Should You Wear Shoes in a College Dorm and Dorm Shower?

The nasty bugs that exist on college dorm floors are often overlooked in the heat of the college preparation process.  Before you head off to college, please make sure to protect your feet from these common medical ailments.

Sanaz Majd, MD
5-minute read
Episode #221

If you haven’t heard, college dorms are notoriously famous for the exceptionally swift dissemination of microorganisms. Viruses, bacteria, fungi, and mites: all live to engage in a germfest party when in tight, enclosed spaces. This means nursing homes, hotels, prisons, schools, and, yes, college dorm rooms.

There is good reason that colleges now require up-to-date vaccination records prior to entry. 

Here’s a topic that tends to slip our minds when it comes to our college preparation discussions: how to prevent the contraction of all of these organisms that set up shop on college dorm floors. 

We can get easily consumed by the endless list of to-do’s before cutting the parental cord: registration, setting up housing, the extensive shopping, updating your vaccines, hopefully devising your own college first aid kit, dealing with parental hovering. This means we can easily forget one vital item: your feet, a common nidus for infectious diseases.

Let’s find out why every college student living in the dorms should not leave home without a pair or two of flip-flops for the shower, and shoes everywhere else.


Athlete’s foot is one of those potentially embarrassing conditions that no one wants to admit to having, but is way more common than apple pie. You may be quite surprised at how prevalent it is after spending a day with me in the clinic. It always astounds me how people live with conditions like these for years, even decades, before discussing it with their doctor. Believe me, it’s not just for athletes. Anyone can get athlete's foot.

The reasons athletes tend to contract this fungus on their feet is because they break a serious sweat, and because they tend to walk barefoot all over the locker room and shared shower areas. Fungus is literally everywhere your feet go: in the shower, on the floor, around the pool, in hotel room floors, in our socks, and in our shoes.

People with athlete’s foot often describe the bottom of their feet and in between their toes as cracking, scaling, itchy, and sometimes red. When severe enough, it can even blister. This fungus can also spread to other areas of the skin to cause ringworm or toenail fungus. In order to prevent its contraction, simply follow one instruction: do not walk barefoot … anywhere.  Especially in shared spaces like dorm rooms and showers. 

You can also bleach your shower floors weekly and wash your socks in bleach to help prevent this disturbing bug from infesting your feet. If you already have athlete’s foot, then it’s vital to treat it before heading to the dorms.

See Also: How to Prevent Athlete's Foot

Along the same lines, toenail fungus is another very common foot condition that is contracted in the same manner. Fungus seeps beneath the nail and spreads from there. The nail often appears yellow, thickened, and even as though it is “lifting” off the skin. Even though it may be a potentially unpleasant sight, it is really a cosmetic issue. You can leave it alone if it is not bothersome, but to prevent your other nails from a similar fate, please follow the same instructions as for athlete’s foot.


Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only. This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider. Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.

About the Author

Sanaz Majd, MD

Dr. Sanaz Majd is a board-certified Family Medicine physician who graduated from Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. Her special interests are women's health and patient education.