Do You Take Off Your Shoes Before Entering Your Home?

When I was growing up, my family hosted a number of foreign exchange students, including several from Japan (as I was studying the language). I think that was around the time we stopped wearing shoes at in the house.

This habit was further reinforced when I studied abroad in Japan. I have a particular memory during college in Kyoto when I left my apartment with a bunch of Japanese friends before realizing I had forgotten something inside. I dashed into the living room with my shoes on, and there was an audible gasp behind me. It really is a no-no to wear outdoor shoes inside in Japan.

Ever since, I try not to wear shoes in the house at all (recently I’ve started wearing cozy slippers, as my feet easily get cold). I haven’t really known if there are any benefits to this behavior, though…until I read this recent article, which includes a quote from professor Gabriel Filippelli saying that, “There’s been studies that swab the bottom of shoes and something like 99% of the shoes test positive for fecal material.”

99%! Those are pretty good odds. The article goes on to talk about tracking lead, copper, zinc, and pesticides into your house.

This definitely reinforced our decision not to wear shoes inside (and to encourage guests to do the same if they’re comfortable with it–we have a bench near the front door to make it easy for people to take off their shoes). The article also mentioned the value of wet mopping on a regular basis, which we need to do.

Do you wear shoes inside your home? Do you ask guests to do the same?

12 thoughts on “Do You Take Off Your Shoes Before Entering Your Home?”

  1. Jamey,
    I definitely grew up wearing shoes around the house, but since living in England and later reinforced by dating and eventually marrying an Asian woman, I NEVER wear shoes that have been outside around the house. For the past, nearly 30 years, it’s slippers in the home.
    Cheers,
    Joe

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  2. Very interesting point!.
    We as a family all take our shoes off at the door. I would prefer it if visitors did also but in-laws don’t always do it .
    I like to take my shoes off entering someone else’s house but observe if they are wearing shoes themselves , in which case I ask if they would like me to remove them

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  3. I should take my shoes off immediately when I get home, as I work in a hospital, but I don’t always think to do so. I’m also learning as I ungracefully navigate through my early 40s that my feet tend to hurt after a long day much more than they did before.

    Whenever I go to another person’s house, however, I insist on removing my shoes because I feel it is a polite thing for me to do!

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    • My mom–who led the charge for taking of shoes when we were growing up–now often wears shoes in the house because her feet hurt on the wooden floors, so I completely understand that.

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  4. I don’t remember what we did in my childhood home but today we do take shoes off. I think it started by having carpeted houses in which you kinda must take them off but even now that we have hardwood, we always take them off. One thing that always struck we a little weird though are people who insist you take them off outside of the house. We have a bench inside where we take them off and put them in the closet.

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  5. I’ve been thinking about this recently too since I’ve gone to visit family. I’m Asian, so it’s normal to me to remove shoes once we get inside (the entry way is tiled). However, my parents replaced the carpet with wooden floors and since that time we wear shoes in the house – except upstairs which is still carpeted.

    My cousin is extreme – she has a rug in the doorway of her one room apartment and it’s a process to remove shoes in the small carpet area and then hop over. 🙂 So before visiting her – I asked her what she preferred since I know she is a little obsessive-compulsive. She did provide me with slipper socks to wear in her apartment.

    I have lots of other Asian friends who all leave their shoes outside, which I am still not used to since I always imagine spiders or cockroaches crawling into my shoes especially at night.

    When I visited a non-Asian friend, they didn’t ask, but as I removed my shoes they said it was fine. I still removed my shoes because it’s like nails on a chalkboard to walk on carpet with shoes.

    When my friends and family come to visit, I remove my shoes when I enter my apartment and I usually don’t say anything. The above friend did not remove her shoes but on the second visit she came with Asian friends who whispered to her to remove her shoes. I definitely did NOT ask my father-in-law (who is not Asian) to remove his shoes because I know he is particular about his feet. However, when my own father comes over I make him remove his shoes (to his disdain) and he likes to point out that it doesn’t make sense because my dog is allowed to walk in and out of the apartment freely.

    The value in leaving your shoes on is it prevents infectious spread of foot fungus. I actually got infected when a different cousin visited. Also not asking guests to remove shoes is that it may save someone from embarrassment if they are infected, have smelly feet, or dirty socks.

    That said, I’m happy leaving shoes by the door. I stepped in dog poop once as a child and I’ve been traumatized by the thought of trekking that all over the floor ever since.

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  6. Hi Jamey,

    I hope all is well with you.

    This actually is an issue I am about to face. I have been living in Japan for 20 years and I now really hate the idea of wearing shoes, dragging filth from outdoors into the house. But, I will be moving back to Ireland next year and I am planning on taking off shoes in the house there too.

    The thing is, it is not the culture in Ireland to take off shoes, even if the floors are carpeted. I am worried about how to ask friends and family to take off shoes when they come to visit. I know some people will be downright belligerent about it and a few others will be a bit more accepting. There will certainly be friends talking about me behind my back saying how I have come back from Japan with “notions of upperosity” (to quote the great playwright, Seán O’Casey).

    I would really like to know what way to deal with this. People even wear shoes inside the house, on carpeted floors, on rainy days! It would be nice to be able to come up with some sort of compromise, but I am at a loss as to what to do.

    All the best,

    Pat

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    • That’s a difficult dilemma, Pat. One option to consider is offering regular guests personalized slippers. That may make them feel welcomed and comfortable with something on their feet in your home. There’s also the chance that it just won’t work and that people will walk around your house with their shoes; perhaps it will just become a routine to clean the floors/carpets as soon as guests leave.

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      • Personalised slippers is actually a really good idea. We did think of getting a bunch of slippers so that guests could use them but didn’t think of personalising them! We do like to host guests, and have dinners and game nights quite often, and we always like people to feel welcome in our home, so we definitely don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable. Thanks for the advice!

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    • You can have complimentary slippers or slipper socks from Japan – so it’s kind of like a souvenir? Or maybe have booties to go over shoes. I think if people have an expectation ahead of time it helps – they can remember to bring their own socks or whatever. Sometimes people don’t like it when they’re caught off guard or don’t know what to do and may make remarks as a defense mechanism. A shoe cubby and bench by the door also helps. Have fun! 🙂

      Reply

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