Why Are Women's Designer Shoes So Expensive?

If there's one thing that remains constant about designer fashions, it's the price tag. On average, a woman's dress shoe is made of 85% less material than a man's work boot. Yet the price of designer heels and pumps can be ten times the price of pair of work boots. What makes women's shoes so expensive, especially designer brands?

The answer is a combination of four key factors: materials, workmanship, supply & demand, and psychology. Knowing what makes the must-have shoes and handbags so costly can ease your guilt when you pay $400 for a pair of peep-toe heels or leather clutch.


Shoes that are exquisitely beautiful and soft to the touch are made from real leather, and Italian leather is considered the best in the world. Italian leather is processed by hand in almost every stage of production, from inspection of the raw hide, to packaging the final product. Not only is Italian leather treated and dyed by hand, Italian tanneries also use the most expensive and high quality dyes. Italian craftsmen use either full-grain leather (the entire thickness of the hide) or top-grain leather (the top layer of the hide). This results in a more durable shoe.

The metal, wood, and threads used to make the shoes are also of the highest quality. Choosing more durable materials raises production costs, thus making designer shoes more expensive. Knockoffs are made from cheaper materials that look the same, but are less resistant to wear and tear.


Designer shoes, and even some knockoffs, are stitched and cobbled manually by expert craftsmen with decades of experience. Shoemaking is often a family business where the techniques are passed down to the next generation. This too increases the longevity of the shoes, as well as the price.

Supply & Demand

Hand-made shoes are produced in limited quantities, far fewer than the number of women who want to buy the shoes. Only women who will pay top dollar can have them.


According to Tina Herrera, a fashion consultant in NYC, buyer psychology and marketing may affect the price of designer women's shoes even more than the costs of production. Consumers have the perception that expensive items are inherently better than similar items with a lower price. Thus, designers convince shoppers that their products are superior simply by raising the price.

People also feel a sense of pride when they own something that is more upscale than what others own. Herrera says women derive pleasure and confidence from wearing shoes that are more exorbitantly priced than what their peers wear. And since designer shoes are built to last many years, it can be a good investment.

For those with more limited budgets, there is good news. Most casual observers, and even die-hard label lovers, can't really tell the difference between a pair of shoes that cost $100 and a pair that cost $500. So if you want to indulge your taste for designer-style shoes, no one has to know that you didn't spend a small fortune.

© Had2Know 2010