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.

30 Comments

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).
 
MarieGlobetrotter July 23, 2021
I grew up in Belgium, France and Germany where wearing outside shoes inside is a big no no. Guests just take them off. I have always find it strange visiting the US or watching America tv shows that people don’t take their shoes off. I just find it a little disgusting, especially on rugs.
 
Mirella July 23, 2021
...........you may find customs around the world "disgusting" but I am sure that I could list many European customs that Americans fine "disgusting" too. Perhaps you could rephrase.
 
[email protected] July 22, 2021
This can be rather delicate? I would think that close Family and Friends who frequent your home - yes , they should honor your wishes, irrespective if they agree. However , why not just vacuum and clean after they leave? Shoes/feet are not on your table, nor helping prepare food, not on your furnishings or bedding, etc. Feet/shoes are on the floor. Just clean the floors after they leave - and spend your efforts making sure hands are clean. They will be Everywhere in your Home.
 
Author Comment
Jada W. July 23, 2021
It's definitely a delicate balance, and I always clean the house and floors after guests leave—having shoes off just makes it easier.
 
CAndreaW July 22, 2021
I agree 1000 percent with everything Jada said…Don’t even get me started on wearing street shoes in the bathroom…
 
Fiona F. July 22, 2021
I lived in Taiwan in college and I loved this practice. I can't get anyone in my family to do this now, but the grossness of what's on our shoes is real. I do however not feel comfortable wearing slippers/flip flops that other people have worn (read: fungal diseases!) I am happy to un-shoe if I can bring my own slippers to your home. Foot fungus is a b***h to get rid of. I also think some people have feet issues they don't want others to see and I respect that. So yeah, I see both sides.
 
emily July 23, 2021
There is no need to be barefoot - guests generally keep their socks on. If they aren't wearing socks, they were likely wearing flats or sandals that exposed their feet anyway.
 
Ruth July 22, 2021
Oh, this makes me so uncomfortable. I would never ask someone to take their shoes off if they prefer to keep them on. When people ask, I say it's up to them. I do go mostly barefoot (or wear socks in colder weather) in my home, but I feel it's terrible manners to ask that of my guests. It's partly, too, that some of my friends and family have cats, to which I'm allergic, or floors that aren't super clean, and I really don't want to walk barefoot on cat dander or dirty floors. So I don't feel comfortable asking people to be barefoot on my own floors. Just another point of view, while respecting that of the author.
 
Author Comment
Jada W. July 22, 2021
Thanks, Ruth! Those are valid points and yes, it really comes down to your comfort level!
 
Sir T. July 22, 2021
This is one of those first impressions that makes most uncomfortable. To have someone take the shoe off in a place not their own. I so get it. I visit family in rural areas. Depending on the person if they are VERY particular, it's usually shoes inside if preferred. I bring my own Dr Scholl house shoes whereever I visit just in case. But it's usually in these areas, the streets are basically clean, I assume "stuff" is scrubbed off by the time we walk to the front door.

But in the city where I live, it's understandable if we require you to take those shoes off. People walk their dogs and let them go everywhere. Then when it rains, there is turd soup and brown rivers all over the sidewalks. Then the urine: the smell! I have no nose hairs, it singed them off. I can only imagine what byproduct is left on the sidewalks and cement. Our shoes are like stamps, when we step in a puddle of water, we make prints. Imaging what's left under a shoe, coming into a house, with carpeting, with germs and bacteria saying "We have a new home!" We explain this to any and everyone who knows us so not too much of a big deal. If its someone coming to fix plumbing for instance, one can get Shoe Covers Disposable Recyclable -100 Pack Hygienic Shoe & Boot Covers Waterproof Slip- Resistant right? The kind one would wear in a new home showing, an operating room, hospice, a clean lab right? Just slip on and forget about it. And disposable. And slip resistant. And if all else fails, grin, keep a straight face, and bare it. Clean up when they leave. No one has ever passed away from germs on the floor. Not since the 70s and 80s that I know of.
 
Ros July 22, 2021
Oh my god please tell me you give people advance warning on that. Disposable shoes don't necessarily fit orthotics, and, while I'm willing to bring indoor shoes (which I wear at home), I'm not willing to inflict pain for days by not wearing shoes!
 
