The Great Shoe Debate


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This post on Vitamin G a couple of weeks ago really sparked my interest. It’s about the great “Shoes-off vs. Shoes-on” debate and talks about how germs are on our shoes but they are ALSO on our feet so taking our shoes off when we go to someones house will not prevent germs from spreading. She then asked her readers whether they like people to take their shoes off or not.

Scrolling through the comments was really funny because all of us Canadians were like, “Huh? You don’t take your shoes off ALL THE TIME.”

I grew up watching American sitcoms like Friends and I always thought it was so strange that the actors didn’t take their shoes off in their house. They would just walk on in, flop on the couch and plop their feet up on the coffee-table WITH their shoes on. Uhhh, gross. I just assumed that was because it was a TV show so when I learned (only like 2 years ago) that Americans do tend to leave their shoes on in the house I was really surprised.

I was wondering why Canadians take their shoes off and Americans don’t so I googled it. Well, for once, google wasn’t very helpful and the basic information that I got is it’s colder up here (duh) and we get more snow (double-duh) so peoples shoes are more likely to be messy. Which is a good point, I don’t want somebody walking all over my house with their wet, drippy shoes! But we take our shoes off in the summertime, too. *gasp*

When I go to a house party or just over to visit someone I will always take my shoes off, no matter how well I know the person, it’s just a given to remove your shoes at the door. If I’m going to a “fancy” house party I will bring a pair of clean shoes to wear inside or if I’m wearing shoes with no socks outside I will usually carry a pair of socks or slippers in my purse to put on. I would NEVER go into someones house with my shoes still on and I expect my guests to take their shoes off at the door! Just an FYI if you ever come visit me 😉

What about you guys? Do you expect people to take their shoes off when they come to visit you? What about if you’re going to a party or someone elses house? Would you be offended (like some people apparently are) if the hostess asked you to remove your shoes?

43 Responses

  1. Amanda says:

    I absolutely don’t ask people to take their shoes off in my house. In fact, I would be a little weirded out if they did, because going barefoot in someone else’s home seems kind of intimate for some reason! Plus, I just have weird things with feet, haha.
    Still, I understand why people request it…especially if they have light colored carpet. I find it kind of inconvenient to be ordered to remove my shoes if I have no warning (maybe I’m not wearing socks and it’s chilly), but I’m not *offended*
    It’s definitely a cultural thing I think! I’ve never been to Canada, so I had no idea you all generally kick off your shoes 🙂

  2. Samantha says:

    Growing up I was taught to remove my shoes when entering my house or someone else’s. Friends and neighbors do this too. So I guess it just depends in America where you live and what the norm is in that area. As far as where I’ve lived in both Texas and Missouri, it seems to be the thing to do.

  3. erin says:

    at my place – i do expect people to take their shoes off, most people oblige. Except my brother in law, he’s kinda jerky about it. But most people will do it, when we go to other people’s places, we usually do. But my parents don’t usually require it, but we usually do take shoes off. My sister’s, no one ever does. both me and my fiance think it’s kinda gross as well.

  4. i did not know that was a canadian custom – but i like it. i only take my shoes off once a day – when i’m done for the day. it’s even used as an excuse. honey why don’t you go to the grocery store without me? i’ve already taken my shoes off.

  5. Shannon says:

    We always take our shoes off when visiting my parents, but I think that’s just because they have newer carpet – I’m not sure though since it’s always been like that! But, at home, we take our shoes off once we’re “comfortable.” Meaning, once everything is done and it’s time to relax. other’s homes, we just do whatever they do. If they take their shoes off, then I’ll take mine off. Unless my shoes are messy, they usually stay on.

  6. Becky says:

    My husband and I typically take our shoes off when we get home, especially lately with all the gross snow/slush mess that we trek through to get to our door. We also take our shoes off when we get to his parents’ house, but I don’t take them off in my parents’ house (my husband does). Weird, huh? I guess it’s just knowing what different people expect – but like someone else said, I don’t expect my guests to do it unless their shoes are really gross. Plus since we live in a small apartment I figure there’s not a lot to clean so it’s not that big of a deal. We’ll see if my mind changes when we move into a bigger place!

  7. I think it’s a regional thing here in the US – I rarely keep my shoes on at someone’s house. I think it’s probably since we have messy weather so often (snow, rain, etc), so I would make quite a mess if I wore them in the house. I definitely NEVER wear them in my house either. My shoes go off right away when I walk in the door!

    If I go to someone’s house and am not wearing socks, I will bring a pair along in my purse to slip on since I am kind of grossed/weirded out by going bare foot in someone else’s house. I don’t even like to go barefoot in my house – I have wood floors so it’s kind of chilly!!

    Good topic!!

