Best Ways to Protect Your Feet at Pools and Locker Rooms
If you enjoy swimming laps, then you’re in good company with our own Dr. Sundling. Not only has she occasionally coached swimmers at the Zeeland Rec Center, she has also been a state medalist!
When you’re a frequent visitor to community pools or gyms, there’s a risk of contracting any number of fungi and/or viruses. Everyone has their own routine of wearing flip flops or walking around barefoot. It’s important to ensure that you and your loved ones practice safe methods to prevent the spread of these diseases.
What is Thriving Beneath Your Feet?
Many living things need warmth and water to survive.
Different organisms require these elements in different degrees, and community pools and locker rooms provide excellent conditions for various fungi and viruses to grow. These invaders are more than happy to make the jump to your feet to create embarrassing and/or painful problems.
The fungus that causes the scaly, itching, stinging rash of athlete’s foot thrives in heat and humidity. It can be easily picked up via direct contact with any contaminated surface, including floors, towels, and shoes. All it takes is for one person to bring it into this kind of environment and the risk of contracting it starts to grow.
The same fungus that causes athlete’s foot can also be responsible for causing fungal toenail infections. All the fungus needs is an opening near the nail bed—usually a small cut or nick—to get in and start turning toenails thick, yellow, and brittle.
One final culprit to watch for in warm, damp environments is human papillomavirus (HPV). While HPV can cause a variety of conditions, the main problem in pools and locker rooms is plantar warts. Plantar warts are often harmless, but can last for a very long time without treatment—even up to 2 years!
How Should You Protect Your Feet?
While risks of foot conditions such as athlete’s foot, plantar warts, and fungal nail infections can be higher around public pools and locker rooms, there’s no need to forego your training and enjoyment at them!
It only takes a little planning to lower your risks of infection. Follow these tips whenever you’re hitting the rec center:
- Keep a layer between your feet and the floor. Since you have no idea who has been walking around and the last time floors have been sanitized, it’s best to keep your feet from touching warm, damp surfaces as much as possible. A pair of sandals is OK, but shower shoes are better. They provide all-around protection and are less likely to slip off your foot.
- Shower before swimming, if you can. Chlorine does not have eternal germ-busting power. It can only handle so much at a time. If you shower or at least rinse off before entering a public pool, you reduce the amount of gunk and contaminants added to it. The more people who make this a habit, the lower your risk will be of contracting these types of problems.
- Don’t forget to shower afterward! This should be obvious, but we’ll say it for emphasis – hit the showers when you’re done. Wash with soap and water, and use shower shoes! Chlorine can’t always take care of everything.
- Dry off completely. Make sure your feet are completely dry before putting on your socks and shoes. Making sure your socks and shoes are breathable and moisture-wicking is an added plus. The locker room is warm and damp enough; you don’t want to create the same conditions in your shoes if you can help it!
- Don’t share towels (or anything else) with anyone. Seriously. Don’t do it, no matter how well you know someone.
Take Action Fast
It is not difficult to keep yourself better protected against nail and skin problems in public places. But sometimes despite your best efforts, you may become infected.
If you do happen to end up with a case of plantar warts, athlete’s foot, or signs of fungal toenails, don’t wait to address them! Contact us at Northwood Foot & Ankle Center to get the best course of treatment started. The sooner an infection is cleared up, the sooner you can get back to the activities you love without risking the enjoyment of others.
Dr. Sundling and our other expert podiatrists and staff are here to answer your questions and provide the treatment you need. Schedule an appointment at one of our offices in Holland or St. Joseph by calling (616) 393-8886. You can also fill out our online contact form at any time and a member of our staff will reach out to you during practice hours.