Whether it’s your neighborhood book club or the extended family gift exchange, it might be time to implement a “shoes off” policy in your home.

“The tread and cracks in the bottoms of our shoes are perfect places for bacteria and other dangerous contaminants to hide. When we walk indoors wearing shoes, they come in, too, and can drop off on the floors and rugs where pets and babies like to crawl and play,” said Henry Anyimadu, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Hartford HealthCare.

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4 reasons to shed shoes at the door

1. Keep the germs outside.

You don’t have to work in an operating room or daycare center to collect a whole host of infectious bacteria on your shoes. In fact, a University of Arizona study showed that there are more than 421,000 bacteria on the soles of our shoes, including strains that can cause diarrhea, meningitis and pneumonia. Some are even resistant to regular household cleaning measures like vacuuming and mopping.

Experts estimate that up to 40% of the contaminants in our home were brought in from the outside. For comparison, University of Houston research examined swabs of shoe bottoms and toilet seats, finding that the shoes had higher levels of C.diff, a bacteria resistant to antibiotics.

2. Keep chemicals away.

Another study, from Baylor University, revealed that chemical toxins found in tar-sealed pavement can increase one’s cancer risk. Shoes that walk over such pavement can trek those chemicals right into your home and become part of the dust. Walking on chemical-treated grass or in older buildings that have lead paint can also leave dangerous particles on your shoes.

3. Keep allergens at bay.

Being outside has many wonderful benefits for your health. But a hike, trip to the ballfield or even gardening can be an invitation to mold and pollen to travel indoors on your shoes.

4. Keep feet healthy.

Feet like the extra wiggle room and air after a long day in shoes. Even if your feet need support at all times, consider orthotic slippers instead of wearing your shoes inside.

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Set up a shoe spot

Right inside the door, put a rack or a boot tray for collecting the family’s footwear. Leave house slippers or fuzzy socks there for a fast and easy swap. Encourage your visitors to do the same with a sign or simply asking when they arrive.