Culture

Science Confirms Shoeys Are Really Freaking Dangerous, Especially If You’re Rich

Your Moët won't save you.

Shoey

Lets get this out of the way: Shoeys are disgusting. And that’s the appeal — why else would you scull a tinnie from a sweat-soaked pair of festival-destroyed canvas shoes?

But turns out combining novelty, alcohol and feet isn’t just a little funny-gross — it’s potentially really fucking bad for you. And it’s even worse news for rich people: that ironic Möet shoey is actually a bacteria breeding ground.

Intrigued by this hip-and-definitely-not-nearing-a-decade-old trend, the ABC roped together researchers from Western Sydney University to analyse the health risks of taking a shoey.

For science, WSU’s School of Medicine Gastroenterology Laboratory grabbed a bunch of sweaty sport shoes and submerged them for a minute in different alcoholic drinks, mapping how the shoe’s bacterial landscape changed. And boy, did it.

Turns out you can potentially contract staph from a shoey. Which is… bad: staph can lead to the likes of vomiting, food poisoning, diarrhoea, pneumonia, nausea, gastro and septicaemia (aka blood poisoning, which can be life threatening). While the study itself didn’t test whether staph could then survive in your body, the signs point to yes.

“Because the Staph aureus can cause toxins, and these toxins are quite resistant to heat, they’re quite resistant to an acidic environment and they can survive protein-breaking enzymes,” the study’s chief scientist Dr Vincent Ho explained.

“In theory, if you drink from that shoe containing Staph and its toxins, yes it can give you an acute gastroenteritis.”

But alcohol is a disinfectant, right? Well, yes — but there’s always still a risk of infection, especially with lower ABV (alcohol by volume) drinks. As you’d expect, higher ABV drinks like vodka did a much better job of eradicating bacteria. Somewhat surprisingly, a lot of more hops-heavy beers failed to carry bacteria as well, due to their lack of oxygen and nutrients.

Of all the alcohols tested, it was Champagne and sparkling wine that proved most susceptible. Actually, bubbly created more bacteria — because carbonation is created through a two-step fermentation process, a shoey of Champagne is a dream home for harmful bacteria including staph.

Additionally, shoeys are particularly risky due to their speediness — a three-second skol doesn’t give the alcohol any time to break down bacteria. But it’s a while yet before you’ll see people politely sipping shoeys in a health-code approved speak-easy, as more research needs to be done to prove that more time would definitely eradicate risks of infection.

In short, shoeys are, medically speaking, never a good idea.

We doubt the study will be the end of the shoey though. Last year, we did a painstaking investigation into this not-so noble Australian tradition, and it’s clear that we, for better or worse, have a long love affair with doing this incredibly dumb thing.

Photo Credit: Jack Bennett