Take your shoes off at the door

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017

It turns out that taking your shoes off when you come inside doesn’t just keep the carpets cleaner. It’s also healthier:

Among samples collected in homes, 26.4% of shoe soles tested positive for C. Diff, about three times the number found on the surfaces of bathrooms and kitchens.

And that’s just one bacterium. In an earlier investigation, Dr. Garey examined past studies to learn if “shoe soles are a vector for infectious pathogens.” The answer was a resounding yes.

Among the studies: Austrian researchers found at least 40% of shoes carried Listeria monocytogenes in 2015. And a 2014 German study found that over a quarter of boots used on farms carried E.coli.

“Essentially, when you wear your shoes in a house, you are bringing in everything you stepped in during the day,” says Jonathan Sexton, a laboratory manager at the Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona.

Wiping your feet, however vigorously, on a welcome mat, provides only limited help, he says. “It will remove some of the dirt, but you have to think of the person who wiped their feet before. You might be picking stuff they left behind.”

Some homeowners may worry that guests in socks or bare feet might also represent a health risk. That’s possible, Dr. Sexton says, but the inside of a shoe has far less bacteria than the outside.

Both researchers agree that the risk is muted. “Shoes in the house are not something to freak out about,” Dr. Sexton says.


  1. Slovenian Guest says:

    For a long time I believed Americans only did that on TV and in the movies. They don’t really wear shoes indoors do they? They don’t really build whole houses with drywall, or do they? A proper house must be made out of bricks! So any three little piggies can’t just come by and blow it away…

    Good luck punching a wall in Europe!

  2. Candide III says:

    So the Japs have got it right with their genkan and dosoku kinshi and degrees of cleanliness. Whoda thunk it?

  3. Isegoria says:

    When I was a kid, taking your shoes off at the door was something our Chinese and Japanese neighbors did. It was still definitely foreign. You did take your shoes off though if they were covered in mud — well, after your mom yelled at you to take them off.

    In California, they gave up on brick when they realized that a single earthquake could level a city. I suspect that may have popularized wood-frame housing beyond just the West Coast.

  4. Ross says:

    Never did as a kid, but now not taking shoes off is the exception in my experience — across religion, ethnicity, etc. Maybe it’s a DMV urban thing.

  5. Lucklucky says:

    At least they wrote the last paragraph.

    The fact that it is “dirtier” does not mean that it is worse. Maybe it is even better for the immune system.

  6. Graham says:

    Interesting. I grew up in Canada with two British born parents. They raised me to assume one removes shoes indoors. Many people I knew in childhood and youth shared this assumption, apparently regardless of origin, but many did not. I could find, or at least I can remember, no pattern to it.

    I dimly recall at one time thinking it was a Canadian/British vs American thing, in that all Canadians and Brits took their shoes off and all Americans kept them on all the time. But I guess that was never true either.

    But I doubt the rationale was ever very sophisticated or consciously health-driven. More like the women of the house not wanting the dirt of the street on their floors.

  7. Faze says:

    It’s a power thing. As a guest I’m insulted when someone asks me to take off my shoes at the door. It violates every precept of hospitality, number one of which is, don’t order your guests around. Allow them to be comfortable in their own way.

  8. Graham says:

    That dynamic would, almost by definition, only come up in a culture in which there is no universal norm for this.

    Where there is one, and it’s in favour of shore removal, the host wouldn’t need to ask and there would be no sense of pressure or even a request. It would be regarded as the reciprocal courtesy. As the host has obligations to the guest, so the guest has obligations to the host.

Leave a Reply