Elayne Riggs' Journal (for Leah)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Stinky Footwear, or You Should See Polyurethane Pam

Well, this is disturbing. I just found out why my fairly expensive New Balance sneakers, which I've had for almost a year and which I adore, have picked up an unbelievably foul and pervasive odor in the past few days -- and why I haven't been able to get rid of this smell. I knew it wasn't me, I didn't think it was anything I'd stepped in... now Robin's found a thread that explains it.

Seems that lots of sneaker manufacturers use polyurethane in their midsoles to increase stability. As one commenter notes, "It works very well for the purpose it is intended, however the downfall is that if these shoes become repeatedly saturated with water, it will begin to affect the polyurethane, causing it to have what most people describe as a 'cat pee' smell." And sure enough, the last couple weeks have seen some very wet weather here in NYC. Obviously, machine-washing the footwear only hastens the polyurethane decomposition.

Here's the problem, though -- I've never bought any sneakers that feel as good as the New Balance ones. They support my feet and back and knees beautifully. Most stores don't cater to wide widths; NB does so enthusiastically. And NB isn't the only brand to use the polyurethane, so it's not like shopping elsewhere will prevent this from happening again. Nothing to do but trudge into my local NB store tomorrow and buy a new pair (this time I'll be asking for less expensive "walking" or "outdoor" sneakers that I'm hoping are either semi-waterproof or don't use polyurethane in the midsoles; they do seem to have a number of those) and try not to wear them too much in wet weather. What I'll probably also do is buy a moderately-supportive cheap pair at Payless like I used to do and wear those in the rain instead.

Don't you love how modern chemical technology has made our lives better?