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. Carrie Avatar

    So I would say that those coming through my home take their shoes off 75% of the time. But recently there has been a lot of transition in my house with some roommates moving out and new ones moving in, in all the hustle and bustle of multiple moves a lot of shoes treked in and out of the house. I have a steam mop that I like to use and thought that was sanitizing my floors, but I did some further research and found out that was not the case. Do you have any good cleaning solutions to sanitize hardwood floors after something like a party or a move when shoes do end up in the house?

  2. Karen Reilly Avatar
    Karen Reilly

    I use the blue booties when I go through TSA and have no problems they are also good in hotel room. Asking a contractor to use them may be impractical however but I would still ask.

  3. Suzi Q Avatar
    Suzi Q

    We haven’t worn shoes in our home since my 35 year old son was 6 months old. We have indoor and outdoor shoes. But I have a question for you. I am thinking of buying a box of blue doctor booties (they fit over your regular shoes) for my son’s home. His first child will be born in a month and they will be moving into this 1931 home. I was hoping the contractors and handymen will wear them in the home. Do the bottles work? Thank you Wellness Mama. I love to learn from you.

  4. Maja Avatar

    I guess it’s cultural thing. I live in Europe and we take our shoes off when we come inside,. And usually offer slippers to guests who come to visit 🙂 that way I like how my floor stays clean and hygienic.

  5. Tori Avatar

    Wow. I am honestly amazed at the number of people with extremely passionate feelings on this subject.
    I think you just do the best you can without driving yourself crazy with toxin-fear. If you get as upset as some of the lengthy posters here seem to be when someone does not remove his/her shoes in your house you should probably not invite anyone in the first place. Stress can cause cancer too, you know;).

  6. Uma Avatar

    Hey folks!

    As a IndoAmerican grew up not wearing outside shoes/ sandals inside house and it stuck with me. I expect my son and husband and visiting family and friends also to do the same but sometimes they forget. Then you can see me mopping the floor after them .

    I expect all service technicians visiting home , also to wear booties when entering my home.

    That is how it is done in all of Asia and parts of Africa I am aware off. So adding Europe and Canada to this list it seems the majority of culture does not prere wearing outside shoes inside home.

  7. OMAR Avatar

    The cultures that took off their shoes before entering a home had the right idea but they weren’t fully conscious of completely eliminating cross contamination from every angle. I mean, what’s the point of not tracking in harmful bacteria from the outer world through your shoes if you’re not giving the same treatment to your hands and other areas? This is why I disagree with those that advise to not sanitize often or thinking that you’re going to take care of harmful bacteria you’ve contracted transdermally by simply consuming more probiotics. Being pro probiotic is ideal but allowing these demonic bacteria/nano particles absorb into your body is ludicrous. You’ve got to nip the bad bacteria in the bud and sanitize right after coming into contact with doorknobs, shopping carts, gas pumps, cash, items that have had contact with the floor, shaking hands etc. Plus the fact that we have the devil’s bacteria in the air through chemtrails, you’d be insane to not sanititze often.

  8. Joey Avatar

    Katie this is a great post. You are right that shoes are like sponges that grab and hold onto all kinds of stuff. Shoes bring all that stuff into your house, and it all goes right back on your feet the next time you put on your shoes. That is why we all go barefoot as much as we can. Bare feet are easy to clean off — just a handiwipe for each foot and for really dirty feet a hose with a sprayer outside first. All that comes inside are clean feet, and your feet start out the day clean again the next day. People think of shoes as keeping feet clean. The exact opposite is true — your feet are dirty the minute you shove them in the shoes because of all the stuff that’s waiting there from the day before. It’s warm enough for bare feet here all year, so we don’t even bother with shoes for our youngest until they start school. As you can imagine, a kid who wears shoes for the very first time at age 5 is not a happy camper about putting on those nasty foot prisons, and that suits me just fine. I never ever have had to scold any of my children about wearing shoes inside the house, and washing their feet is just as much part of our routine as washing hands.

  9. Natalie Avatar

    Growing up, we always took our shoes off when entering our home and others’ homes, however we were also brought up to believe that walking barefoot around the house would give us colds 🙂 My husband, on the other hand, wasn’t brought up with the no shoe rule, so when started living together I couldn’t convince him to take his shoes off.
    My kids have followed my rule and not their dads, thankfully! 🙂

  10. Cindy Avatar

    I address this by saying, “may I politely ask you to remove your shoes? We do, because it is ONE OF THE MAIN WAYS OF ALLOWING FLU GERMS INTO YOUR HOME.” The usual response has been, “Ugh! That is disgusting, thank you for telling me this!”

