Fear of flying is so yesterday. The new air scare: your bare
feet on the airport floor.
You don't have to take off your shoes to pass through
airport security, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration says. But it
will speed your screening experience. And you might have to remove your Manolos
anyway, if they trigger the sensitive metal detector or if you're selected for
"secondary screening" -- the TSA sobriquet for a personal
So there you stand -- barefoot -- ready to tread where many
unshod others trod before. Ick, says Rami Calis [pronounced cah-LEASE], DPM, a
podiatry instructor at Atlanta's Emory University.
"I for one am bugged by people having to take off their
shoes at airports," Calis tells WebMD. "I do think it is
Barefoot in the Airport
If you fly often, you know the drill. As you snake through the
line toward the security checkpoint, you see people setting off the alarm.
Everybody sighs. They try not to make eye contact with the suspect, who is then
politely but firmly asked to join another line.
This time, it's not just a walk-through. Usually, the
unfortunate secondary screenees must take off their shoes and stand on a mat.
The mat is, ironically, imprinted with shoe-shaped footprints, which seem to
have once been white -- many, many screenings ago. Meanwhile, a helpful
same-sex TSA agent passes an electronic wand and/or gloved hands about their
Hoping to avoid this, you wrack your brain for anything on your
person that might conceivably trip the metal detector. Into the handy plastic
bin go your car keys, your belt, and -- better safe than sorry -- your
It works! You get through with nary a beep. You grab all your
stuff and -- move along, please! -- walk on through security. And on. Don't
even think of sitting in chairs in the secondary screening area. You must keep
going until clear of the area. Back into your pocket go the car keys. You slip
your belt around your waist, lean against a wall to wriggle into your shoes,
and hope a footbath isn't far in the future.
Athlete's Foot and More
You may not want to think about what you just walked through.
But Calis does. And one of the things he thinks about is fungus -- the highly
contagious kind that causes the cracked and itchy foot infection we call
"Athlete's foot infections must be rampant," he says.
"The floor is often dirty where all those people walk through security. And
it doesn't get any sun. I haven't taken any samples from these areas, but if we
do I bet we'll find 101 different things."
Unpleasant things, agrees Kathleen M. Stone, DPM, trustee for
the American Podiatric Medical Association and a private-practice podiatrist in