What the Yuck: Do flip-flops really protect me in the gym shower? ww
December 10th, 2010
06:42 PM ET

What the Yuck: Do flip-flops really protect me in the gym shower? ww

Too embarrassed to ask your doctor about sex, body quirks, or the latest celeb health fad? In a regular feature and a new book, "What the Yuck?!," Health magazine medical editor Dr. Roshini Raj tackles your most personal and provocative questions. Send 'em to Dr. Raj at whattheyuck@health.com.

Q: Do flip-flops really protect me from catching something in the gym shower? The water pools right onto my feet!

A: The warm, moist environment of shower stalls make them a dream breeding ground for bacteria and fungi. Flip-flops help a little bit, but you’re right: If there are stagnant pools of water and you step in them, you might as well be stepping in barefoot! The thing you’re most likely to catch is athlete’s foot—a treatable but annoying fungal infection—but there are plenty of other nasty bugs out there.

Your gym should be frequently cleaning the showers (and the walls, which are equally gross) in between users. If you don’t notice your health club doing this essential step, wait until you get home to shower off.

Roshini Raj, M.D., is Health magazine’s medical editor and co-author of “What the Yuck?!.” Board-certified in gastroenterology and internal medicine, Raj is also an assistant professor of medicine at New York University Medical Center and a contributor on the “Today” show.

Copyright Health Magazine 2011

soundoff (700 Responses)
  1. Cynical Randy

    Anybody that's ever been in the military knows to urinate on their feet, especially their toes, in the shower to prevent athlete's foot and other moist mung that grows in there.

    Sound gross? *shrugs* So does taking off your shoes one day and it looks like Walt Disney puked between your toes.

    December 10, 2010 at 22:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bob

      It always works for me! The over the counter medicines take too long to work. Pee works fast!

      December 11, 2010 at 06:36 | Report abuse |
    • publius enigma

      Foot condoms!

      December 11, 2010 at 10:28 | Report abuse |
    • Costanza

      A drain's a drain.

      December 11, 2010 at 22:32 | Report abuse |
    • Susan T

      I was in the military and I never did this! Urine is sterile how can it prevent anything?

      December 12, 2010 at 10:54 | Report abuse |
    • girlonthego47

      peeing on my toes is the best part of my gym visit 🙂

      December 12, 2010 at 17:48 | Report abuse |
    • ubershaman

      I was in the military. The rule is "don't pee on your hands" NOT "pee on your toes."

      December 13, 2010 at 01:15 | Report abuse |
    • ubershaman

      And more, read this article http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2700/can-urinating-on-your-feet-in-the-shower-cure-athletes-foot

      December 13, 2010 at 01:22 | Report abuse |
  2. Bobo

    Urinating on your feet does NOT prevent or treat athlete's foot. OMG you're clueless.

    December 10, 2010 at 22:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Truth Hurts

      OMG you sound stupid

      December 12, 2010 at 11:06 | Report abuse |
    • ubershaman

      OMG @TruthHurts Bobo is right.

      December 13, 2010 at 01:23 | Report abuse |
  3. jennifer@hotmail.com

    I always mentruate on my feet. But only because it looks cool !

    December 10, 2010 at 23:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jennifer@hotmail.com

      OMG I spelled it wrong. Menstruate. I'm not a dumb blonde.

      December 10, 2010 at 23:31 | Report abuse |
    • phatslim

      A dumb brunette then? Correcting your spelling did nothing to change the fact that you're nasty.

      December 11, 2010 at 12:14 | Report abuse |
    • FreeSpiritGal

      @Jennifer: Right on, sister! LOL!

      December 11, 2010 at 19:15 | Report abuse |
    • walleye46

      You are a PIG.

      December 11, 2010 at 21:30 | Report abuse |
    • David, Tampa

      I love nasty

      December 12, 2010 at 21:13 | Report abuse |
  4. Bill

    Jennifer.....that is uh, pretty gross.

    December 11, 2010 at 00:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Donna

      Well, the column is called "what the yuck".

