Remove Your Shoes: How to deal with the hostess who makes you take them off

by EPI Staff on November 17, 2010

Q: My clean-freak friend makes visitors take off their shoes before entering her home.  Can I refuse if I know I won’t track anything in?

A: A hostess is within her rights to ask guests to remove their shoes–especially if it’s snowing or raining outside.  If it makes you uncomfortable, bring an extra pair of your own shoes so you won’t have to go barefoot.  In fact, she should offer slippers so you won’t be cold or embarrassed.  That said, a good hostess should be flexible.  If she doesn’t know her guests well or is having a big party, she should suspend the no-shoes rule, at least for one night.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Alicia November 17, 2010 at 1:21 pm

I hate having to take off my shoes in a social situation as well as I think I have ugly toes and am self consious about them. My solution is I keep a pretty pair of slippers in my car. Then if someone asks me to take of my shoes I run real quick back out to my car and grab my slippers and then slip off my shoes and on my pretty black ( it goes with everything) slippers. That way I do not spend teh whole visit thinking they are staring at my ugly toes.

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occasionista November 18, 2010 at 12:50 am

Alicia,
I completely agree with the ugly toes & slippers route, however, I also think a hostess should make her guests feel comfortable and by asking them to remove their shoes just so her carpet won’t be damaged seems a little selfish to me. A gracious hostess wouldn’t even think to ask her guests to remove their shoes.

xx,
the occasionista

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R. November 18, 2010 at 3:06 am

This question (or very similar to it) was discussed recently. It baffles me why this is such a popular topic of discussion. Look in the Open Thread of the last few weeks to read what others thought. I’d find the URL except it isn’t possible to do a search on the Open Threads (as far as I can see).

Occasionista — As I said in the Open Thread when it came up, removing shoes is a norm in many areas and there is nothing selfish about asking someone to remove their shoes to protect the cleanliness of one’s home. Here’s how I see it — if you insist on wearing your shoes in my home, you’ll be asked to leave. I am not compromising the cleanliness of my home nor willing to pay for extensive carpet cleaning or hardwood refinishing due to the damage caused by the dirt/rocks/gunk that you’re tracking in.

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Rusty Shackleford November 18, 2010 at 4:50 pm

R.,
I think the reason this is such a popular topic on this forum is because, in American culture, people are just very sensitive about their feet and it can easily lead to some uncomfortable siutations for all. I used to teach pilates/yoga classes and I always felt bad when a first-timer would seem uncomfortable at being asked to remove their shoes. We are instinctively modest in American culture about our feet for many reasons. I think the EPI answer here was very good, althought I feel for Alice. When a host is having a large gathering where people would be expected to dress up (guests are wearing dresses with hose and/or sandals, then I don’t think asking guests to remove their shoes would be appropriate (unless the outside elements dictate otherwise, as suggested by EPI). Someone a while back suggested that, a gracious host would defer to their guests comfort either simply suspend their rules for this speical occasion, or providing slippers to their guests (which seems impractical to me). Likewise, a gracious guest should be prepared to remove their shoes (matching socks, etc).

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Just Laura November 18, 2010 at 3:14 am

R brings up an excellent point. In Japanese culture, guests remove their shoes at the entryway of a home.
Source: http://www.essential-japan-guide.com/removing-shoes-in-japan.html

One must be sensitive to a hostess’ reasonable request. And I really like Alicia’s idea about bringing little slippers for just such a time.

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Shannon November 18, 2010 at 6:15 pm

I find the fact that this is an issue so interesting! In Canada, it is generally considered rude to wear your shoes in a house. As shoes worn outside are potentially both dirty and unsanitary, that seems quite rational to me (not “selfish”). Unless it was part of a costume or a very formal situation, I would never dream of keeping mine on when in another’s home. If you’re self-concious about your feet, keep some nice socks or slippers in your purse – that’s what I do in the summer months if I’m going somewhere and will have to take off my sandals.

Interestingly enough, many of my friends in my current city are American women who have married Canadians. All of them have adopted the shoes off policy in their own homes – even the newlyweds.

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Michael August 25, 2013 at 5:59 pm

I would imagine that the bacteria that grow inside shows are more unsanitary than the outside of the show.

