Shoe Care & Comfort

Can You Get Toenail Fungus from Used Shoes?

Shoes are the ideal place for fungal spores to live. It’s easy enough for a fungus to live in your shoes, but it can be even riskier to wear someone else’s shoes or used shoes bought at a thrift store.

If someone with a toenail fungus wore a pair of shoes and some of the fungi were left in the shoes, it can continue to survive for quite some time.

Toenail fungus not only thrives in shoes, but it is also extremely contagious to others. That’s why sharing footwear with people who ‘may’ have a fungus should be avoided at all cost.

It doesn’t take much to get a fungal infection. Wearing used shoes can make it easy to ‘catch’ it right away, and the more you wear those same shoes, the worse it could become.

How Long Does Toenail Fungus Live on Surfaces?

The problem with pre-owned shoes is that toenail fungus can continue to live in a shoe for a long period of time. Yes, the nail bed of a toe provides extra moisture and ‘food’ for a fungus to grow.

But how long do fungal spores live on their own? It isn’t exactly known how long spores can live. However, we do know that fungus can survive on a surface for up to six months.

So, it’s safe to assume the spores have a similar lifespan. That’s a long time. That’s why buying used shoes can be risky. You never know who wore them before, or how long they have been on the shelf. If it’s only been a few days or weeks, a fungus could still be active inside them.

You might think you’re safe wearing a friend or family member’s shoes, but no one is immune from getting toenail fungus. People close to you may have it. If it’s in an early stage, they may not even realize what they’re dealing with, so they don’t think it’s a problem to lend out their shoes.

Unless used shoes have been disinfected and cleaned, it’s best not to wear them. Fungal spores can live on for too long to take a risk. In some cases, that even means you should disinfect your shoes that you haven’t worn in a while.

This guide will cover what you can do before wearing used shoes to protect yourself from toenail fungus. Used shoes can be risky to wear when you aren’t sure where they’ve been.

But there are things you can do to avoid contracting a fungal infection from the shoes themselves and kill off any fungus that might be lingering inside.

Should I Throw Away My Old Shoes?

If you’ve ever had toenail fungus before, it could still be lingering in some of your footwear. Even if you only wore those shoes for a short period of time, it doesn’t take much for an infection to latch onto a surface and continue to live and grow.

Toenail fungus usually has a variety of different symptoms when it’s growing underneath the nail. Some of those symptoms can linger in your shoes. If your shoes are emitting a bad smell or you can see something growing inside, the infection could still be sticking around in the toe box.

But, even if you don’t see clear signs of toenail fungus in your shoes, it’s still a good idea to make sure they are safe before wearing them again. You don’t necessarily have to throw out an old pair of shoes, but you should take precautions before slipping them on once more.

Let’s explore some of the ways to do just that.

How to Kill Fungus in Old Shoes

Shoes that you wear should always be disinfected if you’ve recently had a fungal infection. If you have to wear someone else’s shoes, it’s important to make sure they are clean and disinfected, too.

You should try to avoid wearing used shoes altogether, especially if you don’t know who has worn them prior to you. But, there are still ways you can protect yourself from toenail fungus even if you wear someone else’s shoes.

1) Ultraviolet Shoe Sanitizers

You may decide that sprays and foot powders just isn’t for you. Thankfully, technological advancement has made it easier than ever to sanitize your shoes without creating a mess. One of the products that help to do this is the SteriShoe Ultraviolet Shoe Sanitizer. This product uses UV rays to help get rid of fungus for good.

The sterilization rate is up to 99.9%. It disinfects, deodorizes, and dries out your shoes to help get rid of all the nasty symptoms associated with toenail fungus.

So, if it’s not a powder or spray, how does it work? You place the shoe sanitizers inside each of your shoes using the included bags for safety. The UV bulbs go to work immediately, disinfecting and deodorizing your shoes.

You also don’t have to worry about misusing it. You insert the product into your shoes, turn it on, and let it go to work. A cycle takes precisely 15 minutes.

The inserts will turn off on their own once the time is complete. You don’t have to think twice about timing things out for yourself or wondering if you’ve given them enough time to work.

If you’re worried about the safety of UV rays, this particular product has your protection in mind. To use it correctly, you need to put the inserts into the bags that are included.

This will help to protect your eyes. But, you shouldn’t stay too close to or look at the inserts while they’re working. Since you don’t have to worry about turning them off, you can set them and walk away, leaving yourself safe and protected.

2) Shoe Deodorizing Sprays

Toenail fungus can cause your feet and your shoes to end up smelling horrible. As stated above, a bad smell coming from the toes is one of the most common symptoms of a toenail fungus. That foul odor tends to stick around inside your shoes.

