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Shoes Transmit Disease, Leave Them by the Door

Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist and professor at the University of Arizona, joined forces with shoemaker Rockport to study what types of microorganisms are transported by footwear. Ten people were given a brand new pair of shoes to use for two weeks before having them tested for bacteria.

After two weeks, more than 420,000 units of bacteria were found on the outside of the test shoes. Of that bacteria, 27% were deadly E. Coli virus. Also detected was Klebsiella pneumonia, which can cause pneumonia and wound and bloodstream infections and Serratia ficaria, which can lead to infection of the respiratory tract.

“The common occurrence (96 percent) of coliform and E. coli bacteria on the outside of the shoes indicates frequent contact with fecal material, which most likely originates from floors in public restrooms or contact with animal fecal material outdoors,” said Gerba. “Our study also indicated that bacteria can be tracked by shoes over a long distance into your home or personal space after the shoes were contaminated with bacteria.”

Even more disturbing to moms of little ones – 90 to 99% of bacteria found on the exterior of the shoes was transmitted to hard tile and carpet.

Any germs picked up by bare feet, knees and hands will then be transported to the crib at naptime.

To help keep these germs at bay, simply remove your shoes and leave them by the door when you get home. Frequent vacuuming and mopping will also help. The study also found simply washing the shoes eliminated more than 90% of germs.

If you aren’t comfortable asking your babysitter or guest to walk around in their bare feet or socks, there are many cute house slippers on the market (and several organic versions) that won’t leave anyone feeling awkward.

Photo credit: Creative Commons License, A.K. Photography on Flickr


  1. Ewwwww…shoes in the house. I never understand how people can do that, gross gross gross.

  2. And now they reason to leave them by the door!

  3. i’ve also read that removing shoes can eliminate about 80% of dirt in the house! who loves house cleaning? i don’t :)

  4. We have had a “no shoes in the house” rule for years, and I swear all my visitors and family members thought we were crazy. I think I need to forward this post to all of them so they can understand why we do it. And leaving them at the door really saves on having to have the carpet cleaned since there’s no tracking of mud, dirt (or E. Coli). Just the thought of E. Coli being tracked into my daughter’s bed at naptime would be enough to make me a convert.

  5. Yes, the report was an eye opener for me. We usually go sans shoes, but the thought of those germs in his crib made me shudder. Feel free to forward the post!

  6. I’ve always had the no shoes in the house rule. Think of what you step in and can carry into your home. Fecal matter, spit, oil. Now, imagine your children laying around on the floor/carpet. It’s disgusting. I keep a small basket by my garage door with socks or footies for my guests to put on.

  7. We take off shoes at the door. Visitors notice the shoes at the door and generally follow the cue. We have trays set at the door to set shoes on. I have been wanting to have slippers there for guests. Now I have a reason to do more shopping! I will think of it as stimulating the economy!

  8. I love the idea of a rack by the door. We line ours up and it can get a little messy.
    Slippers are a great idea!

  9. Beverly M. says:

    I agree 100%. My family is Italian and we grew up removing our shoes when coming into our home and going to others. When I met my husband I his step-children I started them on removing their shoes when they come into the house since it was a newly build one. I also ask the childrens friends and my in-laws to do the same. At first I felt uncomfortable since they were not use to it and at times for new visitors I still feel uncomfortable but we now have 5 month old twins and they will be crawling soon and I do not want the dirt from the outside to get into their mouths. When my husbands ex stops by to drop off/pickup my step-kids, she is so rude and does not remove them, I just don’t understand some people. Also my husband does admit that the carpets and floors stay looking newer. I do like the idea of a box of socks by the door. I had an Asian co-worker bring me back some slippers from Taiwan for the same purpose which I keep in the closet by the front door but Men may feel awkward putting them on. How do you feel about asking ALL your guests to remove their shoes when your having a party? I’m still nervous about doing that.

