What to Buy

Please Don’t Wear Your Outdoor Shoes Inside My Home

For the love of all things sacred, just take them off!

by:
July 22, 2021
Photo by James Ransom

From a very young age, I was taught to always take my shoes off once I got inside the house. No matter whose home it was, you just didn’t wear your outside shoes inside. Three decades later and I still do this in my own home and ask guests to do the same. IYKYK.

People ask me if it’s an Asian thing (I’m Chinese). Sometimes I’ll say yes, but most of the time, I’ll just say it’s a cleanliness thing—because it really is.

OK, let’s take a minute to think about what your shoes come in contact with when you’re outside—cigarette butts, crusty gum, puddles, Fido’s feces, a questionable pile of something that you probably shouldn’t inspect too closely. And that’s not counting the things you can’t see, like germs and bacteria that can make you sick. Do you want any of that on your own floors? If you said no (and I really hope you did), then why wouldn’t you remove your shoes once you get inside?

If you said yes (and I hope sarcastically), then think about where your feet go once you’re inside. They’re not just on the floors, they’re up on your couch, your bed, your ottoman. Now imagine all the stuff your shoes stepped on as you crossed the street to grab coffee, now on your couch. Yeah, there’s no amount of disinfectant that would make me comfortable sitting there.

I get that not everyone enjoys walking barefoot so I ask everyone who comes over to take their shoes off and wear the slippers or flip flops I’ve left by the entryway, and most people happily oblige. But there’s always that one person who says, “Nah, that’s okay, I don’t want to dirty your slippers.” I mean, did I stutter? Not only does their logic not track, but the fact that they’re concerned about dirtying my slippers should be a red flag that their. shoes. are. dirty. I didn’t just clean my whole house only for one person to mess it up within five minutes.

The next time you’re visiting family and friends, please don’t be that person. Just take off your shoes, it’s not that hard. And if you’re hosting, you have my permission to request that your guests wear slippers that you’ve so thoughtfully laid out for them.

Not sure where to start? Here are some of my favorite household slippers for yourself or for guests—literally for everyone, because you should always take your outdoor shoes off.

1. adidas Unisex-Adult Adilette Comfort Slide Sandal, $27.17+

Call it a sandal, slide, slipper—whatever you want, as long as you wear it. I wear these around my house 24/7 and they’re super comfortable with tons of cushioning and a slightly molded footbed. It’s more expensive than I’d like for a slipper, but the unisex sizing and wide footbed means that it’ll work for a variety of guests.

Photo by Amazon

2. Riley Wool-Blend Slippers, $49

These wool slippers are my cold-weather go-tos when my Adidas Adilettes won’t cut it. They’re breathable yet warm, but if your feet get a bit clammy, you can easily throw them in the wash.

Photo by Riley

3. Sanuk Women's Yoga Joy, $19.48+

If you’re more of a flip-flip person, you’ll love the cushion-y footbed of these Sanuks—they’re made from yoga mat material. The soft leather straps means there’s no breaking in period, too.

Photo by Amazon

Do you wear your outdoor shoes indoors? (Please say no.)

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Jada Wong

Written by: Jada Wong

Jada is the market editor at Food52 with a decade of experience writing and editing for online publications such as Refinery29, Cosmopolitan, and Insider.

64 Comments

Sharon H. August 25, 2021
So you don't want my dirty shoes on your floor, but you want me to put my clean feet in dirty slippers when I don't have any idea who else (with foot fungus maybe) who has worn those slippers?
 
