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American Footwear Spending: A 2023 Survey

How inflation, sustainability, health conditions, and more have impacted Americans’  footwear buying habits

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By: KURU Footwear
Two women holding shopping bags with shoes on.

Survey Highlights

  • 3 in 4 (76% of) Americans say inflation has impacted their footwear spending
  • Americans will own 256 pairs of shoes in a lifetime
  • Americans spend $14,640 on shoes in a lifetime
  • 68% of Americans purchase shoes specifically because of pain or a health issue
  • 57% of Americans opt to donate shoes after they are done
  • Comfort is the top priority for those buying shoes
  • America’s most popular shoes are sneakers

It’s no secret that inflation has taken a toll on Americans’ buying habits in the past couple of years. Across the country, many industries have seen shifts in buyer behavior as costs rise. In fact, there is evidence that Americans are spending less on essential and non-essential items alike.

At KURU Footwear, we care about foot health and overall wellness, so we dug into footwear shopping trends in America. We surveyed a statistically significant 1,000 Americans to discover their current footwear habits—and how inflation, foot pain and health conditions, environmental conscientiousness, and more have impacted Americans’ relationship with footwear.

America’s Footwear Spending: A Look at Purchase Habits

First, let’s take a look at current shoe shopping trends in America. 

According to our survey, whether they buy shoes online or in person, each American currently owns 12 pairs of shoes. On average, Americans spend $240 each year on footwear and buy four pairs of shoes annually.

Our survey found Americans mostly purchase shoes in person (49%) and online (27%). About 1 in 10 (9%) do their online shoe shopping on brand websites, 13% shop at department stores, and a small 2% look for new shoes at thrift stores.

We found that 54% of Americans replace their shoes between every six months to one year—as podiatrists recommend (18% replace yearly, while 36% replace every six months). Only 8% replace their shoes every few years, and 38% wait until their shoes have broken down (not recommended by podiatrists).

An infographic with stats on it about Americans' purchasing habits, written out in the paragraph above.

Shoeflation: How the Rising Cost of Living Impacts Footwear Buying

With rising costs on everything from housing to utilities to food, inflation has inevitably affected the lives of millions of Americans. As Americans adjust their budgets to adapt to heightened prices of essentials such as clothing and housing, they must also account for other everyday expenses.

So how does our current economy impact footwear spending? In our survey, we found that a whopping 76% of Americans say inflation has impacted their shoe purchasing, with 41% cutting back on spending, 32% waiting longer to replace shoes, and 3% buying a cheaper version to save money.

An infographic showing the stats about how inflation is impacting Americans' shoe-purchasing habits.

From Sneakers to Heels: A Peek Into Americans’ Footwear Preferences

Which shoe style is America’s sweetheart? While classic leather boots or heels might have been a favorite in other eras, in 2023, America’s favorite shoe is the sneaker (65% of survey respondents). Clogs came in last, at just 1% of respondents.

This may come as little surprise, considering we also learned that “comfort”—above “style” and “price”—is America’s biggest priority when buying footwear. Sneakers seem to effortlessly combine comfort, athleticism, and versatility to just about any occasion.

Let’s take a look at more statistics from our footwear survey:

  • Most frequently worn types of shoes:
    • Sneakers – 65%
    • Sandals/Flip-flops – 15%
    • Slip ons – 9%
    • Boots – 5%
    • Dress shoes – 3%
    • Slippers – 2%
    • Clogs – 1%

 

  • Americans’ favorite types of shoes:
    • Sneakers 66%
    • Sandals 8%
    • Flip Flops 7%
    • Boots 7%
    • Flats 4%
    • Slippers 4%
    • Heels 3%
    • Other 1%

 

  • When it comes to footwear, which do you think is the most important?
    • Comfort – 66%
    • Style – 11%
    • Price – 11%
    • Quality – 9%
    • Pain relief  – 3%

 

  • The top factors that influence Americans when buying new shoes, in order:
    • Comfort
    • Price
    • Durability
    • Style/Fashion
    • Brand
    • Pain Management/Orthopedic

 

  • Specialty shoes that Americans own:
    • Running shoes – 68%
    • Work boots – 30%
    • Hiking shoes/boots – 29%
    • Water shoes – 21%
    • Non-shoes/Minimalist shoes – 11%

 

  • Are you brand loyal when it comes to buying shoes, or do you explore different brands?
    • Open to different brands – 64%
    • Loyal to one or more brands – 23%
    • Depends on the shoe/event – 13%

An infographic with stats on it about Americans' purchasing habits, written out in the paragraph above.

Step by Step: Shoes Over a Lifetime

So just how much do Americans spend on footwear in their entire lifetime? Our survey found that on average, Americans will spend $14,640 and will own 256 total pairs of shoes by the end of their life

When considering that podiatrists recommend replacing footwear every 300–500 miles—or six months to one year—we think this a worthy investment for long-term foot health!

An infographic with stats on it about Americans' purchasing habits, written out in the paragraph above.

The Second-Hand Shoe Trend: Americans Embrace Preowned Footwear Finds

Our survey found that the majority (57%) of Americans opt to donate their unwanted footwear and 18% choose to sell it. Both are respectable examples of “reusing” for sustainability. We also found 4 in 10 (42%) of Americans have purchased second-hand or preowned shoes.

That said, just 16% of Americans choose to recycle their unwanted footwear and 46% simply discard their worn shoes, which shows we still have room to grow toward greater environmental conscientiousness in the realm of footwear.

Stepping Comfortably: How Foot Pain Affects Americans’ Footwear

More than half (54%) of Americans have purchased shoes or insoles specifically because of pain or a health issue. 68% of those who buy shoes for pain are over 35 years old with an average age of 42.

We also know that 77% of Americans experience foot pain—with heel pain at top of the list—according to our 2023 Foot Pain Trends Report

That’s why at KURU, we believe health starts with heel. We engineered the world’s first dynamic heel-hugging technology to relieve foot pain—so you can Heel Energized, Heel Confident, Heel Better™.

Methodology and Sources

KURU Footwear surveyed 1,000 Americans 16 years and older. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 4% and a confidence level of 95%.

Sources: KURU Footwear proprietary survey, conducted August 2023; KURU Footwear’s 2023 Foot Pain Trends Report; CNBC survey on inflation.

About Us

At KURU, we’re on a mission to help you Heel Better™ with footwear technology designed to relieve foot pain, so you can live a life you love. Since launching our innovative technology in 2008, we’ve received more than 31,000 five-star reviews from thousands of customers who tell us their KURU shoes helped them with conditions (such as plantar fasciitis) and got them back to doing what they love.

For all media inquiries, please contact us at pr@kurufootwear.com.

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