Would you mind taking your shoes off?
January 4, 2011 4:47 PM   Subscribe

If I asked you to take your shoes off when you came into our (North American) home, would you be put off? What kind of foot covering can I offer you to make it less annoying?

We just had our floors refinished and I'm going to attempt to keep them nice for a little while. I also would like, in general, to keep my floors clean and it seems like taking shoes off inside would be help both goals. I don't want to be crazy obsessive about it and I don't want people to get annoyed if I ask them nicely to take their shoes off.

1. Is it rude of me to ask? Would it be less rude or more rude to have a tiny sign asking people to comply but not insisting? If someone really doesn't want to take off their shoes, I'll be okay with that.

2. I'd like to offer guests something to put on their feet (if they're so inclined) to keep them warm - slippers? socks? What would you want to be offered? Ideally it would be something washable, re-usable, and under $10 a pair so that I can get different sizes. Would that make taking off shoes less of an annoyance?

3. My family will also be attempting to comply with this new rule and I'm unsure how well we'll do but want to make it easy to do. What are some tips and tricks to remind ourselves to take our shoes off and make it attractive to do so?
posted by otherwordlyglow to Home & Garden (222 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
It is not rude of you to ask. I suppose a mat of some kind would be helpful, one which is inside the house so they don't have to stand outside with no shoes on, and that may help your family to remember as well.

Some people find signs rude no matter how they're presented. Some don't. It's a crap shoot.

Being offered socks or slippers would not make taking off shoes less of an annoyance. It wouldn't be an annoyance at all, in the first place, and some folks are weird about footwear. Also this isn't something I've ever encountered and I'm not sure how I would handle the offer. You don't have to offer anything - folks will manage just fine on their own.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 4:51 PM on January 4, 2011


In a Russian household it is practically de rigieur to request that guests remove their shoes after entering the house. My parents' (and grandparents') generation kept enough slippers (plastic or rubber, with no thong so you can easily wear them with socks) around for guests, who wanted them but generally it was assumed if you were asking your guests to take off their shoes that the floor has been recently cleaned.
posted by griphus at 4:52 PM on January 4, 2011


I don't think it's rude to ask. But we have a shoe rack by the door, and go barefoot at home, and most guests remove their shoes without even being asked. (We don't ask, because we don't actually care - we just go barefoot because it's comfortable). I think the signals of being without shoes yourself, and having the rack right there, are enough to cue most people in.

I'm in Australia: maybe the USA is different.
posted by lollusc at 4:53 PM on January 4, 2011


1. It's not rude to ask but it does irritate me. I understand why people do it, but it sucks when you're unprepared and are wearing hole-y socks or something. Some people are *really* put off by this, though. I have had more than one post-party conversation with friends and colleagues who expressed irritation at being told to take their shoes off.

2. I would not welcome something else to put on my feet. This would feel gross, even if I was confident you had washed whatever it was.
posted by proj at 4:53 PM on January 4, 2011 [9 favorites]


Even when I was little, my family has always taken off their shoes when we came inside - I suppose that was because we hated wearing shoes as kids! But as an adult, I usually get my slippers on to keep my feet warm and I've given friends slippers to wear while they're visiting and everyone has been fine with that. If someone wants to keep their shoes on, it's fine though.
posted by garnetgirl at 4:54 PM on January 4, 2011


Oh, er, my generation does not keep slippers around -- socks are cheap in this great land of opportunity -- but my Russian friends still tend to ask guests to take their shoes off.
posted by griphus at 4:54 PM on January 4, 2011


In the USA and voting for "not rude". Ikea sells pairs of one-size slippers for like $3.
posted by lhall at 4:54 PM on January 4, 2011


Workers in your home it's fine to ask them to wear slipcovers or whatever. Guests in your home, yes, it's rude to ask people in North America to do that. You're telling them off the bat that you don't think they will respect your floors enough to use caution in walking on them in shoes or that they're somehow dirty.

I'd suggest that you not have any guests over until your comfortable with them actually being in your house.
posted by inturnaround at 4:54 PM on January 4, 2011 [14 favorites]


PS: in all parts of Europe where I've lived (Germany and Scandinavia, I think also in France) it is normal to have spare slippers by the door for guests. The sort I am most used to are like these. (This is a German website entirely devoted to selling "house-shoes", by the way.)
posted by lollusc at 4:56 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I suppose it might depend on your circle of acquaintances, but I've always found it weird to be asked to take off my shoes, unless it's due to bad weather (snow, mud). I think offering some sort of communal temporary footwear might make it even more awkward.
posted by hafehd at 4:56 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is it rude of me to ask?

It's not rude to ask, but consider this: My shoeless feet often times smell to high heaven after a day of walking around in shoes. If you ask me to take off my shoes, I'm forced to choose between being the kind of houseguest who ignores hosts' requests, and the kind of houseguest who stinks up a whole room with his deathfeet.
posted by 23skidoo at 4:56 PM on January 4, 2011 [16 favorites]


I think you're fine if you provide some kind of disposable slippers and explain that you just had the floors done. Anyone who is close enough to you to be in your home is not going to think you're rude.

I personally hate wearing shoes in my house (or anyone else's house - it just feels weird to me). I don't ask anyone to remove them but I've noticed that most of our friends follow our lead and leave their shoes at the door.
posted by something something at 4:57 PM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


This has happened many times and it doesn't bother me in the slightest. It did cure me of the habit of wearing shoes without socks, however (my toes are frightening things and should not be seen by anyone other than licensed professionals). I don't really want slippers, however. Who knows where those things have been?
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 4:57 PM on January 4, 2011


So, OP's profile indicates she is in SF. Since this is a highly culturally bound question, I submit that saying "in Germany" or "in Russia" is not helpful. It is customary in much of the Middle East not to use toilet paper in favor of a jug or hose but I submit that most guests in the USA would be irritated and/or offended by such a request.
posted by proj at 4:58 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


It varies by region. Where I grew up, it's horribly rude not to take off your shoes indoors. I no longer live there, but I always take off my shoes in the house, and I'd be aghast if someone came into my house without doing the same.
posted by smorange at 4:58 PM on January 4, 2011


I also don't think it's rude to ask. I don't think I've ever seen anyone put up a sign-- usually the visual cue is that there's an obvious place where everyone's leaving their shoes or where you keep your shoes (rack, rug, etc). If you have the room in your entryway it might be nice to have a bench so that ppl can sit down. Most ppl also don't offer alternatives like socks etc, and I wouldn't expect it.
posted by tangaroo at 4:58 PM on January 4, 2011


I wouldn't take any offense, but I lived in Japan for a year. I wouldn't want anything to put on, either, assuming it wasn't too cold. I would hope that you would provide a rack or cubby to store my shoes, and a shoehorn, since I don't customarily carry one with me.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:59 PM on January 4, 2011


I'd be totally cool with you asking me to take off my shoes. If I weren't wearing socks that day (98% of my days), and you had cold concrete floors, I'd also appreciate it if you offered me house slippers or some fuzzy socks.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 4:59 PM on January 4, 2011


I read something on the internet a few years about this - a blog post maybe? - and people were all commenting on this issue. Some people were all "Of course you take your shoes off in the house!" Others were more like "Oh god, we never take our shoes off and neither does anyone we know." So I think it's kind of a regional/cultural thing.

I think a sign would make you seem really anal, but if you just greeted your visitors with "So good to see you! Let me take your jacket, and you can just leave your shoes on the mat there and go on through to the living room" you'd be in good shape and no one would think you were nuts.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 5:00 PM on January 4, 2011 [14 favorites]


1. This doesn't sound rude at all-- in fact, I sometimes actively ask hosts if I should take my shoes off when I see that they've got light-colored rugs or something. I also like the sign idea, and I think having the shoe station not right at the entryway (where it's easily breezed past), but a few steps inside, might help guests notice and heed the request.

2. Even if most guests don't take you up on it, alternative foot coverings are a great idea. Many people are self-conscious about the way their naked feet look or smell, and women may not want to risk damaging their nylons. Something socklike (like those super-fuzzy plush socks you see around at the holidays) would seem to me more hygienic and attractive than, say, slippers or flip-flops, which might not be as easily laundered. If you've got hardwood floors, maybe get the kind with rubber dots on the bottoms so guests don't slide around.

3. Buying a nice, plush white rug and setting it just inside the doorway might be one way to remind both guests and family members that the house is a no-shoe zone.
posted by Bardolph at 5:00 PM on January 4, 2011


Canadian speaking: I personally think that it would be rude if someone just assumed that they could keep their shoes on in a guest's house. I find wearing shoes in the home somewhat odd and am always a little uncomfortable when someone says, "Oh, it's fine, just leave your shoes on." I can't do it. Shoes are for outside and I would not at all be offended if I were asked to remove them.
posted by fso at 5:01 PM on January 4, 2011 [31 favorites]


It also makes it easier if you have a bench or chair guests can sit on while removing or putting on their shoes.
posted by ShooBoo at 5:01 PM on January 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


It is not rude. Polite people walk in and look to see if they should take 'em off; if you and others are walking around in socks, and there is an obvious pile of shoes on a mat next to the entrance, it wouldn't be unexpected for guests to figure it out on their own (at least in my social circles.)

However, if you'd rather be proactive, simply greet your guests, tell them how glad you are to see them, gesture to the obvious pile of shoes on a mat next to the entrance, say "you can put your shoes right over there", and then continue having the conversation you've already started. That should be enough, and wouldn't be offensive to anyone I've ever known.
posted by davejay at 5:01 PM on January 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


The only time I leave my shoes on in someone's house is if a) I am just standing in the entrance-way briefly, not moving further into the house or b) I am at a keg party and the floors are disgusting. Taking off shoes is automatic when I enter someone's home. Or apartment.

I live in Canada (Ontario).
posted by hepta at 5:03 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Coming off griphus' comments, my Russian friend would offer something similar to these. Cheap and washable. Also noted in lhall's comment.

I live in North America, and I would never find it rude for someone to ask that I remove my shoes.
posted by waitangi at 5:05 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think this is rude at all, and it's never occurred to me to want slippers in someone else's home. As anecdata, I often take off my shoes first thing when I get in my own home and sloppily leave them next to the door; frequently someone new to our home, upon viewing shoes next to the door, will assume that ours is a shoeless household and will take off their own shoes. I'm guessing a sign wouldn't be necessary if there was an obvious spot for shoes (or shoes themselves) just inside the door.
posted by mchorn at 5:05 PM on January 4, 2011


I look at it from the other perspective - I'd say it's rude to enter someone else's house without offering to take off your shoes. If you are forced to request it, your guest has already made a gaffe, so no, I don't think it's rude to ask.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 5:05 PM on January 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


I may be an outlier, but yes, I find it rude to ask me to take off my shoes in your U.S. dwelling, and phenomenally rude if you don't tell me before asking me over. No joke, I went to a party at someone's apartment and she posted a note on her door that all guests needed to doff their shoes in the hallway. This was maybe 30 people, and the chaos of shoes outside her door was egregious.

I don't want your communal slippers. I don't want your "guest socks." If you wouldn't ask your guests to change their clothes when they get to your house, don't ask them to take off their shoes. I've never actually turned tail and left someone's home who asked me to take my shoes off, but I always think twice about going back.

Maybe it's different out in the sticks where you're walking around in manure or something and everyone has a mud room.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 5:06 PM on January 4, 2011 [36 favorites]


I'm really surprised with the number of people who think it's not rude. Bottom line, which do you value more: the floor or your guests. If it were me, I'd feel really uncomfortable if I came to someone's home as a guest and I was asked to remove my shoes, even if there were slippers.

The host's job is to make their guests comfortable. I submit that this would make many more than just I weirded out.
posted by inturnaround at 5:06 PM on January 4, 2011 [10 favorites]


but I submit that most guests in the USA would be irritated and/or offended by such a request.

Well, perhaps you would be, but I don't think "most" guests would be. Different houses have different house rules, is all.

When I lived in Pennsylvania, I had a couple of sets of friends whose houses were no-shoes houses. It was no big deal, even though in my own house I tended to wear shoes.

Now that I live in Alaska, it is typically the rule that you take shoes off in your own and other people's houses (certainly in the winter, and it spills over to being usual in the summer, too, even though folks aren't wearing big boots then).

I would be surprised by an offer of slippers, though.
posted by leahwrenn at 5:07 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


We do this, though we're not obsessive about it. More and more I'm finding our friends are doing it (especially, but not limited to, people with kids) and I kind of expect it'll be a lot more common in a few years.

First off, it starts with you. When people come into our house and they see us in socks, they often offer to take their shoes off. We usually reply with "That'd be great" or "If you don't mind." If their kids are coming over to play we'll just ask the kids to take their shoes off. More often than not, the kids are used to it and they don't even question it*. Because the kids are used to it, the parents are often used to it as well.

As for us, we just keep slippers in the mudroom and just do it. It's gotten to the point where I feel weird when I walk around the house in shoes. Having new floors will make it very easy to get into the habit.

With kids we ask, if not insist. With adults we usually wait for them to offer. We're not dicks about it or anything. If we have parties we certainly don't expect everyone to remove their shoes and we don't wait at the door asking people to remove them. Some do, some don't. Often when people notice a bunch of shoes by the door they'll just remove them without being prompted.

If it's winter and slushy more people will offer but in those cases we feel fine saying "Would you mind taking your shoes off, we're trying to keep the mud down." but it's also important to read the situation and let it vary by shoe type and what you suspect they're wearing under the shoes or what kind of folks they are.

Don't strive for perfection. Be glad when people do it but if you're obsessive about it people could be put off. Just try not to think about it, like when someone doesn't use a coaster. Just accept that you're better off doing it sometimes and be happy.

Shiny new floors will help get the message across. I wouldn't use a sign, personally.

*Our son goes to a Montessori school and they don't wear shoes in the classroom, so this may be part of why they're used to it. Damn hippies.
posted by bondcliff at 5:07 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think it's rude at all. In fact, in Toronto it's pretty much expected, especially all through the winter -- snow and stuff get in your shoe treads, and then you make the floors super disgusting if you leave your shoes on.

Providing a towel, mat, or something along those lines (1) designates that This Is the Shoe-Removal Place (especially if there's at least one pair of shoes already), and (2) helps keep your entryway cleaner. Double victory!
posted by criacow at 5:08 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised to see people who feel this is rude -- as someone who was raised in Minnesota, where snowy winters lead to gross shoes about 9 months out of the year, it is typical to have no-shoe houses. In fact, growing up my house was one of the few I knew where people WEREN'T required to remove shoes (maybe because my parents grew up elsewhere?).

In MN at least, no one offers any type of special footwear for guests, though many people habitually travel with slippers, knowing that shoes are likely to be a no-no.
posted by Bebo at 5:08 PM on January 4, 2011


Oh, and...
Would it be less rude or more rude to have a tiny sign asking people to comply but not insisting?

For your family, I'd think that might be useful.

For your guests, presumably you're meeting them at the door?

Have a bench or chairs near where they come in, and a place to put the shoes like a rubber mat. And then just ask them to take their shoes off. I wouldn't expect them to notice your sign (and if you expected them to notice and obey the sign without you saying something, now that would be weird).
posted by leahwrenn at 5:09 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I grew up with this rule in a snowy bit of North America and have always observed a mix of shoes-on and shoes-off households among aquaintances. I usually ask if I am unsure.