  8. I think it is so rude when people don’t take their shoes off when they come over to my home *cough*husband’sfriends*cough* 😉 I wouldn’t dream of stamping my dirty, wet and slushy shoes through anyone’s home, nor would I even wear my flip flops inside. Bottom line, if they touch the ground outside, they shouldn’t be touching the ground inside!

  9. Lizzie says:

    My family generally walk around in socks or slippers as a means of comfort, but it’s not an enforced rule. When people come over we never ask them to take their shoes off, and growing up, I only had one friend whose family requested that. I totally understand it when people ask me to take off my shoes, it’s just not the way that I grew up.
    It is interesting to hear that this seems to be a cultural norm in Canada. I guess that I never thought about it that way.

  10. Rachael says:

    Shoes are so uncomfortable, I love walking around in my socks. We just got new flooring so my mom makes everyone take off their shoes when they walk in.

    It’s funny that you mention it being a Canadian thing. My mom has a friend in Canada and when my mom came back she told me that she had to take her shoes off at everyone’s house when she walked in.

    Off topic, my mom’s friend in Cananda says that a lot of people there don’t flush everytime after they go to the bathroom. For example, they pee and close the lid, then later on they do their business again before they flush. They do it to save water, and my mom’s Canadian friend said a lot of Canadians do it..but I think it’s just her and her friends. I’ve never heard of anyone in the US doing this before. Any truth or are they just trying to go green?

    • Carol says:

      To quote Papa Focker “if it’s yellow, let it mellow”! I grew up not flushing at night (rude to wake everyone up) and I still do it to this day. Of course, I can now say it’s because I’m being environmentally friendly!
      As for the shoes…you never, ever, EVER presumed to wear shoes in someone’s home, even your own. Doesn’t matter light carpet, dark carpet, hardwood…shoes go off at the door. Hell, that’s half the fun of a house party – trying to find your coats on the pile on the bed, and your shoes in the pile in the entryway.
      Canucks rock!

  11. michele the great says:

    i rarely even wear my shoes, i wear my slippers. you know that already 🙂

    haha but yeah, you wear your shoes outside and therefore would track dirt/bugs/other outside things inside if you didnt take them off. its just common sense.

  12. mandy says:

    I almost always kick my shoes off and most people who come into our house do the same thing but I dont think its ever been requested. I will go barefoot around my own house and a few other houses but generally try to have a pair of socks or slippers on hand.

  13. Amber says:

    I almost always ask if I need to take my shoes off. With most of my friends I just know what I am supposed to do, but if not; I ask.
    When I think about it, it is kind of rude not to. Especially depending on the type of shoes you’re wearing and the weather. If it’s winter I would expect them to take off their shoes 100% of the time.

  14. Morgan says:

    I don’t know what Americans don’t take off their shoes at home! I always take off my shoes and actually have a “shoe box” by the front door to drop yours in when you arrive! It’s disrespectiful to track your nasty shoes through anyone’s house let alone plop them up on the sofa or coffee table!!!

  15. Chelsea says:

    I’m American– Texan, specifically. I take my shoes off at my house or family’s house but I would NEVER take my shoes off at a party or a strangers house.

    This is shocking!!! I can’t believe yall take socks and slippers with you! I’ve never heard of this!

  16. Rebecca says:

    Typically the first thing I do when arriving home after a long day at work is take my shoes off – not because I am worried about germs or concerned about cleanliness, simply because I am more comfortable that way (the second thing I tend to do is put on my comfy pants). I have some friends who require people to take their shoes off at the door, and others who don’t. If I am at a friend’s house just to relax and hang out, most likely my shoes will be off. The idea of taking my shoes off at a stranger’s house seems weird to me though (for instance if I were to go somewhere for a New Year’s Eve party), but if asked, I would have no problem removing my shoes.

  17. sanya says:

    Man, I totally find it weird when people on TV don’t remove their shoes upon entering a house. If I end up moving to the States, I don’t think I’ll be able to kick this habit.

  18. Em says:

    Growing up we wore shoes in the house if we wanted too. Mom always let guests keep them on as well, but her goal has always been that she hates the carpet and wants it gone.. 🙂 In my house, I really could care less if you leave your shoes on, but if they are dirty you better take them off or I will complain. Most people when I go to their houses it is just expected to take your shoes off… But at my dad’s mom’s house we always left our shoes on… I also think it depends on if people have an area for you to put your shoes, if they don’t I always assume they want you to keep them on. However, my shoes I generally off the SECOND I am home because I want to be comfy and I’m pulling on warm socks or slippers.. 🙂

  19. Kara says:

    I thought it was weird in TV shows too! I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one, lol.

    I always take my shoes off when I’m in my own house or someone else’s. My floors are messy enough as it is with all the dog hair floating around, I don’t need muck and mud added to it! I just wear slippers to keep my feet warm if I need to.

