Coronavirus Information Center

A recent study in Emerging Infectious Diseases, found SARS-CoV-2 to be easily spread by the shoes of health care workers. Moreover they found the virus to travel up to 4 meters/13.1 feet between patients.


Study authors collected samples from floors, computer mice, trash cans, and sickbed handrails, and found evidence of contamination, moreso in ICU wards than general wards (GW). 50% of the shoes tested positive for the virus, and authors state, “the highest rates were for computer mice (ICU 6/8, 75%; GW 1/5, 20%), followed by trash cans (ICU 3/5, 60%; GW 0/8), sickbed handrails (ICU 6/14, 42.9%; GW 0/12), and doorknobs (GW 1/12, 8.3%). Sporadic positive results were obtained from sleeve cuffs and gloves of medical staff.”

They continue, “these results suggest that medical staff should perform hand hygiene practices immediately after patient contact.”

Looking at aerosol transmission of the virus they found, based on airvent measurements, the ability of the virus to travel downstream and upstream despite air currents. They write, “Sampling sites were located near the air outlets (site 1), in patients’ rooms (site 2), and (site 3). SARS-CoV-2 aerosol was detected at all 3 sampling sites; rates of positivity were 35.7% (5/14) near air outlets, 44.4% (8/18) in patients’ rooms, and 12.5% (1/8) in the doctors’ office area. These findings indicate that virus-laden aerosols were mainly concentrated near and downstream from the patients. However, exposure risk was also present in the upstream area; on the basis of the positive detection result from site 3, the maximum transmission distance of SARS-CoV-2 aerosol might be 4 m.”

Current social distancing of 6 feet between others may not be adequate.

It also implies that shoes and clothing could bring the virus home and those who are around others who may have COVID-19 need to wash their shoes and clothes thoroughly to prevent cross-contamination.

Or shoe covers may need to be warn by those who work in medical centers and thrown out prior to leaving work.


The CDC recommends washing linen shoes in the “warmest possible temperature setting”, if using a washing machine, and letting them dry completely.

Leather shoes may pose a challenge, due to their destruction in water and chemicals. Other shoes, such a clogs, can be cleaned with soap, water, or diluted bleach solutions as advised by the CDC here.

Article written by

Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP