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New Danger: The Bottom of Your Shoes

May 27, 2017
Plain English Version

Leave your shoes at the door.

Do you take off your shoes when you go into someone’s home? Most Americans do not. It is common practice in Japan and Finland. It is not common here. It surprises many people when their host asks them to do so.

Taking off your shoes can be good manners. But there are even better reasons to take them off. Shoes are big carriers of bacteria.

People run little risk of getting sick because of germs clinging to their shoes. But there is more risk for the young and the old. And even more risk for those who are already sick.

A doctor says, “It is amazing how far humans travel during the day. And all that walking drags in germs and bugs.” He says just take your shoes off.

Researchers did a big study in 2011. They looked at a bacterium called Clostridium difficile (C.diff). C. diff caused about a half-million infections in the U.S. in 2011. About 29,000 people died from their infections,

The researchers collected samples from the soles of shoes. They found that more than a quarter of the sampled soles tested positive for C. diff. This percent is about three times the percent found on the surfaces of kitchens and bathrooms. The study concluded that shoe soles are a “home” for infectious pathogens.

Other studies have shown that shoe soles could carry listeria. Listeria can cause serious infection. Shoe soles from farms may carry E. coli bacteria.

An expert said, “When you wear your shoes in a house, you bring in everything you stepped in during the day.”

Wiping your feet on a welcome mat is of limited help. The expert said, “It will remove some of the dirt. But you have to think of the person who wiped their feet before. You might be picking up stuff he or she left behind.”

Some people worry about what is on the bottom of socks. An expert said it is much less of a risk. The inside of a shoe has far less bacteria than the outside.

A researcher said, “Shoes in the house are not something to freak out about.” On the other hand, another expert said there is little argument against removing them. He went on, “Taking off your shoes is not an extreme measure, so, why not?”

Source: The Wall Street Journal April 8, 2017

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