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Shoe Knows? -- Writer's Poke #419

A study published in the Journal of Research in Personality concludes that the shoes you wear say a lot about you. Just by looking at your shoes, a complete stranger can apparently tell if you’re introverted or extroverted, if you have a difficult time forming long-lasting relationships, and so forth.

Personally, I’ve been wearing Asics Gel Running Shoes for the past two years. I currently have three pairs in rotation, and although I own other shoes, I almost never wear them. What do other people think about my preference of footwear? I have no idea, but I doubt if anyone would reach the right conclusion, which is this: I have foot issues. Specifically, I have gout inflammations maybe once or twice a year, and so I wear comfortable shoes at all times to be nice to my feet.

I do support the idea that what we wear or the products we prefer can tell others something about us. In The Art of Fiction, John Gardner quips that the details and preferences authors give to their characters matters. Even a subtle detail, that a character brushes with Crest instead of Pepsodent, writes Gardner, gives readers a useful clue about the character’s personality. Does it really? If so, I’m not sure how. I suppose Pepsodent is cheaper, but what if you take two equivalent brands? Returning to shoes for a second, is a person who prefers higher-end Nikes really all that much different from someone who favors higher-end Reeboks? Chevy drivers may be different from Mercedes drivers, but are BMW drivers really all that different from Jaguar drivers?

Since I haven’t read the actual shoe study, I’m not completely sure what the authors intended to prove. How are we to use the study's findings? I suppose that at some subconscious level, all of us might look down at other people’s feet and make a variety of conclusions about what we see. But then what? Should we utilize this knowledge to shift how we communicate to other people, even if it means throwing out all of our shoes and buying pairs that communicate the proper message?

What nonverbal cues are you communicating to other people – based on what you wear, what products you use, what tattoos or piercings you have, what makeup you wear, etc.?

"I still have my feet on the ground, I just wear better shoes." -- Oprah Winfrey


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