Friday Question of the Day – Do You/Your Guests Take Off Your Shoes When You Enter Your Home? (reader request)

Photo by PoPville flickr user ekelly80

A reader sends in this question after reading a discussion on Houzz:

In places like Japan, Austria and Sweden, entering a house with shoes on is a rarity. But those living outside of these countries know that not all guests are familiar with or honor the shoes-off policy.

It’s a tough house rule to implement because on one hand, as the host, it should really be your house, your rules. But on the other hand, guests should be made to feel as comfortable as possible — and we all know that not everyone is comfortable going shoeless.

I think this is an awesome question because I live in a split house – my wife always takes off her shoes and I never do. But for those who do take off their shoes before entering their home – do you have your guests take off their shoes as well?

76 Comment

  • I love taking off my shoes and hate being told to. Bad host!

  • This was one of the hottest topics ever debated over on the bitchy mommies forum at DC Urban Mom. Hundreds of replies, eye-popping vitriol on both sides.

  • I recently read how Christopher Hitchens, though painfully frail with cancer and chemotherapy, stridently continued to stand to great guests and offer champagne. His rule? Guests get champagne.

    At least one (former) DC resident got it.

  • bfinpetworth

    When I lived in Vermont (where salt on shoes made this a more critical question) the custom was to have many extra pairs of slippers in different sizes to offer guests when they came into the house. It was a great solution and generally welcomed by people.

    • Vermont is land locked….?

    • This is the practice I WANT to have in my house, but it hasn’t happened. The main reason is because my floors are not in good enough shape that I’m comfortable having people walk around in socks or thinnish slippers. Plus, I have teenagers, and that would make it mostly impossible. However, I do keep a pair of birkenstocks by the front door so I have something to wear if I need to step outside for something.

  • to those that take there shoes off when you come in, how do you store your shoes? how many pairs of shoes do you own?

    • binpetworth

      I keep a pair of slippers by the door that I change into, and immediately put my shoes back into the hanging shoe holder in my closet (I don’t own more than 10 pair of shoes, and half I keep in a drawer at my office.)

      For me, the slipper thing is more related to always having cold feet and living in a home with hard wood floors/tile.

    • I think I own around 15 pairs, but some of them are seasonal and in storage. We have some shelving by the front door for them. I honestly don’t know where I’d store them otherwise since my bedroom doesn’t have a closet.

  • When I see the telltale pile of shoes by the door when I walk in someone’s house, I momentarily panic. First, because I don’t want to toss my shoes into a pile to be trampled or have to dig for my shoes later. Second, because my naked feet are going to announce that I’m overdue for a pedicure.

    People, if you have a no shoes rule at your house and you also want to be a good host, please do the following:

    1) Have adequate shelving for guest shoes in your entryway.
    2) Provide a little basket near said shelving with a few pairs of clean socks for guests to put on if they so desire.

    • That is disgusting. I would probably walk away and not come in if my host were trying to get me to put on a pair of their socks to walk around instead of my shoes. I think the basic rule should be, if you are anal enough to not allow people to wear shoes in your house, don’t have people over. Your party probably won’t be that much fun if you are that uptight anyway.

      Now, if you yourself prefer not to wear shoes in your house, that is fine. But after a party, you are going to have to clean up, and that will just have to include the floor as well as far as I’m concerned.

  • We don’t live in Japan, Austria or Sweden. Guests should keep their shoes on, who wants to see their ugly stinky feet?

  • I take my shoes off when I get in the house, but I don’t make my guests take their shoes off.

    I do think it’s largely a cultural thing though. Growing up, I had a lot of Filipino friends, and it was practically a sin to wear shoes in the house. They usually had a rack or pile next to the front door, and it was understood that all guests were supposed to leave their shoes there.

  • At Porno Gil’s house, I recommend doing so:

  • I adopted the habit when living in Japan and it stuck. I would prefer my guests to remove their shoes, but I never insist. I do appreciate it if they follow suit or ask?

  • I take my shoes off at home for comfort, not cleanliness, and because I just prefer being barefoot in general. However, mine go on if there are guests in the house – I can just imagine the fit my mother would have thrown had I been barefoot in her house when there were guests around! (And always shoes at the dining table. ALWAYS.) I would never ask someone else to take theirs off when they came to my place, though they are free to do so if they wish. To be honest I would hate to have to take mine off in someone else’s house, because it’s likely that the socks I am wearing are not suitable to be seen.

