Is Your Home Shoeless? 3 Critical Reasons to Leave Shoes at the Door

As we enter the winter months and the holidays, keeping shoes out of your home can become a little more challenging. But the benefits are worth it! Removing your shoes (and encouraging your guests to do likewise) reduces the amount of toxic pollutants in your home, decreases the time and money you spend on cleaning, and promotes the development of healthier stronger feet.

1. Keeps toxins outside

Experts estimate that 30 to 40 percent of contaminants in our home are brought in from outside. These contaminants include lead-contaminated dirt, pesticides, fertilizer, animal feces, cigarette ash, gasoline, insect fragments and droppings. They also include pollen, pet dander and other common allergen triggers. Shoes are a common way we bring outdoor pollutants into our homes. An EPA study found that using a doormat plus removing shoes reduced lead dust and other toxic chemicals in the home by 60 percent.  Taking off your shoes keeps a lot of harmful pollutants out of your house, off your floor, off of little kids' hands and out of kids' mouths. Removing your shoes is especially important if your home has wall-to-wall carpet, because carpet acts like a sink for contaminated household dust. 

2. Less to clean

According to the EPA, the International Sanitary Supply Association has found that most of the dirt within a home is tracked in on people's shoes, and that 85% of this can be removed with the use of well-designed and maintained entry mats. Of course, removing shoes is an even more effective method for keeping outdoor dirt out of your home. Reduce the amount of time and effort needed to clean your home by taking off your shoes and keeping all that dirt out of your house in the first place. I am a slovenly housekeeper, but vigilant about shoes off at the door. I feel like the latter somewhat compensates for the former. Removing shoes also helps reduce wear and tear on carpets and hard flooring.

3. Healthier stronger feet

Apparently, shoes are terrible for feet. And not just high heels and flip flops. According to one podiatry expert, "Natural gait is biomechanically impossible for any shoe-wearing person" (source). Several studies have concluded that highly cushioned expensive athletic shoes are actually linked to higher rates of injuries. Researchers have also found that additional padding in the heel of a shoe counter-intuitively leads to an increase of impact on your knees. Experts theorize that "we instinctively plant our feet harder to cancel out the shock absorption of the padding" and that when your foot can feel the ground, it sends messages to the rest of your body to activate natural neuromechanical-feedback mechanisms to protect joints and extremities. Shoes may block the sensory input necessary to activate these signals.

The antidote to the problems caused by shoes is pretty simple: walk barefoot. According to podiatrist Tracy Byrne (as cited in The Guardian), walking barefoot aids balance, "develops the muscles and ligaments of the foot, increases the strength of the foot's arch, improves proprioception (our awareness of where we are in relation to the space around us) and contributes to good posture." While most of us, for both social and safety reasons, are not willing to walk barefoot all the time, we can certainly choose to walk barefoot or nearly barefoot whenever practical, such as while we are at home.

But it's cold!

In the summer, my children and I happily walk barefoot all the time on my wood floors. In the winter, when we keep the thermostat around 65, I wear slippers or non-slip socks. Not as awesome as barefoot, but not nearly as restrictive as wearing traditional shoes.

What about guests?

Asking guests to remove shoes can be tricky, especially in the colder months, and especially with all hard floors (easier to clean and less cushy to walk on barefoot than carpeted floors).  How do we handle this situation? We have baskets full of shoes near all our doors, which astute guests immediately take as a signal to remove their shoes. My children often take care of other visitors with a pointed, "Why are you wearing your shoes in the house?" (a somewhat impertinent question which I never discourage them from asking). I also always remind others' children that we don't wear shoes in our home (since children are decidedly less fastidious about wiping their shoes on doormats).

Then there are my in-laws and other folks due a certain amount of respect. I don't ask and I don't expect. But if they are staying for many weeks, I might purchase them some slippers to wear inside. If I had a crawling baby, I might even put a tasteful sign outside the door that says "Please remove your shoes before entering" which I saw next to the doorbell of a Japanese friend. Or I might purchase slippers or other indoor shoes for guests to use temporarily. 

As for people I am employing (house cleaners, repair people, contract workers), I always insist that they wear shoe covers, which I have kept on-hand at all times since renovating my home. Since I'm paying them, I feel fine about this. I am especially vigilant about construction workers, whose shoes may have been tromping through lead paint, asbestos-laden insulation, and other toxic stuff.

Do you take off shoes at the door? 
How do you encourage guests to remove their shoes before entering your home?

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photo credit: telepathicparanoia and brookpeterson via photopin cc.


  1. Shoes go off at my door for all the reasons you listed. My kids are still small enough to play on the ground too so I'm extra viligiant. When we were renovating this summer it hurt me to see the contractors inside with their shoes on but it was imperative for their safety of course. I regularly cleaned our floors and was extra happy we have hardwood. I ask people to take their shoes off if necessary but find most people do...I've heard it's a Canadian thing :) but I'm not sure if that is true!

    1. I don't ask workers to take shoes off, but I do ask them to wear shoe covers, and I've never heard a complaint! Some of them even bring their own, which I think is awesome and shows a lot of consideration.

  2. We've been a shoe-less home form quite some time. I always find it a bit challenging to ask adults to take their shoes off- many times I don't. Kids I have no problem asking!

    1. I agree - tough to ask adults. I rarely do. Just rely on the baskets and the kids asking mostly : )

  3. No shoes in my house! Rather than keep them outside because of weather I have a mat by the door, shoes go no further for all the reasons you mentioned.

    I always found it more comfortable to walk barefoot and suspected shoes weren't natural to wear but had no scientific evidence to back up my beliefs, now I do. Thank you.

  4. We are shoeless and, like you, my kids regulate most of our guests. It is funny though. It has never occurred to me to ask the cleaners to remove their shoes. I need to give that some thought.

    1. I ask them to use shoe covers, not to remove their shoes. But that is more wasteful. I wash and reuse my housecleaners' shoe covers though : )

  5. We are shoeless. We don't have many guests right now but this is an issue I'm trying to decide on how to handle it.

  6. Shoes off always, for comfort and also to keep the house clean. Most visitors we have know ahead of time that we walk around in our socks so they have no problem with it. We tell all our other guests to make themselves at home, but after seeing our shoes at the door, they kick theirs off too and walk around in their socks as well.

    1. I think the fact that it is becoming more common and that many folks know someone from another culture where it is the norm - and they expect people to follow that norm in their home - is making this a bit easier. Still there are those who REALLY hate removing their shoes.


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