Shoe allergy is a common form of contact dermatitis of the feet. However,
it must be distinguished from other forms of foot allergy and inflammation
that also occur frequently. It is a very common occurrence among children
who need to be well educated about personal care in order to prevent this
condition. Patch testing is the best means of accurate prognosis of shoe
allergy. Personal care forms an integral part treatment of this annoying
Shoe allergy agents
Irritant shoe dermatitis can be caused from regular footwear that keeps
it covered and confined. The major shoe-based irritants are as follows:
- Paratertiary butylphenol formaldehyde resin, which is an ingredient
of shoe glues.
- Shoe parts that consist of rubber chemicals, for
instance mercaptobenzothiazole, which is a rubber element found
in glues that attach layers of a
- Colophony is another component that causes shoe allergy.
components such as chromate (mainly potassium bichromate/dichromate)
that is required in leather tanning. Such a leather element
generally triggers a form of allergic dermatitis on the upper
- Rubber cement glue residues in rubber boots.
The chemicals listed above are generally discharged in reaction
to sweat in the feet and the condition is aggravated by
Clinical manifestations of shoe allergy are:
- Subacute eczematous flare-up, which is generally
two-sided in occurrence. However, in some cases it may be
confined to one side
of the feet as
- Reddening of the skin of the feet.
- Flaking over the upper
surface of the feet, mostly the toes. The areas between the
toes (web of the feet) are not infected, as is
seen in athlete’s foot (tinea pedis).
The soles are also spared, since they are
tougher, thicker and hence
more resilient to irritants.
Shoe allergy can be apparently identified by means of the location
and shape of its clinical appearance. Generally, the outline of
inflammation corresponds exactly to the lining of the shoe that
one wears regularly.
The location of the dermatitis, which is obviously the area that
is covered by the shoe, is a key diagnostic indicator.
Foot dermatitis that cannot be managed with treatment should be patch
tested for shoe dermatitis. Patch testing is vital to verify the condition.
A conventional patch test procedure consists of specialized shoe patch
testing trays. It should be conducted by a trained professional.
Here is an overview of the step-by-step patch test procedure:
- Collect parts of the shoe that covers the affected spot.
- Cut the parts into
1-inch square pieces and round off the edges.
- Separate the portions that have adhesives (glues) on them.
- Separate all layers for patch test.
- Dampen each layer with water.
- Attach each piece to the upper outer
arm with a tape.
- Then conduct the patch test.
Shoe allergy should not be confused with other types of foot dermatitis.
The foot conditions that should be excluded are:
- Fungal infections.
- Psoriasis, which is a skin problem
characterized by red scaly patches.
- Atopic dermatitis, which
is another common cause of foot eruptions.
- Sweaty sock dermatitis
is a common occurrence in children, which is caused by excess sweating
of the feet. Its clinical
scattered dryness accompanied with cracks on the toes,
webs, and soles of the feet. The affected location often becomes
eczematous and is confused with shoe allergy.
- At times there are eruptions
in the weight bearing regions of the soles of the feet that are
traced to dermatitis caused by the inner
lining of shoes, shoe pads, shoe adhesives and rubber
chemical components of the shoe. Though this may apparently
seem like shoe dermatitis,
this may be deceptive. The real cause can be contact
allergy due to use of
How to avoid shoe allergy
Individuals who suffer from shoe allergy must follow a personal
hygiene and care routine apart from treatment with medication.
The precautionary measures are:
- Patients should control perspiration. In fact, successful
control of sweating can make way for patients to re-use
both leather shoes and shoes that include rubber cement.
- One should not wear dirty socks. As a rule, they should be changed at least once
- Patients should frequently sprinkle an absorbent powder on the feet.
- Patients can apply the antiperspirant
called aluminum chloride hexahydrate in a 20% solution (Drysol)
- Patients who have shown an allergy to
rubber and chrome could opt for vinyl instead.
- Inflammation of
the soles of the feet can sometimes be managed effectively by placing
guards, such as Dr. Scholl’s Air Foam Pads or Johnson’s
Odor-Eaters, in the shoe.