      December 11, 2010 at 12:36 | Report abuse |
  5. adam

    i got athletes foot and good god do my feet itch like the dickens! gotta scratch em til the skin is gone then it still itches but also burns

    December 11, 2010 at 01:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lola

      Buy some cheap tea bags (or save used ones) and soak your feet in tea. The tannic acid in black tea helps dry up the fungus.

      December 11, 2010 at 02:29 | Report abuse |
  6. howie

    I tried to sell flip flops at Purdue University to make some money in 1953. I was way ahead of the times. I sold only a few, mostly to swimmers and to Purdue's first Golden Girl (lead majorette). I should have use her for endorsements, but I was not a business major. I assume that the swimmers use them to wear around the swimming pool and in the showers.

    December 11, 2010 at 01:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Lola

    I've spent lots of time in gyms, and I've used some scary showers. I use molded plastic slippers with thicker soles, not only to stand up higher out of any pooling water but so they don't absorb any of it. Then I soap and rinse my feet in the sink. I rinse the shoes. I make sure my bare feet never touch the floor. An extra measure you can take is to bring a bottle of diluted white vinegar with you and rinse your feet with it. If in doubt, carry a bottle of Lysol and spray the shower before you enter. Last thing upon leaving after dressing: wash your hands.

    December 11, 2010 at 02:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Clint

      It's nice that you're so thorough. I'm sure that washing your feet in the sink, endears you to everyone.

      December 11, 2010 at 12:15 | Report abuse |
    • cam

      Oh great, now because of people like Lola we have to worry about getting athletes foot on our hands. Thats gross washing your feet in the sink.

      December 11, 2010 at 16:01 | Report abuse |
    • Lola

      Clint and Cam, it is possible for an agile person (me) to soap and rinse her feet in a sink without touching the sink.

      Figure it out.

      And the bacteria that people wash off of their hands after using the toilet or changing a baby are FAR more of a danger to you than foot fungus. Those sinks, and the handles on them, are likely to be full of e-coli, shigella, and other fecal contaminants.

      December 11, 2010 at 17:42 | Report abuse |
    • taildragon

      One day while teetering at the sink washing your feet, you'll slip and crack your head open. But at least the mortician will ooh and ah at your toes.

      December 11, 2010 at 21:31 | Report abuse |
    • Kristin

      That is beyond over-doing it. I'd rather get Athlete's foot and just deal with that rather than spend 45 mins cleaning myself off. Bring vinegar to the gym?? You are odd.

      December 12, 2010 at 18:43 | Report abuse |
  8. Snowflake

    Always wear water-shoes the entire time you're near hot-tubs, pools, showers. Once when I was at the pool, someone had an injury and was leaving little puddles of blood everywhere.

    December 11, 2010 at 03:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. moribundman

    Just wear stilts in the shower. Then pee on your feet.

    December 11, 2010 at 08:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • deb

      now that's a plan! first clever reply i've seen here in ages!

      December 18, 2010 at 12:58 | Report abuse |
  10. Nunya

    Great, let's make more stuff that trains the nasty bugs to resist even more things so they can't be treated!

    December 11, 2010 at 12:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Hevace

    Fungus and bacteria grow best in warm, moist, oxygen-poor environments LIKE THE INSIDES OF YOUR SHOES.

    The solution, believe it or not, is to not put your shoes on at all.

    December 11, 2010 at 14:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Lisa

    Slippers or water shoes that are tall enough to avoid puddles are fine. Rinse your shoes before stepping out. Keep your shoes in an OPEN plastic bag in your locker so they can dry out. Once they dry out the bacteria will die. Wash your hands. Make it a point to take your water shoes home once in a while and wash them with soap and water.

    If you are super paranoid, carry some prepackaged anti-bacterial wipes and wipe between your toes before putting on your socks and shoes.

    December 11, 2010 at 15:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Stacie

      Athlete's foot is not a bacteria, it is a fungus. Anti-bacterial wipes will do you no good.

