Margaret writes, "I am allergic to substances used in very, very many shoes -- as are an increasing number of people.
"When it first happened to me, I thought I must be crazy. Bought a new pair of walking shoes, wore them for one hour (with socks) on my treadmill, and afterward the skin on the tops of my toes and feet felt irritated and itchy. I wore those shoes a total of three one-hour stints, resulting in the tops and soles of my feet feeling chemically burned and incredibly itchy.
"For weeks, whenever my feet got hot, the intense burning and itching returned, making my feet feel like I'd been stung by bees. (Since that initial acute reaction, I have developed reactions to many of my other shoes that had not previously bothered me to a noticeable degree.)
"Thinking I must be nuts, I Googled "shoe allergy" and found that I am not crazy and I am not alone. I found a forum of people all discussing shoe allergies and a list of the most common allergens, which include glues, dyes, tanning chemicals, rubber accelerators, etc.
"My dermatologist had a "shoe kit" and tested me for all the most common culprits, but we didn't find what substance(s) I am allergic to. He said he could continue testing with a longer list, but it would be expensive and then there is the problem that shoe manufacturers can't usually tell you or guarantee you what is or is not used in any given shoe, anyway.
"Now, every single pair of shoes I buy, whether athletic shoes, dress shoes, sandals, etc., I have to buy them, wear them around inside for several hours, and try to determine if my feet are going to react. Sadly, most shoes do cause a reaction, and then I have to return them and start over. Margaret."
I myself have had a wide variety of allergies. I found several research studies that confirmed that people have allergies to a wide variety of adhesives, rubber chemicals, and leather treatments used in shoes and insoles. Often, the allergy produces contact dermatitis. As Margaret points out, this can be painful and distressing. Ultimately, you have to learn how to avoid the chemical that is causing it. Because shoes use a wide variety of possible irritants, it can be very hard to find shoes that don't cause a reaction. Even if a certain manufacturer and style is OK today, the next pair may come from a different factory using different components. I can only guess how maddening this is.
Do you suffer from shoe allergies?