Author Comment
Jada W. July 22, 2021
My houseguests these days are family and close friends who know the routine, but I totally hear you on the orthotics part—I definitely accommodate guests who have medical situations!
 
Laura B. July 22, 2021
kinda wondering what you do when your disabled friends visit in their wheelchairs? grin and bear the filth from the wheels, ?? make them crawl?? forbid them from visiting... seriously??
 
Author Comment
Jada W. July 22, 2021
Thanks for your comment, Laura. I may have a shoes-off rule but there’s another rule that always supersedes that and that’s being accommodating of my guests’ physical and medical needs.
 
emily July 23, 2021
Do you HONESTLY think any of those situations are remotely realistic? Like, really? I don't like shoes in my apartment but if a friend said they'd rather keep their shoes on I'd simply accept it and move on - I don't think anyone takes it so seriously that they'd demand you go shoeless or kick you out, so there is absolutely no universe in which I'd demand a friend in a chair give up such an essential item. Many chair users use wheel covers inside to avoid the black scuffs on flooring anyway, so this has literally never been an issue.
 
vodkatonic July 22, 2021
I get it, I really do, but as someone who has severe eczema on their feet, this is my nightmare- I have no wish to expose my frankly gross feet, spread skin flakes all over your hallway/house slippers or have a reaction that will result in pain for days because my feet came in contact with something they hate ( most things). If you really can't make an exception for a guest, then you should at least let them know before hand to bring their own house shoes, or have shoe covers, some people at least are not doing it because they are so attached to shoes, but because they don't really want to get into a discussion about a skin condition.
 
Author Comment
Jada W. July 22, 2021
I hear you. Most of the people coming over are family and close friends who feel comfortable telling me about certain medical situations in advance and in private, and I definitely accommodate them. There always going to be exceptions to the no-shoes rules in my house, this would be one of them.
 
rox L. July 22, 2021
My family & friends know our wishes and are invited to bring slippers they prefer or shoes not worn outside and change when arriving. I will happily get on my hands and knees to clean the soles of my aunt's shoes for her because she wears orthotics but stills wants to respect our wishes. I've had 30 guests and my floors are clean afterwards. I show my appreciation to each guest for respecting our home
 
emily July 23, 2021
I don't know why everyone is assuming you have to be barefoot. Unless you were already wearing sandals and exposing your feet, you're likely wearing socks and would keep those on.
 
Gaby July 22, 2021
How do you ask people to take their shoes off? Serious question because I always want to ask people but scared of their reaction.

I usually wear house slippers like the Moku ones shown above. I have flip flops that I use only to throw out the trash or pick up the mail, that sort of thing. I am a neat-freak, like Monica level neat-freak.
 
Author Comment
Jada W. July 22, 2021
I feel ya, Gaby—and I do the same thing too! I wear different slippers inside my house and when I need to go outside to grab mail, take out trash, etc.

So I just ask if they wouldn't mind taking off their shoes and/or wearing slippers. I'll explain that I just cleaned the house (sometimes I'll even say the house isn't clean so I don't want to dirty their socks!) or that the other guests have young kids and they eat off the floor. But really, it doesn't matter how I ask because most (if not, all) of the people coming over these days are family and close friends who are more than happy to help keep the space clean.
 
rox L. July 22, 2021
Thank you Jada. We follow the same choice in our home and I find our guests don't mind. I always remind everyone when invited
 
emily July 23, 2021
"Do you mind taking your shoes off? I made space on the rack near the door if you'd like to leave them there." I've never had a problem phrasing it that way and the shoe rack is enough of a visual cue that most people take them off unprompted. Most apartment dwellers are used to being shoeless anyway, assuming they aren't subjecting their downstairs neighbors to clomping around in street shoes.
 
Sir T. July 22, 2021
Plastic hair nets/ bags work too! You can get plenty for cheap. Have that person who doesn't want to take their shoes off and slip on one of those. Offer it as the last option if you are conservative with disposables.
 
Author Comment
Jada W. July 22, 2021
Good idea, Sir T. I'd prefer to avoid single-use plastic and agree that it should be the VERY last option :)