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Published
Sep 30, 2016
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Rise of flat shoes as women favour trainers over high heels

Published
Sep 30, 2016

Over a third of women bought trainers in the UK in the past year, surpassing the number of shoppers who purchased shoes with a heel for the first time.


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According to new research from Mintel, 37% of female footwear buyers favoured trainers in 2016, compared to 33% who bought high heels. Previously, trainers and shoes with a heel were toe to toe, with 35% of women buying either of these products.

Women aged 35 to 44 years old are leading the trend, as 48% of female shoppers in this age group bought trainers in the past year, compared to 30% who bought heels.

Overall, there is no doubt women are favouring flat shoes over high heels, with 59% of women saying they prefer to wear comfier shoes vs 12% of women preferring high-heels.

Following in fourth and fifth place as the most popular type of shoes of 2016 were women's flat boots (30%) and flat sandals (25%).

Tamara Sender, Senior Fashion Analyst at Mintel, said: "For the first time ever sales of trainers have overtaken high heels. The UK sportswear market has seen strong growth in the last year and there has been a trend for consumers to integrate sports clothing into their daily wardrobes, meaning trainers have also become more popular among women, overtaking heels to become the second favourite item of footwear after flat shoes. Athletic footwear is increasingly being used for everyday non-sporting activities showing that trainers are now more likely to be used for non-sports use."

Both men’s and women’s footwear sales are expected to increase 5.4% in 2016 to reach £10.5 billion, boosted by sales of men’s footwear, which are expected to grow 9% this year. In contrast, women’s footwear fell 2.5% in 2016.

"While women's shoes dominate the market, the men's footwear sector is growing at a faster rate as men become increasingly interested in fashion and grooming, pushing up sales of men's clothing and men's footwear," Tamara continues.

Many female buyers said they are not completely satisfied with the current footwear offer, with 54% of them saying they would like to see a better range of size options, such as half sizes or wide and narrow fit options.

"Women in particular struggle to find shoes that fit them and this remains a big issue in the footwear sector, leading to high rates of returns, particularly when shopping online. One of the ways to help consumers to find better fitting shoes is for better size standardisation across retailers and brands,” added Tamara.

The UK footwear market is forecast to increase 25% over the next five years to reach £13.2 billion by 2021.

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