Health Risks of Walking Barefoot Through Airport Security

The next time you’re waiting in line to go through airport security, take a look around at how many people kick off their sandals or walk in stocking feet up to the scanners. Imagine how many sweaty feet touch the floor surface in just one day — hundreds, if not thousands! Most people don’t even think twice about this practice because “it’s the law” to remove one’s shoes before boarding a plane. However, you can still be prepared by avoiding walking barefoot and wearing socks instead. Doctor Marybeth Crane explains why walking barefoot or in stockings through security is a filthy (and dangerous) habit.


Warts are spread by a virus. According to the Colorado Foot Institute, this virus can live in carpeting or on a hard surface for many months. The incubation period for warts is anywhere from one to 20 months, which makes it difficult to ascertain when you came into contact with the virus. Sufferers report the feeling of a plantar wart to be “like walking with a pebble stuck in your shoe.” It can take many months to remove a wart. The first course of action is to apply salicylic acid to kill the tissue.


According to Dr. Crane’s post, herpes can get passed from foot to foot. The National Athletic Trainers Association reports that “walking barefoot can spread the virus” and that it’s best to “wear flip-flops in public showers, swimming pools and other communal areas.”  You definitely don’t want the crusty, red, oozing blisters to rear their ugly heads!

Athlete’s Foot

Athlete’s foot is a red, itching, burning rash between the toes and on the soles of the feet. Dr.  Rami Calis [pronounced cah-LEASE], DPM, a podiatry instructor at Atlanta’s Emory University, told WebMD that he feels airport security is unsanitary. “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.”


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Staph Bacteria Infections

According to ABC News 4, restrooms at the local airport tested positive for staphylococcus aureus. “It can cause some diseases. It can cause acne, boils, certain skin diseases, toxic shock syndrome, pneumonia,” said biologist Tonya Morris. It’s estimated that 25 to 30% of healthy adults are carrying staph bacteria in their noses. Staph is considered a skin condition, though; so it takes a break in the skin for infection to get into the bloodstream and travel to internal organs, where this infection can really wreak havoc.

Toenail Fungus

Like other foot infections, one would need to have a cut or break in the skin to become infected by the microbes. However, the entry point is not always so obvious. Even a tiny blister, callus, slightly ingrown toenail, or improperly cut cuticle can invite disaster. Toenail fungus — evidenced by crusty, crumbling, thickened and yellow nails — is very persistent and difficult to treat. Patients usually take oral medications for months, which requires periodic liver function tests, and even so — they still have to wait for the old fungus nail to grow out before they notice improvement.

The Bottom Line: Walking Barefoot Is An Unnecessary Risk!

Walking barefoot through wet grass can damage the skin’s natural barrier, allowing infections to take hold, Dr. Giuseppe Militello of Columbia University told The New York Times. “[Bacteria] resides in the grass and earth, you pick it up, and it festers in your shoes,” he explains. “I think the best thing to do is to wear sandals or flip-flops or to just not get your feet wet. And when you do get your feet wet, thoroughly dry them before putting your shoes back on.” We also recommend sanitizing your shoes each night with the SteriShoe UV light shoe sanitizer, which uses the same technology hospitals employ to disinfect contaminated surfaces.

uv shoe sanitizer

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11 replies
  1. Chuck Morton
    Chuck Morton says:

    My feet have been walking me around just fine for 56 years, and yes I have spent as much of that time barefoot as possible. These feet are far more resilient than any pair of shoes I have owned, and I have owned quite a few.

    Do you not see that the shoe is a perfect environment for fostering and growing bacteria? Feet themselves left alone will not grow bacteria and viruses. Exposure to sunlight and air prevents such things from growing.

    The problem is not so much exposure to elements outside of the shoes, but that once the feet are once more sealed within the shoes such bacteria and viruses have an ideal environment to wreak havoc upon the trapped feet.

    I have never had any of the problems you list, while my friends and family who have insisted for years I will suffer horrible consequences without exception have major problems with their feet.

    I have reached the reasonable and logical conclusion that one sure way to avoid foot problems is to avoid shoes where possible. Simple and cost effective, and you can send your scientists to study my healthy feet any old time you want.

    • Blacksky
      Blacksky says:

      Well said Chuck! The reason people’s feet are all so sweaty and smelly is because they spend all day stewing them in their own sweat. Feet that wear shoes are utterly saturated with fungus and bacteria. The reason people who wear shoes are so prone to catching things is because shoes are perfect incubators for all these funguses and diseases. ~I simply can’t understand why nobody seems capable of realising that we never get these things growing on any other part of our body.

      • Jenn F.
        Jenn F. says:

        Technically, there are plenty of pathogens on other parts of the body… just different types!
        We wrote about the latest discovery here. But you’re right — the feet are the worst because they are trapped in a warm, dark, damp environment!

  2. Steven Rogers
    Steven Rogers says:

    I am barefoot everyday. I rarely wear shoes and socks. I like to walk in the wet grass and everywhere else for that matter. I have received zero infections or diseases because of it. In fact my toenail fungus is gone thanks to going barefoot or wearing minimal sandals. The real problem is not being barefoot, but wearing shoes where as you say, things fester. Shoe indeed are fungus, bacteria and mold incubators and that is where the problem is. So I would ask you not to give barefooting a bad name and put the blame where it belongs, on shoes. Thank you. For more information visit

  3. Jenn F.
    Jenn F. says:

    Well hello, Barefooters! You are a passionate group indeed! Choosing to go barefoot is a way of life that you are entitled to.

    There is no doubt that the shoe lends itself to being a breeding grounds for bacteria. It’s a warm, moist, dark environment — which is exactly what viruses, bacteria and fungi all prefer. We advocate spending time barefoot in one’s own home.

    Yet, based on personal experiences with plantar warts and toenail fungus specifically, the makers of SteriShoe believe there are certain health risks when you gather so many people together in public. You may have dodged a bullet, but there are millions of Americans walking around with contagious, untreated infections.

    We don’t mean to fear-monger, but rather, we compile opinions from medical professionals and news articles to support our case.

  4. JC Nick
    JC Nick says:

    Seriously? The biggest possibility for athlete’s foot and toe fungus is stuffing your feet in shoes. Regardless of whether I walk through the airport, grocery store, park, or wilderness trail I do wash my feet each day at least once. How many times have you people washed the insides of your shoes – just think of all that nasty sweat and bacteria collecting in shoes you’ve worn every day for three years. Disgusting! Walking barefooted isn’t even in the same realm. It’s the fresh air and grounding that keep your feet healthy – not stuffing them in sweaty little casts each day.

    • Steven Rogers
      Steven Rogers says:

      JC Nick, I am curious what your personal experience is. So did you go barefoot and then stay barefoot and you got a foot infection? I agree this device seems really great for people that want to sanitize their shoes, in fact, I have a pair of Vibram Five Fingers that need serios odor management, which your device might help with. I gather it must use UV light or what not.
      These articles and opinions all come from shod people who are probably only barefoot at home maybe and at the beach (or the airport). The rest of the time they are most likely wear shoes. So as you stated if a person takes off their shoes, walks in the airport or the locker room or what not, puts their shoes on they incubate the fungus and germs. My point is, and you also sort of agreed , is that being barefoot isn’t the problem it is putting shoes on. The problem is someone reading your verbiage will think it is unhealthy and “dangerous” to go barefoot. I was at the airport, barefoot as usual, greeting the troups who were arriving, and a woman asks me where are my shoes? I said I don’t like to wear shoes. She told me there are germs on the floor and she would be worried about that. Perhaps she read you as in an airport magazine. I hate to see ideas spread that are not accurate or proven. According to your sources people should be worried about walking barefoot in the grass! It would be great if the emphasis was in the evils of the fungus incubators (shoes) and not on the dangers of going barefoot.
      Also just curious, how long does it take to sanitize a pair of shoes?

      P.S. I think it is great invention for shoes, I really do. I just hate see barefooting getting a bad name.

  5. Ken Bob Saxton
    Ken Bob Saxton says:

    Funny at the end of the article they recommend a device to sanitize the shoes using the same technique hospitals use, UV rays.

    This is also the same technique the sun uses to keep germs and fungus under control on my bare feet on a daily basis.

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