Etiquette at Home: Solutions to The Great Shoe Debate

published Oct 20, 2011
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Should party guests remove their shoes at the front door? Ok, no question about it, this is a “thing”. An issue that people have strong opinions about, a definite yea or nay and it can feel like a “never the twain shall meet” situation. Our readers have had lots to say on the topic over the years, sharing plenty of smart advice, including a few solutions specifically for those hosts who prefer that their party guests remove their shoes that might also help keep the shoe wearing camp happy…

Inform People on the Invite:

Anyway…it’s about comfort level. I think that there is always a responsibility on the part of the host and the guest to be as polite and gracious and grateful as possible. The host is being grateful for people taking time out of their day to drag themselves there instead of whatever else might be happening and happy that people want to be there. The guest is being grateful for being invited, and wants to behave in such a way as to be invited back, in case he ends up having a good time and wants to be.
So, if you’re asked to take off your shoes, try it! It might not be so bad! But if it ends up not being a fun party (because of that or whatever else), silently promise yourself not to be available for the next one. If you’re hosting, a little warning on the invitation might not go amiss. If people are going to decline an invitation because of it, then you have spared both of you an uncomfortable evening! You can spend some other time with them elsewhere, right? – Curtis
I’m up front about my shoeless policy, and any invitations I send out are explicit about it, in fact I work it into the theme when possible. Sock hops and my fuzzy bunny slipper party were two of the notable ones. Of course, all of my orgies have been completely shoeless, and I’ve been very careful not to invite any boot fetishists over so there’s no conflict. – secret_asian
If people are going to ask me to remove my shoes, then they should warn me ahead of time, so I do not have bare feet on a winter day. (Or worse, ugly socks–the horror!) I do automatically take off my shoes in houses with babies, but I *know* the babies live there and can prepare! 🙂 – Fiona
I agree that if you are going to do this, at the very least, warn people. I once went to a bridal shower, and–surprise!–ended up having to take off heels and walk barefoot, with pasty white winter feet with no pedicure on a cold floor. It was hard to overcome those feelings of crankinesss. Personally, I feel this is a horrendous custom for a party–just mop the floor later!–but a warning would make it better. – Fiona

Provide Slippers:

I think the polite thing to do would be for the host to announce the no-shoe policy on the invitation so that guests may plan ahead. And provide slippers. Some people don’t like how their feet look or – like my dad – are diabetic and cannot remain barefoot due to circulation/sensitivity issues. – Anne
Hmm, I’m on the fence here. i am in total agreement with want to have people take off their shoes, but I HATE being in sock feet at someone elses house. I say if you are going to require people to take off their shoes, provide them with those fabulous felt slippers that Martha makes. Labor intensive, sure, but a fabulous way to start everyone off on the same foot (ugh!) and remedy the bare/stocking/sock foot that no one likes in a big crowd. – bsavarese
My mother-in-law keeps slippers around for everybody to wear when they come over to her house, and we have started to adopt this policy. It works nicely, especially in the winter months. Sometimes Ikea has cheap slippers and Pearl River is another option. I like Pearl River’s slippers because they don’t make my feet as hot. – Ainate
We are “no shoes in the house” people. That is how I grew up and how almost everyone I know grew up. It seems the normal way to me. Shoes are for outside. We wear slippers in the house. I agree that having extra slippers for guests is a nice thing to do. – Canadian
I think if the host wants shoes off at the door then you should respect their wishes. It’s their house. However, a good host should have enough slippers for all of the guests so they don’t have to walk around barefoot or in socks if they don’t want to. – Ken

Post a Sign:

I throw fun parties with good food and lotsa booze–if they have to be casual, shoefree fetes, so what? “Everybody is happy if nobody wears shoes,” is the sign I post. – kwj
USE SOME HUMOR – if you can’t handle the thought of multiple guests tracking icky street muck through your apartment from one end to the other (despite you hardwood floors – I’m speaking to you city folks here, who KNOWS what you stepped in on the way to my house). Last winter I had a party during a blizzard which all of my guests walked through to get to my apartment. So, I politely posted a “SOCK PARTY!!!” sign on my door. Although a few people grumbled at first, most of the guests didn’t seem to mind, and I just gave the others some extra alcohol.

In fact, it was so easy that I considered posting a ‘sock party warning’ on the invite to a party I recently hosted. It seemed only fair to let guests plan their socks (or lack of) into their outfits. – Hbomber

We have a fun sign in the entryway near the shoe bench that we picked up in Thailand. It has a picture of a shoe and script in Thai asking you to take your shoes off (even at the shops you’re expected to remove shoes). We put it up more for fun then as a real sign, since hardly anyone can read it. Do we insist that everyone who enter take their shoes off? Of course not. But most of our friends just do. Those that don’t, don’t. That’s ok too. – trillium
If someone is throwing a party at their home in the dead of winter, then they should put on the invitation, “arrive in boots, change in your swank shoes at the door”. That’s fair. That’s what shoe bags are for. If people forget, ask them to wipe the bottom of their shoes when they arrive. Have some of those white wash clothes rolled up on a silver platter near the door – scented or something – it would be cute. A small sign asking them to

“please wipe your bottom”

and underneath put:

“shoes, that is”.

A small silver trash can beneath. You can buy cheap white wash clothes anywhere. Get the thin el=cheapo kind. Toss them after the party or wash/bleach/save for next party. – Holly

And, one final thought:

While there will undoubtedly be more laughing, big hugs, bad singing, bad dancing, and popcorn passing at the “shoes-off” party…

…the “shoes-on” crowd will most certainly engage in more hard drinkin’ and dangerous fun. It will also, probably, be more sexily lit.

You choose. – Peter

Care to share your wisdom on the great shoe debate? Let us know how you handle the shoes at parties situation at your home in the comments…