  10. Totally agree. Take those shoes off!

    I have an whole blog about this. You might want to take a look.

  11. This must be a regional thing. We take our shoes off. I’ve never had a guest leave his or shoes on, so I’ve never had to ask. If you live anywhere that they salt and sand the street, you take your shoes/boots off in the house. The habit stays through summer. I actually find it weird when people tell me not to bother removing my shoes in their house.

  12. Here in Norway, taking off your shoes when you go into someone’s house is standard practice – I was very surprised the first time I went to the US and discovered that they didn’t do that! I’m glad to know science is on my side ;-)

  13. We have a shoe rack by the front door. The kids just automatically kick of their shoes and place them in thier shoe baskets when they come in. Slippers for guests? Not very sanitary…unless you plan on designating a pair for every guest who comes over. I know I wouldn’t want my bare feet to touch the inside of used slippers. Our floors are clean…we walk barefoot.

  14. Yes, I’m not sure why we in the States are less comfortable with removing our shoes. That’s great to learn its standard practice in Norway.
    And I agree Bombaygirl, it would gross me out a bit to put on someone’s slippers.

  15. victoria says:

    We have a shoe rack by the door.When we arrive home its shoes off and slippers on for the whole family.I cant imagine us wearing shoes (or socks for that matter)in the house.I think providing guest slippers is going a bit too far.I grew up in canada so taking off your shoes at the door is simply second nature.

  16. ewallace says:

    Seriously?! “Deadly” E. coli?! You do realize that a good percentage of your gut bacteria is E. coli, yes? That you could not live with out it? I’m all for leaving shoes at the door on the grounds that they carry dust and crud all over the floors. But on the grounds of safety? Not so much. Bonus point: all you parents who sanitize the heck out of everything, enjoy making your kids even more ill when they start school with NO immune system.

    • There are healthy bacteria in your stomach that helps with digestion, but you do not have E. Coli. You will be sick if you get that in your system. There are studies that stomach cancer could be fuelled by this bacteria. If you’d like your children to have that to be immune to, that’s your choice, but not one I want my family to go though.

      • Someone needs to head back to biology class. E. Coli cells are definitely in your body:


        “E. coli normally colonizes an infant’s gastrointestinal tract within 40 hours of birth, arriving with food or water or with the individuals handling the child. In the bowel, it adheres to the mucus of the large intestine. It is the primary facultative anaerobe of the human gastrointestinal tract.”

        Additionally, there is no significant research linking E. Coli to stomach cancer. You’re thinking of H. Pylori.

  17. I do have a question or three.

    If I came to your house, would I find a nice clean pair of slippers that hadn’t been worn by other toe-jam infected guests? Have you seen athlete’s foot growing on a petri dish? Yum!

    Will they be in my size (women’s 12), and will they meet the requirements of the American Diabetic Association for patients with diabetes? I wouldn’t want to get a splinter or scratch, not feel it due to nerve damage, and then have my foot–and/or leg– amputated just so your baby doesn’t eat a microorganism.

    Do you also put your purse/diaper bag down on the kitchen/bathroom counter when you come into the house? Have you seen the diseases that can grow on the bottom of a woman’s purse (not to mention a diaper bag)? Germs spread to the counter–to your hands–and then to your precious “gifted” future Harvard graduate. I’m not kidding.

    I have a better idea. Why not simply avoid walking on your floors at all? They’ll last forever that way. Longer than your friendships. Whatever happened to making guests feel comfortable and welcome? You’re telling them at the door that they aren’t acceptable because *you had a baby*. Get off your high horse, honey. Even roaches have kids.

    • you are a fool who will get sick

    • Nathalie says:

      My welcome mat at the door says “Please Remove your Shoes”. I have sanitized flip flops (various sizes for men & women) for those who are freaks about removing them. But that is rare.

      My floors stay cleaner. Period. I am the one that cleans them. Even my 5 year old son removes his shoes.

