5 Reasons Why You Should Ban Shoes in the House

Forget muddy footprints—wearing shoes in the house can actually bring in health hazards. Here's why.

A few years ago, the University of Arizona conducted a study that maligned shoe-wearing at home. The news set my Facebook feed abuzz. But at the time, my son was a newborn and homemaking had taken a major backseat to new life skills. Instead of tapping into cleaning tricks (like these homekeeping tips we learned from Grandma), I was focused on learning the dance moves sure to stop a crying fit. I mentally filed that study under How We Will Someday Run a Tighter Ship.

Now that my son is a little bit older and regularly stomping around the house, that long-forgotten study has worked its way to the forefront of my mind. This time, I took the time to read it, and I’m glad I did. Turns out we have a bigger incentive to go shoeless than just keeping mud outside where it belongs. See for yourself.

Reason 1: Shoes are a breeding ground for bacteria.

In the aforementioned study, researchers found that shoes can track in a host of organisms that wreak havoc on your body. Think 400,000-plus bacteria per shoe. One standout was E. coli, a strain that’s known to cause nasty gastrointestinal distress. Yuck. Your shoes can also pick up soil and plant matter which actually helps these microscopic critters thrive between your treads.

Reason 2: Shoes pick up toxins.

If you’ve walked through grass, your shoes may be covered in lawn fertilizer and/or weed killer. Ever crossed a street? There are probably trace amounts of gasoline and antifreeze on your shoes, too. Studies show that prolonged contact with chemicals like these is harmful, and by tracking them through your home, you’re releasing them into the air your family breathes every day.

Reason 3: You’ll save time on cleaning.

This one’s a given. Before I read the study, I figured instituting a no-shoes policy would grant us more freedom from brooms, mops and vacuums-and it does. Less dirt mean less cleaning from the get-go. For a new-ish mom like me, that’s a huge relief. My son spends a lot of time on the floor—playing, changing clothes and, yes, searching for snacks that he sometimes manages to eat before we catch him.

Try these non-floor foods kids and grownups love.

Reason 4: Shoes can wreck your floors.

Have you ever seen what over-worn stilettos can do to hardwood? The nails protruding from the heels leave an imprint with every step. Same goes for rugs: Nail heads or anything that’s gotten stuck to the sole of a shoe can create snags or stains. Here’s how to remove gum from a carpet (and other stuff, too).

Reason 5: You’ll have one less thing to lose.

Implemented a no-shoes house? Congratulations, you just did the last-ever search for your kid’s missing rain boot! From now on, everything will be right where he left it—by the door. Designate a shoe mat or, for a more permanent solution (and extra seating!), install a bench with shoe racks or cubbies below. This one’s pretty spiffy.

Tips for Having a Shoe-Free Home

Feeling conflicted because you love to wear shoes but you don’t love E. coli? Good news: Having a shoes-off rule doesn’t necessitate going barefoot. Just make like Mr. Rogers and put on an indoors-only pair when you get home. Plus, it’s a great way to keep your toes warm in the cold-weather months.

Implementing a shoe-free policy can cause confusion when new friends step foot through the door. Asking guests to follow suit is up to you. Maybe someday, once they see how squeaky-clean your home is, they’ll institute no-shoes policies, too.

In the meantime, we say relax, skip the awkward conversations and hope they take a cue from your shoe zone. And maybe nix your secret five-second rule, at least until you have time to mop!

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Ellie Martin Cliffe
Now a deputy editor at Taste of Home, Ellie has been writing about food and parenting for the last decade. When she isn't at TOH HQ, she's likely trying gluten- and dairy-free recipes, canning whatever's in season, listening to anything with a fiddle, or playing Uno with her family.