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Awkward Issues: Do you make visitors to your home remove their shoes?

The world is roughly divided into two types of people: those who require all visitors to their home to take their shoes off before being allowed to enter, a bit like Gandalf shouting, “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” at the Balrog, and, well, normal people. Who would not dream of making such demands of guests.

I’ll let you guess which side I’m on in this one, shall I? 

(CLUE: I have never in my life been mistaken for Gandalf. Never.)

shoes in hallway

From this, you will have (correctly) deduced that I’m very much on the side of the people who allow guests to remain fully clothed when they come to visit. I know this admission will have shocked and scandalised some of you, though, so let me just quickly list a few points in my defence here, before we go any further:

01.

I don’t wear shoes in my own home: not because I’m particularly worried about germs or whatever, but simply because it would be a bit like wearing your coat indoors, and I might be a bit weird about some things, but I’m not THAT weird, seriously.

02. 

I DO remove my shoes when entering other people’s homes, if that’s their preference. Your house, your rules, and all that, and if you want me to go barefoot in it, I will not argue with you. 

03.

I will really, really hate having to do this, though: partly because it just feels a bit awkward to me to be wandering around someone else’s house in my bare feet/stocking soles (Especially if it’s a party or something, and I’m otherwise dressed up for it…), but mostly because I’m incredibly self-conscious about my feet. They’re just… they’re not nice, let’s put it that way. And yes, I know I could wear socks to cover them up, or whatever, but not all outfits work with socks, and if it’s the height of summer I’m probably not going to be wearing them… which leaves me squirming with embarrassment and trying to keep my feet awkwardly tucked underneath me, so people don’t have to be grossed out by them. 

04.

Because of this, I never ask visitors to my house to remove their shoes either. I mean, they’re welcome to, if that’s their preference, but I don’t insist on it: I want people to feel comfortable, after all, and that’s more important to me than keeping the floor spotless, so shoes on, shoes off… it’s all the same to me, really. I’m happy to report that so far no one has died because of this lapse in my house-keeping standards, and, because we don’t live in a field, or have packs of dogs roaming the neighbourhood, no one has ever managed to trail mud and/or dog poop across the floor, either.

(I mention this purely because every time I hear someone make an argument for removing shoes, it always seems to revolve around the assumption that if you don’t take your shoes off and then sterilize them the second you’re through the door, there will be no way to avoid tracking poop throughout your house, but, no, that’s never happened. I guess there’s a possibility that microscopic particles of poop, which are too small to be visible to the naked eye, have been trodden into my floors without my knowledge, but we had a dog for 14 years, and, as there was no way to get him to remove his paws when he came in from outdoors, I’m pretty sure my floors have seen it ALL when it comes to minuscule particles of stuff. Thankfully, though, floors can be cleaned: which brings me neatly to my next point…)

05.

Because we have wood floors, which get cleaned most days anyway, it wouldn’t really be a huge deal even if someone DID track a bit of dirt in the house. I’d just clean it up once they’d gone, and that would be that. I totally get that I might feel differently about this if we had pristine white carpets or something, though, although I would also hope that, as the visitors to our house are generally self-aware enough to know when they’ve walked through mud, or are covered in dog poop, they’d come to the ‘shoes off’ conclusion themselves in those circumstances, without me having to ask.

06.

Yes, I am aware that in Japan/Canada/many other countries, removing shoes is very much a cultural norm, and no one gives it a second thought. As I said, I have no argument with the people who like shoes to be removed, and will always obey the rules of the home owner: I just feel happier when there aren’t any.

But enough about me: what about YOU? Are you a shoes on or shoes off house? What are your rules?

OTHER AWKWARD ISSUES:

Is it ever OK to ‘pop in’ on someone unannounced?

Do you still give people a tour of your home, years after you moved into it?

 

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43 Comments
  • Leigh
    January 13, 2020

    They are guests and can do as they please, but it does wind me up if they take them off and then abandon them somewhere that’s not for shoes! You wanna get comfy? Cool, put your shoes away….this mainly applies to people who live here though…and the fact I’m pretty clumsy 😂

    • Amber
      January 13, 2020

      The Shoe Pile O’Doom!

