Should you take your shoes off inside the house?

Stuart Heritage
No shoes in the living room! Photograph: Nicholas Eveleigh/Getty Images

My brother is a fastidious shoes-off-er. I visited him recently and, within a couple of minutes, he gestured at my feet in horror. “What are those?” he asked. “These?” I replied, pointing to my trainers. “I bought them onli–” “No!” he yelled. “What are they doing on in my house?”

This is the best way to divide people. There are those who despise the thought of rubber on carpet, who lie awake panicking because wearing outdoors shoes indoors upsets the natural order of things. Then there are normal people like me, who don’t really care because they understand the purpose of doormats.

However, as much as I hate to admit it, the shoes-off-ers might be on to something. A recent study led by researchers at the University of Houston has shown that 26.4% of shoes carry Clostridium difficile, while a 2015 study claimed that 40% of shoes carry Listeria monocytogenes. Work on a farm? A 2014 study concluded that your boots are almost certainly covered in E coli. These are not the things that should be traipsed through living rooms.

But I’m not going out without a fight. Sure, it might be more hygienic to remove your shoes at the door, but only infinitesimally so. By all accounts, you’re unlikely to get ill just because someone is wearing shoes in your living room. And if you have got young kids, who bolt in and out of the house without warning at the first sign of sun, it’s much more practical to keep your shoes on. Not to mention dignified; fewer things inspire more pity than the sight of adults flamingoing themselves into knots as they attempt to do up their shoelaces in a narrow hallway at the end of a night.

True, the answer to both of these problems is loafers. But given the choice of loafers or E Coli, I’ll take the latter every time.

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