Can You Be Judged For Your Shoes?
June 14, 2012

Can You Be Judged For Your Shoes?

Michael Harper for

It´s often been said the first thing women notice about men is their shoes. Now, a new study suggests men AND women make several snap judgments about one another based solely (get it?!) on your footwear. For example, with a quick glance at someone´s feet, we can predict – with some accuracy – a person´s age, income, and whether they´re the clingy one in a relationship.

Researchers from the University of Kansas and Wellesley College in Massachusetts decided to put this theory under the microscope and find out what they could prove.

The results of their study are scheduled to appear in the August issue of the Journal of Research In Personality.

“We were interested in how people are able to form quick first impressions,” said assistant professor of psychology at Wellesley College, Dr. Angele Bahns, according to MSNBC Health. Dr. Bahns says the kind of shoe we choose to wear is just one way we express our traits and personality.

To conduct the study, the researchers asked 208 University of Kansas students (ages 18 to 55) to provide a photo of a favorite pair of shoes from their personal collection. These students were then asked to complete some online personality tests.

Combining the pictures of the shoes with the students´ personality, the researchers then asked a separate group of students (also from the University of Kansas) to look at the pictures and judge away, rating the owners on age, demographic measures, political leanings, and even how attached they are to their partners.

After all judgments had been cast, the results showed that the second group of students was best at guessing a person´s age, income and – predictably – sex based solely on their shoes.

“Age, gender, and income are usually pretty ℠visible' characteristics [from shoes], so it´s not surprising that observers picked up on them,” Dr. Bahns explained. After all, it´s pretty easy to point out the wealthy females from the blue-collar males based on their shoe choice. What surprised Dr. Bahns and her team, however, was the level at which the students were able to predict “attachment anxiety” based on shoes. Usually, such a personal characteristic is only noted when in a close relationship with someone.

Attachment anxiety refers to how comfortable a person is in their relationship with their partner and whether they are worried with abandonment or rejection. Dr. Bahns says it´s still unclear how people can tell how concerned you are with rejection by looking at your shoes, but the researchers think it might have to do with the cleanliness and overall appearance of your sneaks.

Another obvious yet interesting result from the study: Your shoes can also communicate to others if you are generally laid back or wound tight.

Without thinking about it, we may be broadcasting to the world how we are feeling that day through our shoes. According to Dr. Laura Naumann, an assistant professor of psychology at Sonoma State University, (who was not involved in the study) shoes best describe what kind of personality the wearer displays.

“I think when people choose to wear a ℠unique´ shoe, they are hoping to convey that they are cool, style-conscious or open to being different,” she told MSNBC.

Case in point, every bride who has chosen to express her “punk-rock style” by wearing Converse Chuck Taylors under her gown.

What´s left unsaid in the study, however, is how the world thinks of those of us who prefer to go barefoot as oft as possible. Are barefooted people harder to figure out?