The moist bacteria-and-fungus-breeding environment created within shoes is something most of us try to ignore. Unfortunately, the resulting odor -- not to mention possible fungal infection of your feet -- are another matter. Tossing your shoes in the washing machine isn't always an option, but using an ultraviolet (UV) shoe sanitizer is. These modern marvels use ultraviolet light to kill the bacteria and fungus that create foot odor and uncomfortable conditions such as athlete's foot. Our top pick, SteriShoe Essential, is approved by the American Podiatric Medical Association and kills an impressive 99.9 percent of bacteria with each use. Our guide will familiarize you with UV shoe sanitizers and the features that could make them the perfect addition to your closet.
Considerations when choosing UV shoe sanitizers
UV shoe sanitizers are typically one size fits all, and they work for most closed-toe shoes. However, if your feet are larger or smaller than average, you may need to look for a unit that comes in different sizes. Not all sanitizers work for high heels or sandals, so take a close look at the size and shape of the insert before buying.
If used inappropriately, UV lights can cause eye and skin damage. Be sure that when the sanitizer is in use that the light is contained within the shoe. Some models include a bag into which the shoe is placed while being sanitized. Another safety feature to look for is an automatic shutoff mechanism.
Insert vs. post
Sanitizers come in one of two types--insert or post. Insert models have a UV bulb connected to a main hub. The bulb is placed in the shoes with a cord connecting it to the power source. Post-style UV sanitizers have two posts onto which you place the shoe during sanitization. Insert styles can be taken on the road while posts are better left at home.
Sanitization time varies from model to model. Some of the latest designs can work in 15 to 20 minutes while earlier versions can take several hours.
Built-in timers are a lifesaver. Some timers have preset times while others allow you to customize. A customizable timer can be helpful if you need to sanitize boots or another style that's got more surface area to be sanitized.
Ozone sterilization kills bacteria and fungus. However, it can be toxic. As an extra safety precaution, place the shoes in a bag during ozone sterilization to prevent the ozone from releasing into the air.
UV shoe sanitizers range in price from $20 to $150. At the lower end of the price range, between $20 and $70, are basic sanitizers with smaller inserts designed to fit in almost any shoe. Models priced between $70 and $100 will likely have shaped inserts for a tighter fit. These models may also double as a drier. Post-style sanitizers are typically found for over $100. They're larger but also feature drying capabilities.
UV shoe sanitizers also require special bulbs that can be difficult and expensive to replace. They can cost anywhere from a few dollars to $25 each. You'll need to factor bulb costs into the overall cost of the sanitizer.
Q. How often should I sanitize my shoes?
A. UV shoe sanitizers can be used as much or as little as you need to. They aren't harmful to the shoes and, as long as the light is properly contained, they aren't harmful to you, either.
Q. Do UV shoe sanitizers work for sandals?
A. They can work for sandals, but there's a couple of issues you'll need to consider. First, be sure the insert will fit into the sandal. If not, it won't be effective. Second, the UV light will be visible from an open-toe shoe, so make sure the sandals are completely encased in a bag to prevent the light from damaging your eyes.
UV shoe sanitizers we recommend
Best of the best: SteriShoe Essential
Our take: While this unit sits in the high end of the price range, it's extremely effective at sanitizing shoes.
What we like: It's hard to beat the fact that the American Podiatric Medical Association approves. After 45 minutes, it kills 99.9%of bacteria and fungus.
What we dislike: It's pricey.
Best bang for your buck: Ayaprak UV Shoe Deodorizer
Our take: This model offers excellent flexibility with sanitizing times and does a good job of getting rid of harmful bacteria and fungus.
What we like: We love the three timed settings -- 15, 30, and 60 minutes. The insert design works for shoes and boots.
What we dislike: A few users have had problems with durability.
Our take: This dryer/sanitizer combo gets your shoes ready to go with a relatively short sanitization cycle.
What we like: It performs double duty--sanitizes and dries--and does it well. It can also be used for other items such as gloves and hats.
What we dislike: It only has one cycle length, which isn't always enough to completely dry or sanitize boots.
Stacey L. Nash is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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