No Shoes in the House—Here’s Why

Your shoes tell the story of where you’ve been, and regardless of your lifestyle, it’s going to be dirty.

Yet, asking guests to leave their shoes at the door might suggest that you’re rude.

Until it becomes the norm, as it is in the Pacific Rim, it’s like walking through a landmine. You never know when this seemingly harmless request is going to set someone off.

“It’s ridiculous that people expect you to take off your shoes constantly,” says Lizzie Post, co-author of “Emily Post’s Etiquette” (Harper Collins, 2011). “It’s my home and it’s my job to keep it clean. It’s not my job to ask everyone to do it for me.”

Still, the great, great granddaughter of Emily Post dishes advice on the subject. “The polite way of asking is, ‘Would you please leave your shoes at the door?’ Then, offer them slippers.”

Let it go at formal parties or when it’s a visitor’s first time to your home, because it’s “awkward” and “strange,” Post says. You can always clean later.

What is on the bottom of a random shoe?

Experts at the University of Arizona’s College of Public Health found E-coli and carcinogens, such as pesticides and coal tar. Have you visited a hospital lately? They found a lot of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), a staph resistant to most antibiotics that can easily be carried into homes.

“We walk around on streets and sidewalks,” says Dr. Kelly Reynolds, associate professor of environmental health sciences at U of A. “You’re picking up both microbes and chemicals, and bringing them into your home. You may not actually see dirt or grease over time, but it could still be there, and at levels that could be harmful to humans.”

There are known cases of lead poisoning in children caused by parents wearing contaminated work shoes in the house, says Dr. Susan Buchanan of University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Public Health. Exposure to lead and arsenic, commonly found in dust and dirt, can cause problems with neurologic development and trigger asthma attacks.

Homes with carpeting are the worst, because pesticides and microbes stick to dust particles and settle into carpet fibers.

It’s not about the aesthetics of a home, Reynolds says. It’s about reducing your exposure to contaminants. Once it becomes the norm, asking guests to remove their shoes won’t be a big deal.

Until then, stock up on slippers. You’ll need ‘em.


Photo: Shoes in hall by Bigstock