Shoe Addiction Its Not Just for Women

One man's story of overcoming an addiction to buying shoes.

I am a red-blooded male with one slight problem: I have a shoe collection that could make Imelda Marcos green with envy. While a shoe-obsessed woman is a modern-day punchline and stereotype, the impulse to buy shoes is not strictly reserved for the fairer sex. I am living proof of this.

The last time I counted, which was a little over two years ago, I owned over 250 pairs of shoes. This required me to move to a larger apartment with more closet space, and then to an even larger apartment where one whole bedroom was reserved for my shoe collection. I now rent a shed in a storage facility downtown, where I pay a monthly fee of $105.00 just for a place to keep my shoes.

Although I have never attended any type of counseling for my strange behavior, I have done a lot of thinking recently about my need to constantly purchase new pairs of shoes. You see, I was a middle child who grew up in a poor neighborhood. Every year or so, my older brother would have the luxury of buying a new pair of sneakers, usually at the beginning of the school year. As a result, his old shoes were handed down to me, and I wore them until the soles were completely worn thin. Naturally, the shoes were always in too much of a state of disrepair to be passed down to my younger brother, so he would also have the luxury of having new shoes at the beginning of the school year. I suppose I felt left out.

When I began working as a teenager I was able to purchase my very own brand-new pair of sneakers. Up until that time I had never known the feeling of new shoes surrounding and cushioning my feet, and I enjoyed the feeling so much that I vowed to never let my shoes reach the point where they felt "broken in". Every week, I would head to the local mall and buy a new pair so that I would never have to give up the "new shoe" feeling. Somewhere along the way it became a habit, a ritual of sorts.

Eventually, my shoe obsession became rather bizarre, as I would sometimes find myself buying shoes that weren't even my size. I just bought them because I could. I even bought shoes that I have never had an occasion to wear, and probably never will. If the shoe store didn't have something I liked, I bought whatever was available. It was as if I had a quota to fill. If a week went by without attaining a new pair of shoes, I felt disgusted and angry at myself. I felt like that poor kid growing up whose family could not afford to buy me a pair of new shoes; inside my head I could hear the taunts and jeers from the neighborhood kids, teasing me for being poor and having to wear my older brother's dirty smelly sneakers.

Since I came to this realization, I have curbed my spending but I am certainly not about to give up expanding my collection. I feel that shoes are an excellent and worthwhile investment. After all, you spend an amazing amount of time on your feet, so you might as well be comfortable. For me, comfort is the feeling of a brand-new pair of shoes.