Pittsburgh women appear to be above average when it comes to shoe ownership.
A recent survey by ShopSmart magazine found that women own an average of 17 pairs of shoes.
"I think that number is low," says Justin Sigal, owner of Littles Shoes in Squirrel Hill. "You can get to 12 to 15 pair before you know it. By the time you count boots -- ankle, knee-high and over-the-knee -- everyday shoes, sandals and dress shoes, you can get to 17 in a hurry.
"Women need and want shoes to go with certain outfits because not every shoe goes with every outfit. They also need different shoes depending on the weather in Pittsburgh."
According to the poll, featured in the April issue of ShopSmart magazine, from the publisher of Consumer Reports, the number 17 is down from 19 four years ago. The poll says women typically wear just three of those 17 pairs on a regular basis.
More than half of the women surveyed -- 51 percent -- own more than 10 pairs and 13 percent have more than 30 pairs, not including athletic shoes. The poll found that women typically purchase three pairs a year and, on average, spend $49 on a pair of shoes, while nearly 31 percent have ever spent more than $100 on a single pair.
For the ShopSmart poll, the Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted a telephone survey of a nationally representative probability sample of telephone households. The 1,009 interviews included women age 18 and older.
"I certainly have more than 17," says Jody Rohlena, senior editor at ShopSmart magazine. "But I am a shoe person. I have snow boots that I wear to shovel snow, and I don't count them because I would never wear them anywhere else. ... We've found that shoes are a very personal thing."
Just ask Rosemary Rosella, from Monroeville.
"I own at least 35 pair," Rosella says. "Now, how many do I love• Only a few, because I have bad feet, so some shoes look great but don't feel good on my feet. I want shoes -- high heels -- that I can dance in."
Shoe designers have found ways to make a shoe both comfortable and fashionable, says Carol Jackson, manager of Footloose in Shadyside. Before, women had to choose one or the other.
"You have those shoes you only wear one time, because you need them for a specific outfit and then you never wear them again," Rosella says. "Then, you have your work shoes. I am on my feet a lot, so I need a comfortable shoe. .. Then, you have shoes you want to wear out. I love high heels, and when I find a high heel that I like ... and is comfortable, I will buy the same shoe in different colors."
There are some shoes you look forward to putting on. And it is worth paying more for a good shoe that you can wear a long time and is comfortable, Rosella says.
"I definitely have more than 17," says Elisa DiTommaso from Sewickley. "But I am a shoe person. I will wear the same black dress and change shoes and accessories. I love new shoes. I have a pair of Manolo Blahnik's that I paid a lot for, but I wear them a lot and they are timeless. They are my favorite evening shoe. A good shoe is a great investment."
DiTommaso says Pittsburghers might have more shoes because of the changing weather. In the winter, her footwear is much more practical. She wears lots of boots. But in the summer she prefers sandals. With so much rainy weather, a closed-in shoe is a great option.
"I have a lot of shoes, but I wear them all," DiTommaso says. "I wear sandals in the winter if it is a nice day, and people sometimes look at me, but you choose your shoes based on weather in Pittsburgh. I look for shoes first before I look for a dress."
Stephanie Carlson has at least 20 pairs of shoes, says the Art Institute of Pittsburgh fashion-design major. Her go-to pair are slip-ons because they are easy to get on when she is running late.
"A woman can never have too many shoes," she says.
Shoe shoppers by the numbers
A recent survey by Consumer Reports ShopSmart magazine revealed the following statistics about American women's love of shoes:
• 29 percent buy shoes online, a slight increase from four years ago when only 14 percent were buying shoes online.
• 39 percent of those who have purchased shoes online have made a return.
• 19 percent have gone shoe shopping to cheer themselves up.
• 86 percent are honest with their spouse or significant other about their shoe purchase, while 14 percent admit to hiding at least one purchase.
• 28 percent feel shoes are an important part of their outfit indicating they put a lot of thought into selecting them each day. Plus, more than half of women (51 percent) typically notice shoes other people are wearing.
• For everyday footwear, women prefer flats as 39 percent of women indicate that is it the preferred heel height. Only 8 percent of women wear heels over 2 1/2 inches on a regular basis
• 25 percent have worn heels 4 inches or higher on at least one occasion.
• 46 percent have bought an ugly pair for comfort, but more women are willing to tolerate pain for fashion -- 60 percent versus 49 percent - than they were in 2007.
• 61 percent have carried a second pair of shoes to an to change into once their feet hurt.
• 48 percent have had a shoe-related injury (blister, break, sprain, etc.).
• 35 percent of women had an evening ruined by an uncomfortable pair of shoes.
• 24 percent have fallen because of their shoes.
Smart shoe shopping tips
ShopSmart magazine offers these tips on finding a great fit and avoiding shoes that look and feel cheap:
Heel cup: The curved back of the shoe that contains and supports your heel should fit snugly enough to provide support and prevent slipping while walking, yet not be so tight or stiff that is causes discomfort, which can lead to blisters.
Straps: A strappy sandal or pump provides extra breathability. Straps and laces 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 2 1/2 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 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.
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.
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