Shoes On? Or Off? The Party Etiquette Debate. (Kind Of.)

What’s Christmas party season without an etiquette-related post? 

So as I was rousing myself into consciousness late yesterday morning, I was listening to CBC Radio’s show GO!

In one segment, they sent comedienne Sabrina Jalees out on the street to find out from people how they felt about going to parties where the host or hostess might ask them to take their shoes off.

Perhaps I’m just crazy or not “cool”, but I was a bit surprised how many people say they keep their shoes on.

There were people in the other camp, who do take their shoes off. But for some reason, they didn’t seem as large a number.

Coming from a household where you pretty much take your shoes off when you step inside the door – and, I guess, I’ve just been used to taking off my shoes at other people’s houses – it’s kinda weird for me not to do.

Although I find as I get older and go to parties and various functions held by different people, I’ve adopted a bit of a modified strategy:

I assess the situation. If I go to a house party, only the floors of the house are concrete, or whatever – and everyone else is wearing shoes, then I would consider keeping them on.

But in a house with carpet (that’s probably going to be hard to clean after everyone’s left)? Shoes off. Although I’m still more likely at a house party to doff the shoes – old habits die hard. I just make sure the socks I wear don’t have holes in them 🙂 .

So how do you handle the shoe etiquette at parties?  Just curious.

22 thoughts on “Shoes On? Or Off? The Party Etiquette Debate. (Kind Of.)

  1. We ALWAYS have to take our shoes off in Chinese homes but I noticed my aunties are pretty smart about it. They bring pretty slippers with them to change into so they don’t have to worry about cold feet or ugly socks! Smart eh? These days, little ballet slippers or something prob wouldn’t even look out of place.

  2. Cinders says:

    If I’m having a party at my flat, I tell everyone who comes in to take their shoes off. Cuz I just think of all the nastiness that they could drag in with their shoes – dog crap, vomit, hepatitis…Etc.

    If I go to someone else’s flat, I’ll take my shoes off if everyone else has done it. If they haven’t, whether or not there’s carpet, I’ll make sure my shoes are dry or fairly clean before I step inside and leave them on – cuz I don’t want to step in something that someone else brought in with them (even if it’s just a puddle of snow, plus, wet socks suck.). Gross. =D

  3. considering i’m still a 22 year old CHILD, every party at someone’s home is pretty casual, hence the shoes off thing.

    i’m sure that’ll change, especially during the summer elite parties.

  4. Angela says:

    I am kinda like you, Diane, I assess the situation and then go with the flow.. I have however made the cardinal error of taking off my shoes only to discover to my horror, HOLES in my socks… but then I just removed my socks as well, stuck them in my shoes, and kept on moving (thank God for consistent pedicures)… in my own house, I don’t wear shoes, so most people remove theirs when they come in… as it should be, cause Cinders is right, all kinds of nasties don’t need to be invited into my home.

  5. Laura JV says:

    For parties, where people may be wandering about dressed up, of course I would not ask that anyone take off their shoes. Many people have selected their shoes for the occasion, after all, and part of my responsibility as the hostess is to clean up afterwards.

    If it is a casual get-together and I know that the hosts usually go shoeless, I take mine off; if requested to take my shoes off by a host, even at a dressy event, I would comply.

  6. I hosted a party in October.

    I said on the invitation that I wanted people to take their shoes off and suggested they bring slippers.

    Everybody took their shoes off and they all had a great time. It was really fun and relaxed.

    Only a couple of people brought slippers.

    I have dedicated an entire blog to the issue of shoes-off in homes.

  7. Laura, if people know in advance that they are going to have to take their shoes off for the party, they can dress for the occasion.

    Women can wear a floaty skirt that looks good with barefeet and men can bring some smart slippers that match their outfit.

    And hopefully, everybody will remeber not to wear socks with holes.

  8. Joi says:

    I agree with the whole remove your shoes policy. There is a company called Shoe Eti-Kit ( supplies designer disposable shoe covers and a door sign that lets your guest know to remove their shoes. Everyone can’t take off their shoes due to health reasons, foot odors, hole in the sock, etc;. I think this is a great topic to discuss

  9. Paula says:

    I went to a dinner party last night and the hostess insisted on everyone taking off their shoes. I was wearing sandals so spent the evening walking around someone else’s home barefoot — it was awful. All the women were dressed in party outfits, but the effect everyone went for was totally ruined since they had to walk around this woman’s home like relatives of the Clampetts. Ugh. And socks or slippers wouldn’t do it for me, either — wearing footwear that total strangers to me have also worn is just gross. So good for her, she’ll have the prettiest floors that no one ever saw, because I for one do not plan to go back to her home.