I think it's very touchy to say that it's rude to ask... but obviously YMMV on that one. Since you don't mind if some guests sometimes wear shoes, it seems like you could avoid ever explicitly asking... A sign would be weird, but if you set up a mat, shoe rack, and maybe even made some slippers available, it would be non-verbally clear what you want. Your guests will act accordingly if so inclined and if they are dedicated shoe-in-house-wearers or have smelly feet, they can also keep their shoes on with minimal awkwardness.
posted by equivocator at 5:11 PM on January 4, 2011


People who wear shoes around their house are weird. We never did in my parents' house growing up and I don't in my apartment either. We never (and I still do not) asked people to take off their shoes, but people noticed the line of shoes at the door when they came in and usually took them off or said "hey, no shoes, eh?" and we'd say it was whatever made them feel most comfortable, but we would never request.

I'd like to ask people when they come over the apartment but usually don't unless they're wearing their sandals from the beach covered in sand (we live on the beach) in which case I do. (And they usually shower right afterwards to wash off the salt and sand.)
posted by Brian Puccio at 5:11 PM on January 4, 2011


Bench - yes! Slippers - yes! I love slippers. The biggest problem with removing shoes is getting cold feet. Get a nice variety of slippers for guests to choose from.
posted by mai at 5:11 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


We do this (or rather, the Largely Mythological Husband does--I still kind of find it rude even after 11 years of marriage) for the same reason you are contemplating it.

Nobody has ever objected except people who have foot or gait issues that make it difficult for them to go without shoes, and when that has come up we have put an elderly towel down on the floor for them to clean their shoes thoroughly, then just go on as usual.

Lots of people I know do this (in the Boston area, in New York, and in the San Francisco area), and it doesn't bother me to be asked to do it, but it does bother me to ask. That said, I would never want to wear anyone else's slippers or socks because I have a thing about that, so I don't offer same to anyone except close friends who are houseguests and know that I'm offering them clean socks (or slipper-socks) fresh from the laundry.

But slipper socks are inexpensive so you can certainly have some on hand to offer around. Now I am thinking that I should get some for my guests! (Cheaper than a new husband or new floors.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:12 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you care at all about what Miss Manners says about it, she says:

"You wouldn't think that people would get so emotional about shoes. Fetishists excepted, naturally.

And those foolhardy people who keep trying to get Miss Manners to rescind the rule against wearing white shoes between Labor Day and Memorial Day. Oh yes, and the ones who install flooring or rugs that they don't want anyone to walk on. Miss Manners is not impressed when they try to out-etiquette her by citing the Japanese custom of removing the shoes before entering a house. Those who claim this are not apt to be Japanese, nor in Japan, nor aware that Japanese etiquette is directed toward making the guest feel that he has honored the house by entering it, rather than that he had better not mess anything up.."
posted by inturnaround at 5:12 PM on January 4, 2011 [9 favorites]


I wouldn't find it rude at all. Pretty much everyone I know don't wear shoes in their home. It might have to do with the fact that we Canadians wear boots half the year, so of course we remove them when going inside.
posted by ddaavviidd at 5:14 PM on January 4, 2011


this reminds of that episode of Sex and the City where Carrie went to a party and wasn't told beforehand that it was a no indoor shoes house. someone walked with her expensive shoes (hopefully accidentally).

anyways, i see both sides. i don't normally wear shoes in the house and never have - socks yes. sometimes if i have on my high top chuck taylors, tho, those stay on for a bit since there is more effort in the on/off bit.

i've just generally been receptive to whatever other people do in their home and no one has ever really made a big deal about it.

FWIW, as long as people aren't traipsing about in clicky pointy heels or cleats, it probably won't hurt your floors much. and i know of several people who i would just rather leave their shoes ON so i don't have to see/smell their feet.
posted by sio42 at 5:14 PM on January 4, 2011


There definitely are people who are advised by their doctors and/or physical therapists never to go without shoes in the house, so have a backup plan for those folks. My dad was one, because of his Parkinson's; one of my BFFs is another, because of tendon issues.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:14 PM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I've divided my time mostly between cold, snowy rural New York and cold, snowy, multiethnic New York City. Taking off one's shoes in a private home is, to me, utterly normal, and I would consider it pretty declassé if someone balked at doing so.

Slippers would be cute to have around, but I'd feel a little strange being offered any.

I wonder if places where leaving your shoes on are more car-centric? Warmer, less wet? Or something? I am now curious to see a map of shoe-wearing places versus not-shoe-wearing places.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:15 PM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I prefer it if people say, "We take off our shoes in the house. Leave yours on if you'd rather." Even though I don't object to removing my shoes, for some reason I don't like being asked to do so without an option not to.

Some hosts don't ask at all, and then I'm embarrassed later because I didn't notice their shoe area at the door. So go ahead and suggest it. Most people don't mind.
posted by wryly at 5:18 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm in North America. In my family and my closer circle of friends, we take our shoes off. My sister-in-law, who obviously grew up in an inferior family, does not like to remove her shoes. We mock her (lovingly, of course). My grandma used to give us crocheted booties to wear around her house, but now we just assume you know in advance that your socks will be visible, and choose them accordingly.

However, if I were throwing a large party, or otherwise inviting people into my home who were either not family or close friends, or who were dressed nicely (where one's shoes were part of the outfit), I would not ask nor expect anyone to remove their shoes. At a party like that, I would expect that everyone would be gracious enough to figure out how to move around the house without wrecking my floors or carpets, and that they would not have just come from somewhere where their shoes would get dirty.

The exception would be if there was snow on the ground. Then I would hope they brought extra clean shoes to change into, and I'd provide a place to leave wet boots. I'd probably also provide slippers or socks.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:19 PM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't like it at all, but I acknowledge that it's fairly common practice, especially in the winter when it's nasty out, and therefore I try not to be offended by it. I wear shoes all the time at home, unless it's really hot, because socks are too slippyslidey for me. With people I know fairly well, I try to get away with bringing a pair of clean shoes to slip on when I've taken my snowy slushy boots off.
posted by JanetLand at 5:19 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Coming from Canada, I can't imagine a world in which wearing outdoor shoes in someone's home is polite, so no, it's not rude to ask. In fact, if you actually have to ask a guest to take off their dirty, roadsalt-carrying, dogshit-tainted, gumstuck shoes in your home, it's the guest who is being rude beyond belief.
posted by Sternmeyer at 5:21 PM on January 4, 2011 [13 favorites]


I have absolutely no problem removing my shoes in your home, but I am absolutely not going to wear guest socks/flip-flops/slippers. Unless we're best pals or something, I'm going to be weirded out by your offering of communal foot wear of any kind. If your home is so cold that I need socks to be comfortable and wouldn't have known to wear my own, maybe you should just turn up the heat temporarily.
posted by asciident at 5:21 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is standard operating procedure in large chunks of the frozen Great White North. Although I live in almost snow-less Vancouver, I do it automatically without being asked. Most people I know do the same, and we really don't expect booties or slippers. That's what socks are for. Equating clothing to shoes, as Admiral Haddock does above, is wrong. You don't drag your clothes through the dirt, and then rub them all over the floor.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 5:22 PM on January 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


I an in sf, and I wouldn't think it rude. It would be nice to have a cubby to put my
shoes, a place to take them off... Like a chair or rug, and some washable slippers, but I would be game. Stuff on the bottom of shoes can be vile!
posted by anitanita at 5:24 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I posted an AskMe about this a while back.

My (Asian-American) family always took off our shoes when we came inside our home although this was never done at any of my friends' houses growing up in New Mexico. Now I've moved to Canada and everybody, irregardless of cultural background, takes off shoes when entering homes without question. I love it.
posted by pravit at 5:26 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


OP, what do you do when you go to other people's homes? Will your friends be shocked because it's unheard of in your circle or in your region to leave your shoes at the door? You mention in your post that you'd be okay with it if people resist. You should be okay.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 5:29 PM on January 4, 2011


This is all completely regional -- all Japanese people and most Canadians take off their shoes, very few British people or Americans from non-snowy areas do.

You won't offend your Japanese/Canadian/Michigan/Alaskan guests, you will offend (some of) your Californian or Texan guests.

But your floors will last longer, your house will be cleaner, and your friends will learn to carry indoor shoes with soft soles if they care.

(when I'm a millionaire, my Canadian house will be carpetted with tatami and the kitchen and front hall will even be sunk down to enforce a beautiful shoe-less paradise inside).
posted by jb at 5:30 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


To me, it seems like all kinds of stupid to wear outside shoes indoors.
posted by axismundi at 5:30 PM on January 4, 2011 [10 favorites]


Local cultural context? Oaklander here (i.e., seven miles from SF), who wouldn't find it at all odd or rude to be asked to take my shoes off. We take ours off at home just to avoid tracking grunge onto the carpet, so it makes perfect sense to me. I would be a tiny bit irked if you made the request but didn't have anywhere for me to sit down while I did so.

And for those saying that unless you're out walking through manure or mud there's no reason to take off your shoes... I suggest you go walk around outside barefoot for a while (not even a full day, just a couple of hours), then look at the soles of your feet. I predict they'll be somewhere between grimy and filthy. If you were wearing shoes, that grime would be on the soles of your shoes. Wearing them inside means tracking that grime inside.
posted by Lexica at 5:30 PM on January 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


I am generally a No Shoes In The House person, and my last apartment was Shoes Free.

We generally didn't apply the No Shoes rule to visitors. Usually close friends who came over would see our row of shoes in the entryway and stocking feet and put two and two together. Others would ask, and we'd say, "whatever you feel comfortable with."

For big gatherings though? There is no rational way to enforce this without coming off like a prat.
posted by Sara C. at 5:32 PM on January 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


but I submit that most guests in the USA would be irritated and/or offended by such a request.

I agree. Our family walks around bare-footed or in socks and any long term guests could certainly do as they please, but I would never consider asking someone to remove their shoes before entering my house. This has only happened to me once upon entering someone else's house, and I did not have on socks so I ended up sitting at some meeting barefoot and very self conscious. I never went back. Invest in some throw rugs to put in high traffic areas. By the way, we have hard wood floors and with a good finish, they are much more durable than you might think.

Snowy or icy boots might be an exception.
posted by tamitang at 5:32 PM on January 4, 2011


Clearly, in this case your question of whether it's rude to ask people to take their shoes off can only be answered by what's normal in your region or social circle. To me, it's a no-brainer: I and everyone I know automatically take off our shoes, unless asked otherwise. I find it rude if someone doesn't at least offer to take off their shoes. It's a cleanliness thing -- I don't want people (including myself) tracking dirt all over my house, especially in the winter.

That being said, if you normally don't ask people to take off their shoes, and you are now starting to do so because you got your floors re-done, it seems a little rude. You're basically changing your habits to maintain the appearance of your house. Something about that seems a little inhospitable.
posted by Simon Barclay at 5:35 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


In every (Canadian, so yes, North American) home I've been in, it would be weird for somebody NOT to take off their shoes. Shoes are dirty on the bottom.
posted by synecdoche at 5:35 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is group specific. Formal Miss Manners / Emily Post-esque WASPy East Coast etiquette says 'no, you can't ask someone to take their shoes off'. The implications of that are that a) you think the person is dirty and b) you value your carpets more than their comfort.

But the further you go North, the more acceptable it is.

Similarly, as you move from urban to rural areas.

And from rich to poor.

There are other elements at play with people of non-WASPy backgrounds because of the diversity of other cultures' feelings about feet.

General mixing of groups with increased mobility mean it's much harder to predict if any given person will find it rude.

I will say, though, that if you are not routinely asked to remove your shoes when you visit your friends then the likelihood of them being offended by the \request is higher.

If you don't need 100% compliance and want to make this a low key request that the vast majority of people will understand but all but the most persnickety etiquette types will not be offended by, try "There's a basket of slippers by the door if you'd be more comfortable with your shoes off."

But, don't use a sign. Signs are for businesses, not houses.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:40 PM on January 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


I dislike walking around the house in socks and never do it at home - bare feet, flip-flops or slippers by choice, depending on the season. But if you insist, I'll walk around your house in my socks. But you can keep your hideous knitted slippers, thanks.
posted by zadcat at 5:40 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


The answer to your question is culturally and regionally specific. This question has been asked a billion times at ApartmentTherapy.com and huge flame wars erupt every single time.

In Vancouver, BC pretty much everyone I know takes their shoes off at the door without being asked, regardless of cultural or ethnic background. It would be considered extremely rude to wear your shoes inside unless your host has expressly said it's okay. My husband is Norwegian and he informs me that it is the same in Norway.

My family is Chinese, and it's customary to have slippers available for guests. I never wear the offered slippers, but my parents' friends and relatives do. Maybe it's a generational thing but I think the used slippers (even though they've been washed) are gross.

I've heard the arguments for why it's rude to ask, but the hole-y socks and stinky feet issues have rarely been a problem in my experience of living in a shoes-off culture. I suppose it could be that when it's expected that your shoes are going to come off, people take greater pains to wear nice socks and deodorize their feet?
posted by keep it under cover at 5:40 PM on January 4, 2011


Not rude at all! I think it's more rude for people to think it's OK to bring all the dirt from the outside (dust, dog-shit, mud, stuck-on old gum) into someone's house!! Plus when your shoes are off you can put your feet up and sit more comfortably on the couch. I don't understand how people can bring all that dirt inside a house, seems so gross to me. If you want people to get the idea to take their shoes off without having to say it to them, keep your shoes in the hallway by the door where guests can easily see that it's a shoes-off house.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 5:47 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not a big fan of this practice myself, but if you are going to do it it's a nice thing if you have a chair or bench in your entryway to make it comfortable to take the shoes off and put them back on.
posted by gabrielsamoza at 5:48 PM on January 4, 2011


I live in California and would never wear shoes inside my own house (white carpet, crawling baby) or assume that I could wear shoes in anyone else's. Ugh! But I agree that for big parties it's better not to make an issue of it, for various reasons. I don't want to be responsible for anyone losing a shoe. Also, people dress up for and it's not fair to ask them to remove part of their outfit in that setting.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:51 PM on January 4, 2011


I'm Canadian, from Vancouver, and I find the people I know here seem to be mixed on the shoe/no shoes question with the exception of the muddy boots or on the odd occasion snow boots.

The only time I would find it rude would be if it were a party where I would be wearing nicer shoes as part of an outfitt that was carefully chosen and where it would seem silly to be walking around in stockings.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 5:56 PM on January 4, 2011


This is funny to me - I'm originally from Buffalo (where I lived with shoes-on culture) and now live in Toronto (decidedly shoes-off culture).

In mucky weather, nobody questions this - nobody wants road salt and slush on the rug. Here people take their shoes off on assumption that it's the norm, and here I'm worried about cat and dog hair and kid play-doh debris messing up their nice socks!

As a hostess, I'll greet people at the door with, and give them a clue. If it's mucky, I'll offer some cheapo slippers (Ikea etc.) and point out the boot tray, which I've made space in for them. If it's dry out, I'll say "keep your shoes on", because we'll often end up going out in the backyard, and then what are they supposed to do? The kids go in and out in all weather, and so does the dog - it's easier to clean up after.
Off/on? Cripes, it's always a conundrum. I know the environmental reasons for shoes off in the house, but I'd rather vacuum and mop more often, for the convenience of being able to run around. We take up our rugs in good weather, so there's less to worry about. I tell people "Just wipe well, and come on in!"

