Afternoon Chat: Shoes in the House?

By Kate Riley July 31, 2019

I had a group of girlfriends over the other night and while we were sharing a glass of wine the topic turned to shoes. Several of my guests were ladies who grew up in other countries (Norway, Peru, Czech Republic) and these friends now live in the United States. In their countries, it’s their practice that everyone takes their shoes off when they pass through the front door. They don’t think of walking into their home or another person’s residence wearing their shoes. I also noticed all my guests had taken off their shoes at the door without me asking. This turned into a lively talk about how many Americans wear shoes in their homes and in other countries or cultures, they don’t.

When I was growing up, my mom asked us to take our shoes of on occasion but I don’t recall it being a rule in our house. In my home now, we take our shoes off as part of a comfort ritual, we prefer socks or bare feet when we’re home. I have hardwood floors downstairs and most of the upstairs, but we do have carpet in the bedrooms. As we all know, carpet quickly becomes dingy if shoes are worn.

I remember years ago when I hosted a Christmas party and a few of the ladies wore stilleto heels. The next day I noticed little divets in my wood floors from their spiky heels, but I never thought to ask them to remove their shoes during my party because for many women, the shoes complete the outfit. I wasn’t a faithful viewer of the show Sex and the City, but I do recall one episode where Carrie was asked to remove her Manolo shoes at a party and when she went to leave, she discovered her expensive heels had been stolen, and it ended up being a big dilemma between her and the host.

There are a lot of health benefits to taking off shoes in the house, and in many cultures or no-shoes households, it’s a sign of respect. In the mainland US, it’s been my experience that many households do not expect or ask guests to remove shoes. Reasons may include that some people are embarrased about their feet, or uncomfortable being without shoes in someone else’s home, or it’s simply not a consideration. Hawaii is the exception, on the islands it’s expected that shoes will be removed.

image via salt bush avenue blog

What’s your shoe policy in your home? Are you someone who wears shoes indoors? Did you grow up in a culture where shoes in the home are disrespectful? How about my fellow Americans? If you’re a no-shoe home, how do you ask guests to remove shoes? With a sign? A doormat? A simple ask?

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72 comments

  1. I live in Canada (Ontario) and here we remove our shoes! I think living in any climate with snow means you remove shoes. However most guests are also Canadian, and remove their shoes. and most people let guests know they dont NEED to remove shoes (at least I tell guests that). They are guests and I can clean up after them if they want to wear shoes.

      • Kate, this is not related to shoes but could you tell us about the podcasts that like listening to and why, please? Could you write about that? Thank you.

        • That is a fabulous question Teresa, and a great topic for a future Afternoon Chat!!! I will write about that soon!

  2. My husband has fallen arches and must wear shoes unless he’s getting ready for bed. I much prefer the “no shoes” policy but I don’t enforce it.

  3. We live right outside of Boston and I grew up in Connecticut. We are a no shoes in the house family. I don’t ask guests to remove shoes, but I notice that most (70% or so) just do. We live in a very small house – and our day to day entry is our front door, so all of our shoes are lined up when you come in the house, which I think is a signal to many to remove shoes. Most of my friends are no shoes in the house people as well. Most people just walk around bear feet in summer and in socks in winter, but I do have a basket of ikea slippers by the door that some guest wear. In the winter, I often bring my own slippers when visiting others. Of course we live in a snowy climate and snow boots are common between November and April and those are always removed in all houses! I wonder if this is a regional thing?

    • I wonder if it is too! I agree about the stacks of shoes by the door… whenever my teen’s friends come over they always make a pile of shoes by the door which I appreciate, I have never asked, they just do it and I think that is polite. :)

    • I am from Spain and lived there until I was 35. We don’t take shoes off ever. I think it is the same in all mediterranean countries. Actually, it is considered disrespectful, like disgusting… like: how do you dare to take your shoes off in my house… your feet could smell… that type of thing. In countries with nice weather like Spain, we like being outdoors, so shoes on and shoes off every 10 minutes is not practical, I guess. Also, we think that we are not animals… like only animal walk barefoot, that type of belief. I still can’t stand the mountain of shoes in the entryway when my daughters friends visit… Too ugly! they don’t listen to my : You don’t have to take your shoes off, honey… but they do.. Ugh! In places like Spain, people don’t sit on the floor, not even babies, we don’t let them, only in their parquecitos… I don;t know the english for that. Also, we don’t use our hands for eating french fries, for example, but we use them for jamon or cheese…

  4. We take off our shoes, but we live on a farm. I usually take off my shoes when I go to someone’s house because I don’t know what their policy is. I live in Kentucky where there is lots of clay, but I grew up in Florida where we wear sandals all the time, so it’s shoes off for most everyone.