      December 11, 2010 at 16:27 | Report abuse |
    • AGeek

      As Stacie points out, you're probably also the type to demand an antibiotic for a viral infection. It's this kind of thinking (and pandering to it on the part of physicians, PAs, and so forth) that gives us the gift of evils like MRSA. Lisa, I believe you're of the species Elephantius ingornamii. Please, give the planet a break and trust the people with the letters after their names. Really. They *do* know what they're doing (most of the time; when not being badgered, berated, or otherwise annoyed into oblivion by your ilk).

      December 11, 2010 at 19:53 | Report abuse |
  13. John

    I've never worn flip-flops, and i used to live in a fraternity house for 3 years. I've never gotten anything. Are my feet invincible?

    December 11, 2010 at 15:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lola

      Depends which frat. Some of those frats are full of fussy, vain guys who probably get pedicures.

      December 11, 2010 at 17:39 | Report abuse |
    • David, Tampa

      Never got anything Poor guy KKKKKKKKKKKKKK

      December 12, 2010 at 21:15 | Report abuse |
  14. Crater

    Out of concern for the well being of others, I make it a habit to pee on people's feet. It often goes unnoticed in a hot shower, but surprisingly few have thanked me for my concern in public urinals.

    December 11, 2010 at 17:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. annie

    I got a toenail fungus from the hospital showers, and nothing worked to get rid of it until someone told me about Vicks Vapour Rub. It is not completely gone but it is working good so far.

    December 11, 2010 at 18:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Emily

      I know someone who wraps their feet in plastic wrap after covering them with vapor rub. She uses it to heal the dry cracking on her feet. It seems to work for her...she has done it for years.

      December 13, 2010 at 08:54 | Report abuse |
  16. owarfhupwairepqughqpugh

    May be. Not as much as soap on a rope, though!

    December 11, 2010 at 19:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. AGeek

    Holy sh!t. I'm never using a gym again. Some of you would embarrass a Neanderthal.

    December 11, 2010 at 19:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kristin

      Hahaha! Love it!

      December 12, 2010 at 18:45 | Report abuse |
    • David, Tampa

      So what R U? Cro-magnon?

      December 12, 2010 at 21:17 | Report abuse |
  18. nathan wallner

    Defense is all natural Nunya, check out our website and see for yourself. What we have coming is a foot cleaning device, there will be an answer to dirty feet coming out soon.

    December 11, 2010 at 21:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. warex

    Science Project for Everybody.
    Go to a gym and take showers with flip flops. Wait 30 days and record what you see on the bottom of the flip flops. Guareentee you will not use flip flops anymore!
    Instant cure for athletes foot? Apply Apple cide vinegar before you go to bed, when you wake up rinse your feet, then add cayan pepper in your socks. At the end of the day apply apple cide vinagar again. Repeat this process for 2-3 days. It worked for me! Havent had athletes foot again! But it does burn. Hey no pain no gain.

    December 12, 2010 at 03:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. LoL

    Reading some of these comments and some of you take cleanliness to a whole new disturbing level.

    While athlete's foot is definitely gross and a real danger in public showers, you're not really all that likely to catch anything horrible in a public wash area that is at least decently cleaned. I use flip-flops, but I'm not going to vacuum-seal my feet and legs and perform acrobatics across the room to avoid touching anything. I don't lick my feet and I am mindful of cuts... I am not a germaphobe, either, so maybe I just have a healthier immune system. Really, some of this stuff is just common sense.

    December 12, 2010 at 04:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Strozy

    no comment

    December 12, 2010 at 05:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Jeffrey Scott Thomas

    lol....some people here must have OCD


    December 12, 2010 at 07:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. JRT

    Urine is sterile and was used by the Egyptians and the Mayans to clean cuts and small wounds. It also has Urea in it which also...(wait for it ) kills Fungus. So.... there is at least a grain of truth to peeing in the shower to kill athletes foot fungus.

    December 12, 2010 at 11:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • AGeek

      Urine is only sterile if extracted directly from the bladder. That procedure also requires sterile instruments and a sterile field. Additionally, while urea is found in antifungal treatments, it is not there because it has antifungal properties – you'll note there are actual antifungals in the preparation. Nice try with the bullsh!t theory though. Just make 'em up as you go and toss it out as fact.

