Do or Don’t: Asking Guests to Remove Their Shoes

Red House WestWe – and our families – remove our shoes when we’re in the house, but don’t explicitly ask that guests do.  There are a lot of pros to a shoe-free household, cleanliness chief among them, but is it appropriate to ask visitors to doff their footwear?  And, if they do take off their shoes, how do you make sure they’re comfortable?

Do you ask people to remove their shoes when they come into your home and, if so, how do you do it?


29 responses on “Do or Don’t: Asking Guests to Remove Their Shoes

  1. Alienor

    This is cultural, isn’t it?

    I am Australian and live in Switzerland. As someone who lived for a long time in east asia and as a renter in a city where toilets may not be flushed after 10pm for fear of waking the neighbours, it is completely reasonable to ask that people take shoes off.

    We have a place to put them by the door in both house (France, holiday house) and apartment (swiss rental with scary proprietors and older neighbours). Workers, I can’t ask to de-shoe. Older people I don’t tend to insist. But friends who come back on a regular basis? If you start out saying “asian house” or something similar, most don’t seem to mind.

    There is the thing about fancy shoes at a party; people come, sometimes, with inside shoes to make dresses look good. Some latitude can be found there, at least until 10pm…

    Of course, some of that is the culture of my circle of friends too: scandinavians take off their shoes, asians too; people living in switzerland all have neighbours also; most africans are used to cooling down with shoes off at home. Americans are the ones who are most jumpy, at least in my experience, both about going barefoot and about using slippers designed for common use.

    1. Katie

      Such an interesting perspective Alienor – thanks for sharing! Here in Oregon there’s no norm I’ve recognized – it even differs among households within my family – though in wet mid-winter there’s more likely to be shoes by every front door.

  2. Maggie

    In Canada, with our four seasons, we most definitely take shoes off at the door. There can be exceptions, like now, in the middle of dry August, or with workers coming into your home like the above commenter stated.

    I don’t recall ever asking someone to take their shoes off but I’ve also never seen an entrance to a home that didn’t have some place to place your shoes once removed. So, it’s just insinuated, I guess?

    It’s definitely a cultural thing but one I was not aware of until recently when I stumbled upon a similar conversation on the good ol’ internet. It got a bit heated which was amusing!

    1. Katie

      Well I’m glad this conversation has stayed so civil! In our Oregon winter there’s both added impetus to take shoes off because of mud and damp, and also to keep them on because it’s cold. I definitely prefer a shoe-free house, especially in the winter, so I can pad around in socks without worrying about puddles of damp and dirt. Our last house had radiant floor heating, so guests mostly removed their shoes because it was cozier without them, but at this house it seems less hospitable. Unless the woodstove were really cranking out the heat I guess 🙂

      1. Jay

        I enforce the shoes-off rule seasonally. I take my shoes off at the door year-round, but I don’t ask it of guests in the summertime when the ground is dry outside. In the winter, with the snow and the mud, different story. Shoes off for everyone, and I tell guests in advance to wear good socks or bring slippers. I sympathize with your comment about now wanting to step in puddles. I like being in my sock feet at home, and there’s nothing worse than getting your socks wet because someone tracked snow into the house.

  3. Nina D

    I never ask people to remove their shoes but a surprising number do. I tend to wear flip-flops or slippers at home because, while I like to be barefoot, I hate having dirty feet. Since I do not clean my floors every single day, I usually have something on my feet, here in NH or down on Bonaire.

    Especially in our home on Bonaire, which is always dusty due to all manner of stuff blowing through the apartment on the constant trade winds. I’m very self-conscious about others taking their shoes off there, especially, (because the floors are always dusty) but since we always have a pile of sandy, wet flip-flops, dive boots and water shoes piled outside the front door, everybody takes theirs off, too. But I guess down there, sandy feet are the norm.

    I’ve read these discussions online before and it strikes me as funny that a large number of pro no-shoes inside folks have pets who, one assumes, are not expected to remove their paws when entering the house or don disposable booties before using litter boxes and diacarding them before traipsing across the kitchen counters. 😉

    Now my husband lives in bare feet, both inside and out. But that is a whole other issue!

  4. monica

    We remove shoes when we come in (and we have to use our front door as our main day-to-day entry) so there are always shoes lined up – or more likely piled up and strewn around – by the door. I find that most people notice our shoes and will take their shoes off. There are some (including my own brother!) who just don’t. Even when it is rainy or snowy – I don’t quite get that, but just live with it. I also have a basket of Ikea slippers available for guests…

  5. Emily

    This reminds me of the episode of Sex & The City where Carrie goes to a friend’s party and is asked to take off her expensive Manolos at the door, which she is NOT happy about – particularly as someone else walks off with them at the end of the night!
    I would never ask someone to remove their shoes and don’t particularly care, as even if they brought in dirt we could just hoover it up afterwards. But lots of people do take them off anyway out of habit. Some people even bring their slippers with them! I quite like to keep my shoes on at other people’s houses because like Carrie, the shoes are normally a part of my outfit…

    1. Katie

      Yes! I’d forgotten about that episode but it’s the perfect reference! Sounds like consensus on this thread is that party shoes get a pass 🙂

  6. Sarah

    I don’t ask. Although we try to take off our shoes, any person tracked in dirt pales in comparison with the dog, especially here in Oregon. It’s either mud or pine needles and bark mulch depending on the season. I vacuum the rooms connected to outside almost every day, and during the wet months I mop too. At least people wipe their shoes on the mat first!

  7. Cas

    I’m shoes off and always have been since a young kid (though no idea where it came from as my family are all ‘shoes on’). When I go to people’s houses I automatically go to take me shoes off. Unless they have really messy floors and/or are clearly shoes-on people.

    I’ve got a place by the door for shoes. I even have a little stool for people to sit on to make it easier – getting this was the only way I could make my father take his shoes off, as old age has made bending harder for him. If someone asks if they should take their shoes off, I say yes. If they don’t say anything I am typically British and say nothing whilst internally fuming. I don’t have guest slippers however. That seems weird to me.

    It’s different for parties – both in my house and when I go to others – shoes on seems right to me. Yes it tracks in more dirt but I’m going to be cleaning post-party anyway!

    1. Mera

      This is my view too, Cas. Day to day, we take off our shoes and most guests get the hint from the mountain of shoes by the door. Parties are a different story. Thanks!

  8. joy

    I am loving this thread.

    We are a shoes off household. I do not insist for outsiders but I absolutely appreciate when they take the hint. I have a few extended family members that acknowledge the shoes by the door but do not make the slightest move to remove their shoes (healthy people in their 30-40s, who come after a run/hike or even after foul weather). Aggravates me but i try not to stress over their poor manners.

    During holidays and for anyone older I let the rule pass.

  9. Sally

    There are many practical and cultural reasons to consider. In New Zealand I know only one household that removes shoes at the door. Here hardly anyone has central heating so going shoeless in winter in the south would be pretty chilly. If for some reason I had to ask people to remove footwear…I can’t think why….I would warn them beforehand so they could bring sox or slippers. I’m sure my dog brings in as much dirt from the outside world as anyone. My feelings on this are definitely shaped by my cultural and geographic context.

    1. Mera

      Here in Alaska most everyone automatically takes off shoes in the winter, and mostly in the summer too. In the winter there’s usually ice-melter and salt on the walkways, and it does a real number on hardwood floors and leaves white marks on rugs. In the summer our dogs definitely track in loads of dirt, but in the winter they mostly wear booties and remove them (with human assistance) at the door too! 🙂

      1. Sally

        Yes, when I lived in NYC with a dog, winter meant all of the above factors contributed to shoes off at the door and a towel at the door and wipes for the dog’s feet too. This supports my theory there are geographical and practical reasons for the shoes off or on situation. Plus age can be a factor. It’s easier to take shoes off and on again when you visit if you’re young, bend easily and don’t have arthritis. This is a good topic!

  10. Gillianne

    Good discussion. We tend toward shoes off at home, but our front door opens directly into the living/dining space, and there’s no place (really, none!) to put even a small seat for guests’ convenience to un-shoe themselves and store footwear, or keep slippers for their use. We’ve adding a small vestibule for that purpose, though it would chop up the front of our cottage. Put that in the “one day, maybe” column.

    1. Katie

      Yes! This is exactly what prompted this post! Here at the Ranch Rambler there’s not a clearly delineated entry, but I’m pretty determined to carve one out. I’d like to create some kind of space that means you don’t walk in our front door only to become mired in a tangle of bags, coats, and shoes.

  11. Lea

    We do take off our shoes at the door. I have never asked a guest to do so. The bench and quantity of shoes at our front door is a pretty obvious hint that we don’t wear shoes in the house. If any guest nonetheless wants to keep shoes on then I would assume they have their reasons and would not ask them to do otherwise.

  12. mary

    I completely agree with Lea. I am a shoes off/change into slippers person, my husband is a shoes on (unless it’s wet out, then he will take them off for me), but I would never ask a guest to either leave their shoes on, or take them off.

  13. Alex

    We are very much a shoes off house.
    Our house is in rural England and its pretty much the norm here to take shoes off at the door.
    We have a combination of wooden floors and plush carpets. There is a bench by the door where everyone can sit down and change from shoes to slippers.
    If guests don’t automatically remove shoes or ask then we politely ask them to leave them at the entrance.

  14. Rose Davies

    If people took their shoes off at my house, they would get dirty, hairy socks (because of the dog; and snagged tights. As my kitchen is downstairs and my living room upstairs there’s a lot of stair use and people are likely to slip if not wearing shoes. I would honestly love plush carpet but my home and family are not right for it. When I’ve had lovely carpets, they soon got dirty with the dog and people rushing about in shoes and splashing their drinks. Attractive rugs are possibly the way forward.

  15. Michelle

    We have chicken and ducks outside so there is poo everywhere. We have all our shoes lined up at the front and back door and none of us wear shoes inside. Most of our guests though will not take off their shoes and even walk over our expensive beige rug in them. It really upsets me but I feel like a total jerk asking them to take off their shoes. The duck and chook poo is visible on the paths (we don’t have a choice, it’s shared land) so I don’t get why people don’t get the message just to take off their shoes. I think you should take off your shoes unless someone tells you not to, unless it’s a party and then I expect people to wear their shoes. I actually avoid inviting people over casually sometimes because it means I’ll have to mop the floor after they’ve left. If it’s a party fine, if it’s not take your freaken shoes off.

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