Barefoot Passengers in Disgusting Airports


I was returning this morning from Ft. Lauderdale and going through security with a few hundred other sun-kissed travelers when it hit me that most people were actually BAREFOOT going through the security line. I had my trusty socks on, but the majority of people were barefoot on carpeting that probably saw at least several thousand stinky sweaty feet a day. Disgusting! Don’t people realize that walking barefoot in an airport even for a short period of time puts their health at risk? I guess not.

Let’s talk about this. You would never walk barefoot in an airport bathroom, right? No. That would be completely gross to most Americans. Yet, the bathroom floor probably is cleaner than the carpeting in the security line. The bathroom floor gets cleaned several times a day with disinfectant. The carpeting in security might get vacuumed once or twice a day, but most likely gets actually cleaned very sporadically and only when something gets spilled. I can’t confirm this because the TSA agent working the security line had no idea when or even if the carpeting was ever cleaned!

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What’s at risk? Let’s make the assumption that you are a very healthy person with no chronic diseases that would hamper your immune system. What could you possibly pick up from a dirty carpet? Let’s just talk about the really common things because the list could actually be quite lengthy!

  1. Warts. Plantar warts (verruca vulgaris) are caused by a virus that infects the skin. This virus is very hardy and if you have children (or ever were one) you probably have seen or had a wart somewhere. They are annoying, but probably won’t kill you.
  2. Herpes. Yes, the herpes virus is also quite hardy and cutaneous herpes can be passed from individual to individual but certainly not as quickly or easily as the wart virus. Again, annoying but not deadly.
  3. Fungus. You know well the athlete’s foot fungus from your childhood. Hasn’t everyone’s mother warned them not to take a shower in the locker room barefoot so they won’t catch foot fungus? Same idea…..but again, annoying but easily remedied. PS. Fungus in your toenails can take up to A YEAR to eradicate! (Yes, it’s the same fungus).
  4. Staph. Our friend the staph bacteria is growing stronger and infecting more people every day. If you have any doubt on how nasty this bacteria can be you should read my article on "Deadly Pedicures". Staph can kill you and only needs a small opening in the skin to give you a major infection. MRSA (the really nasty staph) is more common than every before.

But you say you don’t have any cuts or holes in your feet so it’s probably OK for you to boldly walk through security at the airport barefoot. Think again! Let’s take a look at your feet. Any dry skin? Tiny little blisters? Maybe a rub mark from a sandal or a tight shoe? A minor ingrown toenail? These can provide openings for all our little microscopic friends that want to join us on our airplane journey. And let’s not forget. You are BAREFOOT! You could easily step on something, drop a piece of luggage on your foot or stub your toe on a bag and provide an easy opening…hello puncture wound!

So the next time you are traveling by air, either wear or bring a pair of socks. If you forget them, many airports will provide you with little booties to place on your feet to go through security. Your mother always told you not to go barefoot in a locker room. Common sense keeps you from going barefoot in a public bathroom. So why go barefoot through security? You may actually be saving your life with a pair of socks! Bring an extra pair and save a friend!

Dr Marybeth Crane is a board certified podiatric foot and ankle surgeon specializing in sports medicine. Your feet should last a lifetime! For more foot health tips, a copy of her FREE BOOK and doctor-approved foot care products, visit her website or read her blog. Your body will thank you for it!

Reprinted with permission from

November 27, 2010