Abby August 24, 2021
If I lived on a farm, and I walked through the aforementioned manure, mud, urine, etc, there would be no conversation. Of course I would pull my boots off at the door. Hopefully, there would be a little room by the back door to clean up. But you see I don’t. I live
In a small town but everywhere I walk has a nice clean sidewalk, no one throwing garbage out overhead. I have a nice clean driveway, drains well, nobody out there spitting anywhere, far as I can tell. No manure; dog poops off the driveway. If I visit someone who lives like I do, I’d be insulted and have been when I’ve been asked. Also, im one of those that has to wear certain shoes just to walk. You never know what kind of health problems your visitor might have. As far as microscopic organisms are concerned, I don’t think, I really don’t think they are hitching a ride on the shoes.
 
haleh F. August 7, 2021
This is a very touchy subject and I understand…it’s not easy to ask someone to take off their shoes in your house. For me, it’s a custom thing I grew up with. Plus we lived in the Midwest where it’s common to take off ur shoes at the door especially in the winter with all the snow and sidewalk salt on your shoes/boots. Then I became a nurse and that really reinforced the need to remove shoes…who knows what’s microorganisms I’d tracked home!! For me it’s shoes off, slippers or socks on! My friends/family usually honor my request…there are a couple who don’t but enjoying their company is more important than having to do a quick swiffer/vacuum when they leave.
 
Robin August 2, 2021
I am a single working woman and I own a townhouse in a NYC suburb. It is shoes off at the door. Yes I care about keeping my home neat and clean but I feel that people are much more relaxed once their shoes are off.
 
Colleen C. July 30, 2021
I grew up in Northern Ontario, in a French Canadian home. ALL our friends & family removed shoes when entering any home. We see it as being clean. Outside, dogs pee, people spit, cigarettes,... why would you want this in your house? Of course, common sense dictates that if people have a health issue, they would not be expected to do so. Otherwise, it is just so icky...
 
Sharyn K. July 29, 2021
While I certainly would always want to respect my host's wishes, this sort of absolutism with thinly-veiled disgust of other people, rubs me the wrong way. This may be because I grew up with a father who could not remove his leg brace/attached shoe or else he could not walk, and my mother suffers from foot issues and cannot remove her shoes easily. Also I have friends who use wheelchairs. I can't imagine denying people entrance to my home when I could clean after they leave.
 
Catherine J. July 30, 2021
You are absolutely correct. My mother, aunt and sister suffer from a condition that makes it impossible for them to walk without shoes on. Even if they get up in the middle of the night they have to put their shoes on to walk to the bathroom. Slippers don't cut it. It must be their specially made shoes. I take my shoes off when I'm in the house but I would never ask that of a guest.
 
Joanne J. July 29, 2021
So I was raised with the idea that stuff is far less important than people…especially guests! Sure, kids runners covered in grease or muck come off…but honestly their stinky feet in sweaty socks aren’t pleasant IMO. The Queen of England has never removed her shoes, I’ve never removed my shoes and the sickest people in our country CLEAN TOO MUCH.ask John Travolta about that one (sad story) . Now, of course I remove my shoes if I put my feet up on a sofa …but otherwise …get over this entire dirt…germ phobia ..it’s annoying, frankly
 
anne M. July 29, 2021
It's not germ phobia. It's perfectly understandable that someone doesn't want dog shit or mud or nasty crap on their floors or carpet. If you don't mind, do whatever you want in your house. But the writer's point is that if you're a guest in someone's home, you should honor their request.
 
jpriddy July 29, 2021
I have watched enough Korean/Asian television to recognize that this is widely accepted in many parts of the world. My grandmother did the same, plus provided paper shoe covers for those unwilling/unable to remove shoes. It's not a new idea. Though I am nearing 70 and have had plantar fasciitis (and the inevitable advice to never go barefoot again), I go barefoot in our house. I provide a place to sit and remove shoes and store them just outside our front door in an enclosed porch. Even so, I've had people who refuse to take the hint and have tracked grass cutting, mud, and chicken shit into our home. Not fun.
 
Guss July 29, 2021
This is all opinion. Does anybody have any proof this is a health issue? I wear my outdoor shoes indoors all the time and have no problem with it.
 
jpriddy July 29, 2021
It is also a custom in many parts of the world.
 
Guss July 29, 2021
I realize that. Is it a cultural custom in the U.S.?
 
