Should you consider going shoeless at home?

Removing shoes before entering a home is common in many countries around the
world. According to a

recent poll
, the majority of Americans also prefer being shoeless when they’re relaxing
in their home. But is it really necessary to take your shoes off at the
door? Here’s a look at the health issues surrounding the practice to help
you determine if it’s a habit you’d like to implement in your own home.

Germs and more

If you have kids old enough to play outdoors, you know it’s easy to track
dirt into your home. Tracking in germs is just as easy.


a 2008 study
, new shoes were swabbed for bacteria after they’d been worn for two weeks.
Coliform bacteria,
, were found on the outside of 96 percent of them.

Most coliform bacteria are harmless, but E. coli can cause intestinal and
urinary tract infections. Their presence on the shoes indicated that the
shoes had frequently contacted fecal matter, either from a restroom floor
or from animal waste on an outdoor surface.

The study also found that the shoes were as good at passing on bacteria as
they were at picking it up. They transferred bacteria to previously
uncontaminated tiles at a rate of 90 to 99 percent.

Coliform aren’t the only bacteria hitching a ride on our footwear.

Infections from a type of bacteria called clostridium used to occur mostly
in hospitals. To see how much the bacteria had migrated to other

University of Houston

researchers sampled public areas, health care settings, and shoe soles in
the U.S. and 12 other countries from 2014 through 2017. They found that 45
percent of the soles tested positive for
, which causes inflammation of the colon and severe diarrhea.

In addition to bacteria, your shoes can pick up allergens like

mold and pollen
, as well as such

harmful substances

as lead, flame retardants, and pesticides.

Don’t panic

While all these are good reasons not to wear shoes in your home, they aren’t
as frightening as they sound.

The truth is, shoes aren’t the only items in your house loaded with

Your phone

has more than 10 times the bacteria of most toilet seats. And your

kitchen sponge

is probably a better place than a laboratory petri dish to grow diverse
communities of bacteria.

If you have

a pet

that goes outside, they’re tracking in germs regardless of what you do. And
they’re less likely than you to avoid places where they’ll encounter a lot
of germs.

The good news is that you typically need to contact

a lot of bacteria

in order to get ill.

Expert views

Scientists have mixed opinions on the importance of taking off your shoes

Jinhee Jo, an author of the University of Houston study, says you should
take them off “to help reduce the risk of catching C. difficile.”

Kevin Garey
, an author on the same study, says “bacteria on shoes likely pose no or
minimal risk” to healthy people.

Still, if you have young children who spend a lot of time

on the floor
, you may want to consider having a shoeless home. That’s also true if
someone in your house has problems with their immune system. Having everyone
take their shoes off before they enter a home won’t make the home germ-free,
but it should reduce the number of germs everyone in the home encounters.

What to do

If going shoeless indoors seems like too much trouble, there are ways to
reduce the risk of your shoes making you sick. One is to buy an
antimicrobial doormat. Another is to

clean your shoes


If you decide to implement a ditch-your-shoes-at-the-door policy, consider
having some slippers or indoor shoes near your home’s entrance that you can
easily change into. Just make sure they

provide support

and don’t have smooth soles. A study of older adults found that more half of
their falls occurred when they were barefoot or only wearing socks or

The whole foot

It’s true that taking off your shoes when you walk in the house can reduce
the levels of bacteria in your home. Whether that’s worth the added effort
depends on your personal preferences and circumstances.

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