Why you shouldn’t wear your favourite shoes inside the house
Leave your shoes at the door - experts say that it's much better for your health.
Experts say not wearing shoes indoors is good for your wellness. Picture iStock
It’s not really something anyone thinks about twice, let alone once. But removing shoes prior to entering a home has been a cultural practice amongst many Asian and Middle Eastern societies for millennia. Interestingly, research has shown that donning outdoor shoes inside, might welcome more unwelcome visitors into the home.
The time has come to leave your favourite sneakers at the front door.
“Outdoor shoes can bring in bacteria and viruses that cause infections,” said Medicare24’s Dr Jonathan Redelinghuys.
This isn’t just a theoretical risk. Dr Redelinghuys referenced a study conducted by microbiologist Charles Gerba and The Rockport Company in the United States that revealed a startling accumulation of harmful bacteria on and inside shoes, including pathogens like E. Coli and Klebsiella pneumonia. These microorganisms are not mere harmless passengers; they are known to cause serious health issues ranging from intestinal infections to pneumonia.
“There are some very specific health risks of wearing outdoor shoes indoors,” said Dr Redelinghuys and added that plantar warts and fungal infections like Athlete’s Foot can invade our homes quite easily.
“While we may never look at them, the soles of our shoes can become a joyride for a host of baddies to intrude on our lives. And sometimes getting rid of them is far more challenging than simply preventing them in the first place,” he added.
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These conditions, he explains, are not only painful but can also spread bacterial and fungal infections across household surfaces. This makes them a concern not just for the individual but for the entire household. It can become even more pronounced in homes with young children and individuals suffering from allergies.
Dr Redelinghuys warned of the possibilities, too, of pollen and other allergens being transferred to floors and carpets through outdoor shoes donned inside, posing a heightened risk to vulnerable groups of people.
“It may be a good idea to slip off your outside shoes at the front door,” said Dr Redelinghuys.
He suggested that pairs of slippers or indoor alternative shoes or flip flops are stored at entrances. Alternatively, and to make guests feel welcome when visiting, a simple rule of socks or bare feet only inside could solve the challenge.
Walking barefoot does pose a few risks of its own though. “Walking on hard surfaces like tiled floors can cause its own series of health problems,” said Dr Redelinghuys.
Avoid prolonged exposure to these kinds of surfaces was the advice. “It can alter the biomechanics and pressure distribution across the foot, leading to foot deformities like bunions and hammertoes,” he said.
The implications of this imbalance are not confined to the feet alone; they ripple upwards, potentially other placing unnecessary strain on parts of the body such as the knees and back.
When it comes to selecting the right indoor footwear, Dr Redelinghuys said that the importance of shank rigidity, a wide forefoot, and the use of supportive, durable materials are critical. Also ensuring the right size and fit are equally as key. He explained that these features ensure that the shoes provide adequate support to the foot, prevent common foot issues, and offer the necessary protection without sacrificing comfort.
Investing in additional shoes, to separate indoor and outside foot protection, is a worthwhile investment. “Indoor shoes are more than just a comfort accessory; they’re a health necessity,” he said.
“We also saw firsthand during the pandemic that cleaner soles make for fewer pathogens transmitted,” he noted and suggested a thorough regime of sanitising outdoor shoes and their soles, regularly. “A wipe down will not do the trick. Use disinfectant, sanitiser and give outside and inside shoes a solid once over at least once every week.”