Do You Wear Your Shoes Indoors?

Emma Bryce, a Live Science Contributor recently investigated whether you should or should not take your shoes off while indoors.  Do you or should you ask your visitors to remove their shoes when they enter your home?  This could make you look like a fussy host, but what about all the disease-causing bacteria that can leap off their shoes and infest your home!

This is a little social awkwardness, but avoiding that bacteria is something that would benefit us all.  So the question is how to avoid the awkwardness when others are visiting your home.

The average shoe harbors hundreds of thousands of bacteria per square inch, according to Jonathan Sexton, an environmental microbiologist and research specialist at the University of Arizona.  With every step we take, we pick up new attendants, no matter where we go.  It has been shown that almost all shoes in some research samples were coated with fecal bacteria, including Escherichia coli.  This was found on 96% of the shoe soles of which some strains may cause severe diarrhea, urinary tract infections and even meningitis.

Other studies also found Staphylococcus aureus, which involves a wide range of skin infections and infections of the blood and heart.  The journal Anaerobe published a study of 30 households sampled in Houston, Texas for the presence of Clostridium difficile.  This bacterium has a long lifespan commonly causing bowel problems like diarrhea.  Surprisingly shoes harbored more C. Difficile than the surface of a toilet, so those grubby soles could spread germs throughout a home.

The research doesn’t really give anything too serious to worry about and the reality is that the load of bacteria our shoes bring indoors isn’t typically high enough to sicken the average person.  Most people don’t spend a lot of time on the ground where shoe bacteria dwell, either.  Even so, this could be a great threat for a child crawling around on the floor.

Those who are immunocompromised may need to take extra precautions to avoid infection.  Good household cleaning is very important for these people.  Remember that hospitals are filled with vulnerable patients at a higher risk and we should avoid going where there are more harmful germs that can grab onto your soles.

If you are at risk of infection or have a small child, it would be a good idea to remove your shoes when entering the home.  This decision must be based on preference and habit but as a potential health concern.  Frequent and thorough cleaning of the home will definitely help to lower the risk of harmful germs.

Dr Fredda Branyon