Will Shoes Without Socks Cause Athlete’s Foot?
As long as your shoes fit well and are otherwise comfortable, you may be among the many walking around without socks. “Barefoot shoes,” boat shoes, tennis shoes, and other comfortable footwear offer the temptation to ditch the socks. Plus, what woman doesn’t want to show off her perfect pedicure in peep-toe or fashionable sandals? Wearing shoes without socks has never been more fashionable or convenient. But will wearing shoes without socks cause athlete’s foot?
What is Athlete’s Foot?
Athlete’s foot is a contagious fungal infection that affects the feet and can spread to the toenails and hands. Because the fungus that causes Athlete’s foot thrives on moist, damp surfaces, athlete’s foot is easily contracted if you walk barefoot in locker rooms, pool decks and shower areas.
How do I know If I have Athlete’s Foot?
Athlete’s foot causes a scaly rash that is itchy and may burn or sting, no matter how hard you scratch it. Athlete’s foot usually starts between the toes, can spread up the foot to the ankle, and is usually itchiest when you take off your shoes or socks and let the fungus “breathe.”
A Fungus Among Us
The fungus tinea pedis, which causes athlete’s foot, thrives in damp, moist, unsanitary places, lying in wait to be picked up by your foot so it can start growing between your toes. And since the toes, especially in sneakers and other closed-toed shoes, offers little spaces between the crevices (consider we don’t usually even dry them after showering or stepping off the locker room floor), the fungus can thrive, unchallenged. In addition to being contagious, athlete’s foot can be spread to other parts of the body if you touch the rash, like the groin (where it’s called jock itch) or your hand.
Preventing Athlete’s Foot
Unless the area is properly sanitized, athlete’s foot fungus can stay dormant once the moisture dries from floors, shower mats, or in your shoes. The skin that flakes off from your feet may trap the fungus, which remains in the shoe until it gets wet. Then it starts to grow and spread. Socks keep your feet drier and also keep the skin that sheds off of your feet out of your shoes.
While sweat alone doesn’t mean you’ll be exposed to the athlete’s foot fungus, moisture in your shoes does allow it to grow and infect your feet. So when it comes to preventing athlete’s foot, wearing socks is a good start! If your socks get wet from sweat, change them. Practicing good foot hygiene in general will keep your feet fungus-free. Wear flip-flops in public areas with wet floors or surfaces, such as locker rooms, pools, and showers. Keep your feet moisturized to minimize cracks that can allow the athlete’s foot fungus to get into your skin. Use bleach to keep showers and locker rooms clean.
If you are an athlete, spraying an over-the-counter anti-fungal treatment into your shoes is a good idea, as well as applying anti-fungal cream to your toes before a long, active day. Lastly, be sure the socks you are wearing can wick away moisture; if possible, seek out high-performance socks for sports. Wool blends work well for hikers, construction workers, or those who must wear shoes for long hours at a time.
Find a Foot Specialist in Central Maryland
For all kinds of problems with your feet, big and small, patients trust board-certified podiatrist Dr. Marc Lipton. At three convenient locations in Central Maryland, Dr. Lipton practices at Orthopaedic Associates of Maryland. If you are in the Baltimore area, call (410) 644-1880 for an appointment today. Your feet will thank you!