      December 12, 2010 at 19:37 | Report abuse |
    • David, Tampa

      What do ya think ear drops are? Sorry about that if ya didn't know...........(Preperation H is shark liver oil) have a shark bite ya in the butt if you have problems there. Oh boy working night is bad for ya!

      December 12, 2010 at 21:19 | Report abuse |
  24. DA

    1) Use a jet pack so your feet never touch the ground 2) Cut off your feet – hey, you can't get athlete's foot if you have not feet (of course, you can get fungal infections elsewhere) 3) Clean the damn shower area yourself 4) Don't go to the gym at all. Four viable solutions. You can thank me later.

    December 12, 2010 at 11:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • girlonthego47

      wow you really put your thinking cap on for this one 🙂

      December 12, 2010 at 17:51 | Report abuse |
    • Emily

      I shall go with the jet pack theory. Now...where to get a jet pack!

      December 13, 2010 at 09:00 | Report abuse |
  25. bubbleboy

    Hey guys, I have this awesome product I'm developing just for this situation!
    All you do is step into this plastic bubble, seal it off and voila, no more worrying about these various fungi invading your feet! amazing!
    and you can still pee on your feet too if it floats your boat

    December 12, 2010 at 12:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Peter

    Rubbing Alcohol is the cheapest and fastest way to get rid of athlete's foot if you don't like to pee on yourself.

    December 12, 2010 at 15:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. glehb

    Personally, I like to pee on OTHER people's feet while I'm in the shower...but that's just me.

    December 12, 2010 at 18:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Johnny

    The worst shower in the country?

    L.A. Fitness Men's Locker Room in Ft Lauderdale, FL. It's really sticky and nasty. When someone flushes the toilet in the 3rd stall, sewage starts seeping up from under the tiles. The floor goes from dry to wet when the toilet flushes.

    December 12, 2010 at 19:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • wmsJAX


      December 13, 2010 at 16:53 | Report abuse |
  29. my2cents

    Viruses and bacteria don't infect you unless your skin is broken, and on the tile or concrete floors of a public shower/bathroom this can happen, and I think flip flops/sandals do help you avoid getting scratched or punctured by surfaces/artifacts on the floor. I used this one fitness club's shower just once or twice, and I ended up with one wart on the bottom of each foot, so I've learned my lesson about the risks of going barefoot in such facilities.

    December 12, 2010 at 20:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • AGeek

      Interesting – if not a completely bullsh!t answer. Athlete's Foot is a fungal infection, not bacterial, nor viral. Please see my reply to Lisa above.

      December 13, 2010 at 07:44 | Report abuse |
  30. aslkkks

    It sure is great to see some people in the world still have a great sense of humor. You've brightened the days of a lot of people. Perhaps thousands. I sure would hope so since there are some very funny comments here. Some of you definitely have a gift for writing.

    December 12, 2010 at 23:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Dave

    Peeing on your feet DOES NOT stop athletes foot. And no, they DON'T teach this in the military except as a last resort.

    Flip-flops are only MARGINAL at best at protecting your feet in the shower. Water splashes onto your feet even if there is no standing water. Where the flip-flops ARE effective is outside the shower.

    The best thing you can do is wash your feet and dry them thoroughly. You can use a after shower treatments such as wipes, but what is effective on virus, bacteria, and fungus are all different - probably the best would be something with at least 60% alcohol followed by an antifungal spray.

    December 13, 2010 at 03:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Rearview

    Spray your feet with lysol it is cheap and it works. It seems to take care of foot odor too. My brother had the nastiest feet on earth. I told him to give his feet a good spraying of lysol in the morning and then before bed, about a week later his feet stopped stinking.

    December 13, 2010 at 08:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. razzlea

    Check out my health and fitness blog http://razzlea.blogspot.com/

    December 13, 2010 at 09:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Barney

    Tea Tree Oil or Oregano Oil will cure it in a day or two. It will feel better quickly. The purer the better.

    December 13, 2010 at 14:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. pat partapapolous

    peeing on your hands does help with calluses

    December 13, 2010 at 22:18 | Report abuse | Reply
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