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Camille November 18, 2010 at 6:42 pm

I hate being asked to remove my shoes – I think it is terrible to expect a guest to take off their shoes. If you throw a nice party and invite people over, you should make an excpetion regarding allowing them to wear shoes. We went to a party once, where we were expected to wear formal attire…..and then told to take our shoes off…….I thought that was extremely rude. Plus, there was a big huge pile of shoes, no place to sit down to take them off or put them on. Elderly people should not be asked to remove their shoes either.

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chica November 21, 2010 at 2:01 am

I’m Muslim and removing shoes when you enter a home is standard practice. Shoes are extremely dirty so your friend is making a healthy decision. Providing slippers or house shoes is a nice courtesy for guests.

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Lauren N. November 25, 2010 at 6:20 pm

My mother has pointed out that one’s shoes carry pesticides into the house! This is extremely unhealthy for pets, especially in a house where the hostess keeps a natural yard and carefully selects cleaning products that are natural or otherwise non-toxic to small companion animals.

In fact, she has a special pair of flip flops she wears only inside the house, and she changes out of her ‘outside’ shoes and into her ‘inside’ shoes upon arriving at home. When I am staying at her house, I have a designated pair of shoes I wear only indoors, or I go barefoot. Besides, we always have mother-daughter pedicure day, and what better way to show off my shiny pink toenails! :)

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Paula December 1, 2010 at 3:31 am

It is her house rule and a polite guest should try to abide by this. However, there is no polite way to ask for shoe removal without making a guest feel ignorant of manners and unwelcome.

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Laura December 7, 2010 at 8:01 pm

Would you ask a disabled guest to have a painful embarrassing limp in your home by asking him to remove his prosthetic foot or orthopedic shoes?

Too late, you might have already done it without knowing.

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Just Laura December 7, 2010 at 8:29 pm

I work with students who happen to have disabilities. I don’t know a single one of them that would have a problem saying, “Laura, you can’t make me take off my foot.” And I don’t know anyone who would argue with them! I must ask, though, how did you come to think that a prosthetic foot is the same thing as a shoe? In most cases, shoes are worn over the prosthesis. In addition, orthopedic shoes are very distinctive, so I doubt anyone has ever mistaken them for pumps or sandals. I think a better example would be a wheelchair (you can’t just leave it at the door), but all wheelchair users I know will wipe their wheels if about to roll over someone’s white carpet after being in the rain.

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Graceandhonor December 7, 2010 at 9:00 pm

I will never forget attending an engagement party at which one of the guests was in a wheelchair. The hostess hissed to friends in the kitchen, “I wish he’d just park that thing somewhere out of the way and stop grinding it into my new carpet.” If ever a window into someone’s (dark) soul…

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Just Laura December 7, 2010 at 9:23 pm

My friend is blind and uses a trained service dog. One time he walked into a store, and the greeter asked if he “could just leave the dog outside, please. Some customers might have allergies.”
Makes one wonder…

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Anne February 15, 2014 at 7:55 pm

I have gout and I’m never without shoes. I even need crocs to shower. I wear orthopedic/cushioned shoes inside my home ALL the time or I’m in pain later/tomorrow. I could NOT take off my shoes to enter someone’s house. If they didn’t understand my situation I’d rather leave anyway.

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Susy March 11, 2011 at 12:55 am

I am Canadian and I always take my shoes off and expect my guests to do the same. I have a bench, chair, and large shoe rack to accommodate shoes. I have slippers for people who want them although most people prefer to go in socks in the colder months. I think because of this culture, women and men tend to take good care of their feet. Most women get pedicures and painted nails for those summer months where you will be barefoot. I tolerate sandals/flip-flops in the summer if the weather is nice, but no more.

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RB October 14, 2011 at 9:05 am

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking people to remove their shoes. I would suggest that any hostess who maintains a “no shoe” policy should keep a few pairs of inexpensive slippers on hand for guests who are uncomfortable with going barefoot. Also, please keep in mind that for some people who are prone to falling and/or for whom the slightest cut to the feet could be catastrophic — older persons and diabetics, for example — the shoe rule should never be enforced!!!

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gloria sullivan January 19, 2012 at 1:38 am

I think people who are rude enough to tell you to remove their shoes should not bother inviting anyone over. Germs can be spread with or without shoes. Give me a break! When I have a party….we party and the carpet can be cleaned later! Chill!

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Edie June 7, 2012 at 4:02 am

I have 2 little ones that have Cerabral palsy, and I ask people to take there shoes off
I ask this of them because my kids can’t walk. so there on the floor all the time.i also have shoe covers for the maintance man.

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