6 Reasons To Not Wear Shoes At Home

It’s customary to take your shoes off at home in many parts of the world.

For instance, in many Asian households it’s often shoes off at the door. There’s also a no shoes rule when walking around indoors at home.

Shoes | KAWS: Companionship in the Age of Loneliness (1)

Having grown up in a Chinese household, this is a habit that comes naturally to me. As a kid, I’d come home, take my shoes off and place them on the shoe rack by the door. Today this is still what I do every time I come home.

As I wrote in Hi I’m Asian. Come In, Leave Your Shoes On. Or Not seven years ago, there are hygiene, practical and logical reasons for not wearing shoes at home. It’s not only out of habit some people choose to go shoe-less at home, but it’s a conscientious choice as well.

Revisiting this topic in more depth, here are some reasons to go shoe-less at home, reasons based on cultural background and personal preferences.

1. Keeping a clean house

When you go about your day outside, your shoes tread on rough concrete paths, slippery public toilet floors, rain-soaked mud and greasy food court floor. You step on anything and everything in between when you’re out – no doubt your shoes pick up dirt, grime and bacteria.

Taking off your shoes at the door means you don’t drag the dirt, grime and bacteria underneath your footwear around the house. A study by microbiologist Charles Gerba found there is an average of 421,000 units of bacteria on the outsides of shoes. The bacteria e colli, which causes diarrhoea, is often found on the bottom of shoes.

More recently, a small study in China found traces of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on the bottom of medical workers’ shoes. Similarly another study found the coronavirus can remain on surfaces for hours. So what you picked up from outside with your shoes can be contagious at home.

In households in Japan, eating on tatami floors and sleeping on futons is common. Naturally there is a need to keep floors at home as clean as possible. Naturally no shoes at home helps keep the house clean for longer, and less cleaning needed too.

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2. Respect

It’s a mark of respect in many Asian, Indian and Middle Eastern cultures to take your shoes off at home. Many modern Asian houses are constructed slightly raised. Usually there is a step or two leading up to the main entrance, inviting one to physically and psychologically ‘(step) up to a different level’. Leaving your shoes at the door in Asian cultures signifies you are willing to honour the codes of someone’s private homely space.

It’s also customary to take shoes off before entering religious places such as temples and mosques. Hindus see wearing shoes in places of worship as impure and consider shoes off as a means of honouring a home’s cleanliness and purity.

In some Chinese homes you can find an altar where one pays respects to their ancestors or deities. It’s shoes off before praying be it at a temple or at home. It’s believed holy spaces channel cosmic energy and this energy is interchanged within the body and ‘earthed’ when one goes barefoot.

3. Comfort

Sometimes it’s more comfortable going barefoot at home. You might choose to wear uncomfortable footwear all day and go barefoot when you get home.

Many Asian countries above the equator experience tropical, humid weather most of the year. Hot climate leads to sweaty feet. So it makes sense to let your feet be free and relaxed at home in warm weather.

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4. Health benefits

There are some health benefits going barefoot at home. Feet tend to swell as the day goes on and shoes are usually a tighter fit in the evening. Shoes that are too tight can cause structural issues such as bunions and blisters.

Taking off shoes at home not only relaxes your feet but enhances its natural mobility. A study on going barefoot versus wearing common footwear found habitual barefoot walkers showed lower peak plantar pressure while the latter group exhibited reduced forefoot spreading.

In Chinese culture, reflexology has been practiced for over 5000 years and is believed to have health perks such as improving blood circulation. Some Chinese believe going barefoot stimulates the feet’s pressure points in line with reflexology.

5. Less damage

Some kind of footwear are more likely to cause damage to floorboards, tiles and carpet at home. High heels or stiletto heels are especially damaging to hardwood flooring, with a person’s weight concentrated on a small point of footwear – making permanent dents on the floor.

Grooves underneath sport shoes or runners often pick up lose gravel or mud, which can scrape your floors and leave stains on carpets. That can warrant replacing flooring which costs a fair bit, and many can’t afford replacing that every year or so.

6. Noise pollution

If you live in an apartment, wearing shoes at home might be annoying to your downstairs neighbours. It could sound like heavy stomping to those living below.

Poor insulation within the apartment building can sometimes be partly to blame. Perhaps it’s best to take off shoes in apartments.

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*  *  *

While you may choose not to wear outdoor footwear at home, that doesn’t mean you want to go barefoot all the time. You might choose to wear indoor footwear such as slippers during winter to keep your feet warm.

I can attest to that and wear socks when the nights get less than 10’C in Melbourne. On the coldest winter nights here, it’s biting cold. The winter chill hugging your feet as you stand on carpet is one thing, and the chill rising up your feet as you stand on tiles is another thing altogether.

If you have chronic foot conditions such as plantar fasciitis, orthopaedic indoor footwear might be needed. No point in going barefoot if being barefoot hurts your feet – proper heel and arch support is always needed both outdoors and at home.

