Mum says agonizing blisters caused by River Island shoes landed her in hospital

A mum claims she suffered a horrific allergic reaction to a pair of River Island heels that caused clusters of painful blisters breaking out on her feet and landed her in hospital.

Donna Roberts purchased the gold strappy sandals from the Surrey Quays shopping centre, south-east London, to go with her outfit for a friend’s birthday party.

The 43-year-old wore the shoes, which she found in the sale for roughly £30, to her pal’s party in October – but just three days later her feet broke out in agonizing sores, according to Hull Live.

At first, the mum-of-two thought new socks had caused the reaction, but when the large welts appeared after she put on the heels for another occasion, she realized they were the cause.

Horrifying photos show blisters bubbling up across her toes where they enter the shoe and a painful red welt on the flesh where the strap sits.

The early years practitioner is now demanding answers from the retailer about the contents of the fabric, which are listed only as ‘other’ on the bottom of the shoes.

But Donna says that despite sending one shoe back for testing in January, and receiving a tracking confirmation of delivery, River Island claim not to have received it.

River Island said the matter had been ‘investigated internally’ and claimed the product ‘meets all necessary compliance standards’.

Donna Roberts’ blistered feet after suffering a severe allergic reaction to the River Island shoes.

Donna, from Peckham, south London, said: “I wore them to this party and everything was fine at first.

“But then the middle of the next week I started to get itchy around my ankles and then gradually a red ring came around each ankle.

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“It felt like tingling at first, like pins and needles, then my toes started itching and gradually blistering came out.

“The following weekend I went to A&E because the blistering had got so bad and it was really hurting to put shoes on and they said it was a really bad allergic reaction.

“I was wearing new socks so I thought it could be those because it was three or four days later, so I didn’t even think of the sandals.

“Obviously the sandals aren’t something I’d wear every day so the next time I wore them was Christmas Day.

“I had them on for about two hours and I started itching and gradually the rash came up on my ankles again – you can see they’re a perfect ring of where the straps were across my toes and ankles.

“That’s when I realized it was the sandals because it was immediate this time and then it just kept progressing. I’m certain it was the shoes.

“Boxing Day I spent at the hospital and my birthday is the 28th [December] so I still had all blistering then and that spoiled my birthday as well.”

The River Island heels that landed Donna Roberts in hospital.
The River Island heels that landed Donna Roberts in hospital.

The mum was initially treated with oral steroids at Queen Mary’s Hospital A&E in Sidcup, south-east London, in October where doctors confirmed she had a severe allergic reaction.

After the itchiness initially subsided, it returned with a vengeance a few days into her taking the steroids as she suffered a further allergic reaction to the tablets.

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The subsequent reaction caused her to break out in rashes all over her body.

It gradually calmed down once Donna stopped taking the steroids and her wounds finally healed a few weeks later in November.

But her ‘nightmare’ ordeal wasn’t over yet – as she unknowingly made the mistake of wearing the heels again on Christmas Day and blisters bubbled up instantly.

Due to her previous reaction to the oral steroids doctors instead prescribed her a cream to treat the agonizing welts on her toes and ankles.

These took even longer to heal – scabbing and painfully peeling in the process.

After contacting River Island’s customer service team in January, a team member apologized and asked her to send the shoes to their safety department to be tested.

Donna said: “I was a bit reluctant to send the shoes back because I wanted to know what was in them and they couldn’t tell me that – it just says ‘other’ for the materials on the shoe.

“I said ‘I’ll send one back because if you can’t give me answers then I want to get it tested myself’.

“I felt it back and heard nothing for about two weeks so I got in touch again and had to chase them up again after that – they’ve been really bad at getting back to me.

“They said their distribution center said they hadn’t received it. I looked at my tracking and sent them my proof of postage, which said it had been delivered to them.

“I’m still asking them now ‘have you got the shoe, did you find it?’ and they just don’t answer.

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“It’s just a bit of a joke. I haven’t even had a refund for the cost of the shoes and they’re just trying to fob me off really now I think.

The mum-of-two has shared photos of her blistered feet to warn other shoppers.
The mum-of-two has shared photos of her blistered feet to warn other shoppers.

“I just want to know what’s in them – I need to know because I obviously don’t want to put something that contains that on my skin again.”

The complaint has now been passed onto River Island’s handlers claims due to the severity of the injuries and the issue of the lost shoe, but Donna claims she is yet to hear from them.

She remains at loggerheads with the company to get answers about the material of the shoes and is calling for any components that can cause allergic reactions to be listed on fashion products.

After being left with marks on her feet from the excruciating reactions, the mum-of-two has shared photos of her blistered feet to warn other shoppers.

Donna said: “I shop at River Island quite often and my daughters, that’s the scary thing but this has definitely put me off the shoes there.

“I’m probably a one off but still surely that shouldn’t happen to anyone and if it can cause a reaction like that then there should be a warning or something.

“Now with food allergies everything has to be listed so why is it different with materials? They don’t even seem to know what’s in them themselves.”

A River Island spokesman said: “The health and well-being of our customers is paramount. The matter in question has been thoroughly investigated internally and we can confirm that this product meets all necessary compliance standards.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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