    • Interesting how practices are different based on climate, geography, temperature, and location!

  5. My mother is Asian; absolutely no shoes were allowed to be worn in the house. My family does not wear shoes in the house, but I do not ask guests to remove shoes since it is not as prevalent in the US. It is my wish that my guest is comfortable even though I really dislike shoes in the house. I always take off my shoes in other homes because I feel extremely disrespectful otherwise.

    • I agree, it’s important that guests are comfortable and shoes on is more prevalent in the US. I try to be sensitive to it when I enter other people’s homes, for example if I’m just picking up one of my teens and standing in the foyer, I’ll usually just stay put and not take off shoes, but if I’m staying for more than a few minutes, I try to remember to offer to remove shoes!

  6. I grew up in Southern California and we always wore shoes in the house. When I moved to Northern Cal I met my first families who took shoes off – it seemed very odd, but I could immediately see the sense in it. When we moved to our current house ten years ago we decided to go with a “hybrid” approach – the downstairs floors are all laminate, so shoes are okay there, but the stairs and upstairs have carpet, so it’s shoes off at the bottom of the staircase. Guests don’t have to follow the rule, but they almost always do (and rarely go upstairs anyway). We’re not always perfect at keeping shoes out of upstairs, but we’re pretty good.

    • Yep, that’s how it works for us too, shoes okay on the hardwood floors downstairs in the community spaces, but remove them upstairs – those are where the bedrooms and bathrooms are anyway, the more private spaces, so this makes sense for us.

  7. I have very bad feet and cannot walk without my orthotics. I don’t visit people that have a no shoes in the house policy.

    • That’s interesting Connie, have you considered asking whether they would mind if you keep your shoes on for the sake of your feet? I’m sure most people would make an exception to have your company. :)

  8. I’m from Canada where it’s just the norm to remove your shoes. Many hosts will give guests the option of keeping them on, but it would be very rude to just keep one’s shoes on without the host offering. I’m guessing that part of it is because it rains much of the year here in Vancouver and no one really wants dirt and water tracked through their house. I have family on both sides of the border, so it’s definitely one of those cultural differences I always have to think about when entering someone’s house.

  9. I grew up in a shoes on house and my parents still don’t care, but I have a no shoes policy in my house. My old house has fir floors and the are much softer than oak so high heels or pebbles stuck in the bottom of one’s shoe causes dents. I also have found that the floors stay much cleaner. We have a large mat by the back door and shelves with our most frequently worn shoes right next to it. Above the shelves I made a hand calligraphy sign that says “Please remove your shoes” and put it in a frame. If one of my own friends didn’t it wouldn’t be a big deal, but most of the traffic in and out of that door comes from my twenty-something sons friends who are often in the driveway working on their cars and I definitely don’t want them traipsing in and out wearing their shoes.

  10. We started no shoes rule when we got oatmeal colored carpet and we were having our last baby 23 years ago I told my sons at the time 10 and 14 who complained at first do you know what is on your shoes poop,pee, spit,oil ect… it is disgusting outside, our baby is going to be on the floor! They agreed and all my kids have that rule at their homes now. I did ask my brother how to tell people no shoes because they had that rule and he said take your damn shoes off okay then.

  11. Minneapolis here. No shoes in the house and same with my friends. Guests take off their shoes, too. Clean slippers or socks are available for people if they need them.

    • That’s a good idea to offer socks, I hadn’t considered that but I think I will do that in the future. :)

  12. Those of us who wear orthotics and have foot pain when barefoot appreciate a bit of flexibility in a no shoes policy.

  13. I am from India, and here it would it be extremely weird if you didn’t remove your shoes outside your or anyone else’s house before entering!
    It also has more to do with hygiene than respect, about keeping the germs outside the house.

  14. We absolutely do no shoes in the house! Shoes are worn everywhere…gas stations, public restrooms, lawns treated with chemicals, hospitals, etc. Then we walk all through our homes with these shoes?! So gross!! Especially if young children are in the home, shoes really should be taken off at the door. There have been several studies done testing the bacteria in homes from shoes that validate this practice as well. We let our new guests know ahead of time or if having a party will put a little comment at the bottom so guests can dress accordingly.

    • I completely agree! I’ve never understood why people would even consider leaving their shoes on, especially in someone else’s house! But then again I live in Ontario with snowy/wet weather for half the year.

    • I totally agree with you. I have no shoe in the house policy. I notify my guests ahead of time as well, and suggest that if they choose to, they can bring their own house shoes, otherwise, I have sock shoes available. Something to consider when you have young children who still crawl, and dogs that lick anything off the floor. Especially when walking on grass that has been chemically treated. or nasty dirt of the street. Think about all of that ends up in your home and becomes airborne so you end up breathing it, and/or spreading it all over your home. I do make exceptions for those with Orthopedic shoes, but make sure to clean the home after they leave (or not invite them…) We live in Minnesota, and my home would be unlivable if we don’t remove our shoes, or I would be spending all of my precious time cleaning my home. No Thank you. Bottom line…It makes life so much easier.

  15. I’ve lived in various places across Canada and it’s always been no shoes in the house. As other posters have said, most guest remove their shoes automatically and we don’t enforce the “rule” if they don’t (which is usually a social event and clean footwear anyway). I have a pair of shoes and sandals that are strictly indoor ones that I take to friends’ homes. The shoes would accommodate my orthotics if needed. I have a couple of friends who have shiny hardwood floors (that show every mark and footprint) who don’t like people being barefoot in their homes and one has a basket of slippers, socks and/or Crocs at the door.

    • Growing up in California, most of the homes I’ve visited allow guest to wear shoes, but whenever I’ve entered a “no shoes” house, most of the time the host just points and says “no shoes inside please” which is no big deal to me.

  16. Estonia (Europe) here. As far as I know, shoes in the house is an American thing. In most (if not in all) countries in Europe it would be considered extremely offensive if you entered the main living grounds with your shoes on. Like one previous commentator said, you wear shoes everywhere, so all that dirt you carry with you end up in the house like that. We have mudrooms for that purpose – you keep all your shoes there and put them on right before you leave the house. Just the other day I had conversation with one of my friends about this topic. We were wondering “do Americans really wear shoes indoors like they do in the movies”. I guess this post answers our question :)

    • Yes Kriss, it’s VERY common and you’re right to point out that in American movies most guests ARE wearing shoes indoors!! Good observation!

  17. Midwest here and it’s also common for no shoes. Primarily I think because of weather considerations.

    Snow and mud aside, when I think about where the bottom of your shoes have been all day, I definitely dont want to track that in anyone’s home! 🤮

  18. Wow. I grew up in Wisconsin and no one took their shoes off. I’m of two minds about this. On the one hand, strong argument for removing shoes (tracking dirt, chemicals, etc.; preserving floors). On the other hand I don’t really want to see people’s bare feet. A close friend has severe bunions and would die before removing shoes in public unless there were slippers or socks provided. I’ll have to check out the Ikea slippers one commenter mentioned and remind myself not to assume it’s ok to keep my shoes on when entering other people’s homes. But as always, probably best not to be too rigid about it.

    • Thanks so much for sharing Sally! This topic is so interesting to me how different cultures treat the shoes indoors! I agree about the bare feet issue, some people I know are VERY uncomfortable showing their feet to the world!

  19. We are a shoes on or whatever you like in our home. I would never ask a guest in my home to remove their shoes as I want them to feel comfortable in my home and that their visit means more to me than the condition of my floors. I totally understand other homes not wanting shoes on for cultural or cleanliness issues and always abide by the house rules. Just my personal feelings :-)

  20. I have noticed older people like me are shoes on and feel very uncomfortable without shoes. We simply clean our floors and don’t expect to lounge on the floors. Also, dogs are pretty dirty guests too so that is not sanitary either. Many take their shoes off in my house and some go barefooted which seems very uncomfortable. Truly, I worry socks will get dirty! I have a clean house and constantly clean floors which is part of my clean house. My carpets are cleaned professionally twice a year and wood floors and carpets are maintained weekly.

  21. We have heated concrete floors and dogs and I feel like our floors are somewhat dirty because of the dogs and uncomfortable for long periods of time without shoes, so our house is not a no shoes house. I also read an article somewhere that talked about outside dirt just being dirty, whereas someones dirty socks being germy, and that just grossed me out.

  22. We are a strict no shoes in the house family (midwest), but I wouldn’t ask guests to take them off. I do ask my kid’s friends to take off their shoes on playdates, but I don’t ask adults. I’ve found that most people just do it when they see we don’t have our shoes on. Your house absolutely stays cleaner with shoes off at the door.

  23. I grew up in Ontario, Canada and it was a rule that as soon as you walked into your house or anyone else’s your shoes were the first thing to be removed without even having to be asked. We recently moved to the Virginia and when we starting having people over we found it very strange that they came into our home and not remove their shoes, sometimes it can be uncomfortable to ask them to do so but its how we were raised and who knows where those shoes have been!

  24. I live in Canada, and when you enter someone home there is usually shoes at the front door, so you really do not have to ask them to remove them. Plain common curtesy, I also leave a few knitted slippers for them as well, they are welcome to take them home. We also bring our slippers especially in the winter with us when we visit other people.

    • When I was traveling in Norway last year, it was the same situation. My friend’s mother invited us over and we were expected to remove shoes but she offered me the coziest pair of socks (which I wanted to keep). :)

  25. I’m down south in very traditional Virginia and where people are not asked to take their shoes off. I now have a basket by the back door, where we put our own shoes and boots, to try to save the floors and rugs. But I never ask anyone to take off their shoes. Nor am I ever asked to do that.

    • So interesting! My brother and sister in law live in Georgia, and it’s the same, my SIL says she never asks anyone to remove their shoes, it’s just not customary.

  26. I am in the orthotic group and as I read this I see I could take more responsibility in taking indoor orthotic sandals or slippers along with me to peoples homes. We live in the mountains in Southern California and I daily sweep up mountain debris from outdoors. One thing that I am concerned about is our slippery tile floors for people wearing socks. I want folks feeling safe in our home.

    • Hmmmm that’s good to consider, the slippery floor issue. And that’s a good solution for those who don’t want to expose their feet to travel with a pair of indoor slippers.

  27. I live in Canada and we always remove shoes at the front door, HOWEVER, I have “indoor” shoes that are soft soled and I always and only wear them indoors. If I am visiting someone for more than a few hours, I take them with me and explain.
    Guests always remove their shoes unless I tell them not to.

  28. I had to chime in for this question! I live in Austin, Tx. My husband and son kick off their shoes for comfort. If anyone visits us, they are free to do what they want (we have wood flooring on our first floor). As for me, I have to have shoes on (or some kind of slipper with a hard sole). I have such severe neuropathy that I am unable to go without shoes, I will fall. So, sadly, if I am asked to remove my shoes at someone else’s house, I would have to leave since I am not able to go without shoes.I don’t want to be rude, but I also want to respect my host’s home and wishes.

  29. Another voice from the South here where I had never heard of the practice of removing shoes when coming inside until well into my adult years. I have also heard that the oils in your feet can do as much to smudge or damage carpet as the dirt from shoes does to wear down the fibers. Who knows?! Can’t we just all be flexible and understanding toward those that have different traditions and not impose our preferences or ideas on those who don’t think the way we do? I know….far too idealistic! My main concern is that people be comfortable in my home whatever that means, regardless of whatever they bring in on their shoes. I grew up with traditions of Southern hospitality.

  30. I remove my shoes before entering my living area, I ask guest to also remove their shoes. I just had new carpeting installed and would like to keep it fresh looking and clean. I have a bench at the door to facilitate comfort while removing shoes. I don’t think this is a big deal!

  31. I’m in Ontario Canada. We were raised to always remove footwear at the door. When I’m visiting friends I take indoor footwear with me because I don’t feel safe in sock feet that could be slippery. I’d never dream of going into someone’s home in bare feet.

    • I love hearing from Canadians since the American traditions are so different and yet we’re so close.

