a pair of canvas sneakers, borax

Not long ago, we heard from an older adult who is staying physically active. She realizes that activity can help her stay healthy and sharp, but occasionally there are stumbling blocks. She wrote us to find out how to get rid of foot fungus lurking in her shoes.

Athlete’s Foot Fungus:

Q. I have contracted athlete’s foot for the first time in my life. I probably picked it up at my yoga class.

I am treating it, but my question concerns my shoes. Is there a way to kill the fungus in them so I don’t re-infect my feet?

I wear Birkenstocks mostly, and I don’t want to have to dump them all. Will time in the sun possibly kill the fungus, or should I spray bleach inside them?

Discouraging Foot Fungus in Shoes:

A. Leaving shoes to air-dry in the sun is a good first step to killing the fungus. Some people spray the insides with Lysol, rubbing alcohol or another disinfectant to kill the fungus. Bleach might be quite effective, but we worry that it could damage the shoes.

Try sprinkling a foot powder containing cornstarch and zinc oxide in your socks or shoes to control athlete’s foot. Zinc oxide has antifungal properties that could be quite helpful.

Cherry wrote:

“Wet a paper towel, squeeze excess water out, then soak with white vinegar. Wipe your feet down 2x a day (once in morning, once at night) with this vinegar-soaked towel. That will kill the smelly foot fungus.”

White vinegar might also be sprayed in the shoes between wearings.

Don’t Wear the Same Shoes Two Days Running:

It’s also smart to switch shoes frequently so you don’t wear the same pair two days in a row. You don’t need a closet like Imelda Marcos’s to accomplish this. If you have only two pairs, you can alternate, wearing one pair and then the other.

You mention Birkenstocks. Wearing sandals is a smart way to help combat foot fungus, since the shoe is open to the air as soon as you remove your foot. The other solutions we have suggested might also help.

Other readers have suggested going barefoot when possible, such as in your own home. This exposes both the foot and the shoes to air and helps discourage the fungus that causes athlete’s foot.


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  1. Betty

    I have a long plastic foot-sized container with lid, I put vinegar water in it and when I watch tv at night I put my feet in it for a while, The soak and the vinegar both help to keep foot fungus away and my feet soft. When done soaking sometimes I put urea cream lightly on them. Or vaseline lotion. My feet are pretty good for an 83 year old.

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