Journal of Research in Personality | Omri Giliath et al. | Shoes as a source of first impressionsThis is only interesting if you routinely get to see just a stranger's shoes, and none of the rest of them. This has happened exactly one time in my life: an artificially constructed scenario during college orientation.
Surprisingly minimal appearance cues lead perceivers to accurately judge others’ personality, status, or politics. We investigated people’s precision in judging characteristics of an unknown person, based solely on the shoes he or she wears most often. Participants provided photographs of their shoes, and during a separate session completed self-report measures. Coders rated the shoes on various dimensions, and these ratings were found to correlate with the owners’ personal characteristics. A new group of participants accurately judged the age, gender, income, and attachment anxiety of shoe owners based solely on the pictures. Shoes can indeed be used to evaluate others, at least in some domains.
The more relevant study would be to determine how much more accurately (if at all) people can judge others when they see everything-including-shoes than when they see everything-except-shoes. For instance, if I can see you but not your shoes already, letting me peak at your feet will give me very little extra ability to judge your gender or age.
These researchers studied the correlation between shoe and personal characteristics. I want to know the information gain of shoes for personal characteristics.
PS I took a (very, very) cursory look at this paper, and the authors looked for correlations between shoes and at least 11 personal characteristics (ie, they report results from 11; I don't know how many others they tested). Shoe observers were able to predict four of those characteristics, including the (fairly obvious) gender. The reportage on this article could very well be "observers unable to judge most things about people by looking at their shoes."