pair – but then I think about how each of those has a separate function and in America we’re all about making sure that our possessions don’t do double duty. I can’t wear my sneakers to a job interview – at least according to conventional standards. I also can’t wear them to a wedding, the beach, church, or even work if I want to “fit in.” Although I could potentially buck fashion trends and attempt to get down to perhaps 5 or 6 pairs – it would mean a lot of foresight coordinating the rest of my wardrobe.

Think about the average kitchen – another place that objects only perform single duty – we’ve got knives – cleavers, parers, peelers, chef knives, bread knives, etc. We’ve got ladles, slotted spoons, serving spoons, soup spoons, … etc. But I rarely read articles decrying this sort of “excess.” Could you make do with only 1, maybe 3 knives? Yes, of course – and a good knife can certainly cost far more than a pair (or 3) of shoes.

It’s usually articles about shoes – and usually it’s women who take the brunt of this critique. I’m not saying it’s not a valid critique – I’m just arguing that the shoe/clothes example places undue burden on one gender when there are other factors in play.

Posted by Beth M. at March 7, 2013 at 12:49pm

I’m guessing I own more than 20 — but that includes seasonal shoes, which get circulated in and out of the wearing cycle (boots=cool months; sandals=warm months), so at any given moment half are ‘dormant’ footwear but the rest are in play. And then there are the special occasion pairs for events and parties and weddings. They get worn less frequently but treated carefully so they’ll last forever.

All of my shoes get worn, and the only reasons I’d get rid of any is because I either wore them out or I’m passing them along. I completely agree that anyone who looks at their shoe (or clothes, or anything) “collection” and realizes they own things they forgot about and haven’t used in ages probably owns too many of whatever that item might be. By all means — if you’re not actually using it, pare down, donate unused items, and then stick to the minimalist path.

Posted by R.E. at March 4, 2013 at 10:46am

I have 7. My roommate has 9. We are both male so I guess we are approaching to the average but still below. :)

Posted by Salvatore at March 3, 2013 at 8:14pm

I counted 10 pairs of shoes, noting 4 pairs that are mandatory for different military uniforms. Otherwise, 6 isn’t too bad for a guy. I think part of the reason is that I haven’t stayed at one base for long and had to move every 2-3 years. I end up donating a lot of stuff I don’t use.

Posted by Johnson at March 3, 2013 at 10:31am

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