      I do not want the shoes that you just trekked across the gas station parking lot into the public bathroom & back again & then stopped by to visit me. Gross!

      Glad we aren’t friends because you wouldn’t be invited over.

  18. Attention, you $#@&* morons. You are accomplishing NOTHING by removing your shoes before enter the house other than to easing wear and tear on your carpet. Remember when they used to encapsulate bone marrow transplant recipients in plastic tents for the duration of the procedure (ala “the boy in the plastic bubble”)? Well, they don’t even do THAT anymore. They found that EIGHTY EIGHT PERCENT of the germs that could POSSIBLY (not even certainly) cause ANY threat exist on the hands. I had a bone marrow transplant rendering my immune system completely worthless. My body’s defense system was NOTHING compared to that of ANY child (even a sick one) in your home. Visitors were allowed to enter my hospital room, hug, kiss, spend the night (even in the same bed) as long as they weren’t displaying any signs of illness (cough, sneeze) and provided that THEY WASHED THEIR HANDS. That’s all. And remember, I was EXTREMELY vulnerable to any foreign antibody, and that was a LIFE-THREATENING situation. So spare me all your incessant alarmist, diaper-sniffing, over-reactive and profoundly unnecessary response to a thoroughly unlikely threat. The chances of your child being injured in a car accident are PROFOUNDLY greater than becoming ill due to some shmutz on the bottom of your neighbor’s shoe — even dog poop. Our bodies are remarkably resilient. Let them do their job and knock off all this alarmist crap.

  19. way to go Andy!!!!! Hyper-active over-protective parents that over-react to germs are VERY likely the same kind of parents who over-indulge their kids in other ways leading to generations of helpless kids.

    • I think that going to this extreme is crazy! I agree that hand washing is the key and if it comes down to it medically, we do need to have a good immune system that can fight a typical illness you will certainly catch outside the home. The only thing one gets out of this is a little less mess, but you still have to do the floors anyway! People that have poop or any other very nasty substance would take those kinds of shoes off without a sign on the door if they grew up with any type of manners. I think it should be a choice and not something forced. Maybe a sign that said your family doesn’t wear their shoes in your home and guest are welcome to do the same if they feel comfortable or if their shoes are dirty. Most people would then check their shoes and would have the courtesy to remove them if they were dirty. You will not die from shoes being worn in your home, but your relationship with Family and Friends may suffer. It’s a personal choice, but I want people that come into my home to feel comfortable and welcome!

  20. thank you i am printing this to show my husband, he doesnt believe me when it comes to dirty shoes. And when he wears them in my freshly cleaned bathroom I could just scream! Maybe this tid bit will get him to leave the shoes by the door where they belong.

  21. I know there are many bacteria in old shoes ,so I often give them a sunshine.

  22. I also leave a shoe rack right in front of the door… If they don’t take the shoes off I just ask them politely but it can be awkward sometimes.

  23. You never really think of how many germs you pick up when you are out and about and where they end up. Thanks for the article.

  24. You need to get over it folks! Too much time spent about germs and cleanliness issues will make you anxious and neurotic. As long as you wash your hands on a reasonbale regular basis and don;t actually suck on or pick your shoes you’ll be fine – really!

  25. Since 1997 I have been removing my shoes just inside the front door and actually keep them in a shoe box, though my wife just keeps her shoes on a a plastic mat by the door. I ask 99 percent of the people who come to my home to remove their shoes and they stare at me like I have two heads.

    when they question me why, I tell them number one: the bottom of their shoes have gathered germs and bacteria every time they have gone outside. And, probably, their entire shoes have collected these numerous invisible microbes that are harmful to our health. They should clean their shoes like I do with anti-bacterial wipes on the bottom and the sides and on top of the shoes.

    My shoes are nearly two years old but are in great shape and very clean. By cleaning them every night when I come in and putting them away in a box box till the next day, I do my best to keep the germs out of my home and keep my wood floors and carpets as clean as I can. I have to yell at my wife whenever she forgets to take her shoes off and starts walking around the kitchen and living room.

