COVID-19. Your shoes have a responsibility too.

by Toni McKern
Footwear Door mat with home written on it COVID-19

Your shoes – what's their involvement in COVID-19.

Everyday, new questions, orders and advice is emerging on how COVID-19 is affecting every aspect of our lives.

It applies to all of us, but it vital for our healthcare workers know how to keep themselves and their families safe.

It’s been reported several times that the virus can live in the air for several hours and on some surfaces for as long as two to three days on some surfaces.

That means it’s becoming increasingly important that work-only and washable shoes are worn in hospitals and particularly, infectious wards.

Most important part of the shoe when it comes to infection control, it actual the sole according to emergency physician Cwanza Pinckney – whether its sneakers, work shoes or boots.

So, what shoes should you wear to work?

Health services is rightly considered an essential service, Pinckney thinks it’s best to have ‘work only’ shoes and socks. Even in non-coronavirus environments it’s good advice. Having dedicated shoes and socks for work prevents tracking germs and viruses to places outside the workplace. 

“I recommend having a dedicated pair of shoes to go out in and then a clean pair to change into be entering the house. Healthcare workers are always mindful to change shoes (and put work shoes in a sealed bag) before getting in the car and going home” says Pinckney in an article in HuffPost.

Personally, I’ve observed many healthcare environments, and particularly ICU and infection control areas, insisting that shoes worn in the department, stay in the department. This doesn’t alleviate the need to clean the shoes, but certainly keeps the spread contained.

It is also strongly suggested at the moment that healthcare workers wipe down shoes with disinfectant cloths frequently, and where possible, wear shoes that are machine washable or able to be washed in hot soapy water at the very least.

Dr Georgine Nanos of the Kind Health Group agrees that the water only needs to be over 27 degrees Celsius (or 80 degrees Fahrenheit) on a short machine wash to be effective in killing the COVID-19 virus, from what we currently understand. 

This applies to clothes also. Boiling them at high temperatures is not necessary… “however, please don’t ruin all your clothes by boiling everything, as that will add more stress and anxiety that none of us need right now.”

Probably not a good idea to do this with your good leather clogs though – leave those for general ward and hospital use. Strong alcohol and disinfectant can affect the glues and cause the leather to split, which then leaves them unusable in a sterile environment.

We quite understandably get confused between what is sanitising and what is disinfecting – that’s a whole new article – but for the time being, according to a 9now article, sanitising is the reduction of bacteria to safe levels. You can use off the shelf sanitiser in the washing machine, or without chemicals by applying steam.  Disinfecting using a good quality disinfectant or bleach is the only way to remove all contamination or germs. A good solution has at least 70% alcohol, is a diluted bleach, or household disinfectant registered with the EPA or is classed as hospital grade. Please be kind to your hands and wear protective gloves.

On a final note – where do you leave your work shoes?

As mentioned above, best to leave them at work. As a normal practice, it’s best to leave your “anytime outside” shoes outside the home, in the garage perhaps, and have “at home” shoes ready. It just ensures that you’re not tracking anything, including this wretched Corona virus into your precious house of relax.

Keep the kiddies in mind too. They have a tendency to play with shoes, so extra precautions need to be taken to hide the shoes away if you have littlies.

More reading: Australian cleaning and disinfection recommendations.

note: Wellness Footwear does not diagnose foot injuries and foot health. Please see your podiatrist for appropriate treatment for you.

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Footwear Door mat with home written on it COVID-19