All that said, I have always kept a version of Fast Flats for when I visit. They're called in some vernacular, "House Shoes" (just like I have a "Sleeping Bra" - I like clothing with a purpose, I guess.) It sucks to have a great outfit on for a party, and then be in socks, flat-footed and unfinished. So, if I have a pair of slipper-like ballet flats on, I feel better. I bring my own, they are NEVER worn outside, only in houses like slippers and are soft-soled, and I view having something to put on my feet as my job, not the hostess'. The Gap currently has some great ones on sale, I'll be stocking up.
posted by peagood at 5:59 PM on January 4, 2011


In regards to all the regional comments - they are spot on. If you are located in San Francisco, I would hazard a suggestion that at least half of your friends already have a similar policy. I'd suggest something like the following:

-colorful, fun sign in the entryway: "We're going SHOELESS! Please put your shoes on the rack by the door and help yourself to a pair of slippers while enjoying our glossy newly refinished floors"

-Have a rack by the door. It sucks when there are just a herd of shoes cluttering up the floor (and you can buy a shoe rack that looks decent for $10 at Target

-Have an assortment of slippers by the door. I'd suggest getting something that is machine washable and colorful, and put them in a cotton bag marked "clean slippers".

I wouldn't make a big thing of it, but if you could go outside (or out into your hall) to welcome guests, it will give you an excuse to pause by the entryway on the way back in to remove your shoes, giving guests a chance to notice the sign. If they don't notice, then is the time to give them a little nudge (verbally) by indicating the sign and saying, "Hope you don't mind, but we've actually noticed everything is much less dusty as a result already!" or something else equally inconsequential. I think the vital part of your strategy is a colorful, fun sign. And it isn't rude in the slightest, particularly in northern California where it is a common custom (in my experience!).
posted by arnicae at 6:02 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think most Americans are used to the idea that in some cultures shoe removal is polite, so it's not totally out of the realm of the known. We maintain a largely shoe-free home; however, we NEVER ask guests to remove their shoes. By happy accident, our front door opens into our living room, onto a tiled area that's about six feet by six feet. For some reason this visual cue has ALWAYS made people stop and take their shoes off, even if we say, "Oh, no, don't worry about it!" We finally put a stylish stool there so people could more easily put them back on since NOBODY KEPT THEIR SHOES ON. (I'm in the midwest, which is not a particularly shoes-off culture unless you're muddy or slushy.) If you go barefoot or en-sockulated in your own home and have some sort of visual division at the door, like our tile, I think most people will just take them off of their own accord.

However. When we throw a formal party we EXPECT people to continue wearing shoes -- shoe removal is pretty casual in most US culture, after all -- and to just pay to clean the carpets afterwards. (Gotta do it now and then anyway.) If I came to a party that was business casual or dressier, I would be fairly offended if asked to remove my shoes, and I'd feel awkward about it and somewhat unwelcome.

And for the love of God don't tell people it's to keep your floors nice. That makes your guests feel like you think they're dirty. If you must announce something (which is a bit ugh to me in the land of unstated expectations), just say you're a no-shoe house. Don't say it's because your floors are better than me.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:07 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Some tips from Wikihow's How to Ask Someone to Take Off Their Shoes at Your Home:

-- It is best to let people know in advance that you would like them to remove their shoes. You could say "Oh, by the way we don't wear shoes in our house. You may want to bring some slippers."
-- Have scented foot spray available in case your guest is embarrassed at having foot odour.
-- Ultimately, it is your responsibility as a host to ensure that your guests feel welcome in your home. If your guests wish to keep their shoes on you must ask yourself which is more important - your flooring or your friends.
posted by YamwotIam at 6:10 PM on January 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


We've had this discussion before. Saying your "North American" home doesn't clarify anything, because as others have mentioned, there's a Canada-US divide on this. I remember the discussion went something like:
- Canadians had arguments such as: I consider it rude/disgusting to track outside dirt into the home.
- (Some) Americans had arguments such as: I consider it rude/disgusting to take off your shoes in front of people you don't know; I don't want people to smell my feet; my shoes are part of my outfit; walking around in your socks is ridiculous.

What you need to do is find out how other Americans feel about taking their shoes off. I wouldn't be offended, but I'm Canadian.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 6:11 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Good lord--I just had a party with 30 or so guests, many of them MetaFilterians, and I dont' think any of them took off their shoes. I mean, they weren't walking on my table, or on my bed, or anything.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:12 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


After reading a lot of these comments, and skimming some of the other answers, I have something to add.

It certainly doesn't offend me if you ask me to take my shoes off, but I have a different sort of issue. My toenails are gross and embarassing due to toenail fungus. I hate socks, therefore, especially in the summer time, I don't wear them. To take my shoes off, and expose my toes and feet at a social gathering, would be beyond embarassing. It's not so bad if my nail beds are painted so that I can feel sort of normal but I am not prepared for this most days.

I have gotten in the habit of calling ahead to find out if it's a "non-shoe" house so I'm prepared, but caught off-guard would be mortifying to me. In that case I would be happy to accept a pair of socks or slippers, but it still causes me a ton of embarassment.

I truly think that if you are having a gathering and invited people ahead of time that telling them in the invitation would be a sensitive and appropriate thing to do.

On another note, lots of women plan their outfit around their shoes and to ask them to take them off can sometimes make pants not fit right or make the person feel very uncomfortable. It's your house though and it seems like you are trying to be aware of how others might feel so I think that's great.
posted by gidja at 6:12 PM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Personally, I think anyone who is put off by being asked not to wear shoes in your home isn't worth inviting in. If you don't do it, its not unreasonable to ask them not to. Kinda like asking people not to smoke in your house if you don't. I think its advisable to let people know in advance, though if you can. Most of the people I know here in NYC tend not to wear shoes around the house/apartment... because if you spend even part of the day walking the streets of nyc, do you really want to track that all over your house?
posted by blaneyphoto at 6:13 PM on January 4, 2011


Don't spring it on your guests unexpected. Something tactful such as jacquilynne's suggestion or wryly's would work great the first time a person comes to your house. Next time, the guest may be better prepared to comply with your custom.

This is assuming you live in a place where customs are mixed (I'm not sure if SF is that way or not).

Most of my family goes sockfoot in the house, but I wouldn't ask a guest to do it, except in muddy or snowy/salty conditions. I certainly take my shoes off when asked (NYC) but feel a little resistance because it's not a universal tradition and it can feel a bit like I'm imposing my dirty self on the host--as opposed to knowing how to wipe my feet before entering! (After all, you're asking your guests to trust you that your floors are clean enough for them to walk barefoot or in stockings or socks, kind of the inverse of your trusting them to wipe their feet.)

We do have both an indoor and an outdoor mat, and I hope and kinda expect guests will use them to reduce the grime.

One more consideration--if you are having people over for a cozy night of movies or cards, it should be much easier to suggest people take their shoes off. On the other extreme, I can't imagine asking guests to do this at a formal dinner party, where shoes are very much part of the attire, socks and stockings may be more expensive, etc. You don't want a woman wearing long pants and heels, for example, to have to have her hems pooling around her feet all night. Main point being: don't do anything to make your guests feel foolish or uncomfortable.
posted by torticat at 6:15 PM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't think it's rude, but if there's any way to let people know ahead of time, that's nice. I'd rather wear cute socks.

Also, make sure to keep your floors really clean. I know you want to keep them nice, but keep them CLEAN as well. I hate going to a friend's place -- she insists on no shoes in her apartment, but her floors are always dirty and cat-hairy, and my socks get filthy and gross.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:16 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


party - shoes off - I would be offended (excepting weather related issues)
drop in on a friend? of course not. I do think its weird, but hey who am I to judge
posted by JPD at 6:16 PM on January 4, 2011


I personally take my shoes off in my own home, and in any other homes I feel comfortable in, but I was also raised in Southwest Louisiana and spent most of my childhood barefoot even out so... it's normal to me.

When I did date a guy from an Asian country, we had the "shoes off at the door" rule in our home. I did put up a sign, but I did it with humor. I think there were 7 rules total, with 5 of them being more cultural jokes than rules, and then the two actual rules mixed in between them. (No smoking inside the house, and shoes off at the door.)

Most people were too busy laughing at the fake rules to get offended at the real ones, and took off their shoes without complaint.

This was in Northern California, in a college town, if that helps.
posted by Zarya at 6:18 PM on January 4, 2011


Had that sort of thing in Far East years ago and would be annoyed to find it done here. If your floors are so precious, why bother asking anyone over ?
posted by Postroad at 6:18 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Not exactly rude, but I would really prefer to know in advance b/c if I planned my outfit around slimming long pants and heels and then had to take the shoes off I'd feel really fat and uncomfortable. I would like to be prepared and wear flats and pants to go with them, which would also go with socks.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 6:25 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Californian, I take off my shoes in my house (cos I hate stuff on my feet) but do not insist that others do. And it wouldn't offend me in the slightest to be asked. Having a large supply of new cheap socks to offer would be nice for those who aren't barefooters or who may feel squicky about putting on house slippers (even if clean).
posted by elsietheeel at 6:25 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


1. I wouldn't find it rude at all, and I'm from Southern California, where, for 95% of the year, there's essentially no weather-based reason to remove them. I always try to check whether I'm supposed to take off my shoes when I enter someone's home. Even down here there are plenty of people who remove them; I doubt it's any less common in SF.

Here's what I'd consider normal for SoCal:
-not rude: asking guests to remove shoes, asking if shoes can be kept on for warmth or some other good reason
-rude: keeping shoes on after being asked to remove them, complaining about having to remove shoes, complaining about the hygiene of households where shoes are kept on, keeping shoes on when it's rainy out or when you know they're dirty

2. Can't recall ever being offered alternative footwear before. I don't think it's necessary.

3. Just put a mat or basket by the front door. It's not going to take very long to get into the habit; no need to overthink this.
posted by equalpants at 6:28 PM on January 4, 2011


American here: unless I was asked to do so by someone who was obviously of Eastern descent (or Canadian, I guess!), I'd be somewhat weirded out by this. I would be EXTREMELY weirded out if put on the spot. This is due to two factors: 1. Having someone see my feet - even my sock-clad feet - kind of ramps up the level of intimacy a bit (I know, I'm a freak), and 2. The state of my socks is usually a hot (sweaty) mess... mismatched, holey, etc.
posted by julthumbscrew at 6:29 PM on January 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


It's not really the norm where I live (Philly 'burbs), but I have been asked to do it a couple of times. And to be perfectly honest, it made me a little uncomfortable and tainted the rest of the visit. I was constantly worried that I was going to do something to mess up their obviously well-kept home. This drink could leave a ring on the table! This strawberry could drop and stain the linoleum! Oh crap, did she just give my kid a cookie? There's no way that kid's not mashing that into the sofa. Do my feet smell? I was not expecting for anyone to see my pink octopus toe socks. They don't even match the rest of my perfectly respectable outfit!

But I think it would have been a totally different deal if I had at least been prepared beforehand. Some kind of casual, "Oh by the way, we're going shoeless because we just got the floors done...so be sure to wear snazzy socks!" when the invitation was issued would have helped.
posted by jrossi4r at 6:31 PM on January 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


I love going around in socks but always appreciate advance warning about shoeless houses. That way I can make sure to change into nice socks after work/wash my feet/whatever it takes to make it pleasant for everyone. If there's a way to let your guests know that your house goes shoeless *before* they show up at your door, you'll go a long way toward minimizing any anxiety or discomfort.
posted by mediareport at 6:31 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Plantar fasciitis means my feet hurt if I don't wear shoes with a good arch support.

Give me fair warning and I can bring a spare pair of clean sandals to change into. Make me go barefooted (or wear your flimsy slippers) and I will be in pain with every single step.

I hate it when a friend asks people to take off shoes inside the house, and then walks out in the yard barefooted. If you ever walk outside barefooted, your feet are as bad for your floor as my clean sandals are.
posted by Ery at 6:32 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I personally find it a bit off putting and I normally don't take my shoes off unless asked (or I know in advance my host prefers that I do) and I've never asked a guest to remove their shoes. That can lead to some awkward, holey/dirty/smelly sock issues if they don't know it's coming.
posted by MikeMc at 6:32 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


US Northeasterner here -- I wouldn't find it rude at all, and most times when I go to the house of someone I don't know well I assume that I might be taking off my shoes and plan accordingly.

However, I might be self-conscious/uncomfortable if for some reason I wasn't expecting to take off my shoes and I was wearing really ancient stitched up socks, or had been out for a run and had sweaty feet, etc. Or if I didn't have socks on at all, because I hate being barefoot. Even if nobody would think you were rude for asking, it might be good to factor in the fact that some people might feel uncomfortable/embarrassed. So it might be good to mention your no-shoes policy beforehand if you can.

I personally don't think a sign would be rude. If you feel like a sign is too much, you can get a welcome mat conveying the same message.
posted by Ashley801 at 6:36 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


the reality is that in places where this isn't the norm there is a strong correlation between no shoes and ocd/neat freaks, so one is tempted to just yell "Get over it" to them.
posted by JPD at 6:36 PM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I live in the Bay Area and am female. I hate it when I show up to a brunch or something and am out-of-the-blue asked to take my shoes off. I know that people do it, and I know why, but it never fails to upset me to stand around someone's house barefoot. My reaction is strongest when it's a stranger's house (adding the discomfort of having to be social around people I don't know to anxiety about people seeing my feet).

It's okay for you to do this, but you must tell them before they show up and suggest that they wear or bring socks or slippers or something. If you did that, I would think it was weird, but would be grateful that the no-shoe rule wasn't sprung on me.

wow, the Canadians are out in force on this one.
posted by purpleclover at 6:37 PM on January 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Here's the 206-comment thread from a few years back about wearing shoes inside the house. It's interesting reading for the cultural/personal differences on display, and might be useful for folks thinking about this question, too.
posted by mediareport at 6:45 PM on January 4, 2011


Wearing snowboots into someone else's house strikes me as objectively rude, especially in salt season. That shit wrecks rugs and carpets! But I generally carry little folding shoes with me when I'm going visiting in snowboots; the husband just makes sure to wear non-tattered socks.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:46 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


As an East Coat resident of the US with white carpets throughout my home, I would consider this not rude, exactly, but socially unfortunate. You would be implying that your guests do not have the sense to not soil your home. I would consider loaner foot coverings creepy. I would strongly suggest advising potential guests beforehand.
posted by Morrigan at 6:48 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


You're telling them off the bat that you don't think they will respect your floors enough to use caution in walking on them in shoes or that they're somehow dirty.

Well, I hate to break this to you, but unless you're walking on air, the sole of your shoes are probably dirty as hell. It doesn't depend on how clean someone is, but how dirty streets and sidewalk are...
posted by bluefrog at 6:48 PM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't think it's rude, but I come from an Asian family and I've never been to an Asian household that WASN'T shoes-off.

I know some people above have mentioned whether you care more about your floors, or your guest. Personally, when I enter someone's home as a guest I feel like I should be the one asking whether it is or isn't okay to leave shoes on. I've been generously invited to someone's home, and I want to respect their household rules. If someone needs to wear shoes for medical reasons, or if they truly seemed uncomfortable/agitated about removing their shoes, I would never make them. I think it's really case-by-case (or in this context, house-by-house).

One thing I don't quite get though...For people above saying shoes-off would be okay/not be rude in slushy, muddy weather but not otherwise...That's because you wouldn't think about dirtying someone's carpet with mud, yes? If that's the reasoning behind that I don't get why any other case of asking for shoes-off would be unacceptable. Do you think public restrooms or city sidewalks are any cleaner? They're just as dirty, maybe not as visible.

for your specific questions:
1. I don't think it's rude (bias! I grew up shoes-off), but as many people above have stated, you probably don't need to ask if there's a clear indication (pile of shoes at the door)

2. I don't think the slipper thing is weird, either...but that's also mostly what I've encountered growing up. I usually end up wearing them WITH socks, though...I can understand someone not wanting to wear them if they are barefoot.

