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20-40-60 Etiquette---I need my shoes!


(To ask an etiquette question, please email Helen at

By Callie Gordon, Lillie-Beth Brinkman, Helen Ford Wallace

QUESTION: When I went to visit my friends, they asked me to take my shoes off when I came inside their house. Is this a new custom?

CALLIE’S ANSWER: For some, it is customary and polite to remove your shoes when entering their home. This is mostly a preference.

LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: This isn’t a new custom, but I don’t think it’s as widespread in the United States as it is elsewhere. There is plenty of debate about the subject, however. If the hosts spring this custom on guests without a warning, then guests might feel uncomfortable revealing the foot problems that shoes were hiding. Or they might feel less pulled together in whatever they were wearing. Some people also have circulation or health issues that require shoes or support from shoes.

Asking guests to take off shoes is likely a way to keep homes clean from the outside — whether weather conditions or just grime from city streets. However, it’s not a good idea to do so without warning them ahead of time or providing slippers for them to use while in the house.

HELEN’S ANSWER: Usually when guests are asked to remove shoes in a private home, paper slippers or socks are provided so that the guests will not be uncomfortable with their feet exposed.

If you are in the situation that your ingrown toenail will show or the fact you have not had a pedicure or clipped the long toenails, then politely ask for some foot coverage. 

Because of light carpets, allergies and dirty shoes, guests should be alert to their hosts’ wishes and try to be accommodating.

GUEST’S ANSWER: Patti Leeman, community volunteer: The simple answer is that taking off shoes upon entering a home is not a NEW custom.  For many years, even centuries, this has been the custom in homes in Germany, Scandinavian countries, Japan, Korean, Turkey and more recently Hawaii.

Also, this is often the practice in the Northeastern states, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado and states where there are heavy snows. Mud rooms are common in Colorado and the snow country for shoes and boots to be left as one enters the home.

Oklahoma has more SAFE ROOMS for storm protection than MUD ROOMS for floors.

Whether this is even a new custom in the U.S depends upon where you live and whether there is a medical need for keeping out toxins and pesticides that come in contact with the shoes, which can be harmful to diabetics and those with other medical conditions.

Not finding a rule of etiquette against such a practice, my thought would be to check with the hosts to see if this is a theme party, if there is a medical need, etc., and follow their wishes. “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” 

However, it is always a good idea to wash your feet when you visit a friend’s house!

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