Shoes: New Airport Health Hazard
Taking your shoes off at airport security checkpoints exposes your feet to fungus and injury.
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
"I've been flying a lot -- and my experience all summer was
that individual airports are still making you take off your shoes," Stone
tells WebMD. "Probably the only way you can combat the fact you are walking
on a filthy floor is to keep a pair of socks on."
Stone notes that late summer is a time when lots of people have
foot fungi. She suspects that athlete's foot is rampant on airport floors, but
she notes that it's hard to tell where a person actually got it. To date, there
haven't been any studies.
"Athlete's foot is not the only issue," Calis says.
"Think of all the things that fall off people's shoes. Also, there might be
small tacks or sharp pebbles that could cut you -- and if you have an opening
in the skin, that is asking for infection. Even a sock won't protect your foot.
If you do step on a tack, then we're talking about having to get a tetanus
shot, and possible staph or pseudomonas infections."
Not everybody who walks through an airport has been walking on
"You never know where people's shoes have been," Calis
says. "If someone who's been on a farm walks through the airport, you'll
have fecal matter, too."
And not everybody who takes off their shoes should do so.
"People with diabetic feet, some have a loss of protective
feeling," Calis notes. "We podiatrists tell them never to walk around
barefoot. They may step on something and not know it's there. That would be a
great concern of mine if I were diabetic."