    • Emmaleigh504

      This is exactly what I do. Shoes off with guest, I’d rather die. But if my guests want their shoes off, absolutely fine. I want my guests to be comfortable. They will also be offered beverages.

    • Same here; I equate being shoeless to wearing sweapants– it’s something I’ll do at home when I’m alone because it’s more comfortable, but not when someone’s over unless I know them really well. People generally look better with shoes on, so I keep them on when guests are over and they usually do too. The whole cleanliness concern is moot since I have dogs anyway.

  • Honestly, I think it’s rude to ask guests to remove their shoes in a country where it’s not widely practiced. They’re you’re guests, so suck it up if they don’t remove their shoes.

  • i’m a sock person. i like being shoeless in my place, but have socks on. my feet are always cold. i don’t make people take theirs off if they don’t want to, and i don’t like being made to at other people’s homes.

  • I think it really varies, based upon one’s upbringing. In my family, you always took off your shoes when entering anybody’s house. But my wife and her family seem to think it’s absurd to take off your shoes unless you’ve been asked to do it.

  • I remove my shoes in my house and anytime I go to someones house and see they aren’t wearing shoes and have a pile by the door I take mine off. I hope that guests at my house do the same, but if they don’t I never say anything.

  • My guests keep their shoes on but take the rest of their clothes off.

  • i don’t know if anyone else has found this to be true, but oftentimes, i find that feet stink. i find stink to be rude.

  • My apartment is carpeted. I always ask my friends to take their shoes off in the entrance.

  • The only reason I insist on me and my husband going without shoes is to spare our downstairs neighbors some noise. But my guests can do whatever they want – I hate going to a house and have to reveal that I’m wearing mismatched socks.

  • Our house is old and not renovated, so I wouldn’t ask guests to take their shoes off — in fact, I discourage it.

    Were it a nicer floor, though, I’d love to have a shoe-less house. I always ask hosts if they’d like me to take my shoes off if I notice that there’s a big pile by the door, or that the hosts are all shoeless at home.

  • Whenever I’m tempted to leave my shoes on, I remember the popular DC pastime of spitting. Seriously, it’s really big here. Do you want the spit of some random guy on your rugs? How about dog pee?

    That said, guests may do as they please.

    • Allison

      Blargh yeah; I avoid the loogies on the sidewalk that are so big that I can see them half a block away, sittin’ there on the cement all shiny and evil, just waiting to pollute the bottom of my shoe. EVIL!

      Today I was walking past a man who started snorting so bad I immediately flinched because for some reason I got the feeling he was going to spit it on me! Thank gosh he didn’t.

      In short, keep your bodily fluids to yourself. This has been a public service message.

  • Emmaleigh504

    Follow up question: Those of you who prefer shoeless, but don’t ask your guests to remove their shoes, do you then resent them for not following your example?

    • You’re not allowed to resent people who can’t read your mind.

      • Emmaleigh504

        Maybe resent is a strong word, I want to know if people hold it against their guests if they don’t follow by example and remove their shoes if their hosts are shoeless.

        • I think it would be pretty exhausting to monitor your host’s every move for your own cues. It’s one thing to be polite and respectful in someone else’s home, but it’s another to send off passive aggressive vibes toward guests who aren’t following your unspoken or unwritten rules.

    • If they’re my guests, I do. There’s a box for shoes by the door and I always pause to take off my shoes. My roommates don’t always take off their shoes, so if it’s their guests it still bothers me, but less so.

  • We always take off our shoes and most of our guests do, too, but I don’t insist. But it is much better for our wood floors & really does help keep your house cleaner – sidewalks are dirty, dirty places. (Especially nice with you have a small kid, like we do, so we are all often hanging out on the floor.) I’ve tried keeping slippers & slipper socks for guests, but they rarely use them, so now I only bring them out if people ask.
    We have a church pew inside our front door, so people (including us) can sit down & take off our shoes & “store” them under the pew.

    • greenroofgoddess

      Agreed. New wood floors, persian rugs, and a baby do not mix with nasty urban shoes–and all our friends know and respect this, so it is never an issue. If if have a big party, we tend not to enforce unless someone is heading upstairs–those floors have never seen shoe traffic and you can totally tell. And we keep a basket of crocks, sandals and flip flops for folks going out on our green roof.

