Etiquette Daily’s Greatest Hits: Lose the Shoes

by epi on August 1, 2013

Etiquette Daily’s “Greatest Hits” are questions that generated a great deal of conversation when they were originally posted. At the Emily Post Institute we have learned that some etiquette questions never go out of style and are bringing back a few of these popular conundrums for your further consideration. Enjoy!

Q: We just recently purchased a new home. It has hardwood entry/kitchen and carpet throughout. Is it rude to ask people to remove their shoes when coming into the house? We have place a chair on the front porch to assist those when removing their shoes. We both find it very comfortable to make the request and have actually received some negative responses from ‘guests’ and some have pushed the issue. We feel very torn with a small discreet ‘sign’ making the request (we still have construction people returning who actually are the most compliant). I want to keep my home clean and protect the flooring as long as possible. I have actually declined on hosting a housewarming party because we don’t want some high heel shoes marring up the flooring. How do we handle this?

A: Well, it is your home, and if you don’t want guests to wear shoes, it is your choice. However, it is most thoughtful to tell invited guests that this is your rule so that they bring slippers or indoor shoes with them. No one likes, at all, being told to take their shoes off if they are unprepared to do so; they may have holes in their socks, or runs in their stockings, or feel they have a foot odor problem; and you might put them in an embarrassing situation. If the visitors are drop-in guests, it is thoughtful to have several pairs of disposable, paper slippers by the door so that when they remove their shoes, and may also be unprepared to do so, you have something for them to slip into.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Daniella August 1, 2013 at 10:33 am

I am actually surprised people would have negative responses to taking off their shoes. They’re indoors, in someone’s else home, who would actually leave their shoes on? It’s nice to have extra slippers in case their feet get cold, but I wouldn’t worry about telling people no shoes in your house!

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Cyra August 1, 2013 at 12:13 pm

I think EPI’s advice on this one is spot-on. It is ok to enforce the no-shoes rule if it’s really that important to you, but you must also be aware that some people do not like removing their shoes, so providing slippers is extremely thoughtful. In my house the no-shoes preference is clear (there’s a shoe rack by the door, a seat for removing shoes, and a “please remove your shoes” sign), but I still leave it up to my guests to actually do so. Most of my guests will, but I never make an issue over those who don’t. I’d rather have a couple of dents in my floor and a welcoming, inviting home than a perfect floor in a home where my friends don’t feel comfortable.

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Nina August 1, 2013 at 1:13 pm

I agree with Cyra–a suggestion is fine, an order is problematic. I’m actually surprised EPI would want to rerun this question, as I’ve read the original thread and it gets a bit troubling. People on both sides feel really strongly–strong enough to say really offensive things about folks who feel the opposite.

I’m from an area where shoe-taking-off is standard at home, but I’ve lived all over and what people expect re: shoes varies a lot. Since I want to meet lots of people and treat my new friends hospitably, I’ve had to be openminded about shoes on my carpet, even though in my heart I feel “That’s what socks are for!”

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Chocoboo August 1, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Oh no, it’s this thread again! Save us!

I agree with EPI’s advice and further add that it really depends on whom you are requesting and in what situation. For example, asking small children who have been playing outside in the dirt to remove their shoes is probably wise. But asking guests who have arrived for a dinner party in their best pumps and oxfords? Terribly unwise. Ladies and gentlemen dressed in jackets in pearls, trying to enjoy hors d’oeuvres in the parlor with just their stockings on is a laughable image. The formality of the situation and your relationship to the guest will inform whether the request is truly appropriate.

Why anyone ever thought that white or light-colored carpets was a good idea is beyond me. The thought that maintaining pristine flooring — which is, after all, meant to be walked on — is more important than one’s guests leaves me feeling hollow.

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Nonnie Mowse August 4, 2013 at 9:14 am

I am in agreement here, and might I also add, there are people like myself who cannot walk around without orthotic shoes. To do so for any length of time, I pay a painful price later, or while I’m at the function depending on the circumstances. Anyone who expects me to do that, even friends of some particular faiths, will not see me in attendance.

It’s one thing if it’s friends gathering for some coffee and chat, but another if it’s a more formal occasion.

Also, I remember when, in some places bare feet were considered ‘personal’ and to be kept covered unless playing outside.

So much of this depends on eras and locations and traditions. My grandparents were shoes-on folks, born in the city in the late 1800s. My in-laws are shoes-off, mostly from a country setting, and also ten or twenty years after my grandparents. But the comfort of guests comes first, particularly if it’s medical.

