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UGG boots: 'Shearling' agony for feet?

UGG boots may be a health risk as well as a fashion hazard.
UGG boots may be a health risk as well as a fashion hazard.Soeren Stache / EPA file

Cari Nierenberg writes: Some women are paying a price for sporting UGG boots beyond their $140 price tag.

When worn regularly, the uber-popular, sheepskin-lined boots may make feet miserable.

UGGs can be ugly to your feet and ankles, causing pain and throwing your walk out of whack so problems extend to the knees, hips and back. The plush lining also can create an ideal breeding ground for foot fungus.

The bulky, hobbit-looking boots are so comfy-cozy that fans rarely take them off, but they weren't actually made for long-distance walking.

"UGGs have little to no arch support," explained Krista Archer, a podiatrist and foot and ankle surgeon in Manhattan.

Karina Morris found this out the hard way.

The easy to slip on and off footwear seemed like a perfect fit for the busy 27-year-old mother when running around after two young boys. And UGGs kept her toes toasty, to boot, on wintry mornings while waiting for her son's school bus.

"They felt like slippers walking around on the outside pavement," said Morris.

But after wearing the trendy footwear from dawn to dusk for about a month, the Huntington, N.Y., native noticed that the arches of her feet and her heels were killing her. 

"I had to stop wearing them," admitted Morris, who owns two pairs of the boots and even UGG clogs.

 Still, when she sought the help of Archer, the podiatrist, Morris was surprised to hear she had developed posterior tibeal tendinitis and that her UGGs and flat feet were to blame.

When flat-footed people slog around in a loose-fitting boot like UGGs, their ankles roll inward and their arches and tendons collapse outward with every step. (You can actually see the lopsided wear on one side of the rubber soles.)

Archer is especially  worried about the boot's roominess in the ankles and heels now that the boots are popular with both tweens and toddlers. (Baby versions of the boot run $90.)

"Kids seem to shuffle around in them," she pointed out. They make that irritating foot-dragging sound called the "UGG shuffle" by the Urban Dictionary.

Skin infections like athlete’s foot and dermatitis also can be a problem with UGGs, Archer adds, since bare feet can really sweat in the fur. She urges devotees to wear socks and spray the liner with an anti-fungal spray once a month. 

After being fitted with custom padding to support her arches, Morris is back in her UGGs -- pain free. (If you try drugstore arch supports, Archer suggests placing them underneath the boot's sheepskin inserts.)

Although UGGs bring patients to her practice, Archer owns three pairs of the boots herself (but adds arch supports to them) and two pair of slippers.

With New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady signed on to become the brand's new spokesperson, only time will tell whether more guys will wear UGGs and if they'll be hurting their feet. 

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