Shoes on or off?: A surprisingly contentious issue

Of all the parenting debates, the issue over whether or not to remove your shoes before entering a house is an especially divisive one.

shoe-removal-etiquette Photo: iStockphoto

When you enter another person's home, is it shoes on or shoes off? It's a surprisingly contentious issue and, as we near the holiday season, one that merits discussion.

I grew up in a household where shoe removal was not mandatory—and it still isn't with my family. If your shoes are dry and complement your outfit, then they can stay on, so long as they're not on the furniture.

However, I didn’t realize how strongly divided people were about footwear. For example, a woman living in Great Britain runs a blog called Shoes Off at the Door, Please which lists 37 reasons why people should remove their shoes when entering a house. She lists cleanliness and safeguarding the floors, but also that it simply creates a “more relaxing atmosphere.”

Few of us are that adamant about it, but she's right—it is cleaner to remove your shoes. A study reference by Good Morning America found that there are more germs on the bottom of your shoes than on a toilet seat. Bacteria lives longer on shoes because, as we walk around, we collect more debris that germs can feed on. But it’s not just the germs we have to be cautious of since shoes can also track allergens from outside.

As I stand here in my running shoes, I now feel a little grossed out. I used to be better about taking off my shoes at the door, but I don’t have little kids crawling around anymore, so I get lazy.


The shoes-on crowd is small but vocal. My friend Julie Cole tells people to keep their shoes on when visiting her house because with six kids “dirty floors are the least of my problems.” Fashionista friends do not want to remove an important part of their outfit, and if they are wearing dresses they don’t want to commit the faux pas of walking around in stockings, which do make feet look particularly ugly. In the summer I'm always little flummoxed at friends’ houses—am I supposed to walk around in bare feet? Isn’t that also a little nasty?

Your decision to allow people to wear shoes inside the house may partially be a cultural one. In Japan, Thailand and the Philippines it would be considered rude to wear your shoes indoors. In the US and Britain, people generally keep them on as well. However, according to a quick Google search, the majority in Sweden, the Czech Republic and Canada remove their footwear.

When I asked my British mother what she thought, she gave me the side-eye and told me it was rude to ask people to take off their shoes. I immediately wondered if I had ever asked her to remove her boots at my house.

So, what’s your opinion? 


Emma Waverman is a writer, blogger and mom to three kids. She has many opinions, some of them are fit to print. Read more of her articles here and follow her on Twitter @emmawaverman.

This article was originally published on Nov 07, 2014

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