Why to Have a No Shoes Rule in the House

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Why to have a "No shoes in the house" rule
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You can switch to natural cleaners, run an an air filter, and even use probiotics in the name of improving your home’s microbiome, but if you wear shoes in the house it may be undoing all your efforts. It took some time and research convince me, but there are many reasons to have a no shoes rule in the house. (And ask your guests to leave their shoes at the door too.)

Why a No Shoes Rule Is Best

It’s not always easy to “train” every member of the household to take off shoes each time they come in (especially if you have kids going in and out constantly like I do), but it is possible with (a lot) of reminders.

Although overly sterile environments and harsh antibacterial cleaners have their own problems, it’s not just good, clean dirt shoes are tracking into the house.

Here are some of the reasons why we follow a no shoes rule at our house:

Keeps Toxins Out

Toxins enter the house in a number of ways. They can make their way in through the air (indoor air is actually more toxic than outdoor air), in the household products we use, and especially on the bottom of our shoes.


A study performed at Baylor in Texas found that a chemical found in coal-tar-based pavement sealant was in homes that were adjacent to asphalt treated with the sealant, indicating that it was tracked in on shoes. The study also found that those who lived adjacent to asphalt pavements with coal-tar-based pavement sealants were at an increased risk of cancer. Most of the increase was in children.


Another toxin that can make its way into our homes is 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic Acid, an ingredient in many herbicides that kill broad-leaf weeds but not grasses (like lawn turf and cereal grains). 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic Acid was found in homes where this lawn chemical was applied to the lawn either professionally or by the homeowner. The study found that the most likely cause of the chemical making it indoors was activity level of children and pets and wearing shoes inside (vs. taking them off at the door).

If you use herbicides currently. consider making the switch to a natural lawn.

Reduces Harmful Bacteria

It’s not just environmental toxins that make it into the home on the bottom of our shoes, it’s harmful bacteria too. One study found that 421,000 units of bacteria on average are on the outside of the shoe (and 2,887 on the inside, yuck!). These scientists also found that shoes commonly harbored coliform and E. coli bacteria on both the inside and outside. Ninety six percent of shoes that were tested contained this harmful bacteria.

The scientists believe that the source of bacteria is most likely public restroom floors or outside areas where animal feces are present. The study found that shoes transferred bacteria to home floors anywhere from 95 to 99 percent of the time. Washing shoes with detergent reduces bacteria by 90 percent, but this isn’t possible with all shoes depending on what they’re made of. Leaving shoes at the door seems to be the easiest and best solution.

Considering many people go to a public restroom and then to other places (a restaurant, their office, etc.), it would make sense to consider most places we go in a day contaminated by harmful bacteria. Especially hospitals. In one study, C. difficile (a potentially dangerous bacteria that causes diarrhea and is increasingly resistant to antibiotics) was found on 64 percent of shoes from clinicians and non-healthcare workers.

Cuts Down on Dirt (and Housework)

I don’t worry if my kids get some dirt in their mouth while playing outside (as long as it’s not clearly contaminated), since dirt can contain many strains of beneficial bacteria which help build the immune system.

But, dirt in the house is another story. As a busy mom, I don’t have time to sweep and wash floors multiple times a day. When you have little ones who crawl around on the floor (and even eat things off the floor!) it makes sense to keep the floors as clean as possible — especially because of the other harmful substances that can come in on shoes.

Not tracking in dirt (and toxins) with our shoes is an obvious solution.

Improves Foot Health by Going Barefoot

In Asian cultures it’s customary to remove shoes before entering the home. There are a few reasons for this, one being that they see barefootedness as good for the feet (and overall health). The Chinese have been practicing reflexology for centuries and believe that being barefoot helps stimulate pressure points on the feet for optimal health.

Modern science backs it up too. A review found that wearing shoes can constrict the structure and function of the feet. Those that walk barefoot are more likely to use the entire foot in an anatomically correct way. Not wearing shoes also helps you be more aware of your stance and can improve gait.

It’s not always possible to be barefoot outside (if shoes can bring all of these contaminants inside, our feet probably could too) but choosing to be barefoot while at home can help avoid many of the issues of wearing shoes.

How to Get Guests to Remove Shoes

While Asian cultures see it as rude to wear your shoes inside, in America it can get tricky to know what to do. Taking your shoes off at another person’s house without being invited to (unless your shoes are visibly dirty) may be considered rude. In our society many consider shoeless-ness casual “dress” and more appropriate when you know the person well.

On the other hand, it may feel awkward to ask a guest to take their shoes off. Here are some tips for letting your guests know you’d like them to take their shoes off (without offending them):

  • Set an example – One way to know if you should take your shoes off when visiting a home is to take a cue from the family you’re visiting. If they take their shoes off at the door, it’s probably best to take your shoes off. So, at your own house, make it clear at the door that everyone takes their shoes off by creating a space for shoes. Whether it’s a boot tray, a large entry mat, or something else, give your guests a clue.
  • Consider offering slippers – If guests feel uncomfortable going shoeless, consider offering a pair of slippers or house shoes that they can wear.
  • Give them a heads up – If you’re expecting a guest, let them know ahead of time that you’d like them to take their shoes off. It can help avoid catching your guest off-guard (with mismatched, hole-y socks perhaps?). A quick “We usually take our shoes off at the door to keep out dirt, just to let you know” isn’t too forceful but gets the message across.

