How bad is it really to wear your “outdoor” shoes inside your house?
Is it that bad? set the record straight on all the habits and behaviors you’ve heard about that might be unhealthy.
Most people have pretty strong opinions about wearing shoes at home. If you’re part of the Shoes-On team, you might think forgoing indoor shoes is uncomfortable or even embarrassing. But chances are you’ll change your mind when you find out what you’re actually tracking on your floors.
What Happens When You Wear Outdoor Shoes in Your Home
Even if you’re not walking in actual dirt (or worse, dog feces), your shoes pick up a lot of grime when you walk outside. “Several studies have suggested that shoes are vectors of infectious disease,” says Kishor Gangani, MD, MPH, internist at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital.
In other words? They are real germ magnets.
We’re talking about nasty ones like E. coli, which can cause stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. In a May 2008 study sponsored by the nonprofit Cleaning Industry Research Institute (CIRI), 96% of participants had measurable levels of bacteria on their shoes within two weeks. (And the shoes were new when the study started.)
Our shoes also regularly carry the bacterium Clostridium difficile or C. diff. In fact, the bacteria is more likely to appear on the soles of shoes than on toilet seats, according to June 2014 findings published in the journal Anaerobe. C. diff can cause diarrhea or fever in healthy people, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes. In the elderly or those with weakened immune systems, a C. diff infection can be fatal.
And when you wear your bacteria-covered clodhoppers around your house, almost all of the germs in your shoe soles come with you. The CIRI study found that when people wore their dress shoes indoors, 90-99% of germs on the shoes were transferred to the floor tiles. From there, they can be picked up by a crawling baby or toddler, a pet, or by objects falling on the floor. Germs can even end up on your feet once you finally take off your shoes.
Frequent cleaning might not make much difference either, as some of these microbes are difficult to eliminate. “As Clostridium difficile spores are resistant to disinfection, the possibility of contamination of community households is high,” says Dr Gangani.
You can lock germs out of your shoes by removing your shoes at the door and placing them in a trash can or dedicated shoe rack. From there, it’s just a matter of deciding if you want to go barefoot or wear shoes that are just for indoors.
Going totally shoeless at home is often the best bet.
“Being barefoot is great for overall foot health and helps increase foot muscle strength, tissue tolerance, and joint mobility,” says Alissa Kuizinas, DPM, a board-certified podiatrist in Concord, Massachusetts. Try taking a step-by-step approach if going barefoot is uncomfortable because you’re not used to it. “Go for 15 to 30 minutes a day and work from there,” she says.
If you have foot pain, flat feet, or ankle arthritis, consider having a pair of slippers or supportive shoes that stay in the house. Shoes should have flat, flexible soles, a wide toe box, and little or minimal cushioning, says Dr. Kuizinas. “If you need a slipper, I would recommend a stiffer sole, maybe a forefoot rocker or a toe spring, and some cushioning,” she adds.
Indoor shoes may also be safer for seniors, as non-slip soles can reduce the risk of falling, according to the National Institute on Aging. People with diabetes or neuropathy should always wear shoes indoors as well, to avoid foot injuries that could become infected.
So how bad is it really to wear your dress shoes at home?
There’s a very, very good chance that wearing your dress shoes indoors will bring germs into your home that could potentially cause illness. This is especially true if you have a baby, toddler or young child who spends a lot of time crawling or playing on the floor, or if you live with an immunocompromised person.
Dr. Gangani puts it quite clearly: “Wearing outdoor shoes inside the house should be avoided.”