  11. Casey Avatar

    My husband and I were just talking about this, yesterday! Thank you for the wealth of information on the topic! I sent this article right to him!

  12. Heather Avatar

    Three simple reasons I cannot convert my hubby (and thus my children) to going shoeless: 1) The many accidents I have sustained to my feet while in the house from my feet ALWAYS finding the bitty bit of remaining broken glass to my feet ALWAYS managing to get a splinter from the micro hair remaining from cutting my son’s hair weekly (!!!) and 2) never being “at the ready” because I am shoeless, and 3)nobody in my home wants their feet to look like the bottom on mine do (leathery and not squeeky clean from going from outside to inside all of the time). Frankly, if you spend your time barefoot, don’t you bring in as much on your foot as you would on shoes?

    1. Jana Avatar

      Most Canadians wear slippers in the house, thus avoiding any such mishaps. In the winter I wear a rubber soled slipper which provides just as much protection as a shoe would. In the summer I wear Teva flip flops which are well made and provide arch support.

  13. Shasha Avatar

    Black top sealer has arsenic in it? Sweaty socks may get carpet messy also with heavy metals in the sweat. My Hmong friend take off their shoes at the door and often go barefoot outside which grounds them. It is better to do this, but I don’t have a front hall so there is not much room to do it.

  14. vikky Avatar

    For 28-29 years we have this house rule.
    Just for strangers who comes around it’s not an easy rule to understand as for most people they never had this issue to face. 🙂
    Yes, we always offer something to wear in the house.

  15. Lin Avatar

    We’ve always taken our shoes off in the house. The issue we have is with guests. I need to be sure to let them know prior to coming over and then reiterate it without feeling weird. So many people in the US still wear shoes inside– gross!

  16. Meagan Avatar

    The need for this discussion is so foreign me! In Canada no one ever wears their shoes in the house or the houses of someone you are visiting. It’s just common practice for everyone to take shoes off in the foyer of a house. It’s gross if you don’t. I wonder how this became common place in the states?

  17. Layla Avatar

    I was raised to take my shoes off when I enter someone else’s home. It’s a sign of respect for someone else’s space. My kids do the same thing. My husband, on the other hand, never takes his shoes off. As soon as he wakes up, he gets fully dressed including shoes. It’s strange to me, but ????. I think it’s rude to wear shoes inside. I never wear shoes unless I’m going somewhere though, and even then I usually put them on right before I get out of the car. I just hate wearing shoes.

    I’ve never actually asked anyone to take their shoes off at my house. I’m very non-confrontational and don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. We rarely have company, so it really doesn’t make much of a difference.

  18. Trish Avatar

    As a Canadian, this is the norm. We never wore our shoes in the house growing up. Guest automatically take them off when visiting. I had a friend who moved up here from Pennsylvania, and she thought it was so strange at first to take off her shoes in the house! It wasn’t long before she started doing the same.

  19. Mindy Avatar

    Wellness Mama I’m interested in your thoughts about animals in the house like cats and dogs. A shoe off policy is of limited use if cats and dogs are free to go in and out of the house.

    1. Lorene Avatar

      Great point! I just read the article and comments and was sold until I saw your comment. 3 indoors/outdoors dogs

    2. Elizabeth Avatar

      Animals groom themselves, including their paws, & while they may not have paws as clean as a whistle, I would MUCH rather have pet paws in my home than human shoes… no comparision INO, unless you’re talking about a service animal who does go into public restrooms, etc… but even then, just like humans have natural oils, bacteria, etc. that help our bodies to self-clean, animals do as well.

      We keep our yard picked up from animal feces, so the most out pets will track in is dirt… & by the time they have gotten inside our house they have walked through lots & lots of grass. We use NO chemicals in our yard (or house, unless it’s an unavoidable emergency) so we have no concerns our pets will track in anything more than some dust or dirt. My kids are knee deep in dirt often; dirt doesn’t scare me!

  20. Sue Avatar

    I think it’s a great idea but it doesn’t fly in my house. My husband has ADD and can never remember anything!
    I don’t worry so much about germs but it keeps floors so much cleaner. That’s why I like the idea.
    When my kids were crawling I kept the floors as clean as possible but these days they don’t look as nice.
    I want a cleaning lady lol

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