Footwear Choices: Some Things to Consider in this Time of Covid-19

The imposition of the local quarantine here in the NCR, Philippines in order to contain this pandemic has been so sudden that most people have not been able to prepare properly and process what needs to be done during this time. The past two weeks have been focused on securing supplies for home and trying to give help as much as possible to our artisans and staff. Now on our third week of quarantine, I’ve been on “what could we have done” mode so I have been noticing small details here and there about personal quarantine protocols, or lack thereof, in our lives among other things. So in relevance to our line of work, I am writing some of the things that I have noticed while pondering how we can keep the virus out of our homes every time we go out.

  1. Footwear type – While waiting in line for grocery supplies today, I took note of the various footwear that people are wearing as I normally do whenever I’m out. Still worn by the people around me are a regular mix of rubber flip flops and sandals, some Crocs, and knit rubber shoes. Since it is already summer here, open footwear is typically preferred over closed shoes. Knit and fabric footwear is also favored since these usually are very lightweight and soft.

    During these times, our footwear may become unwitting particle carriers and it is often advised now to not bring in your outside footwear inside the house. It’s the same concept with our clothes but how often do you really think of washing your shoes after going out for errands or coming home from work?

    My advice regarding footwear type is to wear closed shoes when going out. Sneakers and boat shoes work best in my opinion, since they are easier to clean and disinfect while providing ample surface cover for your feet. These are also typically your beater shoes, thus it wont as painful to treat with alcohol and disinfectants. While Crocs type clogs are also good, the holes in the upper would require you to clean the footbed after use but still better than flip flops and open sandals.

    For those still working, closed footwear is the best, even if your dress code allows for casual, open footwear. Just be mindful of the sole material of your shoes.

  2. Footwear materials – The soles should be rubber/plastic for easy cleaning and disinfection. Leather and other organic soles should be avoided at this time as it might absorb fresh droplets and would definitely be harder to treat with liquid disinfectants.

    For the uppers, assuming that you are using closed shoes, synthetic nonporous materials work best. Crocs without the holes would have been ideal but synthetic leathers and leathers will also work great. Just make sure your leathers are oiled up so that fresh droplets will be resisted by the leather. EVA and synthetic leathers do not soak up water so leaving their surfaces untreated would be just fine. Just make sure that these do not have punch-through holes in them.

    I really wouldn’t recommend shoes with fabric uppers unless you can wash the whole thing with soap on a regular basis. Knit rubber shoes can easily absorb and retain droplets but that is in extreme cases which physical distancing is not practiced and in enclosed settings like the hospital. Rubbing clear wax (bees wax/candle wax) on the fabric then heating with a hair dryer can give it some water resistance if you really do not have any other choice. Here is a link to a video on how its done:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uscUP2-etaU

    For leather uppers, regular waxing or application of oils is recommended to minimize the risk of absorption. It’ll also make it easier to clean and recondition after.

  3. Disinfection/Cleaning – According to most health advisories, 70% alcohol solution would kill the virus particles on most surface materials. And that soap still works best. So a basic wipe with 70% undiluted alcohol to clean the footwear uppers if it cannot be washed with soap and water is the bare minimum. As for the outsoles, I normally use a concentrated disinfectant/bleach solution and spray it on a rubber mat then I rub my shoes against it before leaving it outside the house. I never bring shoes that I use outside now inside the house, even if it’s to clean them. For condominium settings, clean and disinfect, the soles at least, outside your unit before bringing it in then just leave it by the entrance or deposit into a plastic box (which would have to be disinfected regularly as well). The virus is not airborne so leaving the container open should be just fine, just make sure nothing comes in contact with it like children and pets.

    If you are wearing open footwear like flipflops, clean those immediately with soap and clean your feet immediately as well. It is advised to bathe with soap before interacting with others at home. Basic body hygiene is key.

    ___

Every small thing now matters to keep this threat from entering our homes. Practice social and physical distancing in public places. Take extra precautions in order to limit the virus’ movement by not becoming an unwitting carrier to it. We have lost so many people to this enemy already and we can fight it by taking precautions and doing everything we can to limit it’s spread. We must take the lessons from this event, survive and move forward, for those who we have lost to this enemy. Keep safe everyone.

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