Do you remove your shoes before entering your home? Some people forbid shoes in their homes, while others consider being asked to remove their shoes nothing short of offensive. I have friends with Please Remove Shoes Before Entering signs brazenly taped to their doors, while I have other friends who’d prefer to stay out of someone’s no-shoes-allowed home rather than be required to expose their socks.
Much of it has to do with cultural tradition. In many places across the globe removing shoes before entering is a deeply ingrained practice. As a kid growing up in southern California, I always entered the house in socks. Although not because we had a rule about shoes, rather, my preferred style of footwear had wheels attached and roller skates were tricky on the carpet. But somehow I evolved, over time, into an adult who doesn’t wear shoes inside. For me it started off as a matter of comfort, but upon further reflection it has become reinforced by a number of other factors.
Here are five reasons for removing shoes before entering:
1. Comfort. I wear sensible shoes (mostly? sometimes?) but no matter how comfortable my shoes are, my feet are always happier outside of them. I want to be comfortable at home. I want to take off my shoes as soon as I walk in, the same way I might want to take off a pair of tight jeans. My home is my haven, it’s hard to relax in your sanctuary wearing knee-high boots.
2. Toxins. An EPA study, reported in Environmental Science & Technology provided the first proof that pesticides can be tracked into residences on shoes. People and pets who walk on pesticide-treated lawns can pick up pesticides like the herbicide 2,4-D, for up to a week after application, the study showed. The study found that “track-in” exposures of pesticides may exceed those from the best-known source–pesticide residues on non-organic fresh fruits and vegetables. Another study showed that 98 percent of lead dust found in homes is tracked in from outside as well.
3. Happy Neighbors. If you live in an apartment building, no shoes makes much happier downstairs neighbors. Especially downstairs neighbors with a really cute little girl who is a light sleeper. (Hi Zoe!)
4. Germs. This one may have more to do with neurosis than actual facts–but living in an urban environment and seeing all the disgusting things that end up on the sidewalk? Yuck. I definitely don’t want to track pesticides and lead paint in, but neither am I interested in tracking in dog waste and other bodily fluids thank you very much.
5. Dirt. I live in a converted 19th century convent that still has boot scrapers by both entrances. (Did 19th-century nuns wear boots?) We have paved roads now so dirt and mud may be less of an issue, but toxins and germs aside, shoes still manage to track in plenty of plain old grime. Why would I want to perform extra cleaning when simply leaving shoes at the door makes such a difference in the cleanliness of my floor?
So that’s my take on removing shoes. I have a bookshelf right inside my door where my kids and I kick off our shoes first thing. I never insist on guests removing their shoes, but I would say that nine out of ten do so automatically when they see our bare feet and the shoe shelf.