Shoes on or off – what is the proper footwear protocol when entering someone's home?

Shoes on or off – what is the proper footwear protocol when entering someone's home?


Whether for comfort or cleanliness, we all have our reasons for either shedding their shoes at the door or leaving them on.


When it comes to dropping by the home of a distant family member, new friend, or co-worker, though, we need to be aware of shoe etiquette, as many are offended if you fail to remove footwear after entering. 


Why do some keep their shoes on indoors?


There are a variety of justifications people have for keeping their shoes on whilst in the house. Some are self-conscious about being seen barefoot, whilst others feel the soles of their shoes are more hygienic than the sweaty underside of their foot.


Most important, they may have a condition which mandates they wear footwear whenever possible. Those in the midst of a painful bout of plantar fasciitis often prefer to wear shoes with supportive soles, and diabetics with peripheral neuropathy are required by doctors to have them, as unfelt bruises and cuts can quickly become gangrenous.

Shoes can introduce more than just dirt to your home


Even so, those who recoil at the thought of someone wearing footwear inside their home have legitimate reasons for taking this stance.


Keeping floors clean can be a herculean task, as the great outdoors is full of dirt, mud, water, and other debris. When brought indoors consistently by shoe wearers, it can be incredibly difficult to keep a house tidy.


Worse yet, recent studies suggest shoes bring more than just dirt and gravel into the home – according to researchers at the University of Houston, 40% of shoe soles examined carried the C.diff bacterium, a strain which resists many antibiotics.


University of Arizona scientists did similar research, finding over nine different strains on the shoes they studied. Of them, two stuck out – E.coli (the 0157:H7 variant is responsible for causing severe gastrointestinal illnesses) and Klebsiella pneumoniae, which can cause a deadly form of pneumonia.

Freaked out by this revelation? If taking shoes off in your home is not practical, minimise their impact by acquiring a doormat from Not only will you have a place to sweep the dirt and germs off your feet, but it will also spruce up the appearance of your front door.       

Err on the side of caution with hosts


Whether you are attending a party thrown by a friend or a family gathering hosted by an in-law, nobody wants to be ‘that guest’.


If you are unaware of their footwear policy, it’s best to play things conservatively by taking your shoes off at the door. This way, you’ll avoid unintended offence – if they permit footwear indoors, they’ll intercede whilst you are in the act of removing your shoes.


Have one of the medical conditions mentioned earlier in the article? Call ahead and explain the situation – this way, they won’t be taken aback as you stroll inside with trainers still firmly affixed to your feet.


Even if you are permitted to keep shoes on, still give your soles a good scrubbing on their doormat, as this will remove any bits of debris you picked up on the way to their house.