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Winifred Rosenburg August 1, 2013 at 2:07 pm

I agree with EPI, especially about giving your guests a heads up about your policy. It’s so easy and could save your guests a lot of discomfort. They might want to bring their own socks or slippers (I find communal slippers to be gross). They also might not want to wear their shoes that are beautiful but a pain to take off and put on. Also, providing a chair is considerate so you don’t have people hopping on one foot near the door, which I’ve seen have bad outcomes.

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Mariette's Back to Basics August 1, 2013 at 4:19 pm

In the Far East in almost every country it is customary for removing your shoes at the door. If someone wants to do so here, it’s up to the individual I guess, provided there is a seat available for doing so and of course something to slip into. Or even some socks…
Good luck.
Mariette
gplus.to/MariettesBacktoBasics

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Mark August 2, 2013 at 2:32 am

Good article with sound advice. We try and warn people in advance and ask them to bring their slippers to wear. We also have a comfy seat by the door where everyone can change out of their shoes. Personally, I don’t like the idea of “guest slippers” But my OH is in favour of providing slippers for guests and she doesn’t mind wearing them when visiting friends and family.

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Tiffany August 15, 2013 at 5:04 pm

I was brought up to always remove my shoes in any home unless told otherwise. That’s the culture here and it would be very rude of a guest to refuse this common courtesy. Shoes are disgusting and track in mud, dirt, pests, etc. If people are so embarrassed by torn socks, then maybe it’s time to purchase yourself some new socks. As for foot odour, that’s typically an indication of a health issue that needs treatment or lack of hygiene which is rude in-of itself.

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Michelle January 16, 2014 at 5:28 pm

It’s your house… your rules.
It is helpful for guests to be informed of the no shoes rule prior to visiting your home.

Some people, like me have foot problems and cannot walk or stand for more than a couple minutes without orthotic shoes.

I’d appreciate knowing about the no shoe rule prior to visiting a no shoe household….because I honestly would not be able to attend. I’d rather find out prior to attending a gathering versus when I get there.

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Jody January 27, 2014 at 10:40 am

I agree with Michelle — host’s house, host’s rules. While I don’t have a problem removing my shoes, I do appreciate knowing the house rule ahead of time.

I disagree with Katie below, it is not rude to ask people to remove shoes. If you know the person’s rule and don’t like it, there is no need to make such a fuss (that’s being rude, IMO). Just politely decline the invitation. If you don’t know the rule ahead of time, go along with it at the house (unless you have a valid *medical* reason for keeping shoes on) and don’t accept any further invitations from that host.

I don’t have a “no shoes” rule in my place unless the weather is so bad that shoes are really sloppy (heavy rain and snow are two examples). I take my own shoes off out of preference; what I do appreciate is guests who are polite enough to ask or even take their own shoes off when they see mine by the door (I always tell them they’re welcome to leave shoes on).

It comes down to being a polite guest, as Michelle is being.

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Katie January 27, 2014 at 1:02 am

I think it’s rude to ask people to remove their shoes when visiting! I don’t ask my guests to do this, and I certainly hate doing it when visiting others. Don’t ask me to remove my shoes when your house looks like a pig pen! Who do you think you are?! Every time we are invited to someone’s house and know they like to enforce the no shoes rule, we roll our eyes and cringe. And those with the little shoes off signs by your doors — are you kidding?! Prude to the max. Yuck!

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Zouzou March 11, 2014 at 2:17 pm

As pointed out in an other comment, in the North-East this is not even something people ask about. It’s automatic as you enter any home to remove your shoes. Snow is the reason (removing snow-studded boots to prevent them dripping all over the floor) but it’s extended as a habit even in summer where I live. You can bring a pair of clean indoor shoes if you wish. Most hosts have a basket of clean (washable) slippers in a basket for guest. Most high traffic private offices have baskets of paper slippers for their clients (dentist, doctors, lawyers…)

In Paris lots of people have a “no shoes” policy and you are required to remove your shoes upon entering. I mention it because it’s not customary for French people to ask their guests to remove their shoes. But in Paris it happens often for hygiene reasons and parents of young children are the most likely to adopt such a policy. They don’t want shoes which have been treading the city’s sidewalks on their floors where their children will be playing.

In most countries I’ve visited it’s viewed as grossly non-hygienic to enter a home with one’s shoes on, at best, and downright rude and a lack of respect for the hosts, at worst.

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