Should You Take Your Shoes off at Home?Written by Gavin Humphreys
Should we wear shoes indoors?
Everybody has an opinion.
Asking guests to slip off their shoes at the door has always been a little bit controversial - but it has become much more mainstream since a certain global pandemic made us stop and think.
The unseen that we take inside on the soles of our footwear has been shown to affect our health directly - even kill.
The question is how to do it for you and your family (and how to politely ask guests to leave their shoes at the door!).
An Asian custom?
In the US and Western Europe, taking your shoes off when you enter a house is mostly associated with Asian households - but in fact is the norm across the majority of the globe.
It’s true that it is an Asian custom. Almost all Asian households will expect guests to take their shoes off when they enter. However, it’s not only Oriental!
From India to the Middle East and North Africa, all across Eastern Europe, from Germany to Russia, it is the most common etiquette. Even in Canada it is considered