Why Take Shoes Off at Home? Bottom Line

Taking shoes off before entering your home will help reduce toxins and harmful substances from entering the house. We spend so much time choosing the right cleaners, furniture, and beauty products, it makes sense to do one extra simple thing (take shoes off!) that can make a huge impact on the health of the home and family.

Do you wear shoes in your home? Why or why not?

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


76 responses to “Why to Have a No Shoes Rule in the House”

  1. Syeda Fatima Avatar
    Syeda Fatima

    Wow, what a great discussion this is. I’m of Indian origin and not only do we remove shoes upon entering our homes, but we would never store them in closets either. Going barefoot at home is also the norm. Washing our feet at least twice a day is also normal, especially for Muslims who are required to wash the as part of ablutions necessary for prayer. In our washrooms, we also keep a pair of slippers just for washroom use and they never get out of the washrooms.
    Growing up this way I was taught that this was to ensure hygiene. Hope it helps someone!

  2. Lauren Avatar

    Our household has been a shoes off one since forever. I grew up never wearing shoes at home, and ever since I’ve had a home of my own, I’ve always had a shoes off rule, I don’t want dirt from shoes tracking inside the house. Shoes bring dirt and whatever was on the ground outside.

    However around 8 years ago we made a change. We changed our rules from a no shoes rule, to a no shoes, no socks/barefoot only rule. Requiring guests to take their socks off too, might seem like overkill. But we had just put in timber floorboards, and linoleum, which can be slippery. My three daughters especially and occasionally their friends would trip and fall if they were running around in socks. And for a while I have never liked sweaty socks on my floors. For much of the year, a lot of our guests wore sandals or other shoes without socks, so they would be barefoot anyway when they took them off. I don’t think it is that much of an ask to require the socks to come off as well.

    We inform new guests ahead of time of our rules. I also have a handmade sign on our front door that says in big letters “Please take off your shoes AND socks”, so we are being very clear. Occasionally though I have to remind some of my daughters friends to take their socks off. Some of our friends have also copied our rules for their homes, and are also pleased with them.

  3. Stephanie Avatar

    What about those with Pets and pet sitters? They come freely in and out and I can’t stay at the door to wipe paws every few minutes. TIA

  4. Danielle Avatar

    In Canada this is just the norm. My brothers girl friend is American and we all look at each other funny when she walks in with shoes on. How do you handle this in the winter do you all just have slush and mud in your homes??

  5. Karen Avatar

    I don’t scorpion stings so shoes in house!
    Mostly sandals that are worn in house 99% of time.

  6. Erin Avatar

    How do you handle it when elderly grandparents visit and they have to have special orthopedic shoes to walk? It is painful to go without and very expensive to buy a “backup” pair just for indoors, especially when they don’t visit often. Also, when my mom visits, she doesn’t have special orthopedic shoes, but her feet hurt very badly without shoes. She won’t buy an extra pair for indoors and thinks it’s silly we have a “no shoes” policy, even after using all of the explanations. I grew up in a house that still believes it’s rude to take shoes off, how do you convince them otherwise? I don’t want to cause a fight in the family, but it is irritating to me when I think of all the reasons you listed above it’s so gross! But to insist or continue to point out our reasonings will cause issues.

  7. Brit Avatar

    I became insistent on no shoes in the house when my 1 yo had elevated lead levels. The health department inspector who came to our house said that lead dust from painted porches (or even just the dirt around the foundation of our old home) can make its way inside via shoes. It does get so, so tricky with guests though. 🙁 I still haven’t found a non-awkward way to remind with certain beloved family members who continue to wear their shoes inside.

  8. Sheila V Zangrilli Avatar
    Sheila V Zangrilli

    Here’s something to think about. I have terrible arthritis in my feet and falling arches. I can’t walk without proper shoes on and by that I mean shoes with arch supports. If you insist that visitors remove their shoes remember that some folks have medical reasons ( diabetes being another condition) that they can not do so. I get the concern my crawling grandson puts everything on the floor into his mouth and my daughters family asks folks to remove their shoes. I tried but found it too painful. Find out what your guests need to help you.

  9. Jennifer Avatar

    Raised in an Asian house in Virginia we did the no shoes thing. Since I’ve moved to Ca and my yard is all sand rocks and thorny weeds we have house slippers and outside shoes. While I love the idea of bare feet and I’m not afraid of dirt there is just no escaping the tiny caltrops that pop up to stab you in the foot and hurt for days. I wish we could walk barefoot through the grass but sadly we don’t have any grass here.

  10. Steven Messier Avatar
    Steven Messier

    My girlfriend Rhonda, her mom Rhonda & I live together & go barefoot year round in the house. We both grew up in households where going barefoot inside was the norm & wearing shoes/socks inside wasn’t. That being said whenever our close personal friends/family or coworkers come over to visit we have never had to ask/tell them to remove their shoes/socks. Friends, family, & a few coworkers(including our boss ShariAnn) naturally slip off their flip flops at the door when they come over to visit(as they see & know that we are a barefoot household). All of our family, close personal friends, coworkers (including ShariAnn) have barefoot only households/apartments too.

    That being said there are (healthy) benefits to having a no shoes policy in your home. Just thinking about where we all walk during the day & what we walk through & collect on the bottom of our shoes is most certainly enough reason to have a no shoes policy at home. Every family household & culture is different & there is no wrong answer to this post. Every family (household) has to do what they believe is best for them as far as comfort & health in their home.

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