the great debate: should you wear shoes in the house?
Two writers debate the age-old question: should footwear be worn inside the house?
LEAVE YOUR SHOES ON
By Deirdre Fidge
Wearing shoes is one thing that really sets us apart from animals. Except for the horse, of course… and ponies, for that matter. OK sure, also dogs with sensitive paws that have to wear booties when it rains. But my point still stands: footwear provides us with added protection and versatility of movement. Shoes are great! Why wouldn’t we wear them all the time? (Don’t answer that – if I genuinely wanted to listen to an incorrect opinion I’d read the other side of this debate.)
We’ve all encountered households that have a ‘no shoes inside’ rule. Let’s be honest, it’s inconvenient – winter boots have to be laced through so many eyelets you’d be hunched over for an hour just taking them off. And do any of us really want to prolong a goodbye by stooping down for ages while our friends hover nearby, politely holding the door open? If mi casa really is su casa, my loafers are staying put.
Aside from being time-consuming, shoe removal disrupts the entire vibe of an outfit – and this is coming from someone deeply unfashionable, so you know it’s true. It completely ruins the start of an evening if you’ve dressed up for a dinner party, only to have to slide off your heels or clogs. Instead of the sexy strut you envisioned, you’re awkwardly padding around the house looking half-dressed. Why not just go to the party in a bathrobe and face mask?
Before you assume I’m dirty and lazy, please know only the latter is true. I always wipe my hooves thoroughly before entering anyone’s home – sometimes for so long and with such force that my friends think I’m doing a particularly enthusiastic Running Man. But of course everyone must wipe their soles before entering – are we animals?! (No, we are not, as outlined earlier.) Frankly, if a small speck of dirt is tracked into a house, the onus falls on the host for not having a top-quality mat. Bristles, folks – we need bristles.
Wearing shoes indoors provides one bleeding obvious benefit: foot support! Contrary to popular belief among firewalkers, our feet are delicate and precious commodities, and must be protected thusly. If we don’t start looking after our arches, our ankles will suffer. And as the wise adage goes: the ankle bone’s connected to the knee bone, the knee bone’s connected to the hip bone, the hip bone… well, I could go on, but shan’t. Essentially, protecting our feet at all times will ensure top-notch foot health! We all want to be the old people jogging along the beach, not the ones seated on a worn chair gazing sadly outside, cursing their former selves and setting their ‘shoes off please’ sign on fire.
An odd thing I’ve noticed is that wearing runners indoors makes me more active and far more likely to do chores around the house. Clean the bathroom? No worries, I’m already jogging there! Bring in the washing? Absolutely, I literally could not be more prepared! The act of wearing shoes inside is akin to getting showered and dressed when working from home: it tricks the mind into thinking it’s time to be productive. Test this theory out for yourselves – pop on your runners and see. (Then thank me later, when your kitchen is sparkling clean and your lawns are mowed.)
Finally, friends, the most important benefit of wearing shoes indoors is that it means you’re ready for action at any moment. Anxious? Paranoid? No, simply prepared to fight or flee. If there’s a zombie outbreak or sudden attack of wasps, I’ll be the guy sprinting down the street while you foolish bare-footers stumble over rocks or snag your embarrassingly delicate slippers on a stick. BYE.
TAKE THEM OFF
By Michelle Law
Let me start by saying that it’s taken every fibre of my Chinese being to not begin this rant by screaming. Not wearing shoes inside the house is a hill I will proudly die on, from both a cultural and personal hygiene standpoint, so let’s dive in before I give myself a hernia.
If you did biology in high school, it’s likely that you did a swab test while learning about bacteria cell structures. I’m casting my mind back more than a decade now, but the memory is as vivid as ever: during one of my lessons, my teacher took a cotton bud, rubbed it over his nose, then smeared the bud across a petri dish. A couple of days later, at our next lesson, the petri dish was revealed to the class to shocked and disgusted reactions. “Look how gross my nose is!” our teacher said, holding the dish out so we could inspect the explosion of green and brown mould within. “Isn’t it crazy that the bacteria on my nose created this? I wash my face twice a day!” I’ve not been able to shake the memory since.
So when people ask me, “Is not taking my shoes off indoors that bad?” I like to counter with another question: would you eat poo from a toilet with your bare hands? And I’m not talking about your own poo, either – it would be a stranger’s poo. And you don’t know if that stranger has been sick, or what they’ve eaten, or where they’ve been, but you’ve just taken a big palm full of their poo and gobbled it right up. But how does this relate to wearing shoes inside the house, you ask?
Say you pull on your sneakers in the morning and leave your place. Outside, there’s a balled-up, snotty napkin that you kick out of your way without thinking. At the train station, there’s some spew crusted over on the platform. You steer clear of the spew, but spew splatters, and bitumen is absorbent. At work, you share a communal bathroom with your colleagues and there’s splashback on the tiles that you assume is toilet water. For lunch, you head to a food court and look for a table while shuffling over old crumbs and sauces and pigeon droppings. On your walk home from the train station, you step in some old gum. After all this, you come home and kick up your germy shoes on the coffee table/couch/bed.
That entire scenario makes me feel physically ill – a visitor not removing their shoes in my house makes me reconsider our friendship, and characters in movies wearing shoes on the bed pulls me right out of the story. (I had to stop watching To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before for this very reason. This is what happens when a white person directs a story about a half-Korean family.) Call it a cultural thing, sure, but removing your shoes inside the house is just basic good hygiene. Leaving your shoes on also makes no sense. Shoes are uncomfortable! They are the brassieres of the foot! They cramp your toes and give you blisters and make your feet hot and sometimes stinky! (If you’re wearing shoes indoors because your feet smell, simply wash them, my friend.)
But I’m willing to meet you halfway. If you’re really struggling to break the shoe habit, here’s a straightforward fix: wear indoor shoes, like slippers, slides or socks, instead. All you need to do is ensure they don’t touch the outside world. Indoor footwear is also boss level because it means you aren’t picking up the dust, pet hair and old food scraps in your house and smearing those particles onto your blankets and sheets. And if that doesn’t convince you, just refer to this old Confucian saying that’s been kicking around for centuries: “HEY MATES, CONFUCIUS HERE. STOP EATING POOP WITH YOUR BARE HANDS AND GET SOME SENSE INTO YA, YOU ABSOLUTE GRUBS.” Truly, words to live by.