CAndreaW July 29, 2021
I don’t need proof…I live in San Francisco, so with the homeless living on the street with no sanitation facilities, and the arrogant, entitled who just refuse to pick up after their dogs, and people literally dumping their garbage on the sidewalks, these streets are the filthiest anywhere. I don’t want that energy in my house…
 
Guss July 29, 2021
Still your opinion. I would guess most people don't live in a downtown location. I live in the suburbs and don't have anything like what you are talking about.
 
CAndreaW July 29, 2021
Well you are very blessed indeed, because in SF it is crystal clear that only the very wealthy/communities are spared from this issue. I live in SOMA, (the land of the million dollar studio condo) which has had literally millions of tech money poured into it in the past 10 years (I’ve lived here for 15 years, SF for about 30) Despite all the “new” money, young millionaires and luxury development, this area is the dirtiest it’s ever been. The city’s concern seems to be focused on keeping these issues away from the old money areas: Pacific Heights, Russian Hill, Presidio Heights, Telegraph Hill, and Forest Hill, areas that care more about their environment, I guess…
 
Guss July 29, 2021
I live in a middle-class neighborhood north of Seattle. This is getting way off-topic. Good day.
 
KLS July 30, 2021
Do you work in a hospital? Because I bet if you did you'd be stripping off completely before entering you home
 
Guss July 30, 2021
WTH are you talking about? Are you for real? Seriously...get help.
 
Lori July 29, 2021
I don’t mind if someone wants me to take my shoes off in their home, but I do mind not being given any warning. I suffer from foot issues and never walk in nAre or just stocking feet. I should be given the opportunity to bring a pair of inside shoes. As far as my own house, no little kids at home and us adults don’t crawl around on the floor. We have always had at least one (and usually two) large indoor dogs. It would be hypocritical for me to require people to remove their shoes for any hygienic reason.
 
M S. July 27, 2021
I can see both sides of this argument. I personally do not have a problem with people requesting me to remove my outdoor shoes in their house, though it is not my practice. I would like to be forewarned to bring my own house slippers, as I do not find many of the provided ones large enough, or comfortable or safe enough as I get older. But I have a couple questions about how to approach a couple of situations gracefully. I have friends who only go bare foot in their house, leaving shoes at the front door. I have learned to leave mine at the front door, but then later in the visit they invite you into the backyard. Of course they have yard flip-flops by the back door, but none that would come close to fitting my size 11 feet. I end up going back to the front door, gathering my own shoes up and carrying them to the back door. Then carrying them back to the front on reentering the house. It just seems a bit silly. Also, though often included in the invite, I would never take my aging parents as all the options here seem not to take into consideration how difficult just getting shoes on in the first place is for an octogenarian or a nonagenarian.
Any suggestions?
 
Author Comment
Jada W. July 28, 2021
I have family and friends who do the same thing and I'm definitely accommodating in these situations! I make sure to tell them that they should keep their shoes on or just step on the door mat a bit more if it's particularly muddy or wet outside. As for parents and elderly, I would very much prefer them to keep their shoes on and be comfortable above all else!
 
M S. July 29, 2021
Thank you for your reply.
 
Lyz July 26, 2021
I wear outdoor shoes in the house and don’t care if anyone else does. After all
I do have a dog and indoor/outdoor cat. What I can’t stand is when someone puts their handbag on a counter or table where food can be served especially after I ask them to please put their bag on a chair or bench. Then I have to disinfect the area!!!
 
irma July 26, 2021
I don't wear shoes in the house either, and when I come home, I take my shoes off at the door and wipe them with Lysol Wipes or some other kind of disinfectant spray.
 
pzm July 26, 2021
A few years ago, MS. Manners wrote an article about asking guests to
remove their shoes when entering your house. I wish I would have saved it. One comment was when did it become necessary to invite people to visit but not their feet...or something like that. I have large dogs and a cat all over my wall to wall carpeting. I vacuum usually twice a week and have the rooms shampooed professionally twice a year. I never ask anyone to take off their shoes. If they wish to, they can. Sometimes I have knitted slippers from church sales for people to wear and then I launder them. But I never ask people to do so in my home. Having the pleasure of having friends, relatives, etc. visit is worth a 15 minute vacuuming after they leave. Of course there are some health reasons for some families to request this but most just don't want to have your freely dirty their carpets or floors.
 
