Shoes are a human obsession. Despite being just a piece of clothing, people care immensely about their shoes, and we show it in many different ways. We’ve written songs about them and displayed them in museums. To get the perfect pair, people are willing to wait in line for days, pay insane markups or even use violence. You don’t see the same loyalty for socks.
It does make sense though. The right shoes can express our style, improve athletic performance, and ensure good health. Everyone has their favorite pair.
Typically though when you think about shoes, there is a stereotype that women are more obsessed than men. According to research commissioned by the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America, a trade association, the U.S. market for women is larger than for men by several billion dollars.
So does this cultural perception and difference in market value translate into a difference in price between women and men?
We decided to use our product data to figure out, within each brand, is there a difference in price between women’s and men’s shoes? Our dataset includes hundreds of thousands of listings for shoes across online retailers, including Amazon, Walmart, and more. From there we categorized their gender designation and generated statistics for prices.
We found that, for the most expensive brands, there were more listings for women than men (typically 10x more) and median prices were several hundred dollars greater for women. But for popular, moderately priced brands (think the Nikes of the world), there were roughly an equal number of listings for both genders and men’s shoes typically cost more.
Before we start to look at the differences between women’s and men’s shoes, let’s compare brands. Among the products tracked by Datafiniti, which shoe brands are the most expensive and how much will a typical pair cost?
The most expensive shoe brand is Valentino, part of Valentino S.p.A., an Italian fashion house founded in Milan in the 1960’s. The brand is known for their dresses which were made a sensation by Jackie Kennedy and other notable figures. The second most expensive brand, Christian Louboutin, was founded in the 1990’s in Paris. It first focused solely on women’s shoes (known for stiletto heels), but has expanded into other areas of fashion since. Most of the brands on the top ten list are European fashion houses.
Looking at these brands in more detail, there are some big differences by gender. How much does each brand focus on women’s shoes, versus men’s shoes?
Many brands focus on women, with Aquazzura being exclusively women’s shoes. For those that do make shoes for both genders, there is a larger offering for women by a wide margin. It is worth noting though that many of these brands, typically associated with runway fashion models and high heels, do have menswear collections. Maison Margiela has the largest proportion of men’s shoes and many fashion conscious male celebrities show theirs off. For example, the rapper Future has a song where he brags about spending $1,500 on a new pair himself.
For these luxury brands that make shoes for both men and women, is there any significant differences in price between genders?
Interestingly, some of the high-end brands are actually more expensive for men. In the case of Christian Louboutin, this is because the minimum price for a pair of men’s shoes is much higher. It is possible to get a pair of women’s flats for a meager $600, but men’s loafers will cost at least $900. I guess that’s the cost of luxury.
So now we know more about the high-end fashion world, but what about the global sneaker brands that most of us are more familiar with. How do prices for women and men compare? First, let’s look at prices in general for these brands.
Nike has the largest median price, followed by ASICS and Adidas. While many Nikes are moderately priced, there are lots of different offerings for niche markets that are willing to pay more. Most notable are the basketball shoe collections, which feature endorsements from stars like LeBron and Kyrie, as well the more specialized athletic shoes such as running shoes and sports cleats. ASICS and Adidas probably also have a higher median price because of their more specialized shoe collections and innovative manufacturing technologies.
Conversely, Vans and Converse offer much more basic shoes that primarily vary in color rather than on styles, construction, or athletic benefit. While both brands have more high-end offerings, the bulk of their listings are at a lower cost, which is actually part of their appeal. You can get practical sneakers in any color you could imagine for an affordable price.
Now, how do these brands differ between genders? Are there more listings for men or women? Will we see the same trend that we did earlier, where women’s shoes make up the majority of listings?
Most brands slightly lean towards men, with Adidas having the greatest proportion of men’s shoes. In the case of Adidas, their offerings for men and women are similar as both have options for casual, running, basketball and even skateboard shoes, but men seem to have more models of shoes within each category. Among popular sneaker brands, Skechers is the only one to have a greater proportion of listings for women.
Finally, are there any price differences between men’s and women’s sneakers for these brands?
We can see that within a brand, the median men’s price is slightly more than the median women’s price. The largest difference is for Vans. This does not mean that for the same sneaker type, the men’s version costs more (a pair of classic white slip-ons will cost the same whether you are a man or woman). Vans has a variety of more expensive high top sneakers, sneakers made of interesting materials, and even boots – and it looks like there are more of these options for men. Puma and ASICS have no difference in median price.
While it appears that men’s sneakers do cost more, these price differences are minimal compared to what we saw for luxury brands. Still, this goes against the common perception of women valuing shoes more. For the average shopper looking for sneakers, you’ll probably pay more if you’re a man.
Probably the most glaring finding from our investigation is that people are willing to spend a lot on their shoes. This is the case though for both women and men, despite what you may have initially thought. There definitely was more of a focus on women by luxury fashion brands, but that is only a small portion of the shoe market. For most brands, there is an equal focus on men, and women and prices are roughly the same.