The days are getting longer and the weather is getting warmer. For many of us that means emerging from our winter cocoon and heading outside to do something. Anything! We just want to be out in the fresh air and sunshine. 


While we're out and about, it's also a priority to stay as healthy and safe as possible. Being sick or injured is no fun, but when the weather is nice being “under the weather” seems even worse.


When thinking about staying healthy, have you ever given any thought about the bottoms of your shoes? New research conducted by University of Arizona  professors found that the cool pair of shoes you are wearing “could be a severe illness waiting to happen.”


The research “revealed just how dirty the bottoms of our shoes are” and collected “information on what really happens when we wear our shoes inside.” The team determined “viruses actually thrive better on shoes than toilets” and 

“over 90 percent of the time the bacteria transferred directly onto the clean (floors).”


Where does this contamination come from? “The common occurrence (96 percent) of coliform and E. coli bacteria on the outside of the shoes indicates frequent contact with fecal material, which most likely originates from floors in public restrooms or contact with animal fecal material outdoors...bacteria can be tracked by shoes over a long distance into your home or personal space after the shoes were contaminated.”


This is important to know,  especially if you have children. “Small children who play on the floor put their hands in their mouths an average of 80 times an hour.” A Good Morning America test examined the bottoms of eight different people’s shoes, as well as two dogs’ paws and found alarming levels of bacteria. 


So, taking your shoes off before you enter the main part of your home might not only be more comfy but also lessen the chances of a family member contracting a serious illness. 

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Along the same lines, Runners World magazine published an article dealing with “The 5 Germiest Items a Runner Owns.” It noted: “Wen you take a look inside the average runner’s gym bag, you can’t help but get the heebie-jeebies.”

Needless to say, shoes were at the top of the list of germ-infested items in the bag. But some of other things listed were also just as troubling. 


“Phones were consistently covered with microorganisms that could result in the flu, pinkeye, and diarrhea.”Using porta-potties, then touching your phone, then wiping sweat off your get the picture. Plus, the article asked: “That sweaty armband you put your phone in? When’s the last time you washed that?”


If you listen to music while you work out (as I do), most of us never think about the earbuds we use. “Earbuds create the perfect introduction for microorganisms to enter the body. Plus, think about it, where are your earbuds right now? Crumpled up in the bottom of a sweaty gym bag, perhaps?” (


I don't know about you, but after learning about all of this I wondered if I should burn all my shoes and construct a hazmat shower I my garage. For now, I think I will stock a supply of anti-bacterial wipes. The good news is: “Walking around your home barefoot is actually great for your health! Children who go habitually without shoes have stronger and more flexible feet, are less likely to  become flat-footed, and develop fewer podiatric deformities.”


Well, one way to keep your feet off the ground and away from those pesky bacteria might be to just ride a bike. But bike riding has its pitfalls too. “With the popularity of road racing, triathlons, and mountain biking on the rise, sharing the road with bikes has become a permanent fixture.” This is a good time of year for both automobile drivers and cyclists to review the rules of the road. In a recent “Ask A Trooper” article, Rockford Post Trooper Michael Antuma addressed some of the most common laws and questions that come up during this season. Trooper Antuma cautions: “Bicyclists to remember that they are smaller and harder to see on the road. As far as everyone else on the road, please be mindful of our bicyclists, they are smaller and easier to miss, but have a right to be on the road as well.”


A couple of items noted by the trooper caught my attention because so many riders use the roads circling Lakes Cadillac and Mitchell. One is: “Bicyclists should not and cannot carry anything in his/her hands that keeps both hands off of the handle bars.” Just like texting while driving an automobile is against the law, trying to do the same while riding a bike is a recipe for disaster. 


Another law is worth noting because so many family groups ride around the lakes. “Bicyclists can ride two abreast or two wide on the road. There is no group size limit; however common sense should prevail, and leave enough spacing in case of a crash or quick braking.” (


With all this in mind it's onward to summer activities. If you see me out there be sure to wave and say hello. I'll be easy to recognize. I'll be the guy with feet covered in plastic wrap. 


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at and