  • I think this is mostly a carpet vs. wood floor issue. 🙂

  • claire

    This is a good one! I don’t take my shoes off at the front door, but I don’t wear shoes in the house (immediately go up to my bedroom, take off the shoes, then go about my business). Not enough space right by the door for shoe storage. And I feel like it would be more difficult for me to get dressed if my shoes (or some of them) were in another place from my clothes (although that’s probably a bit nonsensical).

    I don’t really care what my roommates or guests do – whatever makes them comfortable! Although sometimes if I’m having guests over, I’ll toss on a pair because it can feel weird being the only shoe-less one. When visiting other people, I try to be courteous and ask.

    Here’s a weird thing though – I’m pretty sure if I had kids, I’d train them (and their friends) to take off their shoes at the front door.

  • Does having dogs make a difference for any of you? My girlfriend’s Indian and would probably strictly adhere to the no shoes rule, but since we have dogs that are tracking in dirt (and whatever’s on the sidewalk) the whole cleanliness concern kind of goes out the window.

    • Totally. My dog has completely killed any need for cleanliness/OCD tendencies I may have once had. I’m not even bothered by dog hair on the couch anymore. If someone is coming over I clean it but otherwise I’ve given up…

  • There are some serious germophobes here.

    Its amazing civilization made it so far with so much dirt around us everywhere.

  • I have dogs and always wear shoes. I discourage guests from taking their shoes off because of this. It is hard to keep floors spotless with dogs, I have given up. I will gladly take my shoes off at someone’s house, though. Having dogs definitely changes things on the shoes/no shoes issue.

  • I live in a house with 2 roommates. When I’m at home, I’m always shoeless (or wearing socks). One of my roommates always wears flip flops in the house.

    When people come over, they can do what they please (shoes or no shoes). When I hosted a baby shower, I didn’t expect my friends to take their shoes off and I think it was the first time I wore shoes inside my house.

    When I go to friends’ houses I may or may not take my shoes off… depends… if it is chilly and I’m not wearing socks, I will likely keep my shoes on. If they have carpet, I may take my shoes off. And now I know my friends well enough that I plan in advance… “Oh, I’m going to XYZ’s house — I should plan on wearing the nice socks without holes.” And if it is raining outside and I suspect my shoes are tracking mud or are wet, I will tell my host and take my shoes off by the door. I would hope that my guests would be nice enough to take off their shoes if they know they shoes are muddy or wet.

    Once I received an invitation to a small gathering at a friend’s new condo and the invitation told guests that she didn’t want shoes in the house (her new place had bamboo floors and she explained that she didn’t want stiletto poking her floor and ruining it… her message was very sweet, funny, and not annoying/demanding). I found her request perfectly acceptable and if I would have attended the party (I had other plans), I would have planned my outfit around the fact that I was going to be barefoot or wearing socks all night. If I would have been in her shoes (haha… pun) I would have bought a bunch of socks to give away to my guests in case they forgot about the house rule.

  • I come from a background of “no shoes in the house” so as a force of habit, I take off my shoes by the door and then walk them to my closet to put them away. I only allow one pair of my shoes by the door. (I have over 40 pairs of shoes tucked away.) If I have guests over, they usually ask if they need to take their shoes off because they see me do it. I usually leave it up to them but if it’s winter time or rainy, I ask that they leave their shoes by the door.

  • I see comments about dogs tracking dirt in the house. Am I the only person who immediately wipes her dog’s feet after coming in the house? I won’t ask people to take their shoes off but if they bring their dog over, I will ask them to wipe their dog’s feet.

    • Yes, you are the only person. I have never ever heard of that.

    • The ONLY time my dog has ever bitten someone was when I tried to wipe his paws. Never trying that again!

    • I generally keep shoes on in my house, and yet always wipe my dog’s feet off when I bring him in. Yes, I recognize that that is a bit inconsistent. But then he does kick around in the dirt and occasionally stand in puddles of his own pee, so maybe that is why. Anyway, he is a champion at this. Upon coming in, he automatically lies down and puts his feet in the air so I can wipe them off. So civilized, he is.

