The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Toenail Fungus: Do UV Shoe Sanitizers Work?

Posted by on Friday, June 19th, 2015


Toenail fungus is one of the most insidious conditions among patients seeking podiatric care. Though the exact incidence of recurrence is not known, rates as high as 53% have been reported, indicating that more than half of all toenail fungus patients suffer from chronic infections that don’t seem to go away, even after seeking treatment. Part of the problem, say New York podiatrists at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine, is the ease of re-infection by coming into contact with more of the fungus adulterating the patient’s daily environments.

“It’s easy to see how toenail fungus becomes a chronic problem when you consider the reproduction of fungal colonies,” explains Dr. Katherine Lai, DPM. “Tiny microscopic fungal spores contaminate everything from towels and bed sheets, to socks and shoes. Therefore, effective treatment relies on attacking the root cause, but also addressing issues of cross-contamination.”

chronic toenail fungus
Shoe sanitizers are a helpful tool in combating chronic toenail fungus. Image Source:

What Are The Symptoms of Toenail Fungus?

Occasionally, toenail fungus can be mistaken for psoriasis of the nail or the toll of old age. A fungal colony may appear as a white, brown or yellow patch on the nail — usually starting at the corner of the big toenail. Often, the entire nail thickens and yellows, and the edges may begin to crumble like chalk dust. Toenail fungus is not a problem that clears up on its own, so you will need to seek treatment from a podiatrist for this ailment.

Why Do Shoes Require Toenail Fungus Treatment?

“The shoes really become breeding grounds for fungus because the environment is naturally damp, dark and full of sweat and bacteria that fungi loves to feed upon,” says Dr. Lai. “It makes sense, then, to either throw out all old and contaminated shoes or at least eradicate the microbes within your footwear as part of your treatment. Otherwise, it makes little sense to treat the feet and then stick them right back into a contaminated environment again.”

Do Shoe Sanitizers Work To Kill Fungus?

Ultraviolet shoe sanitizers claim to use the same technology as hospitals, which use UV radiation to kill pathogens in patient rooms and sterilize tools. However, all UV shoe sanitizers are not created equal, warns Dr. Mark E. Spier, a doctor of Podiatric Medicine from Columbia, Maryland, who uses shoe sanitization in his practice. In 2012, the Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program asked Angel Sales Inc., manufacturer of shUVee shoe sanitizers, to discontinue false advertising claims in which they said the product was recommended by “many doctors” and was backed by “clinical studies.” In actuality, all studies were done on cloth and plastic by the manufacturer and did not actually involve removing fungi from shoes, and the only “doctors” recommending the product were paid spokespeople.

By contrast, the SteriShoe® UV shoe sanitization device was independently studied by Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum, director for the Center of Medical Mycology. The test results, published in the July/August 2012 edition of the Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association, indicated that over 80% of the bacteria, fungus and viruses inside a shoe were eradicated with one use of the sanitizer. In some cases, up to 99.9% of the microbes were killed. The Wall Street Journal also recommends the SteriShoe device, which has been sold since 2008 and has the American Podiatric Medical Association’s Seal of Acceptance.

“An added benefit of sanitizing your shoes is that the same microbes that cause infection are also the same organisms that cause odor,” says Dr. Lai.  The newest generation of SteriShoe devices come with a scent cartridge to not only sanitize, but also deodorize with a pleasant freshening scent. Patients who are concerned about smelly feet can receive other advanced treatments from podiatrists, including prescription antiperspirants for feet, Botox injections, or a surgical procedure called a sympathectomy.

Treatment for Toenail Fungus in NYC

Here at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in Manhattan and Westchester, we take a comprehensive approach to toenail fungus treatment. While there are many methods of treating this fungal infection, there are no truly impressive cure rates for any one method. For very, very minor infections, a natural therapy like tea tree oil soaks might be enough to discourage proliferation. For most moderate to severe cases, we recommend one or two rounds of treatment with a toenail fungus laser, followed by a topical application and shoe decontamination with an ultraviolet shoe sanitizer. Oral therapy is another option, but the treatment cycle is long and requires regular liver monitoring. Unfortunately, any method of treatment will take six months to a year to clear, as we have to wait for the diseased nail to grow out and be replaced by newer, healthier nail. Our NYC podiatrists will work with you to find the best solution to get rid of unsightly toenail fungus once and for all.



If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.