3. Just think about how free and comfy your feet will feel!
posted by sprezzy at 6:49 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


While I do not understand shoes inside the house at all, here is what I would do if it ever occurred to me that some people may want to wear shoes inside my house:

1. Let them know ahead of time - this I would only do to people who I know don't wear socks with their shoes or are otherwise disgusting and require some advance warning that they are going to be expected to act like a civilized person.

2. Have a place for your guests to put their shoes right when they enter. You don't want them walking around and then taking off their shoes because they may forget. If you're tight on space you'll need shoe racks. Chairs and shoe horns are nice, moreso for when they have to put their shoes on when leaving.

3. Make sure that no one who greets these people is wearing shoes. You want it to be obvious to these people that everyone is going shoe-free while inside the house.

4. If you want to put out slippers go ahead, but make sure they are clean and you have enough sizes. You could also leave some new socks for guests as well. Socks are cheap, and new socks gets rid of the fear of dirty slippers. Let your guests take the socks with them so that they have at least once decent pair they can wear the next time they come over.

5. If your guests are still clueless, or worse refuse to take their shoes off, then let them in this time but make a mental note to either warn them ahead of time or not invite them in the future. If they're the type of people who wear shoes inside the house despite 1 through 4 then you're probably better off without them.

FWIW I'm a Pakistani-Canadian and my wife is Japanese so between the Asian-ness and the Canadian-ness there isn't going to be a lot of love for shoes in the house.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 6:53 PM on January 4, 2011


It seems that going without shoes in the house is unusual enough in most parts of the States that you might offend a fair number of your friends.

I'd suggest going shoeless yourselves and letting your guests ask if they should take off their shoes as they arrive the first time after you start the practice. Leave it up to them, but have some clean slippers around as an option if they want.

I think most people will volunteer to remove their shoes, so that will cut down on some wear, but the ones that don't notice, or who take your "Do what you like" at face value (which is their right) will be comfortable in your home without messing it up too badly. You may find that some of these people will quietly take off their shoes the next time they visit, and some of them won't. But overall, you will have less wear and tear on your floors.

This is why Canadians only wear shoes OUTSIDE, because you don't want to bring coyote drool inside.
posted by maudlin at 6:53 PM on January 4, 2011


Midwestern born and bred, now living on the East Coast. The few families I've known in my life who were no-shoes households were either foreigners or pretty crunchy-granola/hippy. It's never been a big deal to me, and I don't think it's rude, but it does make me just a tad, tad bit uncomfortable, especially the less familiar I am with the hosts.

The main reason I'm weighing in, though, is this: think about how many hours your family spends trodding your floors, vs. guests trodding your floors. Now, admittedly, we're a pretty introverted family, so for me the numbers are something like 142 hours/week for the home team, vs. maybe 6 hours for the visiting team. If we were to switch to shoelessness just among family, that would eliminate 95% of the shoes-on-flooring traffic. If it were me, the other 5% would not be worth pursuing, no matter how much of a non-issue it might be for most people.
posted by SomeTrickPony at 6:54 PM on January 4, 2011 [10 favorites]


I'm from Northern California originally and we always took our shoes off when we went into someone else's house - but maybe that was just my group of friends.

Now that I'm forty something and have traveled a good deal around the USofA (never outside) when I'm at a party, I still ask my host at the door, "shoes on or off?" because I feel uncomfortable inside the house with my shoes on. As for my house, I take mine off and hope others follow but I'm not going to impose on my guests my way of thinking just because I want to keep my floors clean. I'd rather have my guests comfortable. I can clean my floors later.
posted by patheral at 6:56 PM on January 4, 2011


Another Canadian chiming in... just cuz everyone else is doing it. :) It's standard practice in my family to take shoes off at the front door, but I know several people whose families don't do it, and they think I'm the weird one. It's probably about a 70/30 split, to be honest. On that note, I always feel weird when I'm the only one there who is not wearing shoes, because I just automatically take them off, and then realize after the fact it wasn't necessary. I also feel uncomfortable when people tell me, "oh, it's okay, just leave them on" because then I'm paranoid that maybe today is the one day I've got mud or dog crap or gum on the bottom of my shoes, and I'm going to track all over the place.

So no, not rude at all. And the best "sign" is to have a collection of shoes by the door; its a clear cut sign of what is expected. Not very tidy, however :) But I would pass if socks/slippers were offered, and might even be a little uncomfortable, because I know I would be contaminating them with my feet stink. (To date, I've never, ever been offered socks/slippers unless I've explicitly mentioned that my feet are freezing.)

Maybe us canadians are more likely to take their shoes off because we're more likely to be covered in snow/mud/rain/muck? Its probably very weather-related.
posted by cgg at 7:00 PM on January 4, 2011


Sticherbeas: I wonder if places where leaving your shoes on are more car-centric? Warmer, less wet?

I've live in L.A. and can count on one hand the number of times (say, in the last 25 years) I can recall being asked to take my shoes off. As someone who is very self-conscious of their not-so-pretty feet I don't find it rude (and have never refused), but it's made me extremely uncomfortable, especially if I don't know the hosts or other guests personally. I do have one close friend with this rule, but she knows if other people are over to have a pair of socks ready for me if I need them.

I'd just be sensitive to how others may be feeling; if you see a look of panic and the color draining out of someone's face when you ask them you might just ask them to clean off their shoes really well.

I take my shoes off at home for many of the reasons people mentioned, but I've also lived with older hardwood floors most of my life so dirty carpets and perfect floors have never been a concern. Also, I do think there's a difference between shoes-off for the people living in a home and walking all over the place every day and guests who probably do very little actual walking around.

On preview, what gidja said, because I also go sockless most of the time.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:01 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not much to add here but regional custom (and my opinion)...

I live in Austin, Texas (grew up in NJ) and have never been asked to take off my shoes. I do not have chewing gum, dog shit or mud on my shoes for more than the two minutes it takes me to get it off, so I would be offended if people thought I was so disgusting as to walk in their home with grimy shoes.

I would not think it was rude, per se, to ask me to remove them at an informal drop in, but I would be really put out if it was a party. But in either circumstance, I would much rather have the option of keeping them on.

And FWIW, we have soft "hardwood" floors that were recently done so I understand wanting to keep them nice. But it has never crossed my mind to observe my guests' footwear before letting them in (stilletos would do a number). Our home is not a museum and I strive to have it be a place of comfort for all who cross its threshold, both the shoed and the shoeless.
posted by murrey at 7:02 PM on January 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Upon further reflection, I think that the reason that this would be considered odd, in my particular cultural milieu, is that exhibiting non-shod feet is an intimate act. My spouse and family are the only people that usually see me in socks or bare feet, unless we are at the beach.
posted by Morrigan at 7:03 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Fractious as this issue is, it should be clear that there are some demographics that would find this rude, and, as Jacquilynne's observant comment (now way above) may suggest, you may be more likely to encounter people who would find this rude in U.S. communities with more affluence, more temperate climates, and more urban settings. Since your profile suggests that you're in San Francisco, I can assure you that you will have some guests (likely silently) think this is rude. If you have to ask whether this is rude, you are in a location where it would be considered rude by some.

I'm from NYC, lived in Philly and now in Boston; I probably get asked to remove my shoes once or twice a year, and it irks me greatly, as I said above.

Leaving aside everyone's personal preferences on what they would do in their OWN house, no one is going to be offended if you DON'T ask them to remove their shoes. Some people may take their shoes off out of their own personal custom, or to be polite--but no guest in your house is going to take offense at not being asked.

Given that some portion of your guests will take offense at the request, doesn't it stand to reason that you should not ask at all?

Aside to people who like no shoes in the house: if you have a dog or a cat or, for that matter, a kid, your floors are already dirty, and I'd have no interest in traipsing around without my shoes. Seriously--don't worry that I may have stepped in some microscopic trace of dogshit three blocks ago if you've got a fucking cat who wants to jump from its catbox to the coffee table and then into my lap.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:03 PM on January 4, 2011 [12 favorites]


I grew up in Hawaii and if there is a getabako in the entryway I take my shoes off without even thinking about it.
posted by jet_silver at 7:07 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure why people are weirded out by others seeing their feet, even sock clad feet. I wear boots around my house all the time, but will immediately remove any foot-wear when going over to someone's house if it is appropriate. I've never equated this with undressing, and more so than taking off your coat, or gloves, or hat.

I think some of the assertions that only people in the sticks who must tromp around in manure would/should take their shoes off inside is a bit pejorative, and rude.

Fact is, some people (yes in la-te-da big cities too) are just fine removing shoes, and some are show-removal-phobic for whatever reason. It is your house, be polite about the requests, perhaps have cheap slippers for those that want them, perhaps even a polite forewarning about the shoe removal for all those who seem destine to wear embarrassing socks, or who might want to bring their own slippers.
posted by edgeways at 7:07 PM on January 4, 2011


Shoes off here. We're not neat freaks, but Mrs. Meat Machine is Asian, and besides, the bottoms of your shoes are gruesome. If you're offended by the idea that we don't want gum or dog crap on our floor, well, feel free to leave and miss out on our delicious food.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:10 PM on January 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Also, what happened to manners? If you're a guest in someone's home, you follow their lead. If they take off their shoes, you take off your shoes. It's that simple. If you don't, you're impolite. They may then ask you to take off your shoes, because you didn't take the hint. If you're offended that they asked, you're doubly impolite. It's their house. You're a guest. They live there. You're visiting. They pay the cleaning bills. You're eating their food and drinking their liquor. Heck, if there's a washing basin by the door and the host stops and washes his hands and feet in it and puts on a pair of socks from a bin of them next to it, you better believe I'm going to be sitting down and soaping up.

That's what being a polite guest is.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:18 PM on January 4, 2011 [21 favorites]


sprezzy:
One thing I don't quite get though...For people above saying shoes-off would be okay/not be rude in slushy, muddy weather but not otherwise...That's because you wouldn't think about dirtying someone's carpet with mud, yes?

I do think it's a difference in degree, not in kind (though some might argue that excessive salt or mud is going to do a serious number on rugs).

Mainly, people just understand that if their shoes are filthy, a little wiping on a mat is not going to help much. Most people don't want to track clots of mud across a host's floor; so if it's horrible weather out, they'll take off their boots. (And often, the horrible weather means they're wearing outdoor shoes anyway, not indoor shoes. They're not going to tromp around the house in wet galoshes.)

But in dry weather--a little bit of regular dirt and invisible germs--meh. JMO, of course. I sweep and mop and vacuum and scrub out the grout lines with a toothbrush periodically. I mean I do try to keep things clean; I just don't worry that much about shoes.

(But I live in New York on a ground floor, so grime is pretty much omnipresent no matter what we do. Also, you know, living in any city, you are going to be exposed to germs all the time, and in some ways that's a good thing, health-wise. Or at least that's what I tell myself.)
posted by torticat at 7:20 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


In Toronto, I don't know anyone who doesn't take their shoes off when entering their own home or the home of another. So I guess a lot of this depends on where you are in North America.
posted by modernnomad at 7:22 PM on January 4, 2011


inturnaround: " I'd suggest that you not have any guests over until your comfortable with them actually being in your house."

Well, I would suggest that you, as a guest, not track mud and dirt all over my freshly cleaned, light-colored carpets, thanks. Consideration goes two ways and guests should be considerate of their hosts. I hope that if you get someone's carpet muddy, you offer to pay for a carpet cleaner.

I don't wear shoes in the house. I had a boyfriend and was appalled that he sat on his bed with his shoes on. (We were teens and both still lived with our parents, so his mom knew about this!) All the dirt and germs... yuck.

In fact, when I was a little girl and we'd go to relatives' houses for a visit, my dad would bring his own house slippers.
posted by IndigoRain at 7:22 PM on January 4, 2011


I don't especially mind being asked to remove my shoes, because I'm fairly laid back. If I had to pick a side, I'd side with the "it's rude" camp, because I wouldn't ask my guests to do so. I think it's the guest's responsibility to ask the host's preference.

As a host, these people are my guests. They're more important to me than flooring. Unless I thought their safety was at risk (I dunno - too much dirt tracked in makes the floors slippery and someone falls?) I wouldn't ask them to remove their shoes.

I would, however, consider it rude if someone didn't ask/offer to remove their shoes and then tracked mud everywhere. In the future, I probably would ask this person to remove their shoes.

As a guest, I always ask if the host wants me to remove my shoes (unless I can see what other guests have done). Often, especially if it's snowing/raining, I generally don't even ask and just start to remove my shoes.

Being a good, gracious host means not making demands of your guests, and being a good guest means not abusing your host's generosity.

It's sort of a special case of cleaning. I'd never ask my guests to clean up, but I expect them not to trash the place.
posted by chndrcks at 7:25 PM on January 4, 2011


Shoes off for me. The outdoors isn't just about gum and poop - it's also about pesticide residue, glass shards from broken bottles, and God knows what else you might track in on your shoes. YUCK.

I wouldn't find it rude if this were expected, but I would want to know ahead of time so I don't wear raggedy socks when I visit.

People might be more accepting if you frame it as "We're a shoes-off house" rather than "I want to keep my floors nice."
posted by cadge at 7:28 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


We don't wear shoes in the house, because my husband was raised in a culture that believes it's really rude to wear shoes in the house, and I don't like vacuuming so I'm all too happy to go along. As a result, we typically have a big old pile of shoes in our entryway. I'd say 75% of people who come over take the hint that this house is shoe-free, and we don't bother the other 25% about it unless it's raining out.

You can get a whole bunch of slippers for guests to wear super cheap at any Asian market.
posted by little light-giver at 7:28 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Richmond, VA native and current Washington, DC resident. I think it's rude.
posted by downing street memo at 7:34 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I certainly never would ask. Is it rude? Maybe not. But it is very annoying. I have always done it when asked without complaint though.
posted by ihadapony at 7:34 PM on January 4, 2011


Also, to the people complaining about the disheveled state of their socks, is it really that hard to keep yourself in clean, hole-less socks? $20-30/year should be enough to keep your feet covered, if you want to spend more go ahead, but a dime a day is not going to be a hardship for anyone.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 7:40 PM on January 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Another unshod San Franciscan here. My family (bicoastal) wears slippers or socks indoors; Hubby's family (Midwest) wears shoes. Causes a bit of friction here, but eventually Hubby's shoes get pried off. When guests come over they see the pile of shoes and usually kick theirs off too, but I wouldn't ask them since some people prefer to keep them on (crazy as that may be).

I wouldn't be annoyed if a friend asked me to take my shoes off at a small gathering - I'd just laugh off my holey socks and maybe sit cross-legged. At a large party it would be bothersome - pawing through a heap of shoes before I could go home would be sort of icky, somehow. And for a formal party, my shoes are part of my outfit and you do not want to see my ugly bare feet with my lovely silk dress.

Seriously, you and your family/roommates are the major source of wear and tear and dirt on your floors. If you're roaming around your apartment for 6 hours a day, that's about 180 hours a month. How many hours a month do you have guests around? Provide a bench and a shoe mat near the front door for guests - some of them will take the hint, and the rest won't really make much difference over the long run.
posted by Quietgal at 7:44 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


some people prefer to keep them on (crazy as that may be).