  • Myra
    January 13, 2020

    People often talk off their shoes when coming into my house, but I say don’t bother, the carpets are hardly pristine. With a dog running in and out of the garden quite a bit of mud is dragged in with it, and by my football loving grandson who plays with the dog. I don’t care. I will remove my shoes in other people’s houses if they ask me. No worries

    • Amber
      January 13, 2020

      I’m always a bit surprised when people with pets insist on shoes off – unless they’re washing the dog’s feet every time it comes inside, they’re basically making their guests walk around in whatever the dog tracked in!

  • Christine @ tnsbk.blog
    January 13, 2020

    I didn’t encounter removing shoes until I moved to Minnesota. I will take shoes off for snow and rain, but after that it doesn’t matter to me. My husband is nuts about it. The worst, which you mentioned, is when you dress up and have to walk around in nylons. I now bring a separate pair of shoes when that happens. My philosophy has always been people are guests in my home. I do what they feel comfortable with.

    • Amber
      January 13, 2020

      My philosophy has always been people are guests in my home. I do what they feel comfortable with.

      This is my thinking exactly!

  • Arndis
    January 13, 2020

    I always take mine off but have never paid much attention to weather people wear them or not at home. We have a dark grey carpet that gets hoovered most days anyway.

  • Alice
    January 13, 2020

    Bizarrely I never took my shoes off around the house I grew up in – but now I am a “shoe off” person. Perhaps I learned it when it started being me who had to go the cleaning?

    I never insist people take their shoes off but people usually offer. And I always take mine off.

    • Amber
      January 13, 2020

      I didn’t either, growing up: there wasn’t a rule about keeping them on (My parents always wore socks or slippers at home), but I had this weird thing about always wanting to be “prepared”, so if I had to leave the house suddenly, at least I’d have my shoes on. Absolutely no idea where that came from, because I can’t remember even a single occasion when I had to leave the house in a hurry, but I liked to keep them on just in case!

  • ArcticTringel
    January 13, 2020

    Shoes are absolutely off in my house. It’s the cultural norm in my country, but even if it wasn’t, I can’t stand people bringing mud and snow on my house where my baby crawls and I don’t have the time to wash the floors all the time. Also I live in a country of very heavy winter boots.

    I feel you on the party side, though. I have inside party shoes for that, they fit in my handbag or my jacket pockets. In the summers in more casual circumstances, I have extra pair of socks in my handbag, that I put on, when I take my sandals off.

    But this is easy for me, because that’s how we do things. We are people who don’t take taxis to parties and didn’t own a car, and there are lots of us in our social circles, so changing your winter boots to party shoes on the party venue is expected.

  • Brenda
    January 13, 2020

    Canadian here! Its not the norm to keep shoes on when entering people’s houses so… but because of that, I do pack a pair of socks to throw on in the summer if I am going to someones house so I don’t have to wander around barefoot (or subject them to my ugly feet). There’s just too much dirt and muck around to do otherwise. Interestingly, it is the same in Hawaii as well. They require shoes off!

  • Ginger
    January 13, 2020

    I don’t have a rule. People can take their shoes off if they wish but I’m hardly going to to insist that they do either. They are guests in my house and I want them to be comfortable. I’m not going to make them do something they were not already planning to do. Besides, houses get messy when people come over. If I want the floors to stay pristine, I better not be serving any food or drink, either.

    Thankfully I have not yet been to someone’s house where I’ve been forced to take my shoes off. My toes get cold very easily, and unless it’s summer AND they don’t air-condition very much (a rare combination), I’m going to be pretty uncomfortable.

    • Amber
      January 13, 2020

      Oh, same here – I’ve actually wondered if I might have Raynaud’s (Very cold extremities, basically), because unless it’s really warm, my feet will be freezing: so much so that I’ve actually managed to develop chillblains this winter – yet another reason I don’t want people to have to look at my feet!

      • Ginger
        January 13, 2020

        I’ve wondered the same about Raynaud’s! Sometimes my fingernails turn a pretty blue-lavender, yikes. I’m in Texas so chillblains have never happened (yet) but, um, I won’t tell you what I keep the heat at in winter and I’m still wandering around in 2-3 layers on my feet at all times. Going barefoot at someone else’s house would be pure misery!

        • Amber
          January 13, 2020

          I’m so glad you said that – I’m the same, except it’s my feet that turn blue/purple. It’s not painful, but it’s REALLY alarming to see happen – they literally look dead. This is actually the main reason I hate being asked to take my shoes off: no matter how much people think they don’t mind feet, I can practically guarantee they will mind mine! (Especially if I’ve been using my feet-peeling socks – then they’ll be flaky AND blue!)

  • Jana
    January 13, 2020

    Here in southern California we are good with whatever our hostess wants. Our Korean friends always take their shoes off. I don’t unless everyone else is. We have concrete floors that are stained to look like marble. They stay warm if we should get cold weather and cool in our endless summer and they are enormously practical. Just a wet mop takes care of things.
    However we’re moving to the Cascade mountains in Northern California where it rains and snows all winter and there’s much more garden. There it’s boots off in the mud room and slippers around the house!

  • Isabel
    January 13, 2020

    Haha, so glad someone is addressing this DEEPLY controversial subject. I am kind of like you, I take off my shoes at home, but don’t force guests to do the same. However, since we keep all our shoes lined up close to the door, the guests do see them upon their arrival, and about 95% of the guests assume it’s a no-shoe household.
    The other 5% is mostly my mum or some Spanish friends of mine, since in Spain no one would DREAM of asking a guest to partly undress.

    Thoroughly enjoyed the read!
    xxx
    Isabel
    https://isabelstories.com/

    • Amber
      January 13, 2020

      “… no one would DREAM of asking a guest to partly undress.”

      This is me 😂 I mean, the very THOUGHT of it!

  • jodie filogomo
    January 13, 2020

    I wonder if part of it is how we grew up? I always grew up wearing my shoes inside the house oh, well at least most of the time. Sure sometimes I go around in my slippers and socks but I’ve never thought about taking shoes off. I have had some friends who requested it but I also think if you do that you should provide some slippers for the guests because floors are cold and feet get cold.
    Xoxo
    Jodie
    http://www.jtouchofstyle.com

    • Amber
      January 13, 2020

      Only if the slippers are brand new, though! I still remember going to see the woman who did the alterations on my wedding dress for me… She worked from home, and kept a basket of (very well-used) slippers in her entryway, which she insisted guests change into before they were allowed into the rest of the house. It was really obvious that these slippers were just handed to everyone who came to the house, and then replaced in the same basket afterwards – they were all very well worn and not particularly clean, and I know it sounds really precious, but it honestly made me want to gag when I realised she wanted me to put my feet into shoes that God knows how many other people had worn. (And, because I wasn’t expecting it, the first time I went to see her, I was wearing sandals, with bare feet, too…) It just seemed so unhygienic to me to expect people to share shoes – I mean, what if someone had verrucas, or something? How could you be so paranoid about outside germs, but totally fine with other people’s foot fungus or whatever?

  • D
    January 13, 2020

    I always keep my shoes on and prefer if people coming over keep theirs on too. I’m actually paranoid about toe germs, cooties or foot fungus being tracked in to my home! I’d rather have outdoor “clean dirt” than someone’s funky foot gunk!🦶🏻🤣🦶🏻

    • Amber
      January 13, 2020

      I’m exactly the same: I’ve never really understood how people can be so worried about outdoor germs, but not about people with verrucas, or some kind of foot fungus or whatever, walking around their homes. I also think that if you want people to walk around in their bare feet, you better make sure your floors are *spotless* and that’s not always the case, either 🤢

  • Hana Mond
    January 13, 2020

    I am clearly team “Keep your shoes on”!
    I am German, and here, too, it’s common to take the shoes off in many households (even if the people have cats and dogs, which I really don’t get).

    I was not usual in my parents’ home and so it is not in mine now. Carpets are noch very modern currently, so the floor is cold and slippery in socks. Some people have guest slippers, but I find wearing shoes that every guest wears kind of gross.
    And really – what is the matter with a little dust on my shoes? I don’t walk through mud oder dog poop on the streets (if I do, I WILL take my shoes off), I clean my shoes on the doormat, and a little dust will also come in if you open your window.
    I also keep my house shoes on when I bring the litter out at home – that also will bring a little dirt in, but so what? Floors can be cleaned and nobody eats from the floor … so let it be a little bit dirty in the time between cleanings!

    • Amber
      January 13, 2020

      I’m totally with you – we have a doormat outside the front door, and another one inside, so there’s plenty of opportunity for people to wipe their feet, and anything that’s left can easily be cleaned: and if someone’s walked through poop/ mud/ snow/whatever, they’ll generally notice and take their shoes off anyway!

  • Nicola
    January 13, 2020

    So, here’s the thing. I would love to have everyone remove their shoes when they come to my house, but at the same time, I have such a strong hatred for feet that I can’t cope with those either 😩 I have floated the idea of ‘guest slippers’ which people laugh at as if I’m joking …?

    • Amber
      January 13, 2020

      Nooo, don’t do guest slippers (Unless it’s the disposable ones that hotels use…) – I can only speak for myself, obviously, but I HATE being asked to wear shoes that God knows how many other people have worn: it’s so much worse than just being asked to take your shoes off!

      • dubliner in deutschland
        January 14, 2020

        haha, we actually have guest slippers! Only if a guest wants to wear them. They usually wear them over their socks though..but we also throw the guest slippers in the wash every so often!

        • Amber
          January 14, 2020

          Ha! If it’s any consolation, most people don’t seem to have a problem with them: I’ve always had a bit of a “thing” about feet, though (And am not always wearing socks…), so I hate the idea of communal slippers, or of being made to change into someone else’s shoes, but I think it just depends what you’re used to!

  • Jenna
    January 13, 2020

    So, here’s the thing, I’ve had quite a few bad experiences when I’ve had to take my shoes off at people’s homes. I loathe taking my shoes off for these reasons:

    I spent time in another country when I was in college (where removing your shoes was the cultural norm), I ended up catching a very painful type of foot wart that required a long round of medications and other medical procedures to have them removed (I’ll avoid the details). The doctor specifically told me to never go barefoot again in a home or public place.

    I’ve also been in a “Sex and the City” situation where someone took my shoes at a party (they weren’t Manolo’s). I was out of town for a wedding and lost the shoes I was planning on wearing to the ceremony-and it was the night before the wedding.

    I have been at homes (on more than one occasion) where the dog had an accident inside and been very close to stepping in it. Once, a parent was even working on potty-training their toddler and another guest walked through the kid’s pee in the living room.

    For all these reasons, I tend now to bring hard-soled slippers in my bag when I go to people’s homes and wear my “less nice” shoes so I don’t ever have another pair get swiped.

    • Amber
      January 13, 2020

      Oh my God, I’m not even sure what part of that is the worst! It’s just so odd to me: you would think that people who expect guests to take their shoes off would be the most house-proud, and have totally immaculate floors, but apparently not!

  • May
    January 14, 2020

    Unless it’s the dead of winter and run the risk of freezing my toes off, I don’t wear shoes at home. When I have visitors, I let them do whatever they wish. When I go to someone’s home and I’m close enough with them I remove my shoes.
    I just really love the barefoot life

  • dubliner in deutschland
    January 14, 2020

    Here in Germany everyone takes their shoes off when they go into someone’s house! It took me awhile to get used to coming from Ireland but now I prefer it that way.

