When most of us think of the color of our shoes, we think about which outfit or pair of pants we’re going to wear with them. However, the color of your shoes can affect your feet.
The Science of Shoe Color and Foot Temperature
In one study, researchers compared the temperature of water in a balloon inside white-colored shoes verses black-colored shoes. After 30 minutes, the water temperature rose in both the white and black-colored shoes, but the water inside the black shoes showed a mean increase beyond the temperature of the white by 7.8 to 13.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
The researchers deemed the increase in temperature in the black-colored shoes (over the white shoes) “significant” (DeLuca and Goforth, 1998). I agree–a 7.8 to 13.6 increase in temperature IS SIGNIFICANT, and this is a shoe without an active, moving, perhaps sweaty, foot inside!
These researchers presented two cases where people with insensate feet (due to neuropathy associated with diabetes) sustained burns because of wearing black-colored footwear on a hot day. These two diabetic patients (with neuropathy) ended up needing foot amputations.
Shoe Color Can Affect All Our Feet — Not Just Those of Diabetics
Even if you are not diabetic, the effect of a shoe color (black) that increases the temperature of your feet can be a problem. When the temperature in your shoes increases, blood vessels in the foot dilate as blood leaves your arterioles and enters veins. This process promotes the release of heat out of the foot, but causes the foot to swell (Henry and Gaucer, 1950).
Normally, muscles pump swelling in the feet out, particularly during walking. However, even vigorous walking has been shown to not to be able to reduce venous pressure (pressure in our veins due to swelling).
Worse, for a foot wearing a dark-colored shoe, our foot muscles themselves generate heat. Muscles in our legs dissipate half their heat directly to the surrounding environment (Gonzalez et al, 1999). By extrapolation, our foot muscles likely release half their metabolic heat into the shoe, further increasing the temperature. Again, this increased heat could worsen swelling (edema).
Swelling or edema of feet can lead to poor perfusion of blood to the tissues, constriction, varicose veins, joint stiffness, diminished function, and symptoms of pain, heaviness, cramping, and restlessness (Blattler et al, 2008).
Today, more than 10 years after DeLuca’s study, the Medicare diabetic shoe program continues to approve dark-colored (and black-colored) shoes for diabetics, and shoe and running shoe companies continue to manufacture dark-colored shoes.
One has to wonder how many people are having more swelling and in the case of diabetics, foot sores and even amputations, due to the dark-colored shoes.
Final Thoughts on the Effect of Shoe Color on Your Feet
Few people would wear a black shirt on a hot summer day, but these same people would not think much of slipping on black-colored shoes. It is common sense that darker-colored material will absorb more heat than lighter-colored material. The next time you buy a shoe, use your common sense and buy a light-colored shoe. Your feet will thank you!
DeLuca PA, Goforth WP. Effect of shoe color on shoe temperature and potential solar injury to the insensate foot. J Am Podiatr Med Assoc. 1998 Jul;88(7):344-8.
González-Alonso J, Calbet JA, Nielsen B. Metabolic and thermodynamic responses to dehydration-induced reductions in muscle blood flow in exercising humans. J Physiol. 1999 Oct 15;520 Pt 2:577-89.
Henry JP, Gauer OH. The influence of temperature upon venous pressure in the foot. J Clin Invest. 1950 Jul;29(7):855-61.
Hansen L, Winkel J, Jørgensen K. Significance of mat and shoe softness during prolonged work in upright position: based on measurements of low back muscle EMG, foot volume changes, discomfort and ground force reactions. Appl Ergon. 1998;29(3):217-24.
Blättler W, Kreis N, Lun B, Winiger J, Amsler F. Leg symptoms of healthy people and their treatment with compression hosiery. Phlebology. 2008;23(5):214-21.
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