If You’re Going to Wear Your Shoes In People’s Homes, At Least Follow These 5 Rules

published Jun 20, 2019
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Forget the debate between cat and dog people, or night owls and early risers. The real dividing line is between shoes-on and shoes-off households.

People in the No Shoes in the House camp are adamant that shoes have no place beyond the front door. While I see their point, and generally take off my shoes when I go inside the house, I’m definitely not hanging a “Please Remove Shoes” sign at the door—if guests prefer to wear their shoes, let them wear shoes, I say.

Maybe it completes their outfit. Maybe they have a cultural, medical, or physical reason for keeping their shoes on. Maybe their name is Carrie Bradshaw and they feel like Manolos belong on their feet, not in the hall. Besides, with as much mud as my big dog tracks in, it’s a losing battle keeping the 130-year-old floors clean, so it’s kind of pointless to fret about a few more specks of dirt. I want guests to be comfortable, and I’ve never been a fan of pulling off my shoes at other people’s houses (especially in the winter when, like us, most of our friends have cold floors in their old houses) so I’m not going to ask people to do something I don’t do myself.

But! (Yes, here’s the big but.) If you’re going to wear shoes in other people’s houses, there are still some golden rules. I hereby declare them as such:

Ask first

Maybe you wear shoes around your house, and so do your own guests. But take note when you walk into someone else’s place.  Do they have a shoe rack or happy little pile of shoes by the door? Chances are, you’re in a shoes-off house. Maybe they’re cool with your sneakers, but it’s just the nice thing to ask.

The rule you grew up with about feet on the furniture? Still applies.

If your host is nice enough to let you be you, shoes and all, repay the kindness by keeping shoes off furniture. Maybe you like to curl up on the couch, or you’re settling in for a nice long conversation and that pouf is just crying out for you to prop your feet up on. Wait. Before you do, consider where your shoes have been lately, and either pop them off, or keep them on the floor where they belong.

(Also, they don’t belong on furniture even if they’re not on your feet. Filed under: seriously, what? I’ve had a weekend guest come in with their luggage and drop their tennis shoes on the dining table, true story.)

Credit: Minette Hand

One does not step on bathmats in shoes

Since completing our bath renovation, I love show and tell time when guests come over. But I don’t love when they blitz into the bathroom in their outside shoes and trample all over the clean, fluffy white bath rugs—the ones we put our fresh, clean, wet, bare feet on after showers. I don’t want to be a jerk—after all, they’re complimenting our pretty new bathroom, so I zip it (or I rush in ahead of them and pick up the mats).  So, if you find yourself in a friend’s WC with your own shoes on, please, for the love of all that is sanitary, don’t step on the rugs.

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

Do the courtesy wipe

Do door mats do much good? Chances are, they’re just spreading filth around even more, but the fact remains it’s the courteous thing to do when you walk in. Let your host see you making a genuine effort to wipe your feet and they won’t regret their shoes-on rule.

And if they’re seriously filthy, just  take them off

Even if your guest says yes you can keep them on, take a look at your shoes. If they’re crusted in mud from your hike yesterday, or it’s pouring out and they’re soaked, now’s not the time to breeze on in. Don’t worry about your mismatched socks and just leave them at the door.