The old traditional homes in Asia were raised about 2 feet off the ground for ventilation and staying above the cold damp earth. It was customary to remove your slippers in the entry which was at ground level and one would step up into the home in their socks. This custom of removing your shoes before entering a home, is still practiced in Asian homes throughout the world.
In newly constructed homes in Asia, regardless whether a single family home or high rise, the entrance is usually lower than the rest of the home. You step up into the house or flat. This practical design allows for any type of weather, such that all dirty and wet gear can be left in the entrance and does not need to be brought into the home, hence the house stays clean. This has a physical and psychological purpose: the motion of stepping up to a different level, allows one to be aware that they are entering someone’s private space. Originally, the Japanese home had wood hallways with tatami or woven straw mats as flooring for the rooms. The ancient Koreans had under floor heating stones to heat their wooden floors. That’s the original radiant heat!!! What one must remember is that the Asian lifestyle at that time was mainly centered around the floor. The tables were low and they sat on the floor to eat, sleep and do all their activities. That’s why it was so important to have clean and warm floors. That tradition remains today.
Another point is that Asians believe it is good health practice to be barefoot. The Chinese have been practicing foot reflexology for over 5,000 years. Being barefoot allows your pressure points to be stimulated. When confined in shoes all day, your feet do not have the chance to breathe, stretch and feel. If you do not practice removing your shoes in your home, please give it a try and see how you feel. You may like it!
Today, western furniture has taken over the average Asian home, but we still like to sit on the floor and walk barefoot. Just remember when visiting an Asian home, wear clean socks with no holes because you may be asked to remove your shoes!