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Allergic Reaction to Shoes

author image Ryan Haas
Writing professionally since 2005, Ryan Haas specializes in sports, politics and music. His work has appeared in "The Journal-Standard," SKNVibes and trackalerts. Haas holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and creative writing from the University of Illinois.
Allergic Reaction to Shoes
Shoe allergies may come from various materials. Photo Credit: Ingram Publishing/Ingram Publishing/Getty Images

If you experience dry, red, cracked or painful blisters on your feet from a pair of shoes, it is possible that you have an allergic reaction to them. This can be an unpleasant experience, particularly if you have to wear the shoes for a long period of time or have a bad reaction to them. A number of aspects of the shoes may cause the allergic reaction, and finding the exact cause will help you avoid a future breakout.

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Potential Causes

Shoes contain many common allergens and irritants that could be causing breakouts on your skin. Nickel is the most common metal that causes allergic skin reactions, according to the World Allergy Organization. If your shoes have metal clasps, it is possible that they contain nickel. Tennis shoes may contain rubber, adhesives or dyes that cause the reaction. The chromates used as a tanning agent in leather shoes may be another possible cause of your shoe allergy. In 2010, “Dermatology Online Journal” reported a few cases of people’s feet breaking out after they contacted shoes boxed with dimethylfumarate sachets, which keep the shoes moisture free.


If you have a breakout that you suspect is from your shoes, stop wearing the shoes. If your allergic reaction is mild enough that you do not need medical attention, apply a cool, damp compress to the area to sooth it. Avoid scratching, scrubbing or exposing the area to hot water or soaps. Do not apply an alcohol or antiseptic lotion to the area. For more severe reactions to shoes, you may need to take antihistamines or prescription steroids from your doctor to quell the inflammation.


If your shoes are causing you to have an allergic reaction, determine what part of the shoe is causing the issue so you can avoid it. The University of Illinois recommends first removing any possible items that could be causing the allergic reaction and then reintroducing those items one at a time to see what is causing you to break out. This may be difficult with shoes because the potentially allergenic materials are in close proximity and inseparable from one another. Your doctor may also be able to conduct a patch test to better diagnose the allergen. A patch test entails applying a small amount of an isolated material to your skin to find the culprit.


Once you have identified what part of the shoe is creating the allergic reaction, avoid shoes with that type of material, adhesive or dye in them to stop the reactions. If you cannot avoid wearing the shoes, limit contact with the shoe by wearing thick socks. Avoid activities that cause heavy perspiration, such as sport and physical labor, while wearing the shoes.

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