Flip Flops: A Danger to Your Health? Popular Footwear Provides Haven for Bacteria

The snow is falling in many parts of the country in February, so flip-flops are but a distant memory for some people. Yet, our company, Shoe Care Innovations, is based out of Redwood City, California, so we can pretty much slip into a pair of flops year-round. Beach bums just can’t get enough of this lackadaisical style of shoe. However, podiatrists warn that flip flops can be a dangerous choice, according to an MSNBC health report.

dangers of flip flops

Some of us never pack our flip-flops away… and we are most at risk of picking up a pathogen!
Image Source: DelRayBeachPodiatry.com

Dangers of Flip Flops: Exactly How Dirty Are They?!

The TODAY show recently teamed up with a mobile University of Miami test lab to see just what is living on people’s most beloved pair of flip flops. Here’s what they discovered:

– One pair of flip flops contained over 18,000 bacteria!

– Many types of bacteria were represented — from respiratory germs to the sort that thrives in fecal matter.

– A 6-year-0ld pair of flip-flops contained germs that cause diaper rash and yeast infections.

In a separate investigation by the NY Daily News13,900 bacteria were found on a pair of brand new flip flops that spent four days traveling through Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, the subway, and the public bathrooms of Coney Island.


Just imagine how dirty a pair of flip flops would be after a traipse around NYC!
Image Source: nyctaughtme.com

Can Wearing Flip Flops Make You Sick?

Dr. Philip M. Tierno Jr. is the director of clinical microbiology and immunology at NYU’s Langone Medical Center. He explains that 93% of three-month-old flip flops will contain fecal bacteria and 20% will contain E.coli bacteria. The streets of the big city and public places have been touched by feces, saliva, urine, vomit, and deep soil microbes. It’s no wonder most doctors advocate leaving one’s shoes at the door!

What concerns Dr. Tierno most is the presence of potentially lethal, antibiotic-resistant bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus. “That particular organism can give you a serious infection like a boil, or more serious, it could possess toxins,” he told news reporters. “They can make you very sick or kill you.”

Keep Calm & Carry On…

This isn’t to say we should all panic and vow to never wear flip flops again. Yes, flip flops tend to pick up anything and everything rather easily. However, University of Miami microbiologist Dr. Lisa Plano assures us that “as long as your skin is intact… you shouldn’t be alarmed.”

“You’re not enclosed, so that bacteria isn’t going to cause you a problem — unless you have an open cut or sore,” adds Dr. Dr. Joseph Knedgen, D.P.M, a podiatrist in Reno who was not affiliated with the study. It’s important to keep in mind that an “open cut” or “sore” may not be as apparent as a blister or ulcer, however. Something as seemingly innocuous as a hangnail, pushed-back cuticle or cracked heels can be a portal to infection.

foot bacteria

Flip flops are only slightly better than walking around barefoot, since so much of the foot is exposed.
Image Source: ScienceDaily.com

How to Protect Yourself

The SteriShoe UV shoe sanitizer utilizes germicidal UV light to kill up to 99.9% of the pathogens in your footwear within one 45-minute cycle. The product was originally developed for athletic and dress shoes, which tend to be most susceptible to festering microbes. You’ll note there is a built-in safety feature that requires the UV shoe sanitizer to be compressed and placed into the dark shoe bags before it turns on. However, we have included two handy velcro straps, so you can compress and activate the SteriShoe to sanitize your flip flops and sandals as well!  Podiatrists also recommend changing out your flip flops every season, keeping this type of footwear relegated to pool and beach wear only, and washing your feet / hands often.

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