What’s Lurking Under Your Shoes?

In fact, this is the norm in most Asian cultures. Yet, interestingly, many European and American families never bother to insist on leaving shoes at the door.

Wearing shoes in the house can track bacteria onto the carpet, as well as dangerous bacteria and E. coli.

Throughout the day, we step on things like bird droppings, dog waste and public bathroom floors, which are sources of E. coli. You also step on leaves and debris, which all feed the bacteria on your shoes. Even cautious people end up stepping on these items, as they can’t always keep an eye on what’s exactly in front of them, and sometimes the visible evidence of these items has been removed, but the bacteria remains. Chemicals that you use on your lawn could also get from your shoes to your carpet. Rainwater on the ground may also carry petrol from cars.

What else is under those shoe?

Well, there will be a disgusting quantity of dust, bird droppings, dog poop, leafy debris and other unwanted matter. The leafy stuff acts as a breeding ground for bacteria.

“That means potentially harmful bacteria can survive on your shoes for days or even weeks.”- Dr. Reynolds, microbiologist, University of Arizona

The University of Arizona decided to assess the quantity of bacteria  – they found 421,000 different units! These can be categorized into 9 different strains. They are the cause of infections in the eyes, lungs and stomach. Two of these are certainly worth mentioning so you can reach for your slippers the moment you get home.

One is known as E.coli (a pathogenic organism) and it makes up about a third of all bacteria so it is a heavyweight. Most E.coli strains are harmless but the nasty ones (like E.coli 0157:H7) are not. They often cause severe stomach and intestinal problems leading to vomiting and diarrhea.

Another type of bacteria the researchers found was the Klebsiella pneumoniae which is known to cause severe damage to the lungs and lead to pneumonia. The death rate from this bacteria is high at 50% and can reach 100% when people are suffering from alcoholism.

A  new study just identified a harmful bacteria that is found on over 25% of people’s shoes. This 2017 examination states that Clostridium difficile, an infection that causes life threatening inflammation of the colon that was previously thought to be caught from a healthcare setting, is actually much more prevalent in day to day locations. The C. difficile bacteria in the study was caught on shoes from parks, chain stores, fast food restaurants and commercial stores. Of 2538 samples taken, only 448 came from hospitals. This bacteria was also found in the study participants’ homes, it having transferred there via their shoes.

The easiest way for preventing C. difficile and other bacterias from spreading is taking your shoes off before entering your home. This is much more effective than wiping your shoes on a mat and walking into a main living area with your shoes on. This is because, while mats are great for removing visible dirt from shoes, they are perhaps the best places for bacteria to breed. When you wipe your shoes on a mat, most of the time you’re just picking up even more bacteria than you already started with.

Obviously, many household occupants do not choose to remove their shoes before entering the home. While in adults this practice can make you ill, it is rarely fatal. However, household that should always prevent its occupants from wearing shoes is one with children or elderly residents. Child and elderly immune systems are significantly weaker than healthy adult ones, and an infection from bacteria transferred via the shoes can be incredibly dangerous for them.

As well as taking shoes off as soon as you enter your home, you should also wash your hands. Some good preventative steps are also to wash your shoes in a washing machine on cold, with detergent. Alternatively, you can apply disinfectant on your shoes.

So next time, before you enter a home, and you see piles of shoes at the front door, you understand why.