Fiona F. July 26, 2021
Does anyone know where on the Food52 site you can order chill pills? Cause a lot of you need to take one. The subject is shoes, not the Question of Palestine.
 
kmkane123 July 26, 2021
Some people are really fanatic about this. Me? Unless they are wearing lug soles, golf shoes, track shoes, or are covered in mud or snow or otherwise things that can hurt the floor, I let it go. I wash my floors often because they are wood and any amount of dust can scratch them up.

Here’s an odd situation: I was once invited to a birthday dinner party and guests were told that formal attire was required. So seven of us show up together all dressed up, and when we got there were told to remove our shoes. So a dress suit and upscale dresses, but barefoot. Ridiculous!
 
Shalan N. July 26, 2021
It’s a constant struggle trying to get people to remove their shoes or put on shoe covers - especially the older generation set in their ways, and quick to take offence.

The display of stupidity is astounding when people are confounded by a simple entry bench with space for their outdoor shoes, and/or shoe covers prominently placed.

“My shoes are clean”
“I won’t walk on your carpet”
“No one else requires me to remove my shoes” - neither do I. Use the covers.
“It’s a quick visit”
“It’s slippery in my socks” - use the covers.

The point is simple - how would you like it if I messed up your home - without intending to?

I don’t splash pee all over your toilet seat or guest bathroom floor. I wash my hands after using the loo.

I most certainly don’t break or touch your beautiful objet d’art.

Nor do I accept an invitation when sick with something contagious.

It’s good manners on both ends - being a good guest and a good host takes fine navigating, but at the end of the day, it’s also about comfort, cleanliness and hygiene.

Off my stallion ~
 
salval20 July 26, 2021
I honestly can't fathom why people think it's rude to keep a no-outdoor shoes policy. I think it's rude to track the outdoors into someone's home. I've never had an issue asking people to take their shoes off. My friends and family do the same in their homes, for the most part. I buy inexpensive (pretty) house slippers at the Japanese market (1-3 dollars) and let guests take them home after wearing. If a guest has mobility help, such as a wheelchair, of course that changes things. I cringe at TV shows when characters lie on a bed with shoes or put their feet on the sofa. Is it a lost in translation thing? I've noticed many Americans don't take their shoes off in the house.
 
rox L. July 31, 2021
You must be my doppelganger. I feel exactly the same.
 
amber July 23, 2021
I have severe OCD so issues like this are common for me. I could not wear slippers that someone else had used, nor could I walk barefoot on other people floors so always carry slippers if visiting. I once had an engineer come to service the boiler, he walked up my carpeted stairs into the spare room with dog excrement on his boots! The company had to replace my carpets, it was also very distressing for me.
 
Author Comment
Jada W. July 23, 2021
I'm so sorry to hear that happened, Amber! I'm glad the company took responsibility and replaced the carpets!
 
Nancy D. July 23, 2021
I would happily bring my own house shoes if I knew in advance. I have plantar fasciitis and don't walk sock-foot or barefoot in my own house. If I didn't know in advance, I would turn around and leave because I am not about to wear slippers or whatnot that multiple people have worn. I live in Texas, not a place where people are in socks all year round!
 
Author Comment
Jada W. July 23, 2021
I hear you, Nancy! I definitely accommodate guests in these situations—the last thing I'd want is to make someone feel uncomfortable or unwelcome.
 
Mirella July 23, 2021
Yes! Jada, you have to realize that no small number of people have podiatric problems that prevent them from going barefoot or walking without substantial cushioning.......this is not a rare problem but becomes an embarassing one for your guests if they are not warned in advance. It would probably satisfy everyone involved if you offered your guests some of the disposable "booties" to put over street shoes used by workmen (and women).
 
kmkane123 July 26, 2021
So what do you do? Relax for a bit and let them wear their shoes? Or supply new shoes for every person who comes by?