For COVID-19 and vaccination updates, view our information for the community. If you're experiencing symptoms, call your primary care provider.

Healthy Lifestyle

Your Shoes May Be Making You Sick

Do you remove your shoes before walking through your home? If not, you may want to think again.

New research done at the University of Houston says your shoes may be full of diarrhea-causing bacteria, and tracking the bugs through the house can put you at a high risk for contamination.

Researchers tested the soles of thousands of shoes, and found that nearly 40 percent of the samples contained Clostridium difficile, commonly known as C. Diff, an intestinal bacteria that causes diarrhea. Touching those shoes or a surface infected by the bacteria could lead to upset stomach and discomfort. In its most extreme form, C. Diff can cause life-threatening inflammation of the colon.

Besides just C. diff, other studies have found that shoes can quickly become contaminated with all sorts of dangerous bacteria. One microbiologist and professor at the University of Arizona discovered that within just two weeks of wearing a new shoe, it was contaminated with 440,000 units of bacteria. An astonishing 27 percent of that total bacteria were deadly E Coli. He also found pneumonia and another type of infection called Serratia ficaria, which can lead to infection of the respiratory tract.

So where do all these bacteria come from? The ground you walk on is covered with dirt and fecal matter from animals. Once contaminated spores hit the ground, they can live for months, running the risk of making you sick.

While frequent house cleaning can help, C. Diff spores are resistant to many household cleaning products, making the potential for community household contamination is high. If it makes you sick, C. diff also isn’t easy to treat. Several strains are resistant to antibiotics.

If you want to avoid tracking these germs into your house, experts suggest removing your shoes at the door.

For more advice on staying clear of dangerous bacteria, talk with your Methodist Physicians Clinic provider or any of our infectious disease specialists.

About the Author

Dr. Rudolf Kotula is a board-certified infectious disease physician. He specializes in areas such as antibiotic resistance, travel medicine and infection prevention.

You can visit Dr. Kotula at Methodist Physicians Clinic.

See more articles from Rudolf Kotula, MD
Photo of Rudolf Kotula, MD