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Columnist
Security measures still stepping on toes
Air Pockets
By Gail Todd | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 7/5/2009 12:00 AM

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Last week when Barb Person flew from Detroit to Minneapolis, she was sure she would arrive with a case of full-blown athlete's foot. Here's why.

Barb forgot she would have to remove her shoes at security and wore sandals to the airport. The person ahead of her looked like he hadn't bathed in weeks. Barb tried to sidestep her way through the scanning machine but could almost feel the fungus growing. She said she couldn't wait to deplane and take a shower.

Barb isn't the only person to bare her "sole" at security. When Ann Bihun returned from Europe, she also wore sandals without socks. Security agents overseas didn't see them as a threat and she didn't have to remove them. But to agents in New York, the sandals became possible lethal weapons and she had to walk shoeless where so many others had dared to trod. Ann said it was akin to walking barefoot into a public bathroom, which she would never do.

In the winter, when travelers wear socks with their shoes, bare feet aren't usually a problem. But last February it caused concern for my daughter's roommate, Erin, who flew to Los Angeles for a fancy dinner meeting. In order to look fashionable for her meeting, she wore a pair of tightfitting boots. By the time she got to the security checkpoint, they were even tighter. With the help of an agent, she got them off, but couldn't get them back on. So she carried them to her gate. On the plane it got worse. Her feet swelled so much she had to give the boots the boot. Erin went to her dinner meeting wearing a pair of flip flops she had in her bag.

But in the summer, sandals are often the shoe of choice and playing footsie with a bunch of strangers could cause you to return home with a souvenir you would rather not have.

Some passengers solve this problem by packing disposable shoe covers - like the ones surgeons wear over their shoes when operating - in their carry-on bags. Barb Caswell buys them by the gross at Home Depot. She even wears them in the winter to keep her socks clean.

But Barb admits it can add one more headache to clearing security. Last year while she was searching for her paper slippers, someone slipped off with her laptop.

There is an alternative. A California shoe designer has developed Ekostep, a disposable sandal that the TSA allows to stay on your feet when you clear security checkpoints. The sandal is made from recycled paper and is biodegradable. You can order them at ekosteps.com. But they are expensive. A package of five pairs will put you back around $30 if you include shipping.

Personally, I think a pair of loosefitting loafers and a pair of socks is the easiest way to get through airport security no matter what the season. In my book, that's putting your best foot forward.

Gail Todd, a free-lance writer,worked as a flight attendant for more than 30 years. She can be reached via e-mail at gailtodd@aol.com.