Long before COVID-19 became a health concern when shoe shopping, foot conditions such as Athlete’s foot and plantar warts posed safety concerns. While the impact of the coronavirus continues to loom large, these more commonplace foot issues can still pose a health risk to the public and should not be ignored.
As retail continues to open up across the country, stores are taking a range of precautions to protect shoppers. At independent shoe stores, for example, footwear is often quarantined or disinfected after being tried on and sales associates are asking shoppers to refrain from touching the merchandise unnecessarily.
However, when shopping at one of the many self-serve shoe chains today, monitoring try-ons is not as quite as practical or manageable. So, in order to protect the public from viruses or fungi that might be lingering inside a shoe, podiatrists have some helpful tips.
Athlete’s Foot is a contagious fungal infection that affects the skin on the feet and can be transmitted through direct contact with an infected person, or by touching surfaces contaminated by the fungus, according to Healthline.com, an online resource for physical and mental health issues.
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While locker rooms and pool decks are more common places to pick up the fungus, noted Dr. Paul Langer, a podiatrist at Twin Cities Orthopedics in Minneapolis, it is possible to contract it from the interior of a shoe. Coupled with this, he noted, 20% to 25% of people worldwide have a fungal foot infection they may not be aware of, increasing the risk of transferring the condition.
The Fitting Room
Since self-serve shoe stores are just that, it’s up to consumers to monitor their shopping trips. In order to safeguard themselves and their fellow shoppers, Dr. Howard Palamarchuk, a clinical associate professor at Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine in Philadelphia, advises shoppers wear a sock when trying on shoes — even sandals. If a shoe had been infected through a previous try on, he explained, socks can help create a barrier between the foot and the shoe. “It’s a mask for your feet,” he said.
Although many stores offer disposable try-on foot socks, consider taking along your own socks, suggests Dr. Langer. Closer knits offer better protection than the more porous nylon socks supplied by stores.
For those overly concerned with trying on shoes, consider taking along some Lysol wipes to gently clean the interior of the shoe before trying it on. And, as a service to the next customer, you can wipe them down again after you’ve tried them on.
Practicing good hygiene, such as washing feet in warm water and soap can help minimize foot conditions. While it’s not necessary to linger while washing feet, make sure all areas of the foot are cleaned including the underside of the toes and between them. Then, dry feet completely by patting feet rather than rubbing. For those who enjoy one of the many therapeutic foot soaks on the market, remember they don’t necessarily cleanse the foot, so check for ingredients before indulging.