  • Melissa
    January 14, 2020

    In our house, I don’t ask people to remove their shoes, but my husband does…. If someone comes in and says, ‘shall I take my shoes off?’ I’ll respond with ‘nah, it’s fine’ and my H will say ‘if you don’t mind’. To be completely fair to H…. he does most of the vacuuming (although maybe that means Eufy needs an opinion too). Anyway, guests have been left very confused in the past as we simultaneously give different answers. I’m with you – I don’t want people to feel awkward. My main issue with removing my shoes is my feet turn into icebergs… and how well do you need to know someone before you can turn up clutching your sheepskin slippers…?

    • Amber
      January 14, 2020

      Haha, I love your comment about Eufy – we have a Eufy too, and she absolutely gets the final say on the shoes on/shoes off situation!

  • ReaderRita
    January 14, 2020

    The barefoot thing creeps me out. You wear flip flops at public pools and in gym shower stalls- what makes us think that just because it’s not soaking wet that people can’t pass on athlete’s foot or some other type of fungus by walking on your floor? UGH. I’d rather a bit of outside dirt than a disease.

    Plus, how embarrassing would that be for a guest who might have a foot disease when a host is asking them to remove their shoes? That would be so awful for them!

    • Amber
      January 14, 2020

      I know – I would hate to put someone in that position!

      • Hannah
        January 14, 2020

        We only ever have people around who we know really well and they know we prefer to have shoes off. Just like we know who prefers shoes on or shoes off (although I can only think of one person with a shoes on household), as we are close we have no issues taking socks or slippers over to someone’s house and they do the same. My sister, siblings in laws etc have all been known to borrow a pair of clean socks if they’ve got cold feet or would rather wear socks than bare feet. Rarely go to peoples houses that I dont know well and would feel embarrassed about slippers in front of…is that the norm? I would feel more awkward spending time at someone’s house I didn’t know well than having my sister expect me to take shoes off when shes just bought a brand new carpet!

  • Emerald
    January 14, 2020

    Yes, I definitely prefer it if people do. I always get straight into my slippers or flip-flops and my partner has his inside shoes. House socks are provided for guests who are staying a day or so – and yes, I buy a new pair for each guest and they’re not expected to share.

  • Nita Schmid
    January 16, 2020

    I think a lot of it has to do with the climate you’re in, as well as culture. Like, in the Caribbean, I would usually remove my shoes if I’m by friends or family (exception being if it’s some kind of house party or more formal get-together, in which case everybody takes their shoes off). At home I’d go barefoot, and friends would usually take their shoes off too. Now that I’m in Germany they also have the shoes-off rule inside the house, but they would usually wear house shoes. Once I get home, I would usually either go in my socks or wear my house shoes (like, warm fuzzy slipper-type things). I think most people take their shoes off here too, actually, but maybe not, because it’s cold and who wants to be walking around with cold feet? i guess it really depends on the circumstance and preference… I also know some people who’ve bought a set of house shoes in some different sizes and have them there for guests to wear. That could be a nice in-between!

  • Corinne
    January 16, 2020

    I’m stupidly short, like midget territory, and most houses are built for real people so I’m generally wondering around home in some kind of heeled boots in order to reach things like the sink or cooker properly!

  • heather
    January 18, 2020

    I also hate my feet and always carry some socks in my handbag if I’m visiting a person home in the summer so I can switch my shoes for socks if I have to. My friends notice that I’m always wearing socks (even if it’s 100 + degrees!) that I’m always being gifted socks 😀 If I’m alone, barefoot all day.

    As for my home, no rules! Shoes, no shoes, I really couldn’t care less. (Though my husband would prefer if my one sister kept her shoes on, she has stinky feet, lols)

  • sandra
    January 20, 2020

    I’m a Canadian, lived in Canada all my life. Where did you get the idea that Canadians force guests to remove their shoes at the door? That concept is as weird to me as it is to you, and for all the same reasons you stated.

    • Amber
      January 20, 2020

      From all of my Canadian relatives, the time I spent visiting them in Canada, and the various Canadians who’ve commented about it in the past when the subject has come up, including the Canadian who commented on this very post?