Once you get a foot fungus, it can be really hard to get rid of—especially if it spreads to your toenails. And while there are a handful of reasons why the condition can come about in the first place—from walking barefoot in public areas to sharing a yoga mat without sanitizing it first—there’s one common mistake podiatrists see all the time: Not letting your damp sneakers fully air-dry before wearing them again. Do this, and you’re essentially sticking your foot into a breeding ground for infection.
“Fungi and bacteria thrive in moist, dark environments like shoes,” says Jacqueline Sutera, DPM, a New York City-based podiatrist and Vionic Innovation Lab member. “This can cause stinky feet and athlete’s foot infection, [or] fungus of the skin and nails.”
Your sneakers can get extra sweaty in hot summer temps, making a foot fungus more likely. To prevent the issue, Dr. Sutera recommends alternating between a few pairs of shoes. “Wearing the same shoes all day, everyday, will encourage stinky feet and infections,” she says. By rotating your sneakers, you’re able to give them a chance to dry out between uses.
If you’re especially prone to foot fungus, she says you can even switch your sneakers out during the day to prevent moisture from building up. The best pairs to reach for on extra-sultry days include those with breathable mesh or canvas uppers—bonus points if you pair them with moisture-wicking Merino wool socks.
Aside from having extra pairs of shoes on hand, you can also stock up on some of Dr. Sutera’s favorite foot fungus-fighting products. “Some great options are anti-fungal shoe deodorants, foot sprays, powders, tea tree oil foot soaks, and antiperspirants to help keep your feet and shoes fresh,” she says. “There’s even a very effective UV light machine that kills the fungus growing in shoes that can be used in between uses.” So there you have it—who knew that our kicks need rest days, too?
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