    However, if I’m a party, I look to see if everyone else is wearing their shoes. Then I go with the general consensus!

    On a random thought, isn’t it custom in Japan to take your shoes off as well?

  20. Anais says:

    If it’s a party I’m not going to expect that people take their shoes off because most likely they’ll have nice shoes on and not winter boots 😛 Other than that (if it’s a small group, family or friends), then yes, I’d rather have shoes off. I don’t want to do any extra cleaning 😛

  21. Melanie says:

    It’s funny, because I always wonder the same thing when I watch those tv shows and I DO live in America. One of the first things I do when I get home is take my shoes off. And it’s not because I’m worried about dirt or germs… it’s just more comfy and I should be comfy in my home. And I don’t mind if other people take their shoes off or not.

  22. eemusings says:

    I always thought this was kind of a cultural thing (definitely a no-no in Asian families!) I think it’s weird too. Especially if your house is carpeted. Among my friends it’s about 50/50, but generally in flatting situations people don’t mind (and I mean, some flats are just so grotty you wouldn’t WANT to go barefoot…) You can’t do much about it if you’re having a party though!

  23. Growing up in OR we are less likely to have super yucky weather, besides a lot of rain. Most people don’t mind if you keep your shoes on or take them off. I take mine off immediately if I see that there are a bunch of other shoes by the doorway, but typically, I’ll keep shoes on if they are clean and the person doesn’t care. Once I’m home though, I’ll take my shoes off and put on comfy socks. Overall, I’d say that where I grew up it seemed that only households in which the mom’s were sticklers about their house being spick and span were the ones where we had to take our shoes off. Interesting regional difference!

  24. GREAT post and I’ve really enjoyed reading the comments too! Growing up in North Texas I assure you I have NEVER been asked to remove my shoes nor been to anyone’s house where others even had their shoes off. (unless it was totes casual family) I do have a friend from Hawaii who removes her shoes at her own home, but never when she comes over here. (or at other friend’s homes)
    I see the point, but I’ve just never witnessed it. Do you ALWAYS take them off? Or only casual friend family events? I can’t imagine a house full of party guests all barefooted! So foreign to me!
    I take my shoes off in my own house, but then I put on house shoes. (slippers) In the summer I go barefoot, but only at home. (not even at family homes)

  25. Jessica says:

    Hahhaa, this post cracked me up because it’s not a topic I usually hear people discussing. I’ve also never really thought about it.

    I take my shoes off in my own house (along with jeans, pants of any kind) haha. I enjoy being comfortable and wearing shoes just isn’t.

    If I’m at a friends house that I feel comfortable with, the shoes come off, but if it’s a party, I definitely keep my shoes on!

  26. Emily Jane says:

    I noticed that when I moved to Canada too – we didn’t do that in the UK either, but I totally got into the habit since moving here, and when I was visiting friends in the states last year I was shocked to see them all leaving their shoes on and traipsing through the house!! I don’t *mind* that at all – when it’s hot and sticky outside I’d much rather leave my stinky feet *inside* my shoes… but for now, it’s a case of When in Rome… and the shoes come off 🙁

  27. I take my shoes off because it is comfy, and I expect others to take their shoes off because I don’t need dirt tracked on my carpet. I guess it’s a habit thing too – always done it, always will.

    Now if we could all just learn to take our pants off the second we enter someones home, the world would be a much happier place. 😉

  28. liane says:

    I’ve always taken my shoes off whenever I’ve entered into a home. I’m actually sitting here thinking of all my friends, and we are all canadian, from all different parts of the country though, and we all expect that shoes are taken off at the door.
    The only time I can think of that I don’t remove my shoes is when it’s the summer and I’m wearing flip flops (usually at a BBQ). But I’d never put my feet on any furniture and if I ended up sitting down inside, I’d take them off…

  29. Amy says:

    My apt is typically a “no shoes” place, and most of my friends just automatically take their shoes off when they walk in the door (same goes for me when I visit other people). That being said, I do not ask people to remove their shoes, or insist they do… if I had a guest who was uncomfortable being sans shoes, that would be fine. Thankfully, most of my friends are fine with my shoeless ways… so I don’t have to worry! 🙂

  30. Kelly says:

    Personally I grew up taking off my shoes in my house. Since I live in a cold weather climate it’s pretty disgusting to not- but then again, like you, I also take mine off in the summer. It’s not necessarily a germs thing and more a dirt + Kelly doesn’t really like to clean any more than necessary.
    Last year Eric and I had a housewarming party in February and we were so upset about the idea of people wearing their shoes on our new hard wood floors. We told people ahead of time we wanted them to take off their shoes, so they could plan to wear appropriate socks. I wish that it was common to take off shoes even at a party because people do get offended if they have to take off their precious heels haha.

