October 15, 2014

Allergic to the Shoes on One's Feet....And Everything Else for That Matter

This autumn was supposed to be a "fall without agendas." This was because I had decided to concentrate once again in finding answers to the nervous system, eye and muscle problems that changed my life so dramatically. Illness removed me from the world of being a productive and basically healthy teaching artist to that strange underworld of the disabled. Firm answers were not forthcoming, only theories - some legitimate others quacky.

Things began to change when I pulled out all my records and did some painstaking research. On the basis of my research I requested more professional investigation into the field of allergy and immunology. It was determined that I had autoimmune illness but determining precisely what caused that and what to do about it is still a work in progress. What did emerge in greater focus was a veritable plethora of environmental allergies, which I already knew about. But what I didn’t know about was the legion of chemical allergies - upwards of thirty or more commonly used chemicals in the manufacturing, agricultural and medical industries. Each of these had lists of ten or more chemicals that cross react and several alternative names for each. It was overwhelming.

For my next entries, I will address some possible solutions I have found in my research because I am certain there are others in need of help for multiple allergies. And it gives me a great excuse for making new art work - like my drawing of toxic shoes.

I began the long search for allergy free materials from the ground up - starting with the shoes on my feet. Shoes turned out to be the most problematic allergy free item to locate. Almost all contain latex products, to which I am allergic. If they do not contain latex they contain alternative rubber products to which I am also allergic. The leather in shoes is glued with adhesives I am allergic to. The insoles are often sprayed with metallic substances to which I am also allergic.

After weeks of searching I did finally come up with some solutions, each with it own pros and cons. It was an interesting, albeit time-consuming journey. The most difficult part of this search was getting information from manufacturers about what exactly is in their shoes. For adhesives, the answers to my queries ranged from "don’t know" to "can’t find out," to "that changes monthly depending upon availability" to "that is proprietary information." It soon became clear that finding out about the actual adhesives used in shoes would be an impossibility. I found only one company that claimed not to use adhesives with known allergens in them. That was Gabor shoes, made in Portugal. I will have to take their word for it. These are available through Nordstrom Shoes. The one company I found in the United States that manufactures shoes without adhesives is Crocs. Their shoes are made from an EVA composite material that is molded as one unit. ( The actual composition is...you guessed it... proprietary information). I learned about Crocs from my dentist and from my sister. Customer service at Crocs was excellent! There are just two drawbacks to Crocs: 1. The use of EVA was apparently banned in Europe as a possible carcinogen 2. The shoes don’t offer much in the way of support. But I decided to get them anyway as slip ons for the shower and slip ons as light dress shoes. They fit fine. I am more concerned about autoimmune illness and allergies at this point than cancers anyway.

Now for the insoles. These are problematic as well. Some products that are touted as allergen free in fact are most likely not. Ortholite, for instance, used in insoles in many shoes is actually a rubber amalgam and therefore probably not safe for people allergies to latex, rubber products, or chemicals used in the rubber processing industry. Cork insoles are not pure cork (it would be too unstable and inflexible) but a cork and rubber composite. New Balance does offer insoles made from Gore tex, which is a material so inert that it is used in medicine as a tissue replacement. Poron insoles are another option for the allergic-to-shoes crowd. Many of these soles, I found were sprayed with Medzap, an anti-bacterial which may contain metal that I am most likely allergic to. Lost soles all those. One company that has been very helpful was The Insole Store, which has a great customer service and a shop online. I’m still working with them on insoles. (Update on that ...couldn't find a definitively allergy free insole)  As luck would have it though, the Gabor shoes I received today have plenty of support without the added insole. (Update on that, they don't have quite enough support for tendonitis).  But I am still going to obtain an allergy free pair to use as an interface in shoes I already have, as I need something to use as a work shoe. These will need to have a pair or two of socks "segregated" from my "clean" socks used only in the allergy free shoes. This is because I read from my allergy warning list that I am obliged to discard all my socks and start anew. Reason being, that allergens from adhesives and rubber are absorbed into the socks over time and do not wash out. Yikes! All the more reason to try to get the shoe and insole allergy question right the first time. Dreadful to think of having to throw out all one’s socks a second or third time.

If someone wants to be a purist and obtain shoes with no adhesives whatsoever, there are small companies that make shoes the old fashioned way, with hand stitching. I have my shoes, but I may look in to these companies anyway - just out of curiosity.

Many thanks to the shoe companies, Crocs, New Balance, Nordstrom, The Insole Store, Zappos.com, Foot Solutions, Finn Comfort, who aided in my search.


Shelley Kinder said...

Good information! I'm printing this! I don't know exactly what I'm allergic to. All I know is that almost all of my shoes cause my feet to burn after awhile. I have a pair of Clark's sandals that I do pretty well in. I've had Crocs before, but I am pretty sure they burned my feet too. I'm looking into all leather insole shoes, but I'm having a hard time finding them online at this point. I really need to see a foot doctor to see what exactly it is I'm allergic to. SO annoying! If you have any updated information on shoe brands, etc. please let me know. I've VERY interested. Thanks so much!

Colin said...

great info!

I don't have any allergies that I'm aware of....until now.
I had a nasty allergic reaction to Adidas canvas boots. Stopped wearing them and all cleared up....then I made the (yes I know - stupid!) mistake of buying another pair of Adidas shoes, this time running shoes. Same reaction. The only thing they had in common? Orthalite 'Cloud Foam'