Take Off Your Shoes!

In many countries, taking off one’s shoes before entering a home is a time-honored custom. Just a few examples include Japan, India, Russia, Germany, Switzerland, Hungary, and Turkey, along with several Scandinavian countries. In these countries, and many more, people don’t think twice about slipping off their footwear the second they walk through the door to their own homes, or the homes of guests.

I live in Connecticut, where the winters can be harsh and cold. This past winter, a friend of mine and his family came to our house for a dinner party. When he and his family came inside, they all immediately took off their shoes, and put on indoor slippers which they had brought over with them in a canvas bag. They all looked so cozy all evening. I was tickled by this practice, and my own family now makes this part of our routine as well. Whenever we visit friends or family, we all take off our shoes. In cooler weather, we bring along our own indoor slippers.

In most American families, shoes are often worn all day long, inside and outside the home. Many people in this country only take them off when it’s time to hop in the shower or go to bed. On the surface, this may seem like a minor cultural difference. However, cultures that require shoes to be removed at the door are really onto something: it’s a much healthier way to live.

Take a moment to think about what might be stuck to the soles of your shoes. When you walk around outdoors, everything that you step on ends up clinging to the bottoms of your shoes. All of the dirt, pesticides, fertilizers, automotive exhaust, and street junk sticks to your soles, and can even piles up in the grooves. If you don’t take your shoes off when you enter the house, some of that garbage ends up being tracked across your carpet and floors.

If you then sit on the floor, or worse, if you have kids and pets that roll and play on the floor, everything that you encounter on the street spreads throughout your home. Plus, we all know that kids and pets love to put anything and everything into their mouths… and none of us want our loved ones eating pesticide or whatever other random trash sticks to our shoes.

I love to walk, and my wife and I have a routine of walking for 45 minutes every day. Recently, while we were out on our daily walk, we noticed a number of houses in our neighborhood with lawns that had been recently treated with chemicals. There were little white and blue pellets all over the sidewalk as we were walking — pellets filled with pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and weed killers. These pellets were sticking to our shoes. We have three kids of our own and our house is often filled with many more children of our friends and family. These street chemicals are certainly not welcome in our home.

The custom that many nations have of removing shoes before entering the house is one of the best ways to detoxify your home in general. If you don’t let outside street garbage track through your home, you’re greatly decreasing your exposure to all of those toxins. Even if you don’t have kids or pets that play on the floor, it’s not healthy for anyone to be exposed to automotive exhaust particles and pesticides.

If that’s not a good enough reason to take off your shoes indoors, I don’t know what is. Go ahead and treat yourself to a pair of cozy slippers… and only wear them inside.

– Dr. Joshua Levitt

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