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?
Discussion (76 Comments)
I live in Europe and it is common practice over here. Nobody wears shoes in houses.
Exactly! I think it is a cultural thing. We also have carpets in the living and dining areas, so one more reason to walk bear foot at home. If you have little kids who crawl, or simply play on the floor ( which is first 6-7 years), it’s just common sense to take shoes off when you enter.
Carpets can hide small, sharp objects that stick to the nap and don’t get vacuumed up. It has happened in my home, I have found pins (I do various forms of needlework and sometimes I guess I lose a pin!) I do encourage visitors to leave their shoes on but it is their choice. Their mental comfort matters to me. I don’t want bad vibes right from the get-go. Shoes? Fine. Shoeless? Fine. Socks? Fine! Barefoot? Fine.
I know especially in Denmark
Is it safe to keep shoes in your bedroom closet if you carry them in, or are we breathing in toxins?
Also if we leave shoes outside, any suggestions for keeping spiders out or getting rid of e.coli etc. on the inside of shoes? Yuck!
I have plantar fasciitis and don’t date go shoeless! I could have an indoor pair of flip flops with arch support but all to say I think plantar fasciitis would be a good topic for you to cover, especially prevention. Slightly off topic but you sometimes ask for suggestions. :)I have dozens of friends with it (I have lots of spirty friends but it also affects the overweight (I first got it when pregnant and though it was normal for my feet to be sore-I’m lucky I didn’t get bone spurs))and even children, like soccer players). It is a VERY tenacious, cyclical, and complex problem and prevention is key. It took visits to specialists and a lot of research and trial and error with athletes tape to remain athletic! Feel free to hit me up for tips.
Another reason is not to bring in a fungus from outside. I have a dog and 4 cats and myself all fighting a fungal skin infection that one of us brought in…I think it was one of my cats! So, in my case, I must learn to always clean pet paws, before coming back into the house. I am trying not to wear my shoes into the house anymore and to stop running outside in my slippers. Such bad habits!
Boat slippers might be a good option,the kind that are paper. you can slip them over your shoes,or socks,or barefoot,and probably are very recyclable. it is used by marinas to board peoples boats to prevent grease dirt etc…
As a barefooter, I don’t have this problem. 🙂 However, we do not require guests to remove his or her shoes. We don’t entertain much, so it really isn’t an issue. When guests do come over, most of the time he or she removes their shoes anyway knowing that we are a barefoot family. In regard to bare feet and germs, I read a few years back about an experiment that was done comparing bacteria on a bare foot as compared to a shod foot. The cultures came back showing the bare foot was much cleaner and safer than the shod foot. This was after the barefoot person walked all over the college campus, including a public restroom. The shod foot culture came back with results very similar to what Katie posted. The better results for the barefoot person (I feel) can be attributed to exposure to air and sunlight as well as the friction on the sole when walking. Any harmful bacteria was simply “walked” or scrubbed off. I have been going barefoot for 20 years and have been barefoot in just about every place imaginable. I am hardly ever ill, in fact I found that once I started going barefoot my immune system strengthened.
I tell guests that they can leave their shoes on if they clean my floors!
I WISH they would!
@Elizabeth. I wonder how welcome they feel in your home after being spoken to in that manner. How about just saying, “Do you mind removing your shoes? If you wish, I can give you slippers to wear.”
I find trying to get others to remove their shoes in our home a VERY frustrating experience. In our house we REMOVE them… EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. (we will have an occasional toddler streak through with them on because they just don’t remember every time) & we also ask our guests to… that is if they don’t catch a hint with the cute Western boot sign that asks them to remove their shoes, the piles of shoes at the doors from our own family, a small bench to sit down on to take them off, etc.
I have had many rude comments made when asking people to take shoes off & I just do NOT get it! I would not DARE make a hostess/host feel awkward about taking my shoes off in their home.. not even when 9 months pregnant & balancing to take them off.. with a toddler on one hip & other kiddos in tow! It REALLY blows my mind because almost all of the offenders, take shoes off in THEIR OWN home & ask THEIR guests to take them off (including OUR family when we go to THEIR houses), but they feel some sense of entitlement in OUR house?!
When we go to others’ houses we tell our kids ahead of time, take the cues when you get there (if we have never been there) to see if they want shoes off.. & if you aren’t sure, ASK THEM.. do NOT make them have to feel awkward by having to ASK YOU to take them off… & take them off immediately if they want them off.
It crazy that people are so paranoid about germs.. they use antibiotics without a second thought, they have their kids injected with all kinds of stuff to “prevent” illness, hand sanitizer up to their elbows, toxic sun block head to toe, etc…. YET they think it out of line to REMOVE shoes INSIDE someone’s HOME?!
Shoes are fabulous for protecting our feet, especially when we go into the GERMIEST, FILTHIEST, most DISGUSTING places.. I mean think about it… PUBLIC bathrooms, truck stops, movie theaters, public stadiums, sporting events, stores, schools, theaters, churches, gas stations, banks, malls, restaurants, etc.. there’s BLOOD, SALIVA, URINE, FECES, etc. Some even wear their regular shoes into their animal coops/ barn (we have specific boots/ shoes for that purpose because I don’t want those shoes in MY house…I would not even THINK of tracking that filth into someone else’s house.. that is just GROSS!) & then wear them everywhere else.
