Some people love the feeling of kicking off their shoes as soon as they walk in the door. Other people prefer to keep their shoes on in their homes.
Does it really matter either way?
It turns out that it might.
Although the focus is generally on keeping the floors clean or preventing dirt from being tracked in, it could also be argued that leaving your shoes outside or at the door is better for your and your family’s health.
The Germs That Live Under Your Shoes
People who prefer to leave their shoes on tend to note that wiping their shoes on a mat before coming is good enough for keeping the floors clean. However, even if you’re not leaving muddy footprints all over the floor, your shoes could still bring invisible harmful bacteria and other germs into the home.
Where domestic animals (pets or livestock) or wildlife are common, E. coli is a common contaminant found on the bottom of shoes. E. coli is a bacteria that can cause severe food poisoning and other infections. It lives in the intestines of people and animals and is commonly spread through contaminated contact with animal feces.
In urban settings, Clostridium difficile bacteria can put you at risk of infection. Investigations of household environments found shoe bottoms are the most common place this bacteria is found. And once it contaminates a surface, C. difficile can be harder to get rid of as it can form spores resistant to typical cleaning products.
Staphylococcus aureus is another dangerous bacteria that is commonly found on the bottom of shoes, especially for people who work in healthcare or food service settings.
In addition to bacteria, shoes can also track in pesticides and herbicides from outside, which can cause skin irritation and, in some cases, may potentially contribute to the development of cancer.
All of these risks can be especially dangerous for households with pets and young children who are more likely to play on the floor and put their hands or other objects in their mouths.
Although it is difficult for researchers to determine how often these contaminants are brought into the home on shoes and how often they cause infections or other health problems, it is generally reasonable to suggest that taking off your shoes at the door is a good hygiene practice.
Additional Tips For Increased Safety
In addition to taking off your shoes at the door, there are a few other things you can do to help reduce the risk of harmful bacteria and other contaminants being brought into your home:
- Vacuum and wash all floors regularly, as well as floor mats, rugs, and anything that shoes might rest on when you take them off.
- Keep all floors clear of clutter, so no one steps on or trips over anything.
- Use a shoe rack or storage area near the door or in the garage so that shoes are not left out where they may be tripped over.
- Place a bench or chair near the door so that you and your guests have a place to sit while you take your shoes off.
- If you or someone has balance or mobility issues, slippers or socks with grips can be very helpful for preventing falls.
- Be considerate of guests who may not feel comfortable taking their shoes off.
- If you do choose to keep your shoes on, be mindful of not putting your feet up on furniture.
It is always a good idea to practice good hygiene and cleanliness in your home, and taking off your shoes at the door is one simple way you can help reduce the spread of harmful bacteria and other contaminants.