So, about those shoes you just tried on: Did you ever stop to think how many other feet have also been inside them?
Fungus that causes athlete's foot and the virus that causes plantar warts can lurk in shoes, says North Carolina podiatrist Jane E. Andersen, DPM, a member of the American Podiatric Medical Association.
Athlete's foot is a condition marked by itchiness, cracking and scaling on the feet-- particularly on the bottom and edges of the feet and between the toes -- as well as some discoloration. It's caused by the same kind of fungus responsible for jock itch, and warm, humid conditions -- such as damp socks and shoes -- are favored by the fungus.
Meanwhile, plantar warts are caused by the human papillomavirus. Transmission of the virus isn't very easily done through direct contact alone, but if there are small cracks in the skin, the virus can enter into the body. And just like athletes' foot-causing fungus, the virus loves moist environments.
However, the risk of contracting warts and athlete's foot from trying on shoes is probably a lot lower than you might think, Andersen says.
"The things that are really high-risk are areas where there's a lot of moisture," Andersen tells HuffPost. "So where you're much more at risk are poolside, or the gym locker room, or in a public shower. Those are areas are the highest-risk areas for transmission," versus something like walking through a drier environment, she says.
Turns out, those little boxes of disposable socks that shoe stores provide to you are there for a reason. Fungus and the wart-causing virus can lurk in shoes, especially shoes like boots, where moisture may be trapped inside. "A dry environment is less conducive to fungus than a moist environment," she says.
There are also some people who might want to take extra care to protect themselves, as they have a greater susceptibility to infection. Older people, for instance, may not be able to fight off infections as well as younger people. The same goes for people who are immunocompromised, whether it be because of a medical condition (such as diabetes), or otherwise.
"There are some people who ... just, for whatever reason, their immune system doesn't fight it [infection] off as well," Andersen says. "So if you try on boots on the store, and someone else had fungus, and you put your sweaty foot back in your shoe, there's certain environments where it's more likely to take hold. And that's a moist, sweaty environment. So if your feet are more prone to that, you'll be more likely to have it."