It BLOWS MY MIND that people just do NOT think.. if someone else wears their shoes into a SHOELESS home, then the barefoot family who lives there is tracking that FILTH into their beds, onto couches, it gets all over them if they lie on the floor (& on blankets, pillows, etc… ANYTHING else that is then on the floor), babies & kids EAT it when they eat off the floor (toddlers!), it gets onto baby & kid toys on the floor which then also gets ingested, etc.
I tell people, am NOT afraid of DIRT.. my kids are barefoot outside at home about 99% of the time… it’s the NASTY GERMS & DISEASES that I do NOT want tracked into my home… staph, strep, e coli, MRSA, other various viruses, etc. WHY people do NOT seem to understand that, BLOWS my mind!
Or I have had people take their shoes off in my home, only to then put them on right before they are leaving, & then they proceed to walk all over my house WITH THEIR SHOES ON..they suddenly forgot something.. or must use the bathroom… or want to do whatever it is.. .I just do NOT get it… REALLY.. we didn’t want your shoes on in the house before, but now after lying at the door for a bit they are magically clean so you may feel free to walk all over my floors & carpet where my family lives & plays because somehow the FILTH on your shoes is now SANITARY?! OR I have people take them off at the front door, then go back later & put them on to go into the back yard… BUT they WALK THROUGH my house with the SHOES ON… MIND BLOWN!
The prize taker is when people have on slip-on shoes, flip-flops, & sandals and don’t want to take shoes off?! I mean how hard is it to slip them off?!
Again, I am all for dirt, but shoes are just filthy & I do not want my family lying in filth, ingesting it, etc. and I just do NOT have the luxury of extra time to shampoo my carpet & scrub the floors in my house after guests come & traipse through my house with shoes on.. nor should I have to go through all of that extra work to keep my family’s living environment HEALTHY.
I do understand that some people may forget & have to be asked to remove them, but when you’ve been to someone’s house more than a few times, it should NOT be a huge challenge to remember to be considerate.
As you can probably tell (lol), your post hit a nerve for me! It’s been an ongoing battle with shoes in our home for about 25 years… & I am really tired of it! The good thing is that my KIDS will now ask people to take them off.. but even then, sometimes people try & act like they didn’t hear my kids. It’s just common courtesy, or so I thought…
Good for you it’s hard to be firm in your beliefs and to stick to them..
I have a friend/neighbor who milks about 40 cows. It’s not a huge operation but before you go into his barn, you wash your boots off with a bleach solution so you don’t drag nasty stuff in to the cows.
Elizabeth – I dig what you said but what’s the point of just giving this anti outer world germ treatment only to feet and not your hands? Humans need to be more conscious of sanitizing after coming into contact with doorknobs, shopping carts, gas pumps, cash, items fallen on the floor (sanitizing item that fell is vital) and human contact like shaking hands and other grossness. It ticks me off when my sister’s family visits and they have these unconscious shoes-off customs. They think they’re being clean by taking their shoes off but in actuality they’re tracking germs and dirty stuff all over the place. I can’t stand it when they’re walking around barefoot and then they plop their feet onto the couch, so nasty. I want to ask you, what is the best way to sanitize a couch?
I was raised to take my shoes off before I came into our house or into anybody else’s. I raised my family the same way and they have carried on with the same. Everybody I know takes their shoes off. I don’t think anybody has been offended by having to remove their shoes and I’ve never had someone tell me to leave my shoes on.
Ask anything you like. He does not like to shower, and neither do I. (We are bathers.) He does bathe regularly, though, and does not smell. He just has some kind of mental thing about socks and wears them til they are full of holes, then puts on brand-new ones. Maybe a trauma from childhood? I don’t know and don’t argue any more.
I am just trying to say that not everyone changes socks every day, so there is no need to believe that when your guests take their shoes off, their socks (or bare feet) are pristine.
Samia, I would rather have human sweat on my floor than literal dog feces and mud, how do you even equate the two? Also, the obvious answer would be to let your husband know what basic hygiene is, for his sake as well as others. The indoor shoe-wearing is disgusting and it’s not less disgusting if your husband never learned to keep himself clean. “That is his way” well his way is gross, who raised him? I don’t even know many other countries besides US where this is common practice, completely absurd in Europe and Asia. The blog post shows excellent examples about how ridiculous the habit is and downright unhealthy. What about households with toddlers constantly with their hands on the floor, touching their faces? How do children even survive in these homes without getting sick? Surreal.
I tell my guests they don’t have to take their shoes off if I see them doing so, but leave the choice to them. Some prefer to take their shoes off because it is their habit, and I want them to be at ease in my home, so don’t make an issue.
Why do folks who demand shoe removal assume that their guests’ socks are clean? What if they aren’t wearing socks, as in sandal wearing? Those of you hung up on germs – do you think there aren’t any germs on the naked foot or bottom of the socks? LOL. My husband (right or wrong) changes his socks about once every 4 weeks, because that is his way. They are disgusting. If you knew this – would you still ask him to take his shoes off? More LOLs!
I have to ask: How often does he shower?
I would steal his socks! But you raise a good point!!
I ALWAYS ask guests to take sgoes off, not only friends and family (who normally do it anyway) but even strangers, like insurance agents. And if I get distracted and forget, then I mop the floors as soon as the person leaves.
As for sandals and bare feet – you are totally right, it’s basically the same thing. That’s why, whileI I don’t go as far as making adults do it, me and my family ALWAYS get into the bathtub to wash our feet if we were wearing sandals, taking along any of my children’s friends that are visiting. Have been brought up this way, have always done it and hope my children carry on.