The Japanese have been onto something, and it’s high time we started following suit. In Japan, it’s customary to remove your shoes at the door. In fact, there’s a designated area in the entryway of most homes and businesses just for shoe removal, called the genkan. The idea of the genkan is just as practical as it is cultural: Some things are meant to live inside, and others, like coats, umbrellas, and shoes, are meant to live outside.
Having a “shoes shall not pass” rule when entering your home not only keeps your furniture and floors free of dirty things you can see, like mud and debris, but also (or especially) the nasty things you can’t see. Think about it: During the day you step on everything from trash to bathroom floors to bird and dog poop.Gross. These ickies can latch onto your shoes and harbor harmful bacteria and toxins.
A review of 15 studies found that soles of shoes can be a vector for many infectious pathogens (a.k.a, disease-causing bacteria), like E. coli and C. difficile. And these bacteria are no sole-searching walk in the park. E. coli, which is found in the environment, foods, and intestines of people and animals, can cause such issues as diarrhea, UTIs, and pneumonia. C. difficile, which can be picked up from contaminated surfaces and animal droppings, can cause life-threatening diarrhea and intestinal conditions, like colitis.
Now, you might be thinking: I wipe my shoes on my doormat before entering the house, so I’m safe. Not so fast. Wiping your shoes on your doormat helps remove what you can see, but bacteria have a better grip. A better idea? Do like the Japanese do, and leave your shoes at the door. It’s also wise to disinfect your shoes’ soles often and clean your doormat regularly, using a fabric-safe disinfectant or wipe.
Clean soles are good for the soul (and your health!).