“Due to health and safety concerns, as of April 28, 2013, Whitman College has placed a ban on Birkenstocks,” reads a post in the humor section of The Whitman Pioneer. The article went on to jest that the trouble began in the sixties when “a marked increase of foot fungus and ankle injury made its way to campus.” Writer Evelyn Levine also quoted one “Birkenstock educator” as saying, “Another problem is that we think the shoes last forever, that the greener the brown or tan pair gets, the more ‘street cred’ we have. Frankly, keeping shoes for that long is unsanitary.” While this may all be a joke, it does point out a real life concern — that many people are walking around in unsanitary footwear.
Backlash Against Flip-Flops
Lately there has been a backlash against flip-flops, which are often viewed as distasteful and unsanitary. Channel 12 News reporter Krista Baker quoted Dr. David Lawrence of Mon General Hospital in West Virginia. “If you are going to use flip flops you want to at least have good hygiene and spray them down with disinfectant,” he said. “The most important thing to remember is that they weren’t meant for daily use. They were meant to go from the pool to the shower or the beach.”
Similarly, Baltimore wardrobe consultant Lindon Rice says flip-flops are “unsanitary, unsafe and unsightly,” adding that “your feet are exposed to the elements” in this type of footwear.
Podiatrists agree that wearing flip-flops and open sandals should be limited, since the foot is not well-protected against injury, bacteria, fungus and other materials.
On The Bright Side…
It is easier to rinse off and disinfect a pair of cheap flip-flops than it is to clean out the suede material of Birkenstocks and other sandals — or athletic shoes, for that matter. We find the only real way to sanitize most shoes is to run them through a 45-minute cycle with the SteriShoe UV shoe sanitizer. Our device uses germicidal UVC light (like hospitals use) to kill up to 99.9% of the bacteria, fungus and microbes living within the footwear with just one treatment. Once the inside of the shoe is sanitized, you can always use a scrub brush, some water and a little bit of dish soap to cleanse the exterior.
Is It Time To Throw Out Those Old Toenail Fungus-Harboring Sandals?
We find that many people wear their shoes WELL past their prime — essentially bathing their feet in a Petri dish of germs. Here are a few signs that it’s time to ditch your sandals altogether:
– Have you been wearing your shoes 3-4 days a week for a year?
– Is the heel or sole starting to look lopsided?
– Are your straps stretched out or breaking?
– Can you see a permanent footprint of your feet?
Consider this: two New York Daily News reporters wore their flip-flops around the city for four days and found that their rubber shoes picked up 18,100 bacteria, including potentially deadly staph. Dr. Charles P. Gerba — professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona — added that he’s found 93% of flip flops are contaminated with fecal bacteria after three months of wear, and 20% have E. coli. Do you really want to put your feet back into those sandals at all?