A poll of 1,057 women by the Consumer Reports National Research Center for shopping magazine ShopSmart found U.S. women on average own 19 pairs of shoes although they only wear four pairs regularly while 15 percent have over 30 pairs.
The survey also found women would risk injury to squeeze into new slingbacks or stilettos, with 43 percent of women saying they had been at least moderately injured by shoes and 8 percent reporting serious injuries like sprains or breaks.
"Women love their shoes and are willing to go to great lengths for them - including risking injury and hiding their purchases from a significant other," said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart which is published by non-profit consumer research group Consumer Union.
"Women are passionate shoe shoppers and this survey shows that shoe shopping is almost a sport for women. I know I hide shoes from my husband. My secret trick is to bring them home without the box."
The telephone survey found women on average bought four pairs of shoes a year -- with 13 percent admitting to hiding a purchase from their partner.
Six out of 10 women regret at least one shoe purchase and on average women have worn a quarter of their shoes only once.
Shoe guru Meghan Cleary, who hosts a show "Shoe Therapy" on TV shopping channel HSN, said women's love of shoes was nothing new but women had now come out of the closet with their obsession, encouraged by TV shows like "S_x and the City" where the women speak openly about their love for their shoes.
"I often speak to women who have about 400 pairs of shoes. One woman I spoke to had 400 pairs of which 300 were knee-high black boots," said Cleary, who has about 150 pairs herself.
"A new pair of shoes makes a woman feel great - and they last longer than a box of chocolates. Forget indulging in a chocolate sundae and go buy shoes for a quick little uplift."
Sales of shoes has increased in recent years with figures from retail tracker NPD Group showing U.S. shoe sales rose 9 percent in 2005 to nearly $42 billion or 1.4 billion pairs. Figures for 2006 were not available.
But unlike clothing, which is the most often purchased item online by women, Internet shoe shopping has not yet caught on with only 14 percent of women buying shoes online.
Seven out of 10 women, or 74 percent, said they liked to try shoes on before buying them.
"Trying on shoes in a store is fun as you don't have to strip off in front of a brightly lit mirror," said Cleary.