    1. Mike says:

      I’m with you, Paula. I’ve gone to many houses in sandals and been required to remove them at the door. I had to walk around their homes in my bare feet so I know what you mean when you say it’s awful.

      Don’t you also hate it when their floors aren’t that clean and they still make you take your sandals off? I dunno about your bare feet but I felt all this weird crap under my bare feet…

      1. jane says:

        I agree. I find it so rude to ask guests to your home to take off their footwear. I’m sure I read somewhere that the hosts were supposed to provide footwear should they require their guests to remove their shoes. I find that I don’t visit people as much if they require me to take off shoes before they’ve even said hello! My inlaws being the main perpetrators. Thats what I find bad etiquette. And where does it end? Do you ask emergency drs, etc? However I do take off my shoes, I just dont like being forced into it!

  10. Paula, parties are not just about outfits; they just as much about relaxing, food and drink and conversation.

    It would have been helpful to you if the hostess had informed you about her rule. That way you would have had no expectation of wearing shoes and you could have planned your outfit with barefeet in mind.

  11. lin says:

    I can’t realy say that i agree with Matthew C putting his shoe removal policy on his invitations. However, I do agree with the removal of shoes in the home. Only because the thought of dirt and feces(poop….that includes dog poop too!!) from the outside being tracked into my home disgusts me. Yuck!! I did check out that site and I must say that I love their shoe covers. They are so fun and fashionable. This product makes it so easy for me to have my guest to cover their shoes upon entering my home. I absolutely love this product!! Thanks Joi for telling us about

  12. Margaret V says:

    What do you think should be done in the case of spike high heels … I just heard a story of someone who kept their “spikes” on
    and damaged a hardwood floor so badly that it had to be refinished – costly, messy, and time consuming.

    My question … should the guest have known better and removed her shoes or perhaps the host should have requested the “spikes” be removed.

    I think the host did not notice it until it was too late because she was busy cooking and hosting.

    Second question … Now that the guest knows that the floor needs to be refinished, should the guest offer compensation for the hardwood floor to be refinished??

    Third questions … Would it be rude for the host to ask for compensation?

  13. faf says:

    I think people are much too worried nowadays about the appearances, and want to live in show homes. If they are so focused on keeping a clean house, they should not invite anybody over.
    When I go to party where everybody dresses up, I sure do too and my shoes belong with the outfit. You want shoes off, tell everybody it’s casual and expect jeans at the Christmas table.

  14. It’s probably most helpful if hosts indicate “shoe code” preferences in advance. Then guests can plan their attire accordingly.

    I’ve gotten in the habit of bringing (coordinating) slippers just in case.

  15. Colleen says:

    Shoes off~
    I grew up in a filthy house. My parents never made others take their shoes off and the house was always filthy.
    When we went to others homes we were told to take our shoes off.
    It’s just plain respect. Take your shoes off.
    I just installed a hardwood floor and after 40 years of livingin filth, I want that floor to stay “new” looking. If you don’t want to take your shoes off don’t go visit or attend parties.
    If you can’t respect your host enough to remove your shoes after they went through the trouble to clean their homes, decorate, and supply you with food and good friends conversation, then by all means stay at home.
    My shoes always come off unless they have a dirt floor.
    Barefeet outside parites that end up in, still bare feet. The shoes take in stones and pebbles, the bare feet don’t.

  16. Randy Beck says:

    I think if you show up at the door and the host is wearing shoes, keep your shoes on, the same goes, if the host is in slippers or socks, leave your shoes at the door. However, when I go to a dinner party, I usually bring my clean dress shoes in a bag and change into them leaving my outdoor shoes at the front door. Another option, is to purchase “house shoes”, shoes that look like dress shoes but are actually dress slippers, and their very affordable.

  17. Mara says:

    The assumption of people who show up for your party are filthy and have been walking through dog droppings before they came to your doorstep is assuming the worse of your guests and shows that you would prefer they were not there after all. Our world is full of pollutants and our homes are full of dust mites and bacteria- but yet we survive. Being overly sterile is not even healthy. All in all it is just pretty 3rd world or just a power play to make people take off their shoes.

  18. Laura says:

    Cheers Mara! Well said. As a grownup, I find it insulting when I’m asked to take my shoes off at a party or friends house. Why invite me if you think I’m dirty (which is what you are saying when you ask someone to take their shoes off).

    And to put it on the invitation? Really? I wouldn’t go to any event that had that. If your that concerned about your floors, don’t have people over! The last party I went to where the host pointed out the “no shoes” sign with an arrogant smirk was the last time I ever saw her.

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