Nearly 7M People Could Be Suffering From Shoe Allergies: Here’s How to Save Your Feet

When the weather turns cool and the bulky shoes come out, so can shoe allergies — also known as shoe contact dermatitis. Sometimes it manifests in the form of a flaking, uncomfortable rash.

Shoe contact dermatitis, a skin inflammation that can be brought about by the chemicals and materials in certain shoes (rubber, glues and leather tanning chemicals, most often), could be affecting around 7 million people in the U.S., according to Tracey C. Vlahovic, an associate professor and practicing doctor at Temple University’s School of Podiatric Medicine.

“Limiting perspiration is key,” Vlahovic told Footwear News, adding that the burning rash most often appears when sweaty feet rub against the allergy-causing components of the shoe. More instances of the condition can happen during colder seasons because many affected people tend to wear closed-toe and heavy shoes for longer periods of time.

While such skin problems usually occur to people who are already allergic to certain materials that are commonly used to make shoes, many could be entirely unaware of any allergy until the rash appears.

How can you treat foot allergies?

Once the skin irritation occurs, depending on seriousness, it can be treated by prescription medications (such as Elidel cream) or over-the-counter creams and ointments (such as Aveeno Intense Relief). It can also go away after the allergy-causing material is removed. In extreme cases, patients may need antibiotics or steroid injections to treat the allergy if it spreads to large parts of the body, Vlahovic explained.

How can you avoid shoe contact dermatitis?

“Avoidance of the allergen can be difficult,” said Vlahovic. Still, she suggests everyone minimize sweating in their feet as much as possible — whether it be by wearing two pairs of socks or, for those who have to wear humid work boots on the job regularly, getting anti-perspiration Botox injections or customized shoes.

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