Ask the Doctor: Is It Risky Going Barefoot In The Summer?

Q. Now that summer is here and people are walking barefoot in public places, are there infections that I can pick up? What foot problems should I be aware of and how can I avoid them?


A: There are a few foot problems that you need to be aware of. The most common infection that spreads in the heat of the summer and in public places is Athletes foot.

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Athlete’s foot is the most common foot problem in the summer

It is contagious and is picked up by direct skin contact when walking without shoes in locker rooms, public showers or poolside. The fungus grows in shoes, further spreading the contact.

Athletes foot is from an infection with a fungus causing:

  • Itching and burning
  • Redness, blisters and sores on the skin of the foot
  • Scaling, peeling and cracking
  • Foul odor between toes accompanying itch

Two additional conditions, which may occur as the fungus spreads, are:

  • Fungal Nail Infections. Nails become yellowed, thickened and brittle when microscopic fungi enter through a break in the nail. If untreated, the condition gets worse and becomes more resistant to therapy. Antifungal pills are given for severe infection. A home remedy is soaking with water containing Tea-tree oils.
  • Moccasin-type infection. Occurring in a chronic fungal infection, the minor itching, burning and scaly skin advances to thickened, scaling and cracked skin on the foot sole or heel. At this point, toenails can become infected which not only causes thickening but crumbling and they may even fall out.

When the athlete’s foot first starts, antifungal creams can be applied to the affected areas to stamp out the infections. If left untreated, it does spread.

Keratolysis is sometimes confused with athlete’s foot. This is a problem where the feet are sweaty and emanate a bad odor.

Plantar warts are also contagious and can be picked up while going barefoot. They come from a virus, which enters through broken skin.

Plantar warts are tough, horny projections growing on the soles of the feet. They are harmless, but can become painful over time. A physician can burn them off with salicylic acid, laser or freezing methods.

Ingrown toenails are additional problems we see, often with pedicures. This results from nails cut too short or not straight across causing injury to the toenail. The result is a nail that grows into the skin causing pain, swelling, redness and susceptibility to infections.

We CAN be proactive to prevent these uncomfortable and unsightly problems. 

Wear water-resistant shoes (like rubber clogs or flip-flops) by the pool, in public showers, changing rooms and locker room areas. After bathing, swimming and taking showers, dry feet thoroughly. Then apply cornstarch powder to the feet, taking care to dry and apply between the toes to eliminate moisture where fungus can grow.

Being aware of how to protect yourself, will allow you to enjoy those summer activities without the agony of your feet.