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Why are shoes so expensive?

Fashionable feet don't come cheap.
Fashionable feet don't come cheap.
Hemera/Thinkstock

You have to wonder what's going on when a pair of designer shoes costs as much as a car payment,  a house payment or even the house itself. Shoes are the new jewelry for discriminating feet -- but still. Even name-brand department store shoes can be costly, and understanding good value may save you from making a big blunder.  

Where the sole meets the road, what the heck is driving up the cost of shoes? Well, there are lots of reasons a pair of shoes might cost more than you expect:

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You've probably heard it said that, "perception is bigger than reality." That's especially true in the world of fashion. Consider these intangible factors that drive up cost:

Cachet - The wealthy and well-connected keep coming up with ways to distinguish themselves as the savviest and most beautiful and discriminating shoppers. After exhausting the opportunities afforded by buying the best quality, what's left? The "in" thing, of course. Prestige plays a big part in what makes any designer item worth the price. Being the first to wear a hideously expensive but beguiling shoe gives the wearer bragging rights and makes her the center of attention. Is it worth it? When the cost of admission to a select group of rich and powerful people is what you happen to be wearing, driving or drinking, sure it is.

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Promotion - Those shoes you see studded with diamonds for a price tag in the millions of dollars are more a marketing tool than a product. Do people buy them? Maybe, but they're a one-of-a-kind item with an extremely limited, possibly nonexistent, market.

Someone has to envision, construct and distribute the shoes that eventually grace your feet These factors play a part in the price of your shoes:

Quality workmanship - Handmade products that have a long history of quality workmanship can command top dollar. Italian shoes, anyone? Shoes designed for the wearer's arches that fit like a glove and boast soft leather go for big bucks. When you want fit, function and style, go with quality every time. If your feet are slightly different sizes or your poor, abused toes are giving you trouble, handmade shoes will fit the bill beautifully. They're constructed by artisans and the special service will cost, but oh, the comfort.

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Cutting-edge technology - Running shoes, hiking shoes and work boots have the power of science behind them, and all that research adds to the cost.  Shoes designed to stay cool, weigh very little or provide mega protection are expensive. Innovation and the time and money it takes to achieve it drives up prices. Without the economies of scale in production to bring them back down again, you pay more.

Limited distribution - It's the law of supply and demand at work. When a particular shoe or shoe manufacturer is hot and supplies are limited, the price goes up. It's the same in nearly every industry and with every type of product. When you just have to have it, you pay for the privilege.

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Sources

  • Ask Andy About Clothes. "What Makes a Good Shoe and Why Do They Cost So Much?" 1/8/09. 6/30/10.http://www.askandyaboutclothes.com/forum/showthread.php?99507-what-makes-a-good-shoe-and-why-do-they-cost-so-much
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  • Banay, Sophia . "Most Expensive Women's Shoes. Forbes." 12/19/05. 6/30/10.http://www.forbes.com/2005/12/16/expensive-womens-shoes-cx_sb_1219feat_ls.html
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  • Experts 123. "Why are Manolo Blahnik Shoes So Expensive?" 4/29/06. 6/29/10.http://www.experts123.com/q/why-are-manolo-blahnik-shoes-so-expensive.html
  • Hints and Things. "Shoe Care." Undated. 6/28/10.http://www.hintsandthings.co.uk/livingroom/shoes.htm
  • Los Angeles Times. "Why Are Shoes So Expensive? 3/31/08. 6/30/10http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/alltherage/2008/03/why-are-shoes-s.html
  • Nikkhah, Roya. "Jimmy Choo: 'Women keep my shoes for ever'." Telegraph UK. 11/8/09. 6/29/10.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/fashion/fashionnews/6521441/Jimmy-Choo-Women-keep-my-shoes-for-ever.html
  • Rosenbloom,Stephanie. "Shoes: The Recession's Not So Guilty Pleasure." 11/6/09. 6/30/10http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/06/business/economy/06shoes.html?pagewanted=print
  • Sole Sole. "Why Buy a Quality Shoe?" Undated. 6/29/10.http://www.solesole.com/whybuyqualsh.html

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