You Can’t Buy Dopamine But You Can Buy Shoes

by Charles Lyell on May 19, 2016
“I like Cinderella, I really do. She has a good work ethic. I appreciate a good, hard-working gal. And she likes shoes. The fairy tale is all about the shoe at the end, and I’m a big shoe girl.” – Amy Adams

As I’ve written many times, all behavior involves maintaining dopamine flow.

Popular ideas, beliefs, people, and things are liked, believed, desired, craved because they trigger dopamine. Unpopular ideas, beliefs, people, and things are disliked, ignored, attacked, avoided because they threaten dopamine flow.

The powerful neurotransmitter is highly effective because it’s triggered by both popular, seductive, dopamine-appealing expectations and unpopular, frightening, dopamine-repellent expectations. Just as the same foot can be used to make a car go or stop by working different pedals, the same dopamine determines if and when we’ll go or stop by working different receptors.

Why Shoes Are So Dopamine Appealing

“The average woman falls in love 7 times a year. Only 6 are with shoes.”
– Kenneth Cole

Shoes are especially dopamine appealing because there are as many popular dopamine-triggering expectations as there are women who love shoes.

Shoes are like magical mirrors that help women see what they want to see. Dopamine-appealing expectations include feeling beautiful, elegant, special, stylish, unique, accomplished, taller, pampered, and proud.

Using brain scanning equipment, researchers discovered that slot machines are extremely addictive because intermittent positive expectations (of hitting jackpots) trigger maximum dopamine. That’s no surprise. After all, we inherited DNA from successful hunter-gatherers driven by dopamine-induced expectations of refueling and replicating despite regular disappointments, setbacks, and adversities. Meanwhile, less determined and easily discouraged contenders took their flawed genetic programming with them to early graves.

Modern day bargain hunter-gatherers, fueled by expectations of finding the right shoes at the right price, shop with the determination of medieval knights seeking the holy grail. For shoe hunters the quest is mostly win-win because there’s always tomorrow and plenty of websites and stores offering seemingly limitless arrays of positive expectations. As a bonus, if a pair happens to break the budget, that only makes them more esteem elevating and dopamine appealing.

Speaking of Elevating

“Stiletto, I look at it more as an attitude as opposed to a high-heeled shoe.”
– Lita Ford

For some women the tap, tap, tapping of high heels is a not-so-subtle way of demanding attention and triggering dopamine by announcing, “Look at me, I’m hot!” Pumps help other women pump the powerful neurotransmitter in their brains with expectations of feeling like hot shots. Running shoes get the brain chemical flowing with images of health, strength, and athleticism. Flip-flops deliver the goods with an air of casual flippancy. Sandals with an aura of au natural.

Additionally, shoes seldom come with dopamine repellent expectations of not fitting (i.e. reminders of weight gain) like clothes. If an old pair of shoes does feel a little tight it doesn’t necessarily matter, since the only person who has to know is the wearer.


“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world would do this, it would change the earth.”  – William Faulkner

Shoe addicts help shine a spotlight on a significant difference between an acknowledged, healthy, honest obsession and a number of unacknowledged, unhealthy, and dishonest addictions plaguing our species. Shoe lovers don’t feel they have anything to be ashamed of. Instead of getting locked in denial, the way other addicts do, shoe junkies are free to revel in positive, popular, dopamine appealing expectations of happiness and status boosts.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about safety, power, acceptance, approval, status, or money addicts who can’t admit they’re slaves to destructive, irrational, and inane behaviors making them, and everyone else, miserable.

If miserable addicts weren’t so ashamed of their misery, weaknesses, and dishonesty they could choose between continuing doing what they’re doing (and getting the same results) or working on replacing the unhealthy addictions causing their misery with healthier behaviors. Happiness isn’t an option for miserable addicts because dopamine makes it impossible to take the first step, which is to be honest about their addictions and misery. But they can’t admit to the obvious because the honesty comes with dopamine repellent expectations (of being rejected and/or feeling foolish, small, insecure, weak, petty, pathetic) that threaten their safety, power, acceptance, approval, esteem, and status.

As insane as it might sound, most of the conflicts, destruction, and misery in the world can be traced to safety, power, acceptance, approval, status, and money addicts who don’t, can’t, and/or refuse to believe the only thing they really care about is protecting dopamine flow in their primitive brains.

On that note, here’s to shoe addicts everywhere for making Earth a happier, more colorful, enjoyable, interesting, and sexier planet!








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