If you’ve ever traveled to Europe, Scandinavia or Asia and spent time in someone’s home, you will notice a distinct cultural staple - the House Shoe. They come in many different forms depending on what country you are in, but the tell tale line up of shoes and slippers in the entryway gives away the fact that they do things differently there. In American homes, we often leave shoes outside the door if they are wet, but most commonly if they are not visibly dirty we just wear them right into the house, on into our bedroom and store them there. As Americans we’re not wrong to do this, but we should try to understand why this custom is so widespread in other countries and cultures. There are a lot of health benefits to not wearing your shoes in the house. See Nootkas wool house shoes and house slippers
1.) The bottoms of your shoes are filthy
A study by the University of Arizona found nine different forms of bacteria commonly made their home on the bottoms of shoes. Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist and professor at the University of Arizona tested new pairs of shoes and discovered that within just two weeks of over 440,000 units of bacteria had accumulated on the shoes. Shockingly, 27% of that total bacteria was E Coli. Klebsiella pneumonia was also found, which can lead to and cause pneumonia and wound and bloodstream infections. Even Dr. Gerba, the UA microbiologist who conducted a study on the subject, was surprised.
For the study, 10 people wore brand-new shoes for two weeks before their kicks were sampled for bacteria. The outside of the shoes averaged 421,000 units of bacteria, compared with 2,887 on the inside. And fecal bacteria appeared on 96% of the shoes. That fecal bacteria "indicates frequent contact with fecal material, which most likely originates from floors in public restrooms or contact with animal fecal material outdoors," Gerba said for the study. And here's the scary part. The transfer rate bacteria from shoes to clean tiles was 90% to 99%.
"I'm starting to make myself paranoid," Gerba told the Baltimore Sun when his study debuted in 2008. "It seems like we step in a lot more poop than I thought."
2.) Because Covid-19 can live on your shoes
A CDC study found the highest concentration of Covid-19 virus inside a hospital was found on the floor. This is because water droplets containing the virus fall through the air and settle on the floor. If any one in your house hold works in or has visited a health care facility, you should definitely disinfect their shoes and leave them outdoors for several days.
3.) Wearing your shoes inside could endanger your family members
The University of Houston did a similar study and found that 39% of shoes they tested contained bacteria C. diff (otherwise known as Clostridium difficile). If you know much about this super germ, this is a very scary statistic. C. diff has become a major public health threat as it is resistant to a number of antibiotics and is very difficult to treat. C. diff infections can cause multiple health conditions such as bad diarrhea which can also progress to colon inflammation and further serious health problems, especially if it doesn’t respond to antibiotic treatment effectively.
If that doesn’t make you wildly uncomfortable, this next part surely will. When tested, most public restroom floors were found to contain around 2 million bacteria per square inch. For comparison, the average toilet seat only contains about 50 per square inch. That bacteria included E Coli, C diff. along with a lot of fecal matter. The good news here, if there is any, is that you are very unlikely to get sick from the bacteria on the bottom of your shoes. Unless you are frequently crawling on the floor or eating food off the floor, it probably won’t pass to you. Family members who do spend time on the floor such as babies, toddlers and pets will certainly pick up some of this and are at a higher risk or ingesting this bacteria. If you have small children in your home at any time you should absolutely never wear your shoes into the house.
Always leaving your shoes at the door can keep your family healthier.
4.) House shoes keep your house cleaner and your floors in better condition.
Leaving your outside shoes at the door and swapping them for house shoes will keep your floors cleaner and help them last longer. Shoe soles with any gaps in the tread can get tiny rocks stuck in them, these rocks will then get carried into your house. Tiny rocks like this may go unnoticed, but they can do a number on your expensive hardwood floors. Not to mention you’re tracking in dirt, leaves, junk from outside and all that unsafe bacteria we talked about earlier. Training your family and asking your guests to remove their shoes at the door is highly recommended.
This is especially challenging in western countries such as America and Canada. It is uncommon and maybe even a little bit awkward to ask guests to remove their shoes at the door. Many cultures around the world do this and it is normal and expected. American culture is slowly changing, but it can still be a little bit uncomfortable to ask. What many households are starting to do is purchase house shoes or house slippers to offer to guests . That way when you are asking your visitors to remove their shoes, you are giving them something in return, a cozy luxury that will make them feel welcome and at home.
5.) Wearing nice house shoes makes you feel good!
This brings us to the fourth major benefit of wearing house shoes. There is a psychological shift that happens when you change shoes. There’s a motivational phrase adopted by athletes in training, and average folks wanting to adopt an exercise routine - “just put on the shoes.” By ‘just putting on the shoes’ what you’re doing is getting yourself into a new mindset. For folks trying to work out more, sometimes just getting into the right frame of mind is half the battle. By performing the simple action of putting on your running shoes, you are moving your body and mind in the direction of preparing for a work out. Getting out the door after that is much easier.
It’s the same with house shoes! When you swap your work shoes or street shoes for a pair of house shoes at the door, you are putting yourself in the mindset of relaxing and recharging. Having a cozy, high quality pairs of house shoes or slippers to put on after a long day is such a luxury. It makes you feel like you’re treating yourself and taking good care of yourself. As you should. You deserve it! In the early to mid-19th century, slippers and house shoes had a very different place in our homes. Slippers were not just worn to be warm and cozy, but also to look smart and well-dressed. Smoking slippers, loafers and many other styles of casual shoes originated from this fashion trend. Today, we may care a little less about looking stylish in our homes, but is this necessarily for the best? Maybe it would do us some good to dress up for ourselves now and then.
The Dutch have always known the importance of leaving your outside shoes by the door.
Major mental health organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness recommend keeping your “getting ready” routines intact as a way to do just that. They also advise that wearing your normal professional clothes is not necessarily to reap the benefits of sticking with your routine. Owning some high quality lounge clothes that fit well and look nice help boost self confidence. If you’re working from home every day it’s important to make sure that you’re not falling into the trap of wearing the same pair of ratty sweats and old slippers every day to work. Give yourself that extra boost in the morning that comes with a routine and intentionally choosing nice things to wear. So the best thing you can do is keep your morning routine going and change out of your PJs into something nicer. It will help you so much in so many ways!
When you find an article of clothing that not only keeps your home safer, your family healthier AND has the potential to help your self confidence and boost mental health it’s a pretty easy decision. House shoes and house slippers are an easy addition to your home and have so many benefits from reducing germ exposure to making you feel good about yourself. Make sure you find some time to research what kind of house shoes you think are best for you. This mindset shift was in large part the reason we started Nootkas. We recognized the benefits and designed the perfect house shoe for our needs. Is it also the right choice for you? Find out more about the benefits of felted wool house shoes and house slippers.