One thing that always stuck with me from the short time I lived in Hawaii was the politeness and warmth I felt from all the people I met. Another thing I vividly remember is the seeing rows of sandals and flip-flops at the front doors of homes in Waikiki. I also noticed this practice in Bali, Indonesia, when I visited a few years ago, but it’s the norm in other Asian countries such as Japan, Thailand, Korea, Vietnam, and China.
The tradition stems from the Heian period in Japanese history, running from the years 794 to 1185. Floors of the homes would become quickly soiled if people entered wearing geta (clogs) or zooris (sandals). During that time, the Japanese people slept on futons and ate on tatami mats on the floor so it only makes sense that they would remove their dirty shoes before entering their home.
So maybe you aren’t worried about the dirt that you track in your home, or even the wear and tear on your floor, but are you aware that during your short walks on your neighborhood sidewalk you collect things such as dog waste and bird droppings on the bottoms of your shoes? These are sources of Escherichia coli or E.coli, and some strains can make us very sick. Some strains of E. coli can cause diarrhea, respiratory illness and pneumonia, and others. E. coli is just one of 400,000 different types of bacteria found on the bottoms of shoes. Am I grossing you out yet?
Cindy Gellner, M.D., a pediatrician at University of Utah Health Care, says, “Your shoes come in contact with bacteria from restroom floors and the outdoors. Unless you remove your shoes or clean them, you can transfer the bacteria indoors. This is especially a concern in homes where an infant or toddler is crawling around because everything they get on their hands eventually goes into their mouth.”
Clostridium difficile is another nasty bacteria lurking on the bottoms of 40% of shoes according to the researchers at the University of Houston. Their study also showed that wherever floor dust was found, the clostridium difficile bacteria was spread to toilets and other household areas.
Drexel University’s Michael Waring, who heads the College of Engineering’s Indoor Environment Research Group, says that shoes are the transmission route for pesticides and other chemical lawn treatments. Yuk! Can you imagine tracking pesticides on your lovely carpet?
If you’re ready to improve your health you can set up a little cubby by your front door or maybe a big basket to place all of your shoes in. Keep your indoor-only slippers nearby so your feet can stay warm during colder temperatures. At first, it might seem like a pain but after some time you’ll get used to it.
“A belief is only a thought I keep thinking.” -Abraham Hicks