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Consequently not taking off shoes at home is arguably not all that bad. Food microbiologist Donald W. Schaffner suggests bacteria-caked shoes are low health hazards compared to other household hazards such as salmonella. Paediatrics professor Dr Aaron E. Carroll mentions we normally don’t wash our dog’s paws each time it comes home. Also, in his book Dirt Is Good, Jack Gilbert proposes exposure to dirt may help stimulate kids’ immune systems and make them stronger.

Occasionally I’ve been guilty of stepping around the house in shoes. I’d snooze a few too many times in the morning, get ready in record time and rush out the door for work…only to wonder if I turned off my hair straightener. Back indoors I go, wondering if I’ll be late for work, pause for a split second and then stampede over the carpet with shoes on to check on the heated hair straightener.

When tradespeople come over for household repairs, it makes sense for them to keep their footwear on. That’s because broken appliances, hammers and sharp tools lying around can be hazard zones – better to have feet protected than not for them to do their job. This I don’t mind.

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When it comes to having guests over at my place, it’s shoes off at the door. Who knows where their shoes have been and cleanliness keeps my allergies at bay. And definitely no wearing dirty shoes while sitting or lying in bed. Inviting people over to your house means opening up your private space to them, and your house rules should be respected.

At the end of the day, each to their own when it comes to wearing or not wearing shoes at home.

Do you take your shoes off at home?

211 thoughts on “6 Reasons To Not Wear Shoes At Home

  1. I was raised never to wear shoes in the house, and it has always made sense to me! You never know where you have really walked outside, why drag it inside?! And fibres in carpet can collect all sorts of dirt from the soles of shoes, it’s so much cleaner to remove them before going any further into the house. Plus, I personally find wearing socks or just having bare feet to be way more comfortable that sitting in shoes. Great post, I totally agree!

    Anika | chaptersofmay.com

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    • Thanks, Anika. Exactly, you never know where you’ve walked outside, and it’s so strange to me why people wear outside shoes and drag dirt in from outside. It can be so hard to get dirt out completely from tiny carpet fibres. There are carpet cleaners but sometimes that doesn’t get rid of all dirt and stains. Best to go barefoot or wear socks indoors unless we have foot conditions.

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  2. I remember growing up and we were told to remove shoes before entering any home esp. when visiting other people’s houses. We don’t do it anymore (leaving it outside) because we live in a flat. But we carry it from the door, change into slip ons and off to the shoe-rack.

    Now, that habit has become practical because of Covid. We shouldnt really walk around with such dirty footwear.

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  3. I’m a Filipina and we’re pretty much the same. We have a shoe rack or storage before someone can enter the house, but if we’re having celebrations or something, it’s okay to wear it inside because there’ll be a lot of cleaning after.

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    • A shoe rack is also normal in Chinese culture too. I hope your celebrations are always fun. Whenever there is a big gathering in my household, it’s still shoes off and it’s normal to find a big pile of shoes outside the door 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Articulately written.
    I have never really taken out time to think about all of these on my own.
    My decisions about whether to wear my shoes into the house or to leave them outside has always been spontaneous.
    I’ll give it more thought now that I’ve seen reason to.
    Lovely post!

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  5. Awwww this is a serene post Mabel, thanks for sharing! As an Asian American I was also taught to take my shoes off when I’m indoors and I still always do that. I’ve always named the cleanliness and cultural reason, and now it’s calming to see these other reasons listed out too. Thanks for your perspective as always.

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    • Awww thanks, Thomas! That’s great you still take your shoes off indoors. Cleanliness would be the top reason why I take my shoes off the moment I get home. Always a good reason to take shoes off at home and you’re keen on it. Hope you are doing well.

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  6. Point 1 about germs and dirt on shoes should be reason enough to most people to take their shoes off inside a house. Mind you there are bacteria on feet anyway but our own skin germs are a lot cleaner to shoes. You covered the topic very well. I even have a friend who has flat feet who has to wear orthotics inside the house to prevent damaging his feet. And yes, I’ve made the quick dash back into the house to make sure something was turned off without taking my shoes off. Feel guilty doing it though. 🙂

    When I was in Japan I stayed at a hotel and they showed me to my room. I was instructed to take my shoes off and there were two sets of slippers – one to wear in the room, and the other to wear in the bathroom. I liked the attention to detail.

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    • Thanks, Dragon. You make a good point on hygiene should be reason enough to remove shoes at home. That’s good your friend wears orthotics at home for this flat feet – it’s needed for him.

      Japan is probably one of the most cleanest, attention to detail places in the world. If you had refused to take off your shoes, it would have been rude.

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      • Indeed, hygiene is a topic that can’t be ignored in this current environment. I just heard they’re extending the lockdown in Melbourne foe a couple more weeks. Tough times but the numbers are trending in the right direction.

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        • Hygiene really is so important these days, and it’s something so many of us are careless about. Things won’t probably change much in Melbourne for a while (there’ll be a third wave at some point), but yes, numbers are trending in the right direction.

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  7. During the winter, we usually take them off because the ground most likely is wet and we want to protect our floors. Then socks will do. In the summer, we all like to walk around barefoot or at least wear flip flops. Well written and something to think about as cultures vary. Take care, Lauren

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    • That’s a good reason to take shoes off at home in the winter. You don’t want to be dragging water or moisture in which can cause mould. you are o right. Cultures vary and habits are something to think about, and are often associated with our culture.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Very informative article Mabel. Thank you. I love how you touched on the cultural habits. A year ago I did have plantar fasciitis, which my doctor recommended wearing shoes indoors. Had them parked beside my bed at night, and as soon as the legs swung to the floor, the shoes were on. I used them at the time as indoor shoes which never saw the outdoors.