Speaking of crazy...this thread makes me think of Howard Hughes shuffling around in Kleenex box slippers.
posted by MikeMc at 7:50 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Northeastern city type here: I don't much care either way.

I've encountered many no-shoe NYC households, I guess because it's safe to assume that shoes that have walked in New York are gross.

Vermont in winter is shoes-off, but with that much snow and slush and salt and gravel, it's not even about manners anymore. It's just practical.

I was always offered slippers in Germany, which surprised me at first, but now I think it's charming.
posted by the_blizz at 7:52 PM on January 4, 2011


Just to add another data point. Not rude. I have seen signs but not many. I would be somewhat surprised by the offer of slippers of socks, but it is probably a good idea to have them. I would go with something washable. I am in the Boston Mass area.
posted by d4nj450n at 7:54 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didn't run into this much in the South, and so the whole taking shoes off thing still seems weird to me. Clearly the snow / no snow divide has a large influence on this going by above responses.

I only remove my shoes when specifically asked since I'm really not very comfortable being just in socks. I also normally wear shoes at home so it feels weird not to elsewhere.
posted by wildcrdj at 7:56 PM on January 4, 2011


Pacific NW here: only when I'm at home, alone, do I go shoeless. NEVER when any non-relative is over. As others have mentioned, exposing your feet is a vulnerable act. It makes me really uncomfortable. When I've been in homes where I've been asked to remove my shoes, I cannot relax from worrying I might do something to dirty up their precious carpet and/or step on something painful or disgusting. It makes me think twice about going back to that person's house.

The only time I'd feel somewhat okay and less self-conscious about it would be if it were really snowy or muddy.

I'm also slightly weirded out by people who just assume they can take their shoes off in my house without asking.

Used slippers, no matter how clean, would gross me out and I would not use them.
posted by lovecrafty at 8:02 PM on January 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


So, OP's profile indicates she is in SF. Since this is a highly culturally bound question, I submit that saying "in Germany" or "in Russia" is not helpful. It is customary in much of the Middle East not to use toilet paper in favor of a jug or hose but I submit that most guests in the USA would be irritated and/or offended by such a request.

Not rude in SF. More than half my friend's houses are shoes-off. New floors, white carpet in a rental, whatever. As a plus, people at a shoes-off party are much more careful about not spilling things, or cleaning up what they spill.

Many years ago I went to a rave in a shoes-off yoga studio. The bathrooms were still nearly spotless by the end. It was kind of amazing.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:04 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also in Austin, and shoe-removal requirements seem bizarre to me. I am much more likely as a guest to ask someone if it's ok to remove my shoes than the other way around. Clearly I would be a complete asshole in Canada. But I thought that that's what floormats were for - wiping off your feet after walking through inclement weather so you didn't track in water or mud.

I would not be into going to a party at someone's house if they made me take off my shoes. It just seems so...weird.

Also, re: signs. I know a guy who posts signs up in his house about house rules and we all make total fun of them when we leave.
posted by mckenney at 8:18 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Growing up in Alaska it was nearly always shoes off. Shoes on were the exception. I remember being jealous of households whenever I visited a house where you could keep your shoes on.

In the PacNW, I mostly take cues from the hosts and/or other guests. I used to always ask if I should take my shoes off or not, but I've mostly stopped doing that now. I certainly wouldn't think it rude if someone asked me to take my shoes off at the door (but that's probably because of how I grew up).

I'm not sure if it's a direct effect, but I'm very conscious of the socks I put on. There's always a moderate chance that someone might see them so they had better match (and no holes either, that goes without saying).
posted by timelord at 8:20 PM on January 4, 2011


I grew up in Alaska, where everyone takes their shoes off as a matter of course. When I moved to the Lower 48, it was years and years before I could break myself of the habit of automatically taking my shoes off when I walked into someone's house. Got some strange looks, I did.

No-shoes houses aren't completely unusual in the Lower 48. But be sensitive to those guests who may not have known the rules ahead of time. Some people may be accidentally be wearing terrible socks (stained, holey, what-have-you) or suffering from foot odor which they find embarrassing.

I would keep a few sets of disposable booties (the kind that movers and car repair people wear) near the front door, to deploy in case of need. If someone balks at taking their shoes off, you can offer them the booties as an alternative. I think you can buy them at hardware stores.
posted by ErikaB at 8:22 PM on January 4, 2011


The only parties I've been to where people remove their shoes as a matter of course have involved swimming pools.

I wonder if most of the parties where people take off their shoes are in apartments. In a house with a backyard, it's usually part of where people are gathering at a party, seems like it would be inconvenient to get the shoes from the front door area and put them on every time one wanted to go outside.

I keep my shoes on at home because I've badly injured my feet while barefoot, and also because my floors are cold. I'd probably take off my shoes if asked these days, but I would not be as comfortable and relaxed as I would be with them on.

If it's a party with dancing I'd be less likely to want to dance barefoot, as people frequently manage to whack into my larger than average feet. It is true that it hurts slightly less to be stepped on by an unshod foot, but it's more frequent that it's a forward moving sort of collision. If this happens with someone who has put off clipping their toenails or cuts them in the boxy way that leaves sharp corners, it's easy to end up with a cut on your foot. From someone else's toenail. Ewww.
posted by yohko at 8:22 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Reading through the answers, I realised that the reason I don't think it's rude is that it hadn't occurred to me that it was about keeping the floors clean. My assumption was that it was about comfort. I find it more comfortable to remove shoes when I don't need to be wearing them, and assume that most of my guests also do, so I see having guests remove shoes (giving them a place to put them and even the offer of slippers) as offering them a service, in the same way you offer a drink to a guest, or a towel if they come in wet from the rain, etc.

It doesn't seem like this assumption translates well culturally or even to everyone else within my culture, so I can see why some people would find it rude.

The solution is to make it clear to guests that it is about their comfort. E.g. have the shoe rack and a chair near the door, and indicate it to them with an offer like, "Feel free to remove your shoes if you like." Then no one is offended.

Most people will probably comply at that point, and the people who really feel strongly won't. You'll keep your carpets cleaner than if you didn't do this at all (if that's the reason why you want guests to remove shoes), and no one should be too upset.
posted by lollusc at 8:27 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Midwest (Iowa adult/Illinois kid) here. I'm not sure when this thing (taking shoes off) started, but I sure as heck don't remember it from growing up in Chicago/NW Illinois. However, at some point during the last 20 odd years, it must have taken hold because almost everyone who visits our house starts slipping their shoes off almost as soon as they step inside the door. I generally try to wave them off that, but a lot of them insist nonetheless.

Whatever. They'll be paying for it the next day as we have awesome concrete floors. But concrete is still hard as, well, concrete no matter how nicely finished it is. But at least they can't say I didn't warn them.

As for the post about Germans and slippers, my extended family in northern Germany (Hamburg) does the same thing: shoes off/slippers at the door. My uncle Günter always brings out a spare pair just for me when I visit. Makes me feel all warm, connected and fuzzy inside. :)
posted by webhund at 8:29 PM on January 4, 2011


I've waded into this argument a couple of times over on Apartment Therapy, so I guess I'll do it one more time here . . . .

I don't think it's rude to ask, and I always comply when asked, but I wish you wouldn't ask me to do it. I can't stand around in bare feet without my old joints aching, and I don't think that's the way to treat a guest. I don't really understand the priorities of somebody who gets that worked up over protecting their floors and carpet from guests; I thought having people over was about making them feel welcomed and valued?

And don't give me this: "you're being rude because you track shit all over my nice clean floor if you don't take your shoes off!" I'm a responsible adult and this is a strawman argument; if there's a mat, I'll wipe my feet before I come in.

It's your choice, but I don't think it's a very hospitable thing to do.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 8:30 PM on January 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


Is this maybe a city v suburbs thing?

Before I moved to New York, I never took my shoes off when I came home unless the weather was bad. But then, I spent most days walking around inside and riding in various vehicles.

In New York, among the people I know, taking off your shoes is the default -- if not in your own home, then certainly when you visit someone else's. We all spend our days tromping around dirty city streets and subway platforms and the common areas of our apartment buildings. Why shouldn't we try and minimize how much of that crap ends up on the living room floor?

I'm admittedly pretty mystified by the commenters who say they're annoyed and offended by being asked to take them off, to the point where they may not visit that person again -- I mean, how is it so different from being asked not to smoke in someone's home? But that might be 11 years in the city talking.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 8:32 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow. Okay so I accept that I will not please everyone. Some will think it odd if I ask them to take shoes off, some will be uncomfortable wearing shoes indoors if we don't go shoeless. To answer some question, some of my friends here in SF ask that shoes be taken off, some don't. Some are shoes-optional. Some have socks available. Our floors will be cold as the garage is underneath the living quarters and there's no way around that since we will not be installing radiant heating anytime soon. Our entryway is small so a bench probably won't work there but I would love to be able to do that. If we have slippers or socks available, they won't be required and as I said, I don't think I'd insist that anyone follow our rule. I'm just interested in what would make people feel comfortable taking their shoes off. If they don't want to, I don't really care all that much. Yes, you my friends, are more important than my floors.

It's a good point that some people have health issues that make shoe-wearing necessary and I definitely don't want to smell stinky feet. Like I said, it isn't my intention to make this mandatory. Sounds like there is general consensus on skipping the sign. I was only thinking that it seemed less confrontational to demand it verbally of guests. But it's true that the visual cues should be enough.

Personally, I don't mind taking shoes off in other people's houses and I've been charmed to find slippers or socks available even if I didn't wear them. I really don't think that I'm going to, in advance, notify every single person who comes over to my house of our shoelessness. That seems super excessive. If someone shows up, they will see the option of taking their shoes off but will be free to ignore it.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 8:47 PM on January 4, 2011


I grew up in the south, and shoes were generally allowed inside. I moved to the midwest and slowly learned that walking around in slush-covered winter boots was not a great idea. Additionally, I had a few friends who lived in shoes-off apartments, so I'm used to it. If I visit someone who's shoeless when she invites me in, or if we arrive at her house together, I'll usually take off my shoes too.

This strikes me as one of those situations where trying to explain it would be ruder than just chalking it up to "this is the way it is." If you ask politely because it's just what you prefer, then I probably won't think much of it and I'll assume it was how you were brought up or something. But if you explain that you had the floor refinished and want to keep it nice, unless you just had it done in the last 48 hours or so, I'll get the impression that you're more concerned with your beautiful floor than your guests' comfort, and I'll silently wonder why you didn't invest in more durable flooring.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:48 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


See, Narrative Priorities, I'm just the opposite.

I grew up in Ohio and with my lake effect snow and proximity to Canada, taking shoes off was a given. Of course the shoes came off! But since I've moved to DC, I've lost that practice utterly. In fact, it seems kind of gross -- I love my friends, but how do I know they've cleaned their floors lately? How do I know my feet aren't gross?

I don't ask people to take their shoes off in my house because since our winter weather is not oppressive, I trust that anyone I *want* in my house I trust enough not to track crap into it.
posted by harperpitt at 8:49 PM on January 4, 2011


Oops. On the sign: "I was only thinking that it seemed less confrontational than to demand it verbally of guests."

Also, I do have a coir mat on the landing outside the front door and a wool rug inside the door.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 8:51 PM on January 4, 2011


Canadian who grew up in the Southeast. I remove my shoes upon entering a home, usually even if they say "don't worry about it" because wearing shoes inside is weird and dirty.

You are well within your rights to request this. Warn guests with any invitation that you don't allow shoes inside your home, and have clean slippers to offer if need be. Anyone who's that stubborn and rude about their shoes is welcome to not come back.
posted by katybird at 8:52 PM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Slippers! Hanging a tasteful sign isn't a bad idea. The only time it's annoying to take your shoes off in someone's house is when they have a dirty, unkempt floor. If there's a pile of shoes right inside the door, it'll be clear that they shouldn't wear there's past that point. A bunch of slippers to wear would be over and above the call of duty!
posted by Glendale at 8:55 PM on January 4, 2011


1. Let them know ahead of time - this I would only do to people who I know don't wear socks with their shoes or are otherwise disgusting and require some advance warning that they are going to be expected to act like a civilized person.

Hi there--I'm not disgusting, but if I'm wearing a skirt with knee-high boots and boot socks that don't necessarily match the outfit at all because, hey, they don't show under the boots and they're my warmest/most comfortable set....I'd like to know in advance.
posted by availablelight at 8:56 PM on January 4, 2011 [10 favorites]


In Chicago if it's rainy or there's snow on the ground, it's common courtesy to offer to take off your shoes when entering a home, and of course you'd expect to do so when you're a guest at an Asian household.

As someone who's prone to Athlete's Foot, I'd decline your slippers but might accept a pair of clean socks.

Some people would be very uncomfortable without their shoes because of a medical condition or disability, FWIW.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:59 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


"If you wouldn't ask your guests to change their clothes when they get to your house, don't ask them to take off their shoes. I've never actually turned tail and left someone's home who asked me to take my shoes off, but I always think twice about going back."

I really, really hate shoes-off policies. Yes, I know all Asians do it. And as far as I can tell, it's (at least) understandable if you live somewhere that is overly snowy, muddy, or sandy. But making everyone take them off as a matter of course no matter what, especially if you tell me it's so I can "get comfortable" (they always use that phrase!), I feel super uncomfortable and secretly hate you for making me do it. I definitely feel it is rude to ask if you came into the house and you weren't covered in something messy, because you're asking me to do something that makes me uncomfortable and makes me kinda not want to return to your house.

I dislike tripping over everyone's shoe piles in the hall and doing the flamingo dance while I take them off, I dislike everyone finding out that I wear unmatching socks on days that I THOUGHT nobody was going to see my feet (you might as well use 'em, eh?), I hate smelling everyone's stank sockfeet in the winter, I hate slipping around on your nice hardwood floors in socks, which I don't even do in my own house. Also, to me, taking my shoes off is something I only do at my own house, when I don't plan on leaving again for the rest of the night. (I do walk around in my house in shoes, especially when I plan on leaving again at some point during the day. The people that make me take them off and on repeatedly if I have to cart stuff back and forth from the car into their house or something can go to the special hell.) It just weirds me out to have to take them off when you're only gonna be there for dinner, it seems wrong. I'm being forced to do something that supposedly makes me feel "at home," but I'm clearly not at home... it's all just a giant ugh.

Loaner slippers would not make me feel any less weird about this. I can't think of anything you could do to make me less unhappy about this except to let me keep mine on if I feel like it. How about a sign that says, "Shoes Optional"? Those who like that sort of thing will take theirs off by default (apparently), those who don't won't feel guilted/shamed/forced into it. And nobody has to have one of those uncomfortable conversations. Also, you can't just have people wipe their feet on the mat? Floors are meant/supposed to be walked on, they're not that precious and as far as I've seen in America, nobody actually eats off of theirs.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:00 PM on January 4, 2011 [14 favorites]


Data point, if anyone's counting: grew up in southern California. Usually shoes-free in my own home, mostly for comfort. We'd pretty much let guests do whatever they felt like. And in terms of visiting other people's houses - across the U.S. - I'd guess I've seen about a 50-50 split between shoes and no shoes. Generally I've seen shoes off more for casual events among relatives or friends, and shoes on for short visits or more formal parties (especially where ladies might be in hose and such), but no rules are absolute.

