The Science of the Shoe

Wired to wear

Wired to wear

I was in North America’s largest shoe museum recently. Why do we need a shoe museum? Well, if you delve just slightly into the research, you’ll see that footwear has had a major impact on everything from our locomotion to our libidos.

The Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto cuts an extraordinary swath through a 4,500-year-old history of footwear. You’ve got ancient Egyptian sandals within a bun toss of Justin Bieber’s sneakers. Guess which pair you have to guard more closely.

There are parts of our brains that are specifically stimulated by shopping for shoes.  There is a different segment of grey matter that synapses over , say, buying a new barbecue…..and, as if it isn’t already obvious, the shoe lobe is a much smaller area in men. Men are stimulated by looking at women in shoes. Well, men are stimulated just looking at women..period.

Women can effortlessly remove men from this equation altogether.

If you stop women on the sidewalk and ask them about the size of their shoe inventory (as I did) they get this kind of misty, far-away look in their eyes, followed by a wave of embarrassment. Their voices always go up at the end of the answer. I ask: How many shoes do you own? And they say: Twenty-five?…..Thirty?…Fifty? There’s always a question mark at the end of their responses…as if they’re asking me! How would I know? (A survey last year claimed an average shoe collection of 17 pairs per woman.)

I am one of those guys you see marooned  in the middle of the shopping mall on uncomfortable seating while my wife samples every shoe store she can find. She once dragged me across every cobblestone in Puerto Vallarta in search of a mythological white sandal. It was hot. It was uncomfortable. And we might as well have been looking for a unicorn.

It didn’t matter, of course, because her brain was being stimulated, whether she actually found that snappy, strappy little number or not. She was surfing on a tsunami of dopamine while dragging me along and thinking: Next time I’ll leave this dope-of-mine at home !


8 Responses to “The Science of the Shoe”

  1. My heart skipped a beat when I saw that Dave had posted on his blog. It’s been so long!

    I’ve always wanted to go and see this BATA shoe museum .Sounds like it’s HUGE. I can’t wear the kind of shoes I would like to wear anymore. My feet are getting old like the rest of me. I opt for comfort and utility these days and I buy most of my footwear on-line. I get my dopamine fix from buying shoes and designer clothing for my Evangeline Doll. She can wear what I can’t. I’m blown away by what some people are willing to spend on a pair of designer heels. Maybe it’s that grey matter gone awry?

    I love this line:

    “She was surfing on a tsunami of dopamine while dragging me along and thinking: Next time I’ll leave this dope-of-mine at home !”

    Such a gifted and talented writer you are!


  2. So glad to have another post! Love your witty view of the world.

  3. Karen Deegan Says:

    Hey Dave! – I am 1 of those that don’t give a hoot about the strappy number – shoes are functional for me – my concern is to have my feet in great shape so they last me a lifetime – places to go, people to see, that kind of idea – I have my trip planned for Gibson’s this spring, with a side trip for the “Eat Vancouver” event – can’t wait and I’ll be wearing my “running shoes” although “sneakers” is probably more in line with what I do – thank you for everything that you do Dave!

  4. I am with Gail and Karen, I wear mostly birkenstocks due to back and knee issues, however I would love to see the Museum too. Mostly I am just glad to see you posting again, sure miss you! Take care, I will look forward to your next post 🙂

  5. Yay, your back !!! How I have missed you. Shoes..I broke my ankle badly in October 2011 which has now put me into the functional shoe aisle. I have 1 pair of shoes at the moment that I am using that I feel safe and comfortable in..not suitable for this weather though. Welcome back.

  6. Kathy Schrader Says:

    I recently visited Toronto and I noticed not a few men strutting about in kicks that appeared to be thoughtfully chosen. Everything from just the right sneaker with just the right logo to what I can only describe as leather booties, although I wouldnt say that to anyones face. Nevertheless it seems plenty of men are beating a path to the shoe shops too…perhaps there is something afoot. Tee Hee

    PS. My husband and I miss you like crazy.

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