  31. Caroline says:

    I grew up ALWAYS taking my shoes off, mother’s rules. It’s automatic even when I go to other people’s houses. A lot of the time they’re like, “oh, you don’t have to take your shoes off.” And I’m like oh… okay.. and then I feel weird and usually end up taking them off anyways haha. My mom tells people to take off their shoes when they come in, but I’m not sure if when I have my own house I would make others do the same.. but then again I might.
    I think my sister is commenting on this post at the same time.. and we are now having a group discussion about it hahah. Great post!

  32. Gracie says:

    I never take my shoes off in people’s homes, but I noticed when I lived in the midwest US that some people did ( I live in the deep South now and grew up in New England). I think it is very cultural.

  33. Meghan says:

    Just the thought of dirty shoes tromping through the house is making my skin crawl. Short of people having gross feet (eww) shoes off please!

  34. shoshanah says:

    Whenever I’m at my own place I take off my shoes first thing, but more for comfort on my part. So there are a lot of my shoes near the front door, but I would never expect someone else who came to my apartment to necessarily take their shoes off. And when I go to someone else’s house I won’t take my shoes off unless I’m at the house of a good friend (or close family) , otherwise I’ll keep them on. Honestly there’s only one house I can think of where the family I know who lives there actually asks people to do so.

    And not sure if you’ve ever seen it, but there’s actually a Sex and the City episode on this too. Carrie goes to a party where the host requires her to remove her sandals, and at the end of the night it turns out someone stole her shoes.

  35. victoria says:

    My mom was Canadian, but we lived in the UK, and we always had to take our shoes off at the door,as did visitors. Its something that I still do.I always go barefoot in the house, usually with slippers, as do the rest of my family.

  36. bodelou says:

    weird. this is a good little debate you’ve got going.

    for me it depends on the circumstance. when people come to my house for a visit or for a party i give them the preference. however, most people take their shoes off. if im at a nice party, a dinner party or a family gathering or something similar, people usually leave their shoes on. for me, i always take them off when im inside and ususally slide on my slippers. not so much in fear of germs, but for comfort. i like to be the most comfortable when i am inside and for me that is either in socks, slippers or bare foot. shoes are too constricting 🙂

  37. Sarah says:

    I don’t know about America/Canada, but in the UK and Ireland my experience has been that people keep their shoes on, unless their shoes are really mucky, of course.

    As a Muslim, however, we almost always request that people take their shoes off when coming into the house, because when we pray we put our heads on the floor and that’s not something you’d like to do on the dirty street, so likewise you don’t want people dragging in the dirt from the street into your home. I think culturally, across the Islamic world, it is generally regarded as disrespectful to keep your shoes on in someone’s home. That said, in all of the TV programmes / films made in Islamic countries that I’ve seen, they ALWAYS leave their shoes on, but I think that’s just cos shoes look better than socks, and looks are more important than realism in most of these films. 😀

  38. imerika says:

    I live in southern California. I NEVER take off my shoes. It doesn’t snow here and my shoes don’t get dirty. Usually though, I’ll slip into my slippers after I’ve been home for a little bit.

    I didn’t know Canadians took their shoes off. My Asian friend makes me take off my shoes when I’m in her apartment and I HATE it. Her place is FILTHY and I think I should be allowed to wear my shoes to protect me from her dirtiness. Still, I think it’s rude if people ask me to remove my shoes, especially if I don’t have socks on because then my feet pick up YOUR germs.

    Weird. Hasn’t anyone seen the Sex and the City episode where Carrie had to remove her shoes and then the shoes were stolen?

  39. J says:

    I take my shoes off at my apartment and parents house. Thats just the way i was brought up!! So I don’t understand why ppl don’t take off their shoes.

  40. Where I am from people do not wear shoes in the house, and they always take them off when they come in the door … it is considered rude not to.

  41. Caz says:

    haha in Canada I immediately take my shoes off, but not in Australia. No one does here and it drives me insane (STOP GETTING MY FLOORS DIRTY!!) but I’ve learned to live with it because it’s rude to ask people. I definitely prefer shoes off though 🙂

  42. Santiago says:

    I was born in South America and taking my shoes off was one of the strangest habits that I found in Canada. I thought only Asians did it, but apparently this is also practised in some Scandinavian countries, which confirms a bit the theory that it must be a habit adopted in some cold and snowy countries in order to keep the house clean.

    Not only Americans keep their shoes on, most other western countries also keep their shoes on.

    I personally like to take my shoes off when I’m by myself or with my family, but taking your shoes off in a party or when inviting friends is very strange. It just too weird to have adults walking around a house wearing only socks. They look like toddlers.