I can't recall being asked outright to take my shoes off very often if ever (at least, not since I was a little kid coming back from the playground, when my mom told me not to track dirt across my grandma's carpets). Nobody's ever offered slippers or anything to wear instead of shoes, and I've never seen any written signs posted. Usually I check out the host(s) and/or other guests and do as they do, or I'll ask directly if I'm really unsure.

Bottom line, I feel like when I'm a guest in someone else's home, I should follow their rules, and it's not rude for them to ask me to do so - whatever the reason. If they ask me to take my shoes off, or to wear clogs or slippers, fine. If they posted a sign about it, I'd think it was a little weird, but I'd do it anyway, and I wouldn't really take offense. When in Rome, you know.
posted by sigmagalator at 9:10 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Something that hasn't been mentioned so far...

Here in Canada if someone says "leave your shoes on" it is often because their house is dirty (i.e. a farmhouse, a house which is also a business).
posted by niccolo at 9:11 PM on January 4, 2011


You mean you guys don't have a boot brush?

In the Bay Area, it is a relatively new thing (last 10-20yrs) to be asked to take off your shoes when entering a house. I do it if I see the pile of shoes and am paying attention.

Otherwise I consider it a bit strange, especially if the weather is good. Heck if you are working on a project you might be running in and out of the house every few minutes. What a pain it would be to be putting on/taking off shoes every time. What if they are very-hard-to-put-on boots?

And how does this extend to other houses? Do you take off your shoes when visiting an accountant in their office built into an old house? What about a department store?

And the offering slippers thing is very definitely creepy. I've known people with horrible foot fungus that just won't go away for years and years, not to mention athlete's foot and who knows what else. You want me to put my feet in the shared slipper? Who else has been wearing it? Yuck!
posted by eye of newt at 9:13 PM on January 4, 2011


San Francisco Bay Area; about one-quarter of my friends have shoe-free homes. You get used to it (even when they're the only friend with that custom) remarkably quickly. The idea of sharing slippers with your last guest weirds me out. Fuzzy socks (in a big basket so I knew they got laundered) would be great but are not necessary.
posted by salvia at 9:16 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Texan here, and I'm with the rest of the warm-climate people: down here I would find it rude, unless there was some extremely compelling reason ("Carpets are still damp from the steam-cleaning earlier today!" "Japanese theme night! "We're in college and this is a rental and no one cares about hospitality yet!" "someone in the house is immuno-compromised!").

I do understand why it's the norm in snowy, rainy, muddy regions.

But when I enter someone's home in Texas—where I stepped out of my house, into my car, and then up the walkway to your front door—and am asked to remove my shoes, I instantly assume two things: 1. Not from the South. 2. Cares more about her floors than me, and therefore must be "saving" them for more important people. Oh sure, I smile and comply, but that's what I'm thinking.

For all the aforementioned remarks about foot odor, ugly socks, health concerns, pants length, etc., the people who host fancy parties and do not warn their guests about the no-shoes-rule in advance are thoughtless jerks.

And, I simply cannot process the idea that one would impose a no-shoes rule on guests in order to protect one's nicely refinished floors. Who did you have the floors done for? if not company? It's like the people who have company over and don't remove the plastic slipcovers from the furniture. Who are you keeping that sofa nice for?

Or the ladies who go out in public in curlers. If you don't care what you look like at the mall, then who on earth do you plan to impress later with your nicely curled hair?

What's the point of having nice things in one's home at all, if you can't allow your guests to enjoy those things without being asked to take off their clothes?

I don't get being fussy over stuff at the expense of people. I feel the same way when someone rushes across the room to put down a coaster for me before I've even selected a seat. Really? You just presume that I was going to put my wet drink down on your wooden table, and make a big ugly ring? The potential for a drip on a piece of wood is worth possibly offending a guest?

I don't think so.

And yeah, I'd make fun of a sign. And I would smile and comply if my host offered me other footwear to replace my own perfectly good footwear—but I'd think it was really weird, and not likely return.
posted by pineapple at 9:17 PM on January 4, 2011 [15 favorites]


Well then. I always wondered why the family in the (Canadian) strip For Better or For Worse never wore shoes in the house. As a kid, I just thought they were poor.

South Jersey USA here, NEVER took shoes off in the house growing up and always thought it weird when asked to take my shoes off because shoes are part of an outfit. Naturally, if I slushed through every puddle on the way over, I'm nice enough not to track it all over your place.

But because I was raised in a pro-shoe family, I do feel weird sitting barefoot in someone's house in the summer because I'm not wearing socks and they urged me to "be comfortable and kick off your shoes!" Even though I'm more comfortable IN shoes. And if you think I'm uptight, play on Google a bit and you'll find lots of judgy people who think that unpedicured feet should never be seen in sandals, let alone without shoes.

So you're not rude if you ask. And while I'll comply, I'll be completely self-conscious of my feet, possibly cold (I'd feel weird wearing the offered slippers) and hoping my purse (which has been in contact with almost as many surfaces as my shoes) doesn't mar anything in your lovely home.
posted by ladygypsy at 9:19 PM on January 4, 2011


Don't click on this link! Why I would be upset by your offer of slippers.



Hey, I warned you.
posted by eye of newt at 9:21 PM on January 4, 2011


You don't have to please everyone, your friends will get used to it, and you can put it on the invitation if you're having a party ("wear your party socks because...")
posted by salvia at 9:23 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've always worn shoes inside wherever I've lived, but if I go to someone else's place where I see a bunch of shoes by the door, I always ask if I should take my shoes off. I also ask if I notice that the people at the place are not wearing shoes. To me it's just something courteous to do as a guest in someone's home.

Having been to Japan, I am not weirded out by being offered house slippers and would actually appreciate it as long as they look clean. If you do a search for Japanese House Slippers you'll see the sorts of slippers they offer there. Generally they're simple scuffs and didn't ever involve cushy fabric when I saw them. Seems like they would be easy to keep clean.

What you could do is get a few different ones of those and leave them on the other side of the door. If a guest starts taking off their shoes, you can offer them the house slippers, or maybe whatever socks you're thinking of if they're barefoot without their shoes. I would probably feel weird about giving dirty socks to the host at the end of a friendly gathering, though.
posted by wondermouse at 9:26 PM on January 4, 2011


I'm curious about whether there's any gender divide here. I usually wear heels, and I usually wear pants that are hemmed to the right length for wearing heels. So if I take my shoes off, my pants drag on the ground. Also, I often don't wear socks in the summer, and I'm sometimes a little bit self-conscious about the fact that I don't get professional pedicures. I don't know that either of those things would be an issue if I were a guy, though.

I don't consider it rude, but I'd prefer not to do it, unless it's a situation where I wouldn't feel self-conscious rolling up my pants and don't care that my feet might appear a little unkempt.
posted by craichead at 9:29 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Caveat: as one might have gathered from the moniker, I'm in the camp of "the guest is always right, always." I believe that it is incumbent upon the host to bend over backward.

A good guest should be observant and volunteer to remove shoes if it is clearly The Thing To Do, but being a good host means giving your guest the benefit of the doubt.

i.e. Acceptable assumption:

"Oh, Jenny didn't take her shoes off and put them by the door, even though I answered the door in my stocking feet and there is obviously a big pile of shoes here, which I am sure she noticed. Therefore, she must have some physical or personal reason that she really wants to keep them on, and I will respect that and not push it."

Unacceptable:

"Jenny obviously is choosing to bring her germy disgusting poop-covered shoes in to track all over my clean white carpets. Is she blind?"
posted by pineapple at 9:33 PM on January 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm thinking that there might be a car/no-car divide going on here, too. If you're only ever walking outside from a building to a car your shoes would be cleaner. That could explain the Texas reactions above. In San Francisco, there could be buses, trolleys, dirty/wet sidewalks, etc.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 9:34 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I live in New Orleans and have never been asked to take my shoes off. I'd be more concerned that my feet were sweaty or awful since I wear flip flops or shoes without socks a lot.

Anyway, I used to have newly refinished hardwood floors barely three years ago. I can't think of a single mark on the floors that could possibly have been caused by a shoe. (No one wears stilettos at my house, though. I do have high heeled boots.) Do NOT let your guests bring coffee tables or dining room chairs, though. No amount of felt protector things or carefulness has done a dang bit of good. I think it may be the sofa's goal to wear completely through the floor, if you look at the marks it's making. I suggest just giving up now. It's like trying to keep your car ding-free at the mall.
posted by artychoke at 9:35 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think it will suffice to have a basket of slippers - all nice and fresh looking - near the entryway, and you say when the person comes in, "We have some slippers for you to choose from if you'd like." You'll be in socks or slippers and the message will get through without being pressureful. I personally would find it kind of charming if there were a bunch of different kinds of slippers, some manly, some silky, some silly. And also a variety of sizes of the unisex IKEA ones.

I wouldn't, however, offer or expect people to change out of shoes for a big party (30 pairs of shoes cluttering the entryway!) or official/formal occasions (business meeting at home).

To me, a sign would be unfriendly. Presumably you're standing right there when a guest is coming in.
posted by lakeroon at 9:39 PM on January 4, 2011


My sister asks people to remove their shoes (well, overnight guests.. I don't know that she has dinner guests, etc. do this) in the foyer (not actually OUTSIDE) before entering the rest of the house. I'm not used to not wearing shoes in the house, so, admittedly, it is a little off-putting, but it's her home so I respect her wishes. The biggest problem is forgetting to do it. Also, almost slipping off the steps because I have no tread... err... which has happened a few times, actually! Anyway, she offers an array of slippers and slipper socks. It's certainly not rude of you to ask. I don't think you need a sign unless you're expecting a huge throng of people and want to by-pass repeating your request. Now's a good time to stock up on slippers. Kmart and similar stores are having them at half price and on clearance with all the winter apparel. I would recommend having as many pairs of slippers and/or slipper socks as you'll expect to have to lend out at a given time. I mean, if you'll have four or five guests, you might want to have enough pairs on hand. I'd go with the simplest styles so that they'll be comfy for various sized feet: slipper socks, bootie styles, and slip-ons. Also, it might not be a bad idea to mention it to guests ahead of time. I'd bring my own slippers then. I know if I'd be visiting someone I don't know well and I wasn't expecting that request, I might not be wearing socks and I wouldn't be crazy about the idea of wearing your slippers without socks, stranger. My sister has a nice bench you can sit on whilst changing shoes (in the foyer) and you leave your shoes under so they're right there but they're out of the way. She has a little basket with the slippers (plus more to borrow) next to the bench. That makes it easier to remember. Also, she has two cats who love to sit on your empty shoes, which is adorable and makes for great photos. And, that's the number one way to make asking people to remove their shoes enticing.
posted by Mael Oui at 9:46 PM on January 4, 2011


I tell people to leave their shoes on when they enter my house. I will remove my shoes at other peoples' houses if requested. Personally, I hate it.
posted by wandering_not_lost at 9:48 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


My knees hurt if I have to go without my custom orthotics. So I'd be a little bitter and wouldn't want to come back.
posted by callmejay at 9:48 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not taking my shoes off. Your floor might be dirty!!
posted by wv kay in ga at 9:51 PM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Look, an entire blog devoted to this question.
posted by kanuck at 9:58 PM on January 4, 2011


I'm curious about whether there's any gender divide here.

I think it's less gender-related and more cultural/individual/medical related. I'm a woman but I hate wearing heels. If I wear shoes in the house, it's usually because I think the floors are probably too dirty to walk around on in only socks or barefoot - like if there is kitty litter on the floor, dirt tracked in from outside, food remnants, etc. Or if I take my shoes off I'll go straight to slippers. Generally if I see that a friend's house is shoe-free, I assume the floors are clean enough to walk around in socks there, and that is usually the case.

I also think it makes a big difference if this is about small, casual gatherings among good friends, or if these are business meetings or large parties where people, sometimes mere acquaintances or even strangers, would be taking their shoes off. It would be especially bad if these people arrived all dressed up in heels and things. It is not clear from the wording of the question who these guests might be or why they would be in the house, and I think that's part of the reason why some of the replies are so offended by the very idea of it. It's as if we all are going over to otherwordlyglow's house dressed to the nines, not even knowing who she is.

While I objectively do not like the idea of a sign posted by the door telling people to take their shoes off, if a good friend of mine invited me over to her apartment, and I saw that she had such a sign, I'd just add it to the list of quirks about that particular friend. It certainly wouldn't hurt the friendship.
posted by wondermouse at 10:04 PM on January 4, 2011


Same as sigmagalator. From Southern California, I don't wear shoes in house, I don't hassle guests who do wear shoes in the house. I don't wear shoes because it's more comfortable, keeps the carpet cleaner, and so on. My relatives in Long Island and Massachusetts don't wear shoes in the home either, but I'm sure they would harass people who wear shoes in their house (but they are *touchy*).

I love this question because I think it's hilarious that people from the South seem to be horrified that folks would take off their shoes. I grew up with lots of Asian friends, whose parents would have been horrified if I failed to take off my shoes upon entering their home.

I say:

1. No sign. No commentary. Do not ask your guests to take off their shoes. Just have a shoe-place in the main hallway or foyer or wherever folks enter your home where shoes live. Make it obvious, like a basket, or a raised bit of floor, or something.

2. Have house slippers by your shoe-place. If people want slippers, they can go for it.

3. If you're having a party that requires swanky clothing, expect that people will retain their shoes. If your girlfriends wear heels, expect that they will retain their shoes

4. Give it up regarding your floors. They will be nice as long as they will be nice and then they'll just be your usual floors.
posted by ckk88 at 10:12 PM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Chiming in late, here, but just another datapoint:

I've always been a shoes on in the house person, as has my extended family and most of my group of friends. One friend (in Santa Cruz, fwiw), had guests remove shoes mainly because of their light colored carpet. Mild annoyance, to me, but I would never complain and always comply with my host's preference (I prefer it unstated, with a basket of shoes by the door as a hint; seems less abrasive).

I prefer flip flops or slides on in the house because I've never been a meticulous housekeeper and I hate the feeling of various particles sticking to my bare feet or socks. We have a cat, so despite my best efforts there are always tumbleweeds of cat hair rolling around, plus tiny food debris in the kitchen and whatever else gets on the floor (lots of little black balls from my turf soccer shoes).

The worst shoes off experience I had was at my husband's business colleague's luncheon (she hosted a group of 30 at her house). There was shelving on the front porch for shoes, so we had to remove before stepping inside. I wasn't expecting it, so had worn nice heels and tights. After an hour of appetizers and drinks, the floor was sticky in spots and I had bits of food on my tights. Then, lunch was actually served outside on the back patio, so we all walked shoeless across an outdoor area. By the end of the day the bottom of my tights were filthy! It was so uncomfortable.

Please, for the love of god, don't have a shoes off rule for a party situation. Yuck. Not good. Aside from the cleanliness issue, people dress up and many would be disappointed to leave their fancy party shoes in a heap (and there's also the issue of heels with long pants).

But for regular visits, leave obvious clues for guests (no shoes on yourself, a bench for removal, and a basket or shelves holding shoes. Mildly irritating to some guests, but not more than that usually. And I wouldn't absolutely insist; as others mentioned above, some people are so uncomfortable with foot fungus, odor, medical issues, or whatever, that you are better are letting them keep their shoes on if it means so much to them.
posted by JenMarie at 10:27 PM on January 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Asian household, wife is Chinese Canadian (represent!), no shoes in the house but we offer a chair and a selection of slippers.
I grew up in the UK (Midlands) and we traipsed all through the house in shoes unless we were muddy. Now we've even converted my folks to the notion that if you're not wearing shoes in the house, you're reducing the cleaning needed later.
If a guest needed shoes as in callmejay's case, it'd be rude to ask them to remove their shoes; guests are supposed to feel welcome.
posted by arcticseal at 10:36 PM on January 4, 2011


I was only thinking that it seemed less confrontational to demand it verbally of guests. But it's true that the visual cues should be enough. ... I really don't think that I'm going to, in advance, notify every single person who comes over to my house of our shoelessness.

