Modern Etiquette: Removing Shoes

I don’t do a lot of polls because—well, because I don’t have the technical capability. Certain topics, however, demand public opinion, especially ones where what’s right or wrong depends on what most people do. Take tipping: If everyone tips 20 percent for good service, then you do it, too—because if you don’t, you’re rude. The norm matters in a way that it doesn’t about topics such as, say, whether you’re Team Edward or Team Other Guy.

A few days ago, as I prepared to enter someone’s apartment, it struck me that it’s now the visitor’s responsibility to offer to take off his shoes. There was a time when you waited to be asked to take your shoes off; I suddenly felt, however, that I would be ill-mannered if I didn’t bring the subject up.

Has the norm shifted? Do you always offer? Never? Do you first look to see if your host is wearing shoes? Do you think about this when you’re choosing which socks to wear? (I do now.) I don’t ask a lot of questions on this site because I hate the sound of my own voice echoing in the void but on this one I could use some guidance.



  1. It’s very true about the socks. I have a number of Japanese friends and I have been painfully aware that I was going to have to leave my shoes at the door.

    With anybody else, I’d expect a warning.

  2. I rarely wear shoes in my own home, and when people come to visit, occassionally they ask and I tell them they should do what makes them feel comfortable – keep them on, take them off, do whatever they want. I am happy to take my shoes off in other people’s homes but for women it’s not only socks, but pedicures that spring to mind! (another reason for the proliferation of nail salons in Tribeca?)

  3. Shoes off. Maybe because I am now a Father and have become more aware of these types of issues but I do take my shoes off. Regardless of being a parent or not, we live in a huge city with lots of dirty stuff in the sidewalks. Lead, dog/human feces, spit, urine…don’t care how fabulous those Manolo Blahnik’s or even (for the guys) limited Ed. Chucks you got on but they have to come off.
    Re: Socks
    Yes, totally conscious about it. You just made me realize that 70% of my socks nowadays have some kind of colorful graphic or pattern on them.

  4. This is one of my greatest pet peeves. I truly think it is unfair to make a person take off their shoes upon entering a home. A home is meant to be lived in and that means nothing should be too precious that it can’t be walked on. If you have a bunch of people over wearing shoes, just make sure to clean the floor the next day.
    That being said I can completely understand Davids concern about bringing in germs, etc. with a possible baby crawling on the floor. I think that is the only exception where it is understandable to ask someone to take off their shoes. But once the baby is old enough to walk and its immune system is strong enough to be exposed to germs (and should be for that matter to build it up), then asking an adult to take off their shoes at the door is just plain awkward and rude in my opinion.
    But hey, thats why it is an opinion and we are all entitled to them.

  5. a compromise: if you don’t like the dirt in your house and you don’t want to ask people to take ’em off, offer a baby wipe and a seat. I have three dogs. after every walk, I clean their three snouts first and then their 12 paws with a single baby wipe, it takes about one minute for all three. as a last step, I wipe the bottom of my shoes. it’s amazing how dirty we all are. I buy disposable, biodegradable wipes in bulk.

  6. Outside of New York, most people’s soles come into contact with 1) the interior of their home, 2) the interior of their car, 3) the interior of their work place, 4) the interior of their school. These are relatively clean places. NYC sidewalks are filthy in comparison, and I am not sure how frequently or vigorously one would have to clean to combat the trail of germs and filth being tracked back. I travel in family circles, so taking off shoes even when babies are not around seems to be the norm.

  7. We started taking off shoes when we had a baby, but have kept them off for 2 reasons. 1. When you take a moment to think about all the gunk you step on daily you realize you don’t want all that yuck in your home. It’s not like we have lovely green lawns to drag our feet through before walking entering a home.
    2. It is simply a courtesy to our downstairs neighbors. I don’t like to hear the click clack above me, so I’m sure the people below us don’t either.

    I think the norm will change over time. There isn’t a child that comes into our apartment that doesn’t automatically take their shoes off – without being asked. When they’re all grown up, it will be the societal norm.