Is There a Shoe Gene?

The nature versus nurture argument has been going on for a long time, but when my two daughters were little they were convinced that most human behavior was controlled by genes. If you didn’t like a certain food or were a good swimmer well that must be because of your genes. We were not sure where they got that idea but we did our best to dispel it. The thing I had the most difficulty dispelling was the extreme affection that some women have for shoes which is rarely present in the male population. I began to think that perhaps they were right: maybe there is a shoe gene which is somehow on the second x-chromosome which males lack.

Experience as a podiatrist has shown me that there are small subsets of the female population who will tell you they have an amazing number of shoes. I began to call it the Imelda Marcos syndrome after the infamous Philippine ruler’s extensive shoe collection. It turns out there is actually a more formal name for this condition which is “shoe obsession disorder.”  Whether shoe obsession disorder is present in the male population – and just not spoken about – I will leave to other researchers.

Marty Nemco, a career counselor wrote an article “Shoe Obsession Disorder and Your Career.” His article is excerpted below:

To answer the question, “What is it with women and shoes?” I Googled “women and shoes”.  Here’s what I learned:

Houston Chronicle writer, Kathy Gibson, began her article, Shoe Obsession Disorder: “Contrary to popular belief, Cinderella’s stepsisters were not desperate for Prince Charming — they were desperate for her glass slipper. Unlike shopping for jeans (which is about as much fun as going to the gynecologist), shopping for shoes is an exhilarating experience. Feet don’t have hips, feet don’t have thighs. Feet are our friends.”

Jane Eldershaw, author of Heart and Soul: The Shoes of My Life (St. Martin, 2004) adds, “Shoes are fun! Shoes are little personalities just waiting to be put on. Shoes can be instant sex appeal or instant comfort or instant glamour. Just add your feet. With the right shoes, you can slip on a whole new image…And shoes are fun to buy. You don’t have to diet to fit into them and you can sit down while you try them on!”

Laura Ball, in the Vail Daily News, is perhaps most instructive: “(With shoes), you get to dream a little. And we do love it when men compliment our shoes, because it’s like looking right into our souls.” Windows to their souls! Wow. So, I guess, if I want to understand a woman, I better look at her shoes?

Whether you’re male or female, here are perhaps more potent shoe moves to boost your career.

Say, “Great Shoes!” Ball wrote, “My grandpa said, ‘Whenever I compliment a woman on her shoes, she loves it, she just lights up…It’s better than any line I know.’” So, at work (or socially), if you’re trying to connect with a female co-worker, and especially right before asking for raise, it couldn’t hurt to exclaim, “Great shoes!”

Take a colleague to the shoe store. Want to bond with a female co-worker? Instead of asking her out to lunch (salad, dressing on the side, water with lime), ask if she’d like to go shoe shopping. Men, I’m not sure you should try that.

Women, buy conversation-starting shoes. My client, Annie Shea, who admits she suffers from Shoe Obsession Disorder, says you can get a beautiful shoe fix without going broke at Target, which has gorgeous designs, including those of famed designer Isaac Mizrahi, for $15-25. At that price, you could own 30 pairs for the price of one Blahnik, which, despite the worst imaginable shoe name except maybe for Blahshoe) will set you back $500-700. Why? Because Sarah Jessica Parker wore them on Sex in the City. Compelled to spend more than $25? Still no need for Blahniks. Try DSW Warehouse, which offers good and hoity-toity-label shoes at real discounts.

Keep ‘em shined. Keep those leather shoes polished. If not, in our shallow society, you’ll probably be devalued. The good news is that at Nordstrom, just steps from those budget-busting Blahniks, you can get a heckuva shoeshine for $2.50.

Thinking about it – what could be bad about something which gives you pleasure and advances your career.