      • Glad I’m not the only one. It amazes me how much dirt and city grime comes off their feet just from an average walk. I guess I’m just more sensitive to paw prints everywhere as I have light colored couches. Needless to say, I’m buying no-alcoholic baby wipes in bulk these days (and I don’t even have a kid!)

    • I only wipe off my dog’s paws if she has stepped in mud or some other gross thing. But I live in a large apartment building so I figure that by the time we actually enter my apartment most of the dirt that she may have on her paws has rubbed off on the floor mats/hallway carpeting.

  • When I moved to DC from Canada it was very weird to see people not remove their shoes in my house. But after 20 years, I would feel weird taking my shoes off at a friend’s house unless they were dirty or was asked to. One think that is different is that almost everyone I know in DC has hardwood floors whereas in Canada everyone I know has carpet.

  • i read gun, germs and steel. i’m keeping my boots on in my house.
    and bringing the family goat inside too!

  • I hate taking my shoes off. I will do so if asked, but I really dislike it.
    I do however love going barefoot.

    In my house, people can do as they please. I have hardwoods and a dog, so I am already sweeping daily anyway.

  • I always take my shoes off at the front door – it’s more comfortable. Then either go barefoot, wear socks or my birks. I don’t expect guests to remove their shoes when they visit however.

    When I visit friends, if I see shoes at the front door I’ll take my shoes off (& don’t mind being asked to take shoes off).

  • My family has lived in no-shoes parts of the world a lot and likes this habit. On our own, we’re a no-shoes house. But when we have our friends over, it’s up to them. They usually notice that we’re not wearing shoes and that there is a shoe rack by the door, but if they wish to ignore these things we don’t judge.

    I think it’s like wearing a coat inside: there’s nothing wrong with it per se, but there’s something a little hesitant about it, like you’re keeping your options open to leave on a moments notice. Why not get comfortable and stay a while?

    But if your feet are really stinky, by all means keep your shoes on. We don’t mind.

  • If you have a no-shoes policy for your house, please please please let me know beforehand. As a guest, I want to honor your customs, traditions, house rules, and since we live in such a heterogeneous society (unlike Japan or Sweden) it is very possible that my customs are not the same as yours. I think the pushback comes from people who are uncomfortable with their feet (look, smell, etc) and didn’t expect to have to expose their feet to public viewing. If I’m visiting an Asian household, I plan accordingly, e.g. I don’t wear my sneakers that stink no matter how many times I wash them.

    As a host, I want my guests to be comfortable, be it stilettos or slippers.

  • I usually take off my shoes at the door–mostly for comfort but also to minimize the dirt and outside crud that gets onto my wood floors. I have a little space where I hang up my keys, purse, umbrella, etc., and there’s room for a few pairs of shoes lined up.

    Guests can do what they want. I’ll usually tell them they can take off their shoes if they’d like. But depending on how nice the gathering is, I might be wearing shoes too, so there’s no pressure.

  • Our house was a no-shoes house growing up after we got new carpeting. Shoes were forbidden on the new carpet! My mom was pretty hyped up about the whole thing… I’ve always thought it odd that other people DO wear shoes in the house — I never thought twice about it. I associate shoes with going out — when you’re home, you don’t need shoes. I never gave it much thought til this question! In my first apt, I didn’t care what folks did, but in my second apt I had pale grey carpet, so my housewarming party was clear liquids and no shoes — that was the theme of the party, so everyone knew ahead of time, and I bought slippers from IKEA for those who might want some. Some friends even brought their own slippers — it was actually kind of fun.
    But after that party, I sorta said screw it, and now it’s everyone for themselves!

  • I generally don’t wear shoes in my house as I would rather be shoeless 100% of the time! I would go shoeless at work if I could, but sadly my desk doesn’t go all the way down and you can see my tootsies.

    My house is so crappy and dirty anyways that we don’t care if shoes are on or off. If you don’t mind your socks getting dirty, then go for it. As for when I’m at other peoples’ places, it depends on their preferences/rain/etc.

    Oh, to be shoeless right NOW…

  • how do ya’ll feel about wearing a hat indoors?

  • There is nothing more annoying than going to a house party with the perfect outfit and seeing a pile of shoes by the front door and having to walk all night with your pants/dress scraping the ground because your heels were 4″. Lame.

  • Allison

    Man I had this conundrum last week; forgot about the rule, hadn’t painted my toenails, and walked around the whole time attempting to hide my feet, and not succeeding.

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