In many cultures, it is customary to remove shoes upon entering a house. In some Asian and European countries, it is considered rude if a visitor does not remove his shoes at the door. Many people think the dirt you bring into the house is unhealthy, but what does the science say?
Bacteria on shoes
Dr. Charles P. Gerba (University of Arizona, USA) is a world-expert who studies bacteria In our everyday world. He has counted bacteria in places such as public bathroom floors, kitchen cutting boards, and cellular telephone keypads. In a study on shoes, he found an average shoe carried hundreds of thousands of bacteria on the outside, and that 96% of shoes contained bacteria mostly associated with fecal contamination, including the bacteria E. coli.
A study from the University of Houston found a higher percentage of the bacteria Clostridia difficile on the bottom of shoes than on bathroom floors. This bacteria can cause a severe diarrhea, and is potentially deadly since it is resistant to many different antibiotics. But does this mean that footwear will spread disease when they are worn inside?
What else do shoes carry?
Some studies have shown other issues with wearing footwear inside the house. Shoes can carry other potentially toxic substances into the house such as pesticides and tars found on paved street surfaces. You can imagine also that some people spit on the sidewalk, and animals relieve themselves outside, so footwear may carry parasites and other noxious substances.
But are shoes really unhealthy?
However, there are not good studies showing that shoes inside actually increase the rate of disease inside the house. These studies have not yet been done, but we can use our imagination— the conclusion is that wearing shoes inside the house might not be the best recipe for diminishing the infections that people inside might suffer. Still, however, this has not been proven.
Barefoot is better for your foot
But there are other reasons to take off shoes inside, and the biggest advantage is for the health of your foot itself. Most foot experts agree that going barefoot is healthier for our feet. A barefoot foot is a foot that exercises the muscles of the foot and the legs. You might imagine a shoe as a “cast” for the foot, restricting it’s motion. Imagine your arm in a cast most of the time. What that would do to your muscles of your arm over time? The muscles would atrophy, shrink.
Taking off footwear at the door will keep your house, floors, and furniture cleaner, as well as providing health benefits to your foot. However, if you adopt this rule in your house, you should provide slippers or socks (that are non-slippery) for your guests. In future posts, we will talk more about shoes vs. barefoot, and the idea that cold feet will cause you to get sick. Stay tuned!
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