Is it Safe to Wear Plastic Shoes?

In case you missed it, Hollywood’s hot new shoe trend is made of plastic—clear plastic sandals, stilettos, mules…even over the knee boots! Just recently, Kim Kardashian showed off a pair of pointy-toed plastic heels (she calls them Cinderella shoes) from hubby Kanye West’s Yeezy line, and her Instagram followers went wild for the look!

Kim is not alone in loving this trend. Other stars like Chrissy Teigen, Rita Ora and Eva Longoria have all been spotted stepping out in similar 

styles. But, as always, just because something is fashionable doesn’t mean it’s a good or healthy idea! Especially when it comes to on-trend shoes!


Just Say No to Plastic Shoes
Here’s the problem with encasing your feet in tight-fitting plastic: it doesn’t breathe at all, which means your feet are going to sweat, especially in summer, or any time of year in a hot, humid town like Houston. Of course, when sweat gets trapped against your feet for an extended period of time, a few things happen: first and foremost, your feet begin to smell terrible, something that’s definitely not attractive on anyone. As one Instagrammer aptly put it, when posting a picture of her feet in plastic shoes: “When your s**t don’t stink, but your feet do…”

Kim Kardashian shows off her plastic shoes (and dress!) on her Instagram account

But there’s worse news about plastic shoes than just the smell of them. You know that warm, moist environment created in your shoe as your feet get all sweaty in their unbreathable encasement? That basically creates the perfect breeding ground for foot fungus—I’m guessing a good case of athlete’s foot will make even the trendiest shoe-lover rethink a pair of see-through heels (not pretty or comfortable!)

And then, of course, there’s the blister situation. Plastic shoes have no give. That rigid material is more likely to rub against your skin—especially once your feet are slick and sweaty—leaving you vulnerable to blisters and, over time, callouses and corns. According to Vogue Fashion News Director Chioma Nnadi, who spent one season wearing plastic shoes, she is literally still scarred by the experience. As she explained in the magazine, “It was maybe the hottest New York summer I’ve ever experienced, so you imagine what that meant for my poor feet in those wretched shoes. I still have scars. And it’s been 10 years.”

Another problem with hard shoes? People’s feet swell throughout the day—especially when they are stuck in hot, sweaty environments like the inside of a plastic shoe. A shoe made of leather or even canvas has a lot more give, so it can accommodate a bit of swelling. Without that flexibility, your shoes can start to feel like prisons for your feet; overtime, you will likely start experiencing foot and joint pain.

While the inflexible nature of plastic shoes is problematic, their chemical makeup may also be an issue for some fashionistas. Many people have plastic sensitivities, and wearing a plastic shoe with no sock or nylon could make their foot react badly. In extreme cases, the reaction, also known as contact dermatitis, could make you feel like your foot is on fire!

And, if all these concerns weren’t reason enough to skip the plastic-shoe trend, think about this—as we discussed before plastic is hard. Wh

en you walk in hard materials on hard surfaces, there’s nothing cushiony that can help your body absorb the force and blow of pounding the pavement. As a result, just walking down the block for your daily Starbucks could put the same kind of wear and tear on your body as running a marathon barefoot! Ouch, am I right?

Give Plastic Shoes Some Stretch

All in all, this trend seems to be one to skip out on. If, however, you absolutely must have a pair of plastic kicks, take precautions—before 

wearing the shoes, try stretching them out a bit with these three easy moves.

  1. Wear thick socks and put on the shoe—if you can fit two pairs of socks into the shoe, that’s even better, as it will allow for the maximum amount of give in the material. If the shoes have zippers, zip them up to the top.
     
  2. Blow dry your shoes while you wear them with your socks. Pay special attention to the areas of the shoe that feel the tightest, aiming the blow dryer directly at those spots while wiggling your foot as much as you can.
     
  3. Once you’ve put the blow dryer away, walk around in the shoes as they dry from the contact heat. Keep the socks on while you walk so that the shoes stretch out as much as possible.

 

Rotate Your Heels

Even if you’ve stretched out your shoes, they are never going to be made for walking. Use good judgement when it comes to slipping these babies on your feet:  wear the shoes for short periods of time, and try to limit their outings to nights or winter months, when cooler temperatur

es will leave you less likely to sweat your toes off.

And once you’ve snagged that perfect Instagram moment for your feed, think about switching to a more breathable pair of heels. Anyone tasked with smelling you later will certainly be glad that you made the right decision!

 

 

Dr. Andrew Schneider
Dr. Andrew Schneider is a podiatrist and foot surgeon at Tanglewood Foot Specialists in Houston, TX.
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