man scratching feet in socks with shoes nearbyYou’ve tried everything. Your feet are itching and irritated, and you just can’t figure out why. You might be surprised to discover that you have shoe contact dermatitis, which occurs when an individual is allergic to a material in their shoes.

What Is Shoe Contact Dermatitis?

Shoe contact dermatitis is simply an allergic reaction on the skin in response to a particular substance found in footwear. An irritating rash and redness are telltale signs of shoe contact dermatitis, and individuals can be allergic to a wide variety of chemicals found in the shoe. Potential allergens include leather, rubber, glue, and even decorations affixed to the shoes.

What Are the Symptoms?

The number-one symptom of shoe contact dermatitis is patches of redness that itch. This usually starts at the top of the foot, often on the toes, and then spreads. It can also start on the sole or sides of the feet or even the lower-leg region. A dermatitis reaction may also include swelling, blisters or cracked skin, a burning sensation, or noticeable pain. While shoe contact dermatitis is often caused by a new pair of shoes, people have also been known to sometimes develop an allergy to a well-loved pair over time.

You might notice the rash appear within a few hours of wearing a pair of shoes, or it may take as long as a week for symptoms to begin. Once it’s there, you can expect a duration of several weeks before it completely clears up.

How Do I Get a Shoe Contact Dermatitis Diagnosis?

While shoe contact dermatitis isn’t exactly rare, your doctor will want to rule out other causes first, including other types of dermatitis, psoriasis, lichen planus, and fungal infections like athlete’s foot. Your doctor will ask you questions about your health and daily routine and may ask you to bring in any new pairs of shoes you’ve been wearing.

Using patch testing, a doctor should be able to determine which allergen you are reacting to. A top foot rash can indicate a negative response to dye, adhesives, or chemicals found in shoe leather. Meanwhile, irritated foot soles could mean an issue with rubber additives or accelerants and/or chemicals from the insoles. While it might sound difficult to determine a cause, dermatologists are actually able to test common shoe chemicals with a “shoe kit” that quickly tests for the most frequent allergens.

Treatment Options

The main treatment for shoe contact dermatitis is to eliminate contact with the identified irritant. While waiting for the rash to clear up, some find it helpful to take regular foot soaks that include green tea, oatmeal, or baking soda. If the rash is particularly bad, your doctor can prescribe a topical ointment to calm your discomfort.

At InStride Carolina Podiatry Group, our doctors are well-versed in shoe contact dermatitis and can save you time and trouble by quickly diagnosing your problem. If you suspect you are having a reaction to your footwear, contact us today to schedule your appointment.