So it's okay for you to (passive-aggressively via "visual cues") spring on me the fact that I have to be in my bare feet or mismatched socks in your house, making me uncomfortable, but not for you to deal with the slight discomfort of mentioning it beforehand?

shockingly, i think we are not friends.
posted by purpleclover at 11:30 PM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


The only time I would find it rude would be if it were a party where I would be wearing nicer shoes as part of an outfitt that was carefully chosen and where it would seem silly to be walking around in stockings.

As a fellow Canuck, I disagree. If you've got fancy shmancy shoes to go with your outfit (or special orthotics, or cold feet which need slippers) then you carry them to the party and put them on after taking off your outside shoes. Or you can wear your fancy outfit with stockings/socks on the bare floor like the rest of us. This is how it has played out at all the holiday events in my memory. What is not debated? That the shoes/boots are coming off at the front door. We even have construction at our house and when we tell people to leave their shoes on because of construction, they generally refuse to leave their shoes on!

Beyond the aside of Canadianism here, I was actually chastised by a Texan clinical professional who was evaluating my clinical work because I was judged as being culturally inappropriate for removing my shoes (down to socks) when doing a clinical home visit with a family when the family was clearly wearing slippers inside. Clearly they underestimated the internalized cultural importance of this regional norm. From the Canadian cultural reference, I was professional in removing my footwear, but from the Texan norm, my behaviour was unprofessional.
posted by kch at 11:30 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


pineapple: " And, I simply cannot process the idea that one would impose a no-shoes rule on guests in order to protect one's nicely refinished floors. Who did you have the floors done for? if not company? It's like the people who have company over and don't remove the plastic slipcovers from the furniture. Who are you keeping that sofa nice for?"

Getting the carpet all dirty again is no good for your future guests. And carpet cleaning is expensive and involves moving heavy furniture in most cases.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:31 PM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


We don't wear shoes indoors in my house. We have a tiled entryway before the carpeting starts, and we keep a few pairs of shoes lined up there. Guests, upon entering, see the shoes and see our socked feet and probably 95% of the time ask if they should remove their shoes. I think if there are some obvious signals of "This Is A Shoeless Household" most folks will pick it up and want to comply out of politeness.
posted by Bella Sebastian at 11:40 PM on January 4, 2011


The more I've read through this thread the more I'm surprised by some replies. I'm actually surprised the OP even needs to ask the question - the homeowner sets the rules, period. If the people visiting are your friends, you should know them (and they you) well enough that a shoes-off policy shouldn't be an surprise/issue. If they're first time visitors one would assume that they'd either be accompanied by a friend (who knows the expectations) or that the first time visitor would be given advance notice in order to either decline the invite, prepare for mismatched socks/foot odor/orthotic issues/fashion disasters, etc. So, I don't really understand the problem... My friends with young children expect that profanity won't be used in their presence in their homes - I'm not sure how the shoe issue is all that different - you just respect the practices of the homeowner, end of story. And if someone truly insists that they keep their shoes on, then these might be the answer if it was a sanitary issue - it might not help with the OP's preservation of newly refinished floors.
posted by blaneyphoto at 11:54 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


(Australian) I wouldn't think that it was the slightest bit rude, and I would be more than happy to take my shoes off if you asked me to.

I probably would not do so unless you asked me, though, and I'm a bit oblivious, so I might well accidentally overlook a sign through distraction/thinking/talking.

I go barefoot inside my own home, and my parents had many asian friends who were strictly shoes-off-indoors when I was growing up, so taking shoes off when visiting them was standard practice.

I would want you to provide me with a bench or chair to sit on, otherwise I would not be able to take my shoes off (balance/knee/back problems mean that I can't take off my shoes while standing, and sitting on the floor means that you will have to haul me up again.)

In summer, the smell of my sweaty cotton socks may make you wish that I had kept my shoes on, though... Also, no comments on the way that my toenails look, please!
posted by Hot buttered sockpuppets at 12:03 AM on January 5, 2011


The only time I've ever been caught off-guard this way was when we were invited at the last minute to a party of mostly Asians where leaving shoes off just inside the front door was the norm. That evening, we'd been to a number of places, I'd worked all day, and it was very warm out, so I was concerned that the smell would be super funky, both from my feet AND from my shoes. Clean socks and foot spray of some sort would have been fine by me, but I still would have probably left my shoes outside. My solution was to mostly hang out on the porch with my fellow smokers and keeping my shoes on.

At home, I tend to have a "whatever makes you comfortable" attitude and tend to go barefoot inside personally. We're renting and the carpet was somewhat questionable but clean when we moved in. I also live in Arkansas, so take from that what you will. Never went outside barefoot much ever, though. My Mom always warned me about pinworms. Ugh.
posted by lilywing13 at 1:07 AM on January 5, 2011


Oh, I forgot to mention something. Since this is obviously a touchy subject with no clear answer, the right way to deal with it is thus: in all the rooms (on the first floor, if you have multiple floors) that you'd have guests in (so not the first-floor bedrooms), have hardwood or similar durable, easily-cleaned floors, and (if desired) rugs that are tolerant of shoes and dirt, and in a pinch can be rolled up and put away for a large party.

This way, you don't have to worry; your guests can do as they please, and you won't have to rent a carpet shampooer, and you can still have your white wall-to-wall carpet elsewhere.
posted by davejay at 1:31 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


of course, this is assuming you own, and have a budget for such things, so ymmv
posted by davejay at 1:32 AM on January 5, 2011


I appear to be in the minority hear but I'd rather not be asked to remove my shoes. I wouldn't go so far as to say it is rude to do so, but I do consider it rather gauche. If my shoes are dirty or the weather outside is frightful, I will voluntarily remove my shoes of course. And if a guest would rather remove their shoes indoors, that's entirely up to them. But I wouldn't under normal circumstances expect to be asked, and I wouldn't think twice about keeping my shoes on if I weren't.

I am not often asked to remove my shoes in Britain, and in my experience it is not something that is often expected of one. I completely appreciate that etiquette vary wildly across different cultures.
posted by londonmark at 1:43 AM on January 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


We're a shoes-off household. Most often we ask guests to take theirs off, but not religiously. Some of our friends do it automatically, some do it grudgingly with commentary, some have physiological problems that I don't mind accommodating. The suggestion that we somehow value our guests or friends less for this request is absolutely ridiculous; we are not judging our friends to be dirty! However, their shoes are dirty, even if there is no mud or rain or snow outside.

Would you serve your guests food on used/unwashed plates just because they look clean?

We also have a Toto Washlet. I don't ask my guests to use it, but I do warn them about it.
posted by ellenaim at 1:45 AM on January 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


Came back to say:

While I am firmly shoes-off for myself in my own flat, and very happy to take my shoes off in other people's homes (in fact, I often do it without being asked... barefoot is more comfortable sometimes)

it would be kind/considerate/a safety issue to make an exception for people with diabetes.

People with diabetes need to always wear slippers or shoes to protect their feet from injuries, as even quite minor foot injuries in people with diabetes can be very serious.
posted by Hot buttered sockpuppets at 2:04 AM on January 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have a very bad back, and bending over to take my shoes off or put them on inconveniences me. So a request to take off my shoes would pain me (double meaning intended). Please don't.

In between asking or a sign, I'd prefer a sign, because it's easier to ignore and not have to explain my medical condition.
posted by mirileh at 3:03 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Due to degenerative tendons, I have to wear orthopedic shoes. Without them, it's very painful for me to walk around (at home, I have to slip them on even when walking from the bed to the bathroom).

When you ask me to take off my shoes, you're really asking me to hobble around painfully for a few hours, or to find a chair quickly and sit there for the entire party. It's not much fun.

Just something to add to the discussion (and in particular to offer another point of consideration to the issues raised by previous posters about guests with diabetes, bad backs, etc).
posted by math at 4:22 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


For people with orthotics, just say: I have to wear these special shoes, otherwise my back/feet/legs hurt horribly. Do you mind if I keepmy shoes on?

Nobody will have a problem.
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:40 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


For people with orthotics, just say: I have to wear these special shoes, otherwise my back/feet/legs hurt horribly. Do you mind if I keepmy shoes on?

please keep in mind that it's not fun having to share medical problems (it's bad enough having them in the first place).
posted by mirileh at 4:44 AM on January 5, 2011 [10 favorites]


Another southerner here. Unless the host lives in an apartment, parties in the Southern US generally involve being outside some if not all of the time. This is true at least 9 months out of the year, and I've been to plenty of winter parties that have included a fire pit in the backyard. I think this is the main divide here--it's not that southerners have bad manners or less snow or drive in cars more, it's that we tend to party outside and expecting people to take off their shoes with each trip inside for the buffet or to go to the bathroom or to get more ice seems silly.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:30 AM on January 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


Good point, hydropsyche -- and one would expect to see a heavy mat at the outer door (like the aforementioned coir) and then maybe even a second mat inside so guests can feel okay about going in and out without traipsing in grime.

Getting the carpet all dirty again is no good for your future guests

I get this, I really do. But as a host, it would pain me to send a message that some future unknown guest is more important than the one right before me.

posted by pineapple at 6:08 AM on January 5, 2011


(sorry, that last para shouldn't be italicized - it's my original response to the quote from IndigoRain)
posted by pineapple at 6:10 AM on January 5, 2011


"Beyond the aside of Canadianism here, I was actually chastised by a Texan clinical professional who was evaluating my clinical work because I was judged as being culturally inappropriate for removing my shoes (down to socks) when doing a clinical home visit with a family when the family was clearly wearing slippers inside."

I gotta say if you came to my house in a professional capacity and just took your shoes off without being asked I'd think it strange and a bit unprofessional. Then again, if I was having you over in a professional capacity I would have shoes on. My son's therapist remove their shoes immediately upon entering the house but I believe that is their SOP, and they're here so often I've just become accustomed to it.
posted by MikeMc at 6:19 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would be put off because I have to wear expensive custom orthotic shoes to avoid excruciating foot, leg, and back pain. I think "no shoes in the house" people have their priorities out-of-whack if they're more worried about the cleanliness of their carpets than the health and comfort of their guests. If you don't want people to walk on your floors, don't invite people over.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:12 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder if another difference between the shoe-doffers and the shoe-keepers is in the approach one has to having guests. Telling others to take their shoes off, even when they do not come from a culture where it is normal to take one's shoes off, is a bit more "my house, my rules, when in Rome, do as the Romans do," while keeping shoes on in the house, even when the hosts come from a culture where one takes one's shoes off, is a bit more "Southern hospitality, the guest is always right."
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:23 AM on January 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think this is very much a personal decision. For what it's worth, my personal view is that I feel it's actually rude to demand that guests remove their shoes (unless they're obviously filthy and the guest doesn't offer to do so first). When I invite people to my home I am extending hospitality to guests. That means I want them to be comfortable and relaxed. I take the view that floors and carpets are there to be walked on and to get worn and torn. I take the view that the comfort, preferences and relaxation of my guests are about 1,000 percent more important than a few scuffs or marks on my floors.

But as I said, that's me. You need to make your own call based on what matters to you. Be aware, though, that people like me will be mildly offended if you ask us to remove perfectly clean footwear.
posted by Decani at 7:42 AM on January 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


"Also, almost slipping off the steps because I have no tread... err... which has happened a few times, actually!"

Oh, and this! When I was dating a Chinese-Canadian man, I slipped and fell down his stairs almost once a month. I'm fortunate that I only ended up with minor (healed in a few days) back pain instead of more serious injuries.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:45 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


"For people with orthotics, just say: I have to wear these special shoes, otherwise my back/feet/legs hurt horribly. Do you mind if I keepmy shoes on?

Nobody will have a problem."


Actually, many people do have a problem. I have had several hosts of shoes-off houses make a disgusted face and issue permission in the most strained of voices when I ask if I can keep my orthotics on.

If you're OCD about clean floors and think shoes are disgusting, it shows through in your body language and tone even when interacting with people who have a medical reason to wear shoes.

Just look at the tone of all the "shoes inside are gross" people above -- they are implicitly stating that people like me have to choose between being offensively disgusting or being in pain.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:51 AM on January 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I don't mind taking my shoes off as that is generally how I behave in my own home simply for comfort reasons.

On the other hand, whenever I'm specifically asked to remove my shoes at somebody's home, whether fair on my part or not, it generally causes me to assume the host is one of those extremely finicky people who is obsessed with all aspects of their home's decor, cleanliness and order, and I spend the rest of the time there on edge that I'm going to inadvertently mess something up and anger my host rather than enjoy myself.

Also, I'm in California, so echoing some previous responses, for the majority of the year parties out this way tend to mix a lot of indoor and outdoor elements, so it would be somewhat of a hassle to be constantly putting on and then taking off your shoes every time you decide to step outside for a minute.
posted by The Gooch at 7:59 AM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Though you already have quite a number of data points from the 190 responses above this one, here are some more, courtesy of the online poll site Ask500People. Basically, there's an even split there as well. (There's also a map of the responses.)
posted by AnimalKing at 8:06 AM on January 5, 2011


I don't think it's rude to ask me to remove my shoes, but I'm going to hate it.

It's less of an issue if I am just visiting you and we're going to make dinner or watch a film. But a proper party? Especially if you are not a close friend? You will leave me feeling resentful and awkward.

I have lived in North Dakota, Detroit, North Carolina and now Chicago. In all of those places most people have been shoes-on households. We personally are shoes-on, as well. I remove my shoes at home for comfort and will wear slippers, but that's just because it's not comfortable to tuck my feet up under me on the couch while wearing shoes.

I hate removing shoes at parties for the many reasons already listed - what if my feet sweated and I have not been home all day and couldn't change my socks? What if I am wearing goofy socks that had been hidden by boots? What if I am wearing nylons or tights and am now they will get dirty or develop a run? What if I planned my whole outfit around those special high heels?

If you insist on no shoes, PLEASE WARN PEOPLE. Mention it in that email or over the phone on on the Facebook invite. I will appreciate it immensely. If I just knew about it ahead of time, I could plan and will enjoy your party so much more. Which is why you invited me over, right? For a good time?

Also, I have not seen this mentioned:

If you don't have a bench for people to sit or a place to store their shoes in the winter (and most people don't. You walk in and it's just a jumble of shoes everywhere and you have to hop on one foot to get your shoes off), you almost can't help but step in the slush that has melted off other people's shoes. Or even sit in it if you have to sit down to remove your shoes.

So now you're at a party shoeless with dirty wet socks. And I will think you're a jerk for making me have dirty wet socks on.

(Most people I know just mop the next day after hosting a winter party. Most people I know in Chicago have wooden floors, though)
posted by Windigo at 8:13 AM on January 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


Oh, and if you ask me to remove party shoes I just sorta assume you're a person whose home owns you instead of you owning it.
posted by Windigo at 8:14 AM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


You just presume that I was going to put my wet drink down on your wooden table, and make a big ugly ring?

Holy crap. I bring guests coasters so they can put their drink down anywhere they like without having to think about it. If you spin that as an implication that you're a thoughtless rube, you might as well not go out at all in case your host tries to make your stay pleasant and ends up offending you.

