Most people have a “no shoes” policy in their household not because they’re afraid of getting diarrhea, but because they don’t want dirty floors. But a shocking new study offers a convincing reason for ditching shoes at the door: Walking around the house with dirty-soled shoes may lead to a serious bacterial infection.
According to a recent study published by the University of Houston, there’s a 26.4 percent chance that your shoes are carrying the infectious bacteria commonly known as C. diff. This bacteria can cause a variety of less-than-ideal health problems, including diarrhea, dehydration, colon inflammation, abdominal cramps and nausea, that can last for days, weeks or even months.
The ickiest part? C. diff is commonly carried in food products and human and animal feces. So that little bit of dog poop or bologna you stepped in could potentially bring diarrhea-causing C. diff into your home. Once it’s through the front door, the bacteria can multiply and spread on floors and carpeted surfaces.
According to the CDC, nearly half a million Americans suffered from a C. diff infection in 2014, and 29,000 of them died within 30 days of contracting it. While infections from C. diff occur more frequently in the elderly population (nursing homes and hospitals are hot zones), anyone with a weakened immune system, including infants, is at an increased risk of contracting the infection and becoming ill.
And don’t think this is the first time wearing shoes indoors has been linked to bacterial infection. In 2008, University of Arizona did an alternate study and found 421,000 different forms on the bottom of shoes — with 96 percent of shoes carrying coliform, a bacteria also found in human feces. Meanwhile, a 2014 German study found that more than 25 percent of boots used on farms carried the bacteria E. coli.
But you always wipe your shoes on the doormat before entering your home, so you’re good, right? Sorry, but that’s just not enough. Shoes are especially hard to decontaminate because of the grooves and porous surfaces. Dr. Kevin Garey, one of the authors of the University of Houston study, points out that you also “have to think of the person who wiped their feet before. You might be picking [up] stuff they left behind.”
If you’re still not sold on the idea of leaving your shoes at the door, just think how clean your floors will be and how fresh you’ll look in badass Japanese-style house slippers.