The Unintended Consequence of Getting Healthy

After eating whole foods, the next step on most people’s path to health is working out. That’s where life likes to throw you a curveball. Is it possible working out can actually make you less healthy? Well, when it comes to foot health, working out can actually cause viruses and fungi to thrive.

Warm and wet shoes are the perfect breeding environment

Long runs, steep hikes, and swimming are all tough on your feet. Runners develop blisters, lose toenails, and deal with tired, sore feet. Hikers’ feet are vulnerable to small cuts and wet socks, while a swimmer’s flippers can rub sores or break toenails. All of these conditions leave openings for fungi and viruses to make their way into your skin or nails.

It turns out the same shoes that protect your feet from taking a pounding while working out create the perfect environment for certain conditions to thrive. Plantar warts and toenail fungus both feel right at home in the warm, wet environment of a post-workout training shoe.

The locker room is a bacteria nursery

Studies show that locker room benches, shower handles, and the faucet handles in a gym all harbor unsafe bacteria that can make you sick. For example, if you sit down on the bench after your shower to get dressed, the surface can have more bacteria than a dog crate. Going barefoot on the wet floor can leave you with athlete’s foot, ringworm, or toenail fungus.

Fungus enters the nail bed when it separates from the toe. So anytime you trim your nails back too far, break a nail, or stub your toe on furniture, you’re vulnerable to toenail fungus. Dulling or yellowing of your natural nail color is the first indicator that you may have an infection.

Plantar warts are caused by a common virus and usually appear on weight-bearing parts of your feet. The first noticeable symptoms are pain when walking or visible black wart seed dots on the bottoms of your feet.

Diagnosis and treatment

Infections of the feet and toenails develop over time rather than appearing overnight. Symptoms may become debilitating over time, so consult a doctor for a proper diagnosis.

There are several common types of toenail infections, but they all result in unsightly thick, brittle, cracked, discolored nails. Warm trainers and moist socks provide the perfect incubator for fungus to multiply. Historically, the fungus is hard to treat, with oral and topical medications taking months to make headway. Recent studies show remarkable results for sufferers with treatment by laser delivering a faster, easier return to health.

Plantar warts don’t always require treatment since the body’s natural immune response will eventually win out. If the warts are painful or unsightly, your doctor can freeze the tissue or cut off the blood supply with injections.


It seems counter-intuitive that working out can expose you to illnesses, but your feet bear a lot of weight. Keep your feet healthy by airing them out, wearing thongs in the gym locker room, trimming your nails properly, and giving them a rest. If exposed to fungus or virus, work with your doctor to eliminate it as quickly as possible before it impacts your daily life. You depend on your feet for a lot, so pamper them to stay healthy.

Certified SportsNutritionist and Health Enthusiast

I’m Nick – a nutrition enthusiast who takes his healthy lifestyle at heart, and an avid Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu athlete. Being the main author and founder of, I’m constantly looking to expand my experience and knowledge of food, health, sport, and organic living, so I can become the best version of myself, and help others achieve the same.

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