Why Americans should take off their shoes before going inside, just like most of the world.

Going barefoot

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About Tsh

Tsh is the founder of this blog and lives in Bend, Oregon with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

In our current country of residence, everyone takes off their shoes before entering a home. Everyone. This is the case in most countries, in fact, and in the case of Kosovo, where my husband and I lived several years ago.

I’m pretty sure the only country that doesn’t practice this is the United States. And maybe Canada.

When you take off your shoes, you’re keeping the outdoors that have crept onto your soles relegated to the front door. You’re coming in to relax. You’re telling guests to make themselves at home.

And most practically, you’re keeping your floors cleaner.

When my husband and I moved back to the States after living in Kosovo, the whole taking-off-your-shoes-at-the-front-door had become so habitual, we kept at it. It really does make cleaning easier, and let’s face it – it makes a lot of sense. Fly Lady would not approve, but that’s okay with me, because I do things rather differently than her anyway.

(I should note that I do have a particular pair of shoes – those ugly Crocs – for wearing exclusively in the house sometimes. This helps me when my feet are hurting.)

We’re reminded how un-American this idea is when we have guests coming from the States – they’re always forgetting to take off their shoes. We don’t really mind, and of course we’re not offended, but many of our neighbors here just don’t understand this American mentality. “How do Americans keep their house clean then?” my neighbor asked one time, after confirming with me a rumor she’d heard that Americans wear their shoes indoors.

I highly recommend getting your family in the habit of taking off their shoes upon entering. Make a convenient spot near the front door, or just outside it, for people to place their shoes.

I’m sure we’ll do this the rest of our lives, regardless in which country we live. It works for me.

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Comments

  1. I used to wear my shoes in the house, until I got married to my husband who grew up in an Asian country and never wore shoes in the house. We have a rack to put them on just inside the front door (and another rack by the door to the garage). I usually let people know ahead of time, when they are coming over for the first time that we have a “no shoe” policy in the house. That way they can decide if they want to be sure to have socks on (without holes), or if they prefer to wear sandals and go barefoot etc. It is kind of awkward to have to remind people to take their shoes off, but they usually see the shoes by the door and are reminded of our “policy.” Our carpet is in excellent shape since we keep the outside, outside. And with our daughter crawling and trying to eat any little thing she can find on the floor, it’s especially important to me that we don’t have dirt etc being tracked in. Here’s a question. When you lived in a country where everyone took there shoes off, if a delivery person was coming over, say to deliver a mattress etc. Would they automatically take their shoes off? We’ve never asked anyone like that to remove their shoes, but I’d love it if they did it on their own!

    BTW, I do wear slippers or flip-flops in the house at all times and I have tennis shoes that are only worn when I exercise inside. I don’t like to go barefoot.

  2. avatar
    beatrice says:

    this an interesting discussion. personally i was brought up to remove my shoes at the door. we were fortunate enough to have a comfortable home, but shoes were not allowed. looking back i complained but now it does seem to be a very sensible method of not only keeping germs out but keeping ones carpets etc clean. with a family of three boys shoes most certainly come off at the door, and after depositing their socks in the laundry basket, its slippers on. Guests are asked to do as we do and when we visit friends and family then we take slippers with us. i think its very rude not offer to take your shoes off when visting. its something i was expected to do as a child and still do now, thankfully my boys know to always offer to remove their shoes,back home we all do it automatically

  3. avatar
    Suszcza says:

    My Grandmother always had her girls wear shoes, and she’d never’ve let either of them out of the house without them. She never saw any use for shoes on a boy, though, and she saw to it that my dad grew up going barefoot everywhere. I’m bringing up my own two boys the same way. Gran didn’t believe in shoes for boys, and I don’t either. I wear sandals myself when we’re out walking, and if I had girls I’d want them wearing sandals too. No sandals for my boys though. Nope. All I ever want to see on a boy are plain honest bare feet.
    In and around the house, though, none of us wear anything on our feet. We all go barefoot inside, me included. It’s healthier that way. Feet left bare are as free from nasty fungus and nasty smells as hands are. All the problems that people associate with feet only come from wearing shoes.

  4. It sounds like a great idea for keeping your floors clean, but I find feet disgusting, smelly, and gross. I don’t like seeing people’s bare feet, it bothers me. I know its weird but I just find it gross, especially if they are dirty on the bottom, omg that makes me shudder. I’d rather just mop and sweep the floors every day or every other day than see bare feet.

  5. I live in South Dakota and there is a mix of people with fancy houses that ask you to remove your shoes but most people actively tell you to leave your shoes on. I automatically remove my shoes when entering someone’s house although I don’t remove my shoes in my own home. It’s more of a respect thing to me. I also lived in Hawaii for a couple months and it is very customary to remove your shoes when entering any house. It is considered extremely disrespectful to leave your shoes on there. Personally, I think removing your shoes in any residence is respectful, clean, and just good practice. After reading your article and thinking about it, I am going to start removing shoes in my own home and encouraging others to follow my lead. Thank you for the article!

  6. I’m from Eastern Europe but I lived my past few years studying and working in a very international community here (a bible college) so most of my friends are from the USA and maybe a few other countries. I’m a constant source of entertainment as they haven’t mat another European who refuses wearing shoes =)

    It’s true that it’s very unlikely that people would enter a house without taking their shoes off, but it’s also just as unlikely to find them outside without their shoes on! (Not even on a perfect lawn.) Or inside without slippers. And socks. Disturbing…

    I never get blisters inside, but I do get splinters when outside, and some of them are really annoying.

  7. I’ m gonna go against the grain a little. While I respect your decision to have a no shoes policy, I personally wouldn’t do this. Ive been to many households like this. Their houses didn’t impress me a whole lot. And sanitary? You think that having people come in from a full day at school, work or other, not shower, then lounge around in nasty old socks, or worse, barefoot is the better way to go? Especially kids. And especially if they dont know ahead of time that they are expected to remove their shoes. If they do shower right away, that’s one thing, also if you live in New York city. Sure, ok. But I gotta go with my instinct here and say, if you wanna keep the shoes on, do it, if not, that’s fine too. By the way I’m a father of four. My carpets are as clean as anyone else I know. Routine maintenance. I hate the trend. If you really believe its better, do it. But if your just doing it cause the “experts” say it’s cleaner and more sanitary, I say use your own judgement on this.

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