Runners can claim to be pretty healthy overall, but they certainly can’t boast about being the cleanest. You know it’s true because we all blow our noses on shirtsleeves when out on a run and sometimes rock seven toenails after tough outings (and brag about them).
Still, when you take a look inside the average runner’s gym bag, you can’t help but get the heebie-jeebies. Check out this list of the five germiest items a runner owns, and then stock up on anti-bacterial everything.
It’s obvious—to everyone within nose shot—that the inside of your sneakers are gross. Hot, sweaty, and with minimal ventilation, running shoes are a germ’s dream. Luckily, since your foot is the only thing going inside it, the risk of picking up infections is pretty minimal. Still, it’s not a bad idea to wear anti-microbial socks, especially if you have a history of toenail fungus, athlete’s foot, or warts. At the very least, anti-microbial socks can make the stench slightly less nauseating for your running buddies when you peel them off after a run.
Still, the inside of your shoe is nothing compared to your soles, according to one University of Arizona experiment that found the outsides of shoes contain more than 140 times as much bacteria as the insides. Even if you spend your runs on pavement or well-established trails, it’s likely that the soles of your shoes are going to come into contact with bodily secretions, including animal (and, sorry to break this to you) human fecal matter, says Philip Tierno, Jr., Ph.D., director of clinical microbiology and immunology at New York University’s Langone Medical Center.
That’s why you should leave it at the door. In the Arizona experiment, more than 90 percent of bacteria on shoes—including E. coli and Klebsiella pneumonia—transfer onto tile flooring when worn inside. Tierno recommends slipping your shoes off and either spraying the soles with a germicide or putting them in some sort of a container that will keep them from rubbing against and infecting your other belongings. And, whatever you do, don’t touch your shoes and then eat a protein bar.