When it combines with other bad smells caused by sweat, it can be almost unbearable to put on your shoes. That smell can also seep out of the shoes, causing embarrassment if you’re in a public place.

There are many different shoe deodorizing sprays. A spray that only deodorizes your shoe can help with the bad smell caused by a toenail fungus. But, if you want to protect your feet and your shoes, you should look for a deodorizing spray that also helps to kill bacteria and fungus, too.

how to disinfect shoes from toenail fungus

One of the best sprays that kill bacteria and fungus is 10-Seconds Shoe Deodorizer and Disinfectant. It disinfects while taking the smell out of your shoes at the same time. It’s an EPA-approved spray that is used all over in professional gyms and even in hospitals to keep things clean. It can be used as often as needed to clean out lingering bacteria and fungus from your shoes. It’s great for athletes, kids, adults, and anyone who regularly deals with bad-smelling footwear.

A deodorizing shoe spray isn’t the same thing as a disinfecting spray. A deodorizer can help to get rid of the bad smell of your shoes. But, if you want to kill any existing fungus from inside your shoes, you need to either use a combination spray or a specific disinfecting spray.

3) Antifungal Shoe Powder

One way to rid your shoes of lingering toenail fungus is with an antifungal shoe powder. Powders like these are often marketed toward people with athlete’s foot.

Athlete’s foot is a similar condition, but it affects the skin rather than the nails. Still, an antifungal powder that is sprinkled inside your shoes (especially the toe box) can help to kill off whatever fungal spores might be inside.

Most antifungal foot powders work in different ways. First, they contain antifungal ingredients that can help to kill off the infection lurking in your shoes.

Products like Zeasorb Antifungal Treatment Powder contain Miconazole Nitrate. It’s an ingredient that stops the growth of fungus. When a fungus can’t continue to grow, it will eventually die out. An antifungal powder can also help to relieve symptoms associated with fungus, like bad smells or itching.

These foot powders also work by absorbing excess moisture from your shoes. Remember a fungus grows best in moist environments. Many people sweat through their feet throughout the day, leaving a lot of moisture in their shoes.

By sprinkling a bit of the powder in your shoes once you take them off, it will pull away moisture from the shoes. The less moisture in the shoes, the harder it will be for a fungus to continue to thrive.

Some antifungal shoe powders also contain deodorizing properties. So, you don’t have to live with that embarrassing symptom lingering in your shoes.

4) Best Socks for Toenail Fungus

Toenail fungus can start to grow in your shoes due to the socks you’re wearing. It doesn’t matter if you’re an athlete or simply someone who sweats a lot, sweaty socks can quickly lead to a fungal infection on your toes and in your shoes. You need specific socks for sweaty feet.

You might think any type of sock would be fine when it comes to keeping moisture at bay, but that’s not true. Some socks hold onto moisture and can ‘trap’ it in the fabric. The longer it stays trapped there, the better the environment for fungus to grow.

So, what are the best socks to prevent getting toenail fungus?

The best antifungal socks start with the right material. If you’re prone to getting sweaty feet, you should look for socks that are made from:

  • Merino wool
  • Polyester
  • Olefin
  • Drymax

When your feet start to sweat, these materials will help to wick away moisture rather than keeping it trapped inside your shoes. One of the most popular solutions for active individuals is the Merino Wool socks by Danish Endurance.

They will ensure that your feet remain warm in cold temperatures but wick away moisture in the warm summer months. They have antibacterial properties that will keep your feet safe when active.

How To Get Foot Fungus Out Of Shoes

If you want a pair of socks that actually help to fight against bacteria and fungus, try Vitalsox Performance Bacteria & Fungal Resistant Crew Socks. They are made of silver, drystat, lycra, and nylon.

These materials help to keep moisture away from your feet, making it harder for a fungus to grow. The silver in the fabric is also naturally resistant to different types of bacteria. If you’re currently treating a fungus or have gotten rid of it, these socks are a great option for keeping it away and keeping your feet healthy and dry.

5) Natural Methods

If you want a natural way to get rid of the symptoms of toenail fungus from your shoes, there are several options. It’s important to find a solution that will disinfect as well as deodorize. Use these DIY solutions to keep your shoes clean and your feet healthier.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is often used as a home remedy for getting rid of toenail fungus. If you want to use it as a treatment option, you can apply it in a paste-form by mixing it with apple cider vinegar or even hydrogen peroxide.

If you have fungus already in your shoes, baking soda can work just as well on its own as a substitute for an antifungal foot powder. All you need to do is sprinkle a bit of baking soda into your shoes at the end of each day.

The baking soda soaks up any excess moisture from the shoes. It will also help to deodorize your shoes and keep the fungus from spreading.


Vinegar is known for its acidic properties, which can be useful in getting rid of toenail fungus.