So it's okay for you to (passive-aggressively via "visual cues") spring on me the fact that I have to be in my bare feet or mismatched socks in your house, making me uncomfortable, but not for you to deal with the slight discomfort of mentioning it beforehand?

shockingly, i think we are not friends.


At any rate, if this thread has demonstrated anything, it's that there are people out there who are going to be annoyed no matter what you do and how nicely you try to do it. In which case you can do whatever you want and expect that anyone who's annoyed won't come to your house in the future, solving the problem.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:26 AM on January 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've never really thought of this question before. I was born in Taiwan, so my household is accustomed to removing shoes. I don't tell guests to remove shoes, most end up asking. It's probably because they see that I'm Asian and I'm not wearing shoes myself.

So, why is it personal when asked to remove shoes indoors, but expected to remove sunglasses or a hat?

All three are personal articles of clothing or accessories. For sunglasses and hats, an individual may want to keep them on due to a mishap at the barber, or because they're uncomfortable with their eye color.
posted by Jack Uphill at 8:43 AM on January 5, 2011


So, why is it personal when asked to remove shoes indoors, but expected to remove sunglasses or a hat?

Well, for one, my eyeballs never get sweaty or smell.

My hair is usually combed and styled with the intention of it being shown to people. However, it is not expected in most places (in the USA at least) that you will remove your hat indoors. School, church, some fancier restaurants. Other than those, no reason to remove a hat. And I would be insulted if I visited a friend or went to a party and was asked to remove a hat, just as I don't like removing shoes without warning ahead of time.
posted by Windigo at 8:47 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


>> Holy crap. I bring guests coasters so they can put their drink down anywhere they like without having to think about it. If you spin that as an implication that you're a thoughtless rube, you might as well not go out at all in case your host tries to make your stay pleasant and ends up offending you.

oneirodynia, I'm sure you're a perfectly lovely host who doesn't offer coasters as a passive-aggressive way to indicate that you care more about your coffee table's finish than about me. I'm just saying that I have seen some people behave in that specific way, and it served to clearly communicate "my inanimate possessions are more important than you, human." I'm not trying to suggest that making coasters available is a rude activity in general. I'm sorry if that was unclear from my earlier comment. Much like with a shoes-off request at the door, it's not the action itself but how it is presented that makes all the difference.

It's like The Gooch said: "whenever I'm specifically asked to remove my shoes at somebody's home, whether fair on my part or not, it generally causes me to assume the host is one of those extremely finicky people who is obsessed with all aspects of their home's decor, cleanliness and order, and I spend the rest of the time there on edge that I'm going to inadvertently mess something up and anger my host rather than enjoy myself."
posted by pineapple at 8:48 AM on January 5, 2011


Northeast US - shoes on upbringing here. As an adult, I travel in circles with lots of transplants, so I am now conscious of the cultural reasons that people don't like you to keep your shoes on. Growing up, the only people who insisted on taking your shoes off were the same families that kept plastic liners on the sofas - people that care more about their things than their guests. I'm much more comfortable taking off my shoes if it is a close friend, are we are doing comfy things - taking off my shoes is the equivalent of putting on pajama pants to me. It's really weird at a large or formal function - I just can't feel professional sitting around shoeless at a work party! Also, if people will be going in and out, it's best to just keep shoe on. I went to a BBQ at an Asian-American family's house, and it was so weird. We took our shoes off at the front door, ate appetizers, and then had to move our shoes to the patio door and put them back on for the BBQ part of the night. I felt awful because I messed up running in and out to grab something.

Nowadays, I make a note to see if the people inside are wearing and follow suit. I think having a shoe pile and your own shoes off when you come to the door should be notice enough. I like the idea of offering slippers, I would maybe have a bucket of identical slippers (so they are obviously not owned by family members) with a note on the slipper bucket. The note on the slipper bucket would be an additional clue without being an imposition.

I think it's important to keep in mind your guests needs, and not to make a big deal if they don't want to or can't comply. You are not owed an explanation of their medical foot issues. I would also strongly, strongly consider a bench, especially if you ever intend to have elderly visitors.
posted by fermezporte at 8:55 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm from Australia and wear slip on shoes probably 9 months of the year but I wouldn't think twice if someone asked me to take my shoes off. When I lived in the country everyone took their shoes off and left them on the doorstep/verandah having to climb over a pile of boots and shoes was the only problem, I was forever tripping and stumbling. So It would be nice if it was something you expected to have a little seat to sit down on for lace up shoes and an area to put the shoes.

Close family and friends should understand, and if you explain that you've just had the floors done, I can't see a reasonable person having a problem with that.

I do find it interesting the differences in opinion on here between, which should take priority manners wise, respect for the guest or respect for the host.
posted by wwax at 8:59 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


However, it is not expected in most places (in the USA at least) that you will remove your hat indoors.

But it is polite to remove a hat when in someone's home. I'm beginning to see how just as in hats as in shoes, there really are NO hard and fast rules of courtesy left.
posted by Jack Uphill at 9:02 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would say that some of those Emily Post rules are rather outdated. I would still say the nice restaurant/church/work rules apply.

It's more common for men to remove a hat (such as at dinner) than women. But I have never seen men remove their hats at a party at someone's home.
posted by Windigo at 9:08 AM on January 5, 2011


Yeah, branching out to hats, I'm going to say that, yeah, you definitely want to err on the side of removing them. I don't have a lot of regular hat-wearing friends, but unless the heater is broken, you take your hat off indoors (and always take your hat off if it's a baseball cap or a fedora or something - that's not for keeping warm).

And in restaurants? That's my etiquette pet peeve. We take our hats off when we eat. Every time we eat (again, unless the heater is broken). You need to remove your hat in any restaurant nicer than Burger King.
posted by Sara C. at 9:15 AM on January 5, 2011


Well, none of us remove our hats at each others' homes and the very idea is bizarre to me. Of course, we're a hat-wearing crowd. And I would definitely find it rude if I went to a party and was asked to remove my hat. Are you then going to make me go to the bathroom and restyle my hair? I don't see how it wouldn't be impossibly rude to tell a party guest to remove a hat, or to be offended if a guest wore one. And I'm in my 30s, so it's not like we're all sloppy college kids, either.

And I often wear nice lady-hats when I go out to a nice dinner. Which Emily Post says is OK anyway.

And I often match my hats to my shoes, so that brings this full circle. Please let me know if I am not allowed to wear my shoes or my hat to your shindig.
posted by Windigo at 9:25 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


So it's okay for you to (passive-aggressively via "visual cues") spring on me the fact that I have to be in my bare feet or mismatched socks in your house, making me uncomfortable, but not for you to deal with the slight discomfort of mentioning it beforehand?
No, my thought was that it would be much easier on the guests to ignore a sign than have to have a conversation with me. For me, I'd much rather there be a small discreet sign that I could pretend never to have seen than have to explain why I wasn't taking my shoes off to my host. I really don't want to put anyone on the spot about this.

So just to be clear, here's what I've decided: If you come over to my house, I will not demand or even ask that you take off your shoes. There will be no sign. There will be a small area devoted to shoe-removing and a small selection of slippers and socks that some of you will be thrilled to see and will happily remove your shoes because you understand and appreciate the visual cue. You may or may not wear the offered slippers or socks. Those of you who do not wish to remove your shoes, despite the visual cues, will not be questioned, looked sideways at, or thought any worse of. Your feet will remain in your shoes and you will keep your smelly feet, disgusting toenails, and medical issues to yourself. I will be happy that all of you are in my home and we will never speak of it again.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:39 AM on January 5, 2011 [28 favorites]


For the folks saying that they wouldn't feel welcome if asked to remove shoes, or would feel like they are being told they are dirty, or not really wanted....

I'd feel the exact opposite. Being told to leave my shoes on would indicate that I won't be here long or am not really being welcomed into their home.

It is completely and totally alien to me, to NOT remove shoes when entering a home, unless you are a worker, or helping move, or doing other such work where you need shoes for safety or will be in and out of the door.
posted by utsutsu at 9:52 AM on January 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


So, why is it personal when asked to remove shoes indoors, but expected to remove sunglasses or a hat?
I'm not a hat-wearer, but I would never ask someone to remove a hat, because some of the hat-wearers I know keep their heads covered for religious reasons. And the only time I've worn sunglasses inside, it was because I had an eye condition that required me to keep my pupils dilated, and taking my sunglasses off *hurt*. I would have been irked if someone demanded I take my sunglasses off, mostly because I completely fail to see how my wearing sunglasses is harming them. But wearing sunglasses inside is kind of weird, since you usually aren't dealing with sun in your eyes when you're inside, so I generally did explain to people that I was keeping my sunglasses on because my pupil was dilated.
posted by craichead at 9:53 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


whats wrong with being asked to take off your shoes. do all detractors wear shoes in their own house? I suspect not. We remove our shoes at the door and put slippers on. not only does it help keep our expensive flooring clean etc its also comfier. Guests are also expected to take off their shoes, we dont offer slippers, but they can bring thier own with them when they vist, most of them do when in cold(8 or 9 months a year) or just to go i socks or barefeet. We also always remove our shoes when we vist, unless asked to do otherwise(that very rarely happens)
posted by stickyfingers62 at 10:01 AM on January 5, 2011


We're a shoes-off household, but it's to save kittens!

I grew up mostly leaving my shoes at the door, and wouldn't be offended if asked to remove mine at someone's house, but I try to be good at taking the cue from my host (is there a pile of shoes at the door, or a shoe rack, is my host wearing shoes, etc.) If I am unsure, I usually just ask. "Shoes off or on??" After a few times of being caught with holey socks, I am now especially mindful of their appearance, and pretty much assume that I will be shoe-less in other people's homes.

In my own home I take my outside shoes off, but it's mostly because we have a constant houseful of little kittens (we foster) and we need to be careful where we step sometimes. We will feel them (or their tails) underfoot much faster if we're not wearing shoes!

If the weather is bad and footwear is wet, my friends usually take them off at the door unprompted. I will ask kids to remove their shoes or boots, though. If the weather is fine, I tell people they can leave them on, it's up to them. We have no carpet, so a quick wash of the floor is easy to deal with if they do get dirty. My dog gets more mud on the floor than most of my visitors ever would.
posted by strega_bianca at 10:37 AM on January 5, 2011


So, why is it personal when asked to remove shoes indoors, but expected to remove sunglasses or a hat?

This mystifies me. I wouldn't ask my guests to remove one goddamned thing. If they want to leave their hat and sunglasses on, fine. I'd think it a bit odd but hey, I like odd people. Maybe that's why they're my friends in the first place. I'd ask if I could take their coat, but if they said no, then fine. They're you're *guests*. You invited them. Be a host. Be hospitable. They can wear, or not wear, whatever makes them comfortable. That's what you want for your guests, isn't it? For them to be comfortable in your home?

Seriously, if the cleanliness of your floors or the sartorial appropriateness of your guest's clothing choices is more important to you than making your guests feel welcome, don't have guests. because you're going to piss them off. Really.
posted by Decani at 11:55 AM on January 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


In the end it probably depends more on whether you are dealing with wet/dirty/muddy conditions outside, and whether or not you are dealing with carpet or hard-surface inside.
posted by TravellingDen at 12:09 PM on January 5, 2011


There will be a small area devoted to shoe-removing and a small selection of slippers and socks

Even as an ardent "I hate shoe removing" person, if you pointed out the slipper rack with, "There are some slippers, in case you're a shoes-off person," I would probably look down at your slippered feet, assume you'd prefer I wear the slippers and then do so myself. Because it was a real choice and not demanded, I wouldn't be annoyed, and if I had shoes I didn't want to take off, for whatever reason, I'd feel free to keep them on. So, from my point of view, anyway, win-win.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:59 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have good friends who have a no-shoes-on-carpet custom. Their entryway, kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room -- all contiguous -- are hardwood. The way their house works is that when you walk in the door, right in your sightline is the shoe rack (with everyone's shoes on it) and a little basket of slippers that says "Guest Slippers" above it. I've only seen the hosts need to ask people to remove their shoes if those people were under about five.

(My house is shoes-on. I have many friends whose houses are shoes-off. Some of them ask me to remove my shoes, some don't. I don't habitually remove my shoes unless the carpets are obviously SPOTLESS or unless there are strong cues; my four-year-old daughter does, though, of her own volition.)
posted by KathrynT at 2:10 PM on January 5, 2011


Just a crazy point here, but I don't take my shoes off until I go to bed. Because I'm clumsy and broken toes suck.
posted by ducktape at 4:05 PM on January 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't think it's rude. Saying "the person lives in SF, so European/Asian customs don't apply!" is a bit of BS as America is made up of many nationalities. I live in America and have a number of Asia and Russian friends. I expect to take off my shoes when I go over their house. Honestly, though, I did not know it was a culture thing.

Providing slippers would be good if it is optional. As someone said, wearing slippers may be gross to some, but if you don't FORCE someone to wear them, then what's the harm? Do make sure they're clear, though. Having slippers handy are good for the people (like those above) who are worried about their socks-smells or how attractive their feet are.

I think it's pretty rude of people to walk around in someone's clean house with their dirty shoes. Why not just smear mud on the walls, too, while you're at it? When I enter a house I usually ask, "should/can I take my shoes off?"
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 4:52 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, because wearing shoes indoors is EXACTLY the same as smearing mud all over the walls.
posted by Windigo at 6:47 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sounds like a good solution, otherworldly glow.
posted by salvia at 7:03 PM on January 5, 2011


I was raised in a house where I was not allowed to wear shoes myself throughout my childhood. So now I actually take my shoes off in my own house when I get home, or I don't feel like I've really arrived.

So, it doesn't bother me to be asked at others' places. But I do understand why it bothers some people, especially very appearance-conscious people. Your outfit without your shoes is not the outfit that you expected to be wearing, and maybe not the one you would have chosen to wear, even if you knew you had to choose a shoeless outfit.
posted by bingo at 2:20 PM on January 6, 2011


BTW, I went to a party the other day and called ahead to see if I would be able to wear my fabulous new boots that "made" my outfit (I'm one of the "gross toenail people"). I was told that it was a no shoe house, so I put on a pair of clean socks and took my boots off at the door----feeling suddenly less confident about my appearance---to find my friend and hostess in her fabulous black high heeled shoes which she said were clean therefore she could wear them!!!

I found it extremely rude that she wore any kind of shoe while I could not. Plus many of the other guests were not asked to take their shoes off, since it was too uncomfortable for the hostess to ask, and I was the stupid one who called ahead therefore unable to wear my boots.
posted by gidja at 8:56 AM on January 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


The varieties and causes of shoe-related offense are hilarious! Another Canadian here (feet denuded).

Will note that bedbugs, cockroach eggs, and e coli are *not* straw men, nor chimera.

Would shoe wearers here object to plastic slippers or clogs?
posted by nelljie at 11:02 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Would shoe wearers here object to plastic slippers or clogs?
I wouldn't want to wear plastic slippers or clogs myself, but it's fine by me if other people wear them. As a general rule I'm pretty live and let live when it comes to other people's choice of footwear. What does that have to do with this discussion, though?
posted by craichead at 1:46 PM on January 7, 2011


Thought they might feel slightly less repulsive than the padded or cloth slippers that might be offered.
posted by nelljie at 2:40 PM on January 7, 2011


[comments removed - this is not the thread where we fight about this, take it to email please.]
posted by jessamyn at 2:52 PM on January 9, 2011


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