Do Rented Bowling Shoes Pose a Health Risk?

Weekend Doctor
By DR. THOMAS F. VAIL
I was recently interviewed by the editors of HGTV magazine for their September issue to comment in their section “How Bad is It ...” and to explain whether rented bowling shoes pose a health risk.
 
I have commented vigorously throughout my blogs, Facebook and Twitter about the importance of sterilizing shoes to prevent fungal infections of the feet and toenails, and was asked the question, “What may be lurking inside those leather lace-up bowling shoes that dozens, if not hundreds, of people have worn?”
 
Rented bowling shoes can be a host to several microorganisms including fungus, bacteria and the virus that causes warts.
Although the likelihood of getting a virus such as warts or a bacterial infection of the foot from rented bowling shoes is low, if you have a blister or open sore and the shoesare infected, and you are not wearing socks, then it is possible to pick up this type of infection very easily.
 
Fungus likes a moist, dark environment, so if bowling shoes are damp from sweat and have an odor, don’t be shy, ask for another pair.
It would always be best to wear moisture-wicking socks that are copper infused or have nano bamboo charcoal fibers. Both of these materials help to promote blood circulation and restrain microbial growth. Although it’s unlikely your local bowling alley is using a UV light to disinfect the insides of shoes, this is the most effective method of killing the organisms that live in your shoes.
 
I recommend the sterishoe sanitizer, which is the only product clinically proven to kill up to 99.9 percent of problematic microorganisms that cause onychomycosis or toenail fungus, athlete’s foot and offensive shoe odor.
 
I recommend this as a must for all my diabetic patients as part of their general foot care regimen since foot infections are a major health risk.
 
At the very least, a bowling alley should incorporate an antifungal spray or powder in-between use of their rented shoes. The best fungicidal, sanitizing deodorant spray for your shoes is Mycomist, which incorporates the active ingredients chlorophyll, formalin, and benzalkonium chloride.
 
Formalin is a proven disinfectant and fumigant with penetrating power. Benzalkonium chloride is an all-purpose antibacterial agent, and is a good disinfectant for fungi. It is useful in sterile storage, and as a detergent as well as a germicide. Chlorophyll is used effectively for deodorization.
 
Other good choices are Lotrimine AF liquid spray and Zeasorb AF powder. Without sterilizing a shoe properly, the chance for fungal infections rises. A fungal infection of the skin is easier to clear than one of the nails. The disease, characterized by a change in a toenail’s color, is often considered nothing more than a mere blemish. Left untreated, however, it can present serious problems and lead to painful thickened toenails that can take years to treat.
 
Also referred to as onychomycosis, fungal nails are infections underneath the surface of the nail, which penetrate the nail.
 
Fungal nail infections are often accompanied by a secondary bacterial and/or yeast infection in or about the nail plate, which ultimately can lead to difficulty and pain when walking or running. Symptoms may include discoloration, brittleness, loosening, thickening or crumbling of the nail. A group of fungi, called dermophytes, easily attack the nail and thrive on keratin, the nail’s protein substance.
 
In some cases, when these tiny organisms take hold, the nail may become thicker, yellowish-brown or darker in color, and foul smelling. Debris may collect beneath the nail plate, white marks may frequently appear on the nail plate, and the infection is capable of spreading to other toenails, the skin, or even the fingernails.I always recommend that people purchase their own bowling shoes if they plan on playing frequently. Vail is with Advanced Footcare Clinic, Findlay.
 
Questions for Blanchard Valley Health System experts may be sent to Weekend Doctor, The Courier, P.O. Box 609, Findlay, OH 45839.