Vinegar will neutralize any fungus that’s growing in your shoes and help to keep it from growing and spreading. It will also help to get rid of any odors caused by the infection. Apple cider vinegar also works just as well.

Does Sharing Shoes Spread Fungus?

There are a few personal items you should never switch or share with other people. Shoes happen to be one of those things. Many people think it’s a myth that sharing shoes is risky. But, it can lead to several health risks or conditions.

Sharing shoes with someone cannot only lead to you getting toenail fungus. You’re also putting yourself at risk for things like athlete’s foot, or even plantar warts. Any foot condition that could be contagious can easily be transferred to you when you slip your feet into someone else’s shoes. They are breeding grounds for fungus, and it’s hard to keep yourself completely safe.

If at all possible, never trade or share shoes with someone else, no matter how well you know them. They may not know they have a toenail fungus or may not think it’s a big deal. Unfortunately, that can transfer to your nails quickly and become a problem in your shoes the next time you put them on.

Can I Protect My Feet When I Wear Used Shoes?

It’s understandable that some people want to buy or borrow used shoes. Shoes can be pricey, so buying them used can help you to save some money.

The risks, though, can often outweigh the reward. If you do want to continue buying used shoes, either from a thrift store or from someone you know, make sure you’re taking proper precautions before you wear them.

how long does toenail fungus live on surfaces?

To lower your risk of getting a toenail fungus, do the following before putting on your used shoes:

  • Inspect the shoes first. Do they have any holes or spots where they are worn out? Do they smell really bad? Shoes have a certain lifespan. If they are starting to show heavy signs of wear and tear, it might be best to avoid wearing them altogether.
  • If your shoes can go in the washing machine, you should run them through a cycle. This will help to get them clean on the inside and outside.
  • Once you’ve washed your shoes, let them air dry in a sunny, dry place. Don’t put them on your feet when they are wet or damp in the slightest.
  • If possible, remove the existing insoles of the used shoes and put in new ones.
  • Apply an antifungal powder or spray to the shoes before you put them on.

These steps don’t guarantee that you won’t pick up a fungal infection from a pair of already-worn shoes. But, they can lower your chances significantly. Remember that it won’t be possible to see a fungus in your footwear.

How to Prevent Fungus from Growing in My Shoes

Because toenail fungus is so easy to get, it’s hard to prevent it altogether. If you have a fungal infection in your toenails, it can spread to your shoes quickly. If you’re wearing used shoes, it may already be present inside them.

There are things you can do to kill fungal spores inside used shoes:

1) Air Dry

Don’t underestimate the power of sunlight and air drying your shoes. Give your shoes a chance to ‘dry out’ after you’ve worn them for any length of time. Place them in a dry, sunny spot. The sun’s UV rays will have a similar effect as some of the options that have been discussed already.

2) Switch Out Shoes

Try changing out which shoes you wear every day. Whether they are used shoes or have been your own forever, rotating your shoes will give them a chance to dry out. It will also give your toenails a better chance at slowing down fungal growth.

3) Change Socks

If you’re prone to sweaty feet, buying the right socks is essential. But, you can also help lower your risk of fungus in your shoes by changing your socks throughout the day.

People with sweaty feet should have an extra pair of socks with them. If you notice that your socks are damp by the middle of the day, change into a clean, dry pair. The less time your feet have in a warm and wet environment, the better.

4) Antifungal Solution

Even if you don’t currently have a fungus, your shoes can be better protected by an antifungal treatment. This is especially true if you’re wearing used shoes.

Spray with a disinfectant or use an antifungal powder each day before you step into the shoes. These things may not prevent a fungus entirely, but they can help to lower your risk and keep your toenails healthier.

5) Good Foot Hygiene

One of the best things you can do to keep fungus away from your toenails and out of your shoes is to have a solid foot care routine. It’s easy to ignore your feet until a problem comes up.

Don’t wait until you can’t stand the foul odor or until they are embarrassing to look at. Take care of your feet every day. When you do, you’ll notice a fungal infection sooner (and you’ll be able to treat it faster).

Wearing someone else’s shoes can be problematic, especially if you don’t wear any socks with your shoes. Any bacteria or fungus that has been lingering in their shoes can easily get transferred to your toenails. You can also contract other foot conditions like athlete’s foot.

Disinfecting a pair of shoes is a great way to help prevent such things from happening. But, avoiding shoe sharing altogether is the best way to prevent getting an infection from someone else.

We hope this guide has been helpful if you’ve considered sharing shoes with someone or buying used shoes. There are a variety of ways to reduce your risk of getting toenail fungus.

There are also lots of ways to treat it if you have one. But, taking preventative measures is the easiest way to keep toenail fungus at bay. Use some of the helpful tips and solutions listed here to protect yourself and keep your shoes free of fungus.