To leave your shoes at the door or keep them on and traipse all through the house? Hmm. It's likely most of us think leaving them at the door is for cultural or religious reasons, but there's a lot more to it and probably not what you think.
Wearing your street shoes inside is frowned upon throughout much of Asia and the Middle East, but not so much in the West. That appears to be changing, though, as more of us are beginning to realise what we might be letting ourselves in for.
It’s true some people have a no-outside-shoes-in-the-house policy because they don’t want their polished floors damaged by high heels, in particular, or to get water or mud all over the place if it’s been raining or they’ve been on a farm or in the garden or someone’s been working on a construction site. Especially if they have carpet. Fair enough, that’s sensible.
However, that’s just mostly about visible dirt and mess, and having to mop and clean after people or have the carpet shampooed. It turns out there’s much more at stake.
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Houston in 2014 found almost 40% of shoe soles contained the bacterium Clostridium difficile or C. diff, which is now resistant to various antibiotics. C. diff infections can cause diarrhoea, which can progress to colon inflammation and further health problems, especially when antibiotics don’t work.
Another study by the University of Arizona found nine different forms of bacteria on the bottom of shoes. Furthermore, Dr Charles Gerba, a microbiologist and professor at the same university, found a brand new pair of shoes worn for just two weeks contained 440,000 units of bacteria; 27% of that total bacteria count were E coli. He also found Klebsiella pneumonia, which can bring on pneumonia, as well as wound and bloodstream infections; it can also lead to Serratia ficaria, causing an infection of the respiratory tract.
Just think about where you walk. For instance, public toilet floors can contain around 300,000 bacteria per square centimetre; the average toilet seat only contains about 0.15 per square centimetre. No comparison. You might want to rethink that five-second rule before you deem it okay to pick up that dropped bit of food and pop it into your mouth. If not for your own sake, then maybe for that toddler happily exploring the kitchen and eating off the floor, literally.
The other thing is if you’re walking barefoot inside — and most of us do in the warmer months — and you let other members of your household or visitors roam around with their street shoes on, you can also pick up the crap they unwittingly leave on your floor. And remember, it’s not just bacteria from toilet floors and dog poo from the park, shoes also pick up germs, chemicals and oil and petroleum byproducts. A little bit nasty!
Of course, slippers and house shoes are are fine because they don't leave the house. But best to leave the outside world outside.
Further tips on healthy living around the home, visit Wellbeing.