  32. So wonderful to hear from a lot of the folks from Ontario, Canada (my home but we live in Southern Oregon now)!!
    Here’s just a little different take…our son fought childhood leukemia for six years, when he was age 11 until 17. When Michael was diagnosed, it was suggested (by one of the pediatric oncology nurses) that everyone be asked to remove their shoes outside. So, it became a rule…and experts really feel it’s best to cut back on the germs spread into one’s home. We also had a huge bottle of anti-bacteria gel for everyone to use on a porch table. In case you’re not familiar, whilst fighting cancer, children’s immune systems are wiped to allow the chemotherapy (and other treatments) into their systems more effectively….
    Other than one case of the flu, Michael rarely had any viruses, and he went to public school, played sports and tried to be as “normal” as any other kid. Not sure that could be chalked up to the “no shoes” rule but I’m sure it helped reduce my cleaning load!

  33. I grew up wearing shoes in the house and my family still does. Then I married my husband who is Asian and would never even think of wearing shoes in the house. Now I am a “no shoes in the house” convert.. I love coming home and taking my shoes off. I also love how clean it keeps my home. We have a navy area rug with a large white pattern in one room and even with 2 kids it still looks new after 6 yrs.

  34. My husband was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s and shoes are extremely difficult to take on and off without a chair to sit in. Since his diagnosis I am more aware of the number of people who have signs asking guests to remove shoes. Yet they do not provide a chair or bench to sit on or an organized place to put your shoes.
    I personally think a pile of shoes by the front door detracts from an entry way-no matter if it is spacious, professionally decorated and includes a beautiful rug.
    I have never asked anyone to remove their shoes, and now I definitely don’t since we do not have a chair or bench by the front door.

    • Hi Rose, Not everyone can have the luxury of a shoe/boot free entryway! The way our house is set up, we have to use the front door as our main entry the area there is quite narrow and small, so we have shoes lined up. Our house is small – 1200 sq foot ranch with 3 bedrooms and only one single bathroom built in 1951, but we make due (I laugh outloud at House Hunters when couples cant imagine living without double sinks in the master bath – we live with one sink for the whole family, as has everyone who has lived here fro the last 70 years). It helps that because we live right out side of Boston, Zillow tells me that as of today our house is worth $854,000. Although most people take their shoes off when they come to our house, we don”t insist on it, and the couch is around 3 feet from our entry – as I said, small house- if needed!

  35. I am from Singapore. We are a multi-racial country where Chinese, Malays, Indians, Eurasians live together. We grew up taking our shoes off at the door. It is a given. Elderly in the house would find it absolutely impolite if shoes were worn in the house!

  36. A carpet cleaner told me something interesting recently: Barefeet are worse for your carpet than shoes, because your feet leave oils that stain your carpet. He recommended walking around in socks or slippers to maximize the life of your carpet. I did a little Internet research on the topic and found several articles that said the same thing. That works well for my personal habits, as I always take off my shoes at the door and walk around sock-footed. I just found it surprising. I wouldn’t think anything would be worse than outdoor shoes. I never have a problem taking off my shoes at other people’s homes. Honestly, I just hate wearing shoes.

  37. We take our shoes off in our home….but I like foot support instead of barefoot or socks. So in winter we wear comfy Uggs slippers inside. And in summer I found cute Vionic slides with a leather footbed and incredible arch support. I always look forward to coming home and putting on my super comfy house shoes/slippers!

  38. We never wear shoes upstairs because it’s carpeted in a light color. Most of the time we don’t wear shoes downstairs either. It just keeps things cleaner. There are always shoes in the entryway and most guests notice and remove their shoes or ask if they should. We’re not terribly particular about downstairs since it’s all hard surface flooring that is easy to clean. We live in Southern California, but if we lived in a wetter climate I would probably be more insistent on no shoes for guests.

  39. I’m from Canada (BC) and we never wore shoes in the house growing up or now. We wore slippers, socks or barefeet. I have a pair of indoor Birkenstocks that I use as slippers. Visitors have always removed shoes when visiting without being asked. I do the same at other’s houses. We also have guest slippers if they’d like. The way it see it is this – did you wear those shoes in a public bathroom? If so, please don’t wear them in my house. We felt strongly about this especially when the kids were babies and crawling around.

