It’s easy to do and I’m sure we’ve all done it. Perhaps we forgot something inside the house, or needed a quick bathroom break before heading out — for whatever reason, we often decide to leave our shoes on indoors to avoid wasting time taking them off and then putting them on again.
But did you know that you’re putting yourself and your family at risk — especially if you have small children who play on the floor and put their hands in their mouths an average of 80 times an hour — of stomach, eye, and lung infections?
Think about where you’ve been today: Maybe you were at the grocery store and your foot skimmed over some bad milk, or maybe you walked to work on sidewalks where dogs defecate and racoons drag trash around. Maybe you even work in a factory with toxic chemicals or used a public bathroom at the gas station.
Regardless, you’ve exposed your shoes to millions of organisms that will then get dragged throughout your house.
The University of Houston did a study and found that 39% of shoes contained bacteria C.diff, a public health threat resistant to a number of antibiotics that can cause many health issues, including diarrhea.
Coliforms, on the other hand, which are universally present in faeces, were detected on the bottoms of 96% of shoes.
E. coli was also detected on 27% of the shoes, along with seven other kinds of bacteria, including Klebsiella pneumoniae, which can cause urinary tract infection, and Serratia ficaria, which can cause respiratory infections.
In total, researchers at the University of Arizona found nine different species of bacteria on people’s shoes, and determined that these bacteria live longer on our shoes than in other places. Naturally there is just a continuous build up of new bacteria that feeds the growth of more bacteria.
Researchers also tested to see if bacteria on shoes would transfer to the tile floors in a house. More than 90 percent of the time it did, and carpets fared even worse.
Microbiologist Dr. Charles Gerba, who teaches at the University of Arizona, conducted a study which involved testing a brand new pair of shoes, and found that within just two weeks of wearing them, they accumulated 440,000 units of bacteria.
“The common occurrence (96 percent) of coliform and E. coli bacteria on the outside of the shoes indicates frequent contact with fecal material, which most likely originates from floors in public restrooms or contact with animal fecal material outdoors,” said Gerba. “Our study also indicated that bacteria can be tracked by shoes over a long distance into your home or personal space after the shoes were contaminated with bacteria.”
Good Morning America conducted a similar test, examining the bottoms of eight different people’s shoes, as well as two dogs’ paws, for bacteria. They concluded that the shoes were dirtier than a toilet seat. “Toilet seats generally have 1,000 bacteria or less, and these are in the millions so there’s a lot more bacteria here,” said Jonathan Sexton, a research assistant at the University of Arizona’s College of Public Health.
First of all, if you wear your shoes in the house, don’t panic.
A thorough clean of your floors and shoes will help to eliminate any existing problems. Next, you’ll just have to enforce a No Shoes In The House rule and abide by it!
Set up reminders if you need to, like a sign that says “please take off your shoes,” or create a space before you enter the home or at the door that will trigger a response to remove your shoes, like a shoe rack or cubby.
The unfortunate truth about this information is that, while exposure to some bacteria can help build our immune systems, the ones that we tread in our homes mostly originate from fecal matter, which can be pretty harmful for our health.
Need another reason to ditch the indoor footwear?
Walking around your home barefoot is actually great for your health! Children who go habitually without shoes have stronger and more flexible feet, are less likely to become flat-footed, and develop fewer podiatric deformities.