Either you grew up in a "take your shoes off the moment you enter this household, youths!" kind of home, or an "anything goes" one — there was really no in between. As it turns out, though, the houses with the line of shoes organized at the doorway might have been better off, because a recent study demonstrates that not taking off your shoes when you get home could affect your health in a major way.
Dr. Kevin Garey at the University of Houston shed some light re: walking in your house with your shoes on that might make you do a full body cringe. Unsurprisingly, our shoes attract a lot of bacteria — a natural consequence of traipsing all over the universe on the soles of them. You may know where they've been, but you never really know where they'e been, if you catch my drift. (My drift is the dog poop someone scooped off the sidewalk just before you stepped on it.)
Dr. Garey's team focused on one particularly bit of bacteria we tend to attract on the soles of our shoes, Clostridium difficile (C. diff.). According to the CDC, this bacteria, found in feces, can lead to colitis — an inflammation of the colon that leads to some less-than-precious symptoms like watery diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain, appetite loss, and nausea. And unfortunately for any shoe-wearing individuals, it also sticks to our soles like whoa.
In fact, they were able to provide people with live footage of C. Diff attaching itself to the soles of shoes for reference:
OK, OK, I jest, but the potential consequences of C. Diff exposure are very real. People with other illnesses, the elderly, and people who rely on antibiotics are more vulnerable to it, and once the infection is treated, it is persistent enough that it has a 20 percent chance of returning. In 2011, it affect almost half a million people, and resulted in 29,000 deaths. And although it isn't widely talked about, your shoes are an excellent breeding ground for C. Diff — and milling around your place of living with it only increases the pathogen's chances of spreading.
So what can you do to prevent it? The study's author notes that it isn't enough to merely wipe dirt or clean off your shoe, because that isn't enough to get rid of C. Diff. Your best bet is to leave those shoes with your drama — at the door, where they belong.