Psychologists from the University of Kansas found that the style, value, colour and condition of the footwear can paint a picture of the owner’s emotional, political and other vital personality traits.
It is such a giveaway that in the tests, observers who were shown a picture of a pair of shoes guessed around 90 percent of the wearer’s personal characteristics.
63 students looked at photographs showing 208 different pairs of shoes belonging to volunteers in the experiment.
Each of the volunteers filled in a personality questionnaire and each was told to provide their most commonly worn shoes for the experiment.
The observers were asked to look at each pair and guess the gender, age and social status of the owner.
This including whether the owner was an extrovert or introvert, liberal leaning or conservative, their emotional stability, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness.
“Shoes convey a thin but useful slice of information about their wearers,” the Daily Mail quoted the researchers as saying.
“Shoes serve a practical purpose, and also serve as nonverbal cues with symbolic messages. People tend to pay attention to the shoes they and others wear.
“Shoes have great variety of styles, brands, looks, and functions. Because of this variety, shoes can carry individual difference information, but do they?
“We suggest that the answer is yes,” they said.
The observers did well in guessing the characteristics of the owners in almost all the categories but they did miss some clues.
They did not guess, for instance, that the most boring shoes belonged to those who found it hard to form relationships.
This is because these people are “aloof and repressive” in their emotions and do not care what others think of them so they do not stand out in their general appearance.
This was one of the few cases where what they wear said very little about their personality because it was so dull.
Generally, people wear shoes that reveal their personality, whether they intend to or not.
The study said that some, but not many, will deliberately choose footwear just to convey a certain public image contrary to their real personality but this is rare.
Some of the clues are obvious. Expensive shoes suggest high earners, flash and colourful pairs belong to extroverts.
Shoes that may not be new but are immaculate belong to conscientious types.
Other clues are less obvious. Practical and functional shoes belong to agreeable people, ankle boots are worn by aggressive personalities and calm personalities wear uncomfortable looking shoes.
The most accurate ratings were for age, gender and income followed by their emotional stability and agreeableness.
For psychologists, emotional stability is vital as it includes a fear of abandonment, rejection issues and the ability to cope with different kinds of relationships.
Those with “attachment anxiety” where they worried about their relationships, tended to have brand new and well kept shoes.
This may be because they worry so much about their appearance and what others may think of them.
Liberal thinkers, who many think of as sandal wearing hippies, did not surprise. They really do wear scruffier and less expensive shoes, said the research.
The study has been published in the Journal of Research in Personality.