    Our schools in Canada have our indoor shoes and outdoor shoes which are changed at the entrance. Very interesting what you shared about COVID-19 being found on the soles of medical workers shoes. I used to custodian at my former place of employment and it is amazing how much stuff gets tracked in by office winter. Some workers did change into indoor shoes at the entrance, which was very thoughtful and considerate. Winter it is amplified with the tracking in of slush and sidewalk salt on their boots. A couple people did wear bare feet at work and were reprimanded. Because it was a public place where stuff does get tracked indoors the workplace work stipulations require indoor footwear. I guess if everyone removed their shoes like worshippers do before entering religious places such as temples and mosques it would be far different. Thank you Mabel for sharing such a intriguing and fascinating article! 🙂

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    • Thanks, Carl. Sorry to hear you have plantar fasciitis. Good on you for getting it checked out and your doctor recommended indoor shoes. Hopefully they are comfortable shoes to wear at home and they have helped your feet.

      That is very interesting to hear some schools in Canada have indoors and outdoors shoes. All my time in school in Asia it’s always been outdoors shoes inside and outside the classroom. It is also interesting to hear of your observations with footwear when you were a custodian. I’ve heard it snows and gets very wet during winter in Canada – so I can just imagine how much tracking of slush and sidewalk friendlies indoors with footwear on. At the indoor offices I’ve worked it’s always outdoor shoes on as you would expect. I did notice some colleagues like taking off their shoes and walk around in socks for comfort – and I guess in office buildings this is alright.

      Hope you are doing well, Carl 🙂

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  9. I SO appreciate this post, Mabel. For years I have felt uncomfortable wearing shoes in the house, as well as having guests/strangers wear their shoes when they enter my house. I think for the most part it just made sense to me that whatever those shoes have stepped on (with their wearer), they are bringing that into my floors, and I like a clean house. Also, since I prefer to walk indoors barefoot, I don’t want to walk on anything the shoes of others have brought in. Because I live in New England, most of the time (except summer) I wear a pair of thick soft socks while indoors to keep my feet warm. I haven’t found a way, however, to explain to guests nicely why I’d like them to take their shoes off when they enter my front entryway. I think I’ll share your post with family and friends. ;-0 THANKS.

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    • No problem, Pam. No same in not wearing shoes indoors. It really is a personal choice. A clean house is always a lovely house and I find it easier to relax in clean house.

      That isn’t nice of some of your guests walk right in with their footwear on. It’s probably just natural to them. But it can be frustrating when they aren’t aware and don’t respect your house rules. I’ve seen some people put a mat out their front door which says something along the lines of ‘Shoes off’ to encourage guests to remove footwear before entering 😀

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  10. Hi Mabel, I hope you are doing well Down Under and this year has not been too much of a battle for you 🙂 It is a strange one, and I hope you and your family are doing well and staying healthy and safe. A great and timely post for me ~ I have not worn shoes in my place here in Seattle, a habit picked up when I lived in China so long ago. It is a habit that is in direct conflict with my family in the States as we grew up tromping around the house in our shoes. I always have them take off their shoes when they visit me in Seattle and they do without any problems – but at first it was a battle 🙂 I leave for Czech tomorrow and my niece will come up and live in my place for a couple months taking her college ‘on-line’ courses since she can’t return to university in California and how I laughed when she said… “Can I wear my shoes in your flat?” as she knew my reply was “not a chance!” Agree, it is better for the overall cleanliness of the home, and I have also found it is just so much more comfortable as well. Great reasons in your post that I will send to my niece 🙂 Take care, and wish you well.

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    • Nice to hear from you, Randy. This year has been weird and different year. For most part not a battle at all after some adjusting. Good to hear you spent some time back home in Seattle and lovely of you to share some pointers from here with your niece 🙂

      Sometimes old habits die hard, and sounds like parts of culture in China stuck with you all these years. Tromping around the house in shoes sounds like everyone could be bringing in heaps from the outside indoors. Your family are very kind to take off their shoes when they come visit you. It must have been very annoying for you at first when they didn’t 🙂

      I hope your niece respects your house rules when she takes over your flat for a couple of months. Al the best with her college on-line courses. Also all the best for your time in Czech. Take care and stay safe 🙂

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      • A very different and weird year…and there are still 3+ months left :-/

        Yes, there are an amazing number of habits I’ve picked up from China and are embedded in how I live now, and sometimes it is funny to see how distinctly different they are from the way my family does things. And yes, the wearing shoes in my place always makes me uneasy 😉
        Wishing you well too, Mabel. Take care ~

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        • Still 3 months left…and then there is still next year as well which will probably be a challenging one too 😕 Sounds like you are the odd one out in your family, but that is not a bad thing – and shoes off at home is always a good thing 😄 Take care and stay safe, Randy.

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