    When you have painters or plumbers or maids at your home, you should ask them to either remove their shoes or wear these disposable hospital scrub slippers that you can buy very cheaply on the internet, like 100 pair for around 2o bucks. They are made of a soft paper-like material, are blue in color and can fit up to size ten.

    But some people don’t ind just kicking their shoes off. What’s the fuss. I take my shoes off in other peoples’ homes to set an example, even if they don’t normally do that in their own homes. I try to explain the potential for germ infestation if you walk around all the rooms of your home with shoes whose bottoms are most certainly dirty. When they get their rugs, carpets, wood and tile floors dirty and have to vaccumn and shampoo and mop them all the time, they should remember what I told them, remove your shoes in your home.

    Wearing your dirty shoes in your home is like picking up a million hitchhiking germs and bacteria and microbes that you cannot see with the naked eye. Put them under a microscope and you have a horror show. One day I hired vent duct cleaners to vaccumn out all the filthy dust in the heating and air conditioning vent ducts in the walls of my home. You wouldn’t believe what they were sucking out of my walls from that ductwork. I have a forced air system which is the worse. Especially in the winter when I have the heat on. It is not just heat coming from the duct vents but also bacteria and millions of unseen dust particles that make my allergies worse.

    Inside the ductwork of your home’s vents (if you have forced air) are layers upon layers upons layers of dust. When you put the heat or AC on, a lot of that dust is blowing out of your vents as well and it is not healthy for you. It is slowly killing us. We are inhaling it. It gets in our system, our bloodstream, our lungs, our eyes, our mouths. Maybe it’s good to spray some Lysol or some other kind of antibacterial killing spray in the air in your home’s rooms a few times a week to help kill the germs coming out of your vents.

    But don’t add to your misery by wearing shoes in the home. Those duct vent cleaners that came to my house got mud all over my rugs and wood floors because it had rained that day and we didn’t ask them to remove their shoes. We should have. It is not too much to ask of people. And if they don’t want to do so, get other workers to come to your home who will remove their shoes. You’ll have a cleaner, more healthy home.

  26. I like to know about Foot and Nail Deceases
    Prevention of spreading these deceases in community
    Barefoot will speedup the spread of deceases like Fungus, Warts etc.
    Wearing shoes in community will prevent spreading such deceases to others around.

  27. in malaysia we never wear shoes at home simply because it’s our culture and religion. but after i have a baby it makes me wonder how some people can wear shoes inside the house and let their baby crawl on the floor. baby loves to suck their fingers and by crawling on the floor, they’ll surely pick up all the dirts and germs. it’s a matter of changing the habits or culture of people around you. also one thing i notice about other people’s habit is that they will not rinse their plates after soaking them inside dish cleaner soap. they just dry them up and use the plate aftter that. just wonder if you put soup in the bowl then you will dissolve all that dried cleaner and eat them. simply gross.

  28. Joyce Paden says:

    I’m a healthcare worker and in working in a lab all day where blood, urine, sputum, and feces had the potential to spill on the floors and counters, I made the habit to remove my shoes due to the risk of taking pathogens like Hep A or B, HIV etc. home to my family. Like it or not, hospitals and clinics do get blood and or body fluids on their floors especially in and around the ER. I think any parent who tries to be the best parent they can be should receive kudos for attempting to keep their children healthy and safe. It is your responsibility actually. The problem here actually lies with arrogant, ignorant folk who send their snotty nosed, vomiting, abdominal cramping , viral infected kids to the daycare and give it to other children and cause responsible parents who make the effort to have good hygiene to have to take off work to care for our own otherwise healthy kids. It is one thing to be obsessed but I totally recommend being hygienic. Preventative health is the key to lifelong good health. My three (now in their twenties) children have never been hospitalized nor had to take so much as a single antibiotic because they were taught good hygiene and they continue that practice with my grandchildren. So, I guess we’re not so stupid, eh? Proof’s in the pudding so to speak! No need to send me comments because I will never sway from proven results! Have a great day all :-)

  29. Wow.. I didn’t realize just how many people wear there shoes in their house, I was raised to take them off at the door. Yes the germs on shoes, I don’t want tracked in my house but I also don’t want dirt marks, oil , sand, little rocks, salt etc. tracked onto my carpets, I have better things to do then steam clean my carpets all the time.

