Kathy Whelan

Posted on May 05, 2017

“Remove Thy Shoes” is the Eleventh Commandment in our home. I can’t even remember when my husband and I began this practice, or why. It probably had to do with snow or mud and the cost of carpet cleaning. Now it’s a habit so ingrained it needs no rationale. Except when we’re hosting a party. And that’s when it gets sticky.

My husband is more of a purist than I am, it seems. He wants to know why a party should be different from any other time.

Here’s why. I don’t know about men (other than the ones I’m related to), but many women choose their footwear with care when they dress up. A pair of pants might be long enough to call for a heeled shoe or boot rather than something flat. And a little black dress is so much more fun with a pair of colorful shoes.

Can I really ask my women party guests to risk tripping over their pants without their heels or look like they are in mourning without their playful shoes? Worse, what if the boots conceal a toe protruding from a hole in a pair of well-worn tights or socks? What if the bare feet inside the colorful shoes haven’t been pedicured in months and the toenails are rough and peeling like the side of an old barn? Given that shoeless homes are not an American norm as they are in some other cultures, these are issues a host might consider before surprising a woman by asking her to remove her shoes.

Give your guests advance warning, some might say. But how? The “Black Tie” language that appears on formal wedding invitations has no equivalent when it comes to shoe removal. Lacking accepted phraseology, issuing an advance warning seems awkward. It might come across all too truthfully: “We don’t want your filthy shoes in our home!”

But here’s the thing. Wearing shoes in the home is not healthy. Long ago, when our family had already been removing our shoes for years, I read that bacteria, toxins, pollutants and pesticides come into our homes on the soles of our shoes. This news supported our practice, and since we were too busy and tired to host parties back then, no other value competed with it. The shoes v. no shoes debate never aired. My husband took this information and ran with it, washing the dog’s feet in a bucket of soapy water after every walk.

Besides health, should anything else matter? Maybe not. A recent Wall Street Journal article drove the point home. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/is-it-healthier-to-remove-your-shoes-at-home-1491649200). You don’t have to fully understand shoe-borne visitors with names like Clostridium difficile (“C. diff”) and Listeria monocytogenes to know you don’t want them in your home. Maybe the risk of getting sick from these bugs isn’t high for everyone, as the author of the article suggests. But the young (we have three grandchildren under 6) and the elderly (we’re perilously close now) have more to fear. And, after all, I am a health coach!

Yet I remain conflicted. So what’s the answer? I could adopt a practice I’ve seen at weddings where flip-flops are offered to women who don’t want to dance in party shoes. But that wouldn’t help in colder weather when toes in hose or tights can’t be separated to accommodate a flip-flop thong. I could buy spa sandals or hotel slippers made of terry cloth.

Another, easier approach might offer the best solution. Searching online, I found antimicrobial doormats. Great! I thought. Problem solved: no more icky micro-organisms tracked in, and everyone can keep their shoes. But can I trust the claims these products make? And if so, will I be contributing to the evolution of resistant “superbugs?”

I need to mull this over a little more before purchasing my Mr. Doormat. In the meantime, how about you? What do you think? Shoes or no shoes in your home?

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