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This common locker-room mistake promotes foot fungus—and nope, it’s not being barefoot


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Photo: Getty Images/Skynesher

One hygienic tip that’s all but a mandatory requirement for using any sort of public shower—whether it’s in the locker room at your favorite fitness studio or at a public pool—is wearing flip-flops. That’s because by going barefoot in a wet, communal place, you’re basically asking for icky bacteria, fungi, and viruses to a ride on your foot. Unfortunately though, if you’re guilty of making a pretty simple mistake, even having those trusty rubber shoes on hand won’t keep you safe from one of the most common infections spread in these shower-room situations.

According to Richard Klasco, MD, warm and damp public showers are a prime breeding ground for the fungi that causes athlete’s foot. While wearing your flip-flops is a smart start, doing so won’t entirely save you from coming down with a case of the condition that spreads oh-so easily. In fact, the means of preventing the fungus can also be the cause if you’re not careful. “Shoes that become warm and damp also promote the [growth of fungi],” he notes in The New York Times.

“Shoes that become warm and damp also promote the [growth of fungi].” —Richard Klasco, MD

To ensure you don’t wind up with foot fungus, simply take care of your shoes just as well as you take care of your feet. After cleaning your feet with soap and water then drying them off with a towel, turn your attention to your flip-flops before tossing them in your gym bag. “It’s important to clean flip-flops or bath sandals after each use. Fortunately, this is easy. Wiping with a wet towel or pouring water on your footwear is sufficient to remove enough residual fungi to prevent reinfection,” Dr. Klasco writes. Additionally, make sure you rotate different pairs to give them time to air out for a couple days between uses.

By keeping your feet and your shower shoes clean, you’ll drastically lower your chances of getting an infection and be able to walk around fungus-free all year long.

Yes, your feet can fall asleep during a workout—here’s how to prevent it. Or, use this massage therapist’s hack to heal achy feet while traveling.

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