Thursday, April 20th, 2017
I have always removed my shoes when entering my or anyone else’s home or apartment if I’ve just walked in mud, snow, or if my shoes are rain-soaked. Water and muck don’t mix well with wood floors, clean carpets or fine rugs. If I don’t have a pair of dry shoes with me I’ll walk around in socks or tights.
This practice almost broke the back of an otherwise blossoming relationship. It angered my boyfriend and his visiting family members who thought my request that they do the same when they visited me in inclement weather was irritating, irrational and absurd. I’d been told I couldn’t refinish the floors anymore and was therefore facing an exorbitant cost to replace potentially ruined wood and I didn’t want to accelerate the carpet cleaning schedule. So I put my foot down.
It’s far too late to say “aha!” but it turns out that while my reasons were related only to the health of my apartment and its fine rugs—and not to my wellbeing or that of my family—taking off your shoes when indoors is “good hygiene,” according to Ezequiel Minaya. In his Wall Street Journal article, “Is it Healthier to Remove Your Shoes at Home? It’s considered polite in some households, but are there more practical reasons for going shoeless inside?” turns out the answer is YES.
He wrote: “Shoes are a menagerie of microorganisms, sometimes carrying dangerous bacteria, says Kevin W. Garey, chairman of the department of pharmacy practice and translational research at the University of Houston. Bacteria can be very hardy.”
Unless you’re vulnerable—already ill, very old or young–you probably won’t get sick from the bugs that walk into your home. “But avoiding pathogenic bacteria that can cause illnesses from diarrhea to meningitis is easy, Dr. Garey says. Just take your shoes off. ‘It’s amazing how far humans travel during the day, and all that walking drags in germs and bugs,’ he says.”
Dr. Garey has recently published a study on Clostridium difficile—known as C.diff—that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported caused 29,000 deaths in the US six years ago from almost half a million infections. He found 2,500+ samples in the Houston area alone of which more than 25 percent collected in homes was on the soles of shoes. “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,” wrote Minaya.
The reporter added that researchers in other countries found a significant amount of Listeria and E.coli on shoes.
Do you ever take off your shoes when you visit others or when you walk in the door at home? If yes, is it out of tradition—as in Japan or Turkey—or for comfort, cleanliness or health reasons?