  30. Aaron Thompson says:

    Good information….however, shoes should bw left outside the door. Also….Dads are just as concerned as Moms. Kind of sexist only to mention mothers and not fathers. This father cares about cleanliness just as much as my wife, if not more so.

  31. For cleanliness sake this makes sense, but for sanitary reasons, I’m not convinced. I grew up wearing my shoes in the house, and my whole family does it now. Guess what? We don’t get sick anymore than everyone who has a no shoe rule. We did no shoes for a while, but my 4 young kids are in and out all day long and putting their shoes on takes forever. They would end up running outside barefoot or in flip flops which is just as bad, if not worse because you’re risking serious injury to your feet. Plus, some people (such as myself) need to wear shoes every waking minute because of foot problems. I do miss my cleaner floor days, but I love that it’s easier for my kids to play outside.

  32. خالد مصطفى قناة / فانكوفر ـ كنــدا says:

    Islamic & Oriental People are Known Culture by removing their shoo at the front door, and walk inside with a their Socks, In the western countries, some people feels being insulted or being bothered , if they were asked to remove their shoo at the front door. It’s a matter of cultural difference. Thanks for the Info.


  1. […] 6. Leave your shoes at the door. This cuts down on dust-bound pollutants in the home [and germs]. […]

  2. […] (and/or adult) guests to bring all of their mismatched socks over for an annual sock hop. Have a basket by the front door where guests can throw their singles in. After everyone arrives, blindfold your guests and have […]

  3. […] Now if we have a party and lots of people are over, we do not enforce the rule. So I am not that crazy, yet! But after everyone leaves, no matter what time, I have to get them clean. I will vacuum and use my Haan steam floor cleaner! Love it!! I can not sleep knowing what my floors look like. And it is easier to do while the kids are sleeping. Shoe germ info: Common contaminant on the bottom of your shoes- E. Coli. Yup you are bringing in fecal matter from nature’s friends and from the bathroom in your kids school, from the restaurant or really any public bathroom. 90-99% of this bacteria is tracked through your home, onto your floors. This is where the kids play and get it on their hands, knees, socks, feet and all over the crib/bed at nap time. And you know those kids are in your bed doing something or other and leaving you some fecal matter too! Lovely! You can read some more here- ecochildsplay. […]

  4. […] Now that I have a baby, I am even more careful about not wearing shoes in the house than my mom!  I was just having a discussion online about how gross it is to bring all of the germs and nasties from outside into your house on your shoes, when I found this article: Shoes Transmit Disease, Leave Them By the Door. […]

  5. […] Read more about the study from a parent’s perspective here. […]

  6. […] that same University of Arizona study, 96% of the sampled shoes tested positive for coliform and E. coli bacteria, which can only mean […]

  7. […] toxins at the door, reducing our families’ exposure to toxins like lead, pesticides and even microorganisms like E. Coli that may be tracked in – […]

  8. […] Do you wear shoes in your home? An article from Eco’s Child’s Play explains how shoes transmit diseases, maybe you should give it a read? You can find it here. […]

  9. […] toxins at the door, reducing our families’ exposure to toxins like lead, pesticides and even microorganisms like E. Coli that may be tracked in – […]

  10. […] toxins at the door, reducing our families’ exposure to toxins like lead, pesticides and even microorganisms like E. Coli that may be tracked in – eeewww! Remove those […]

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