  40. I have convinced my husband to remove his shoes before entering our home…(finally)…we have to seriously think of all the places we have walked and what we have walked on is eventually coming back into our home..and ugh..it will create a unsanitary environment for our home..I have created an area in our garage for incoming shoes. Give out socks or slippers to your guests to wear..

  41. I never understood the “Americans wear shoes inside” thing… every home I have been to, we take our shoes off. Every guest I’ve had takes their shoes off. I grew up in the country and I cannot even begin to describe how REVOLTING it would be to wear shoes inside. Yes, please, track the pig manure all over the floor. Even though now I live in the city, it still seems repulsive to me.
    I guess guests take the hint because I often go out to meet them/escort them inside and stop to take off my shoes?
    For the record… I’m comfiest in heels. I only even own one pair of non-heel shoes, and those are my sneakers for going on walks in. So it’s not a comfort thing.

  42. i am from indonesia, n we take off our shoes in front of the house, our walk in closet doesn’t even have shoes container

  43. Shoes off at the door. I started this in my last apartment and I am a stickler about it in our new house. Lots of reasons – we have brand new carpets as well as beautiful hardwoods! I want to preserve them (this is the reasoning that works best for my husband). I also have an 8 month old, and I don’t want any crap (dirt, germs, chemicals, etc etc etc) tracked in from the street, stores, public restrooms onto the carpet that my baby rolls around on. Finally, I don’t have to clean as much!!!! To me, it’s a no brainer!

    We have a bench by the front door, and I politely ask “do you mind taking your shoes off?” as people enter. My MIL walked in one time (she’s heard this before), and after asking, she said “Yes I mind” and I was like WTF, take off your flip flops! My FIL corrected that situation. My SIL obliged us at our apartment…and then when she was leaving, she went and got her shoes, brought them back to the chair she had been sitting in, put them on, and left. I couldn’t make this stuff up.

    I think it’s very ingrained in people – either they always take their shoes off or they never do. And there are also the people who don’t really have “company manners” in someone else’s home – I am incredibly respectful of anyone’s home I enter because it’s their private space, but I know that some people we’ve had over (including family) don’t give the same respect to my home.

  44. Florida here! We do shoes in our house. I have a friend who has a no-shoe policy and every shoe that they own are in the living room and they are a family of 4. It is quite unsightly! We have the typical ranch-style home with no mudroom. I like the idea of no-shoes in the house, but the thought of them piled up right by the front door would drive me crazy!

  45. In our current home, all our shoes are kept in the front room in bureaus and baskets, but we don’t strictly wear shoes in the house or not. We mostly take them off or wear slippers just for comfort, but I don’t ask guests too. We have two dogs that track water and dirt in so it’s not always the right thing. From first-hand experience, I know how controversial this can be! I’ll try to keep it short! ;-)

    My husband and his first wife had a house that was all wall to wall carpet. 100% shoes-off household. When his father and step-mother came to visit she flat out refused to take off her shoes. Threw a bit of a fit about it really and my hubby’s dad to take her side (even though he took his shoes off). So much so this caused a huge rift in the family and they went on hardly speaking to my husband and his first wife. Even after a year later when they were getting divorced, still nothing from the parents. Fast forward to 16-17 years later, my husband and I have been together for 13 years. I’ve met his parents 5 times and they have zero relationship with him. Over shoes. I mean, I think they had a bigger dislike for his first wife, but even after a divorce they still could not repair or make an effort to repair a relationship with him. Shoes; just crazy.

  46. Here in Louisiana, I’ve never had a guest remove their shoes nor have I ever been asked to remove mine at anyone else’s house. I understand why some people prefer not to wear shoes in the house but I think it’s rude to expect guests to abide by such a rule. I’m not sure I would return if if I was asked to, and I certainly don’t want to wear slippers or socks worn by other people! I frequently go barefoot about the house but if I’m expecting company, I put on shoes, or at least sandals.

  47. I prefer no shoes in the house but I know that most of my guests have never removed their shoes. I also know that athletes foot, etc is not exposed to you if guests have their shoes on. I think the best idea is IKEA slippers. For fun you can ask everyone to bring their favorite slippers for a party…would be fun! I do know that most kids are exposed to athletes foot and other foot funguses and warts at school, athletic events, dance class, etc. Hard to treat and miserable.

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