Using public dorm shower booths barefoot
October 22, 2016 1:18 AM   Subscribe

So this is 5~10 years ago but I used to get into dorm shower booths barefoot. I'd thought that if you wear a flipflop in the shower, that the flipflop(I wore a really cheap one back then) would become the harboring ground for bacteria itself. Now I'm in a university environment again and came to think about how to manage my slippers -- I found out that you need footwear in the shower. Even so the shower floors were cleaned by the janitors every day; I always washed my feet with soap and then wiped them with towels before wearing my flipflops outside -- how much bad fungus do you think I would have picked up? I seldom had any symptoms of foot disease during college as far as I can remember, although during work I had less luck and my formal shoes were worse places for athlete's foot and foot itches. Now I wear plastic, thick slippers around and will buy Crocs soon (although I'm sharing a bath with only four people now).
posted by red_alert_3 to Education (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If your question is: how much bad fungus do you think I would have picked up?, who knows? Your issue now is maintaining foot hygiene while sharing a bathroom with others. Fungus won't grow on your feet if you take care of keeping them fungus-unfriendly.
posted by Thella at 2:21 AM on October 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

Seconding Thella. We're surrounded by microorganisms, including fungi. Fungal infections of the feet are generally not things you pick up from other people, or by sharing a bathroom or shower; rather, they're opportunistic, and develop because the conditions on your feet are right for them to develop. By and large, you just need to wear absorbent socks and breathable footwear, and keep your feet reasonably clean. The best advice I can give for preventing these things is to avoid wearing the same socks or shoes two days in a row. If you wear the same shoes day after day, especially if it's warm and you're prone to sweating, that tends to set things up athlete's foot, because they never fully dry out. You'll also find that your shoes last a lot longer.
posted by pipeski at 3:21 AM on October 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

Fungus and other nasties are likely to stick to the underside of the flip-flops initially. I would think that, if you gave the flip-flops a good spritz of a disinfectant spray after each use should help keep the nasties breeding to a minimum on the flip-flops.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:23 AM on October 22, 2016

I would worry more about plantar warts than fungus in a situation like this, that alone is more than enough reason to wear flip flops in a public shower.
posted by tracert at 4:00 AM on October 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

If you're only sharing with 4 people, that doesn't even seem like a public shower to me!
posted by mskyle at 5:17 AM on October 22, 2016 [10 favorites]

I think you're overthinking this. Wear footwear if it makes you comfortable, but if you don't have any contagious foot issues and neither do the other people who use your shower, just shower and dry your feet thoroughly after and you should be fine.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 7:31 AM on October 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

I don't think I'd bother if it was just the same four people, and I have never bothered in gym-type locker rooms. I shower in shoes at, like, campgrounds or beaches. If you're sharing a bathroom in a suite or house-share type situation, you have the power to keep a can of Lysol under the sink and give the floor a little cleaning pre-shower if you think it's not getting cleaned frequently enough.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:34 AM on October 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Plantar warts aren't thought to be harmful, but if you want to take precautions, disinfectants are not effective against HPV (plantar warts being a strain of this). Buy cheap flip-flops, wear them in public places, take them off before entering your home, and drop them in a tub filled with water and a good glug (10-15% concentration) of bleach. Dry your feet well as soon as you can after getting out of public pools and showers, and avoid going if you're a mess of blisters or have cuts or scratches.

Bleach will also kill fungus on surfaces, but since you shouldn't use it on your skin, a dash of antifungal powder on your feet before putting on socks or shoes will do it. This isn't a bad idea in general.

If you picked up something that long ago, you'd have noticed it well before now.
posted by notquitemaryann at 7:37 AM on October 22, 2016

is your question whether you might have picked up something in college unbeknownst to you? I have never heard of such a thing. Foot and toe funguses let you know. If you don't have symptoms, you're unlikely to be carrying something latent.

As far as your current arrangement, I can think of plenty of shared houses bathrooms I wouldn't have felt great about using barefoot, for aesthetic reasons if not medical. As others have pointed out, you can always Lysol the shower floor down before you use it, but flipflops will protect you from the rest of the bathroom floor too. (That said - you need to weigh the benefit vs the risk of slipping - a lot of flipflop bottoms are too slick to be safe on a wet bathtub floor, if that's what you're showering in.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:21 AM on October 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

So this is 5~10 years ago

I'm having a hard time understanding why this is a question now? Are you concerned about your current living environment? Shower slippers seem like a good idea and keeping them clean and dry and using an anti-fungal spray if you feel better about that, should work for most situations. Foot funguses can be a pain but you have to weigh that against the hassle of launching an extended anti-foot fungus campaign. Crocs in the shower are a no-go because the insides of them get slippery when they are wet, stick to shower sandals. I wear bare feet in a college shower several times a week and I rarely have to deal with foot fungus issues. Watch moisture, treat non-breathable shoes well (formal shoes can be terrible for breathing so find ways to keep them dry) and do the best you can.
posted by jessamyn at 8:32 AM on October 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

Tangential to your question, but if you do wind up with an athlete's foot infection (for me it manifests as [TW] splitting of the skin between/under my pinkie toe, extremely painful), I find that regular application of a fairly concentrated tea-tree oil like Nail Saver clears it up quickly. I am allergic to the active ingredient in Micatin.

Plantar warts are much worse and will not go away by themselves. You can buy some kind of acid in a bottle with a little brush to gradually peel them off (it takes a few weeks).
posted by heatherlogan at 8:37 AM on October 22, 2016

You have an immune system. If you have no symptoms right now, it is likely that you've ejected any fungal pathogen already.

tracert makes an excellent point - plantar warts are caused by HPV (human papilloma virus). You may become asymptomatic, but that virus will stay with you for life and immune insults (ie., stress) can let it come back and manifest again.

Symptoms can be treated like any other wart (or you can spend a summer running barefoot on beaches).
posted by porpoise at 9:03 AM on October 22, 2016

Now I wear plastic, thick slippers around and will buy Crocs soon

That might be worse for your feet than going barefoot. If you're having problems with your feet, go to a doctor; otherwise don't worry about it.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:26 PM on October 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

My main issue with stepping into a shower like that is that the floor just feels icky. It's neurotic, and my perception isn't based in reality (unless there's something visibly gross in there, like a band-aid or wad of hair). It seems fine to wear whatever you want in there for the sake of comfort. Just make sure your feet dry out before you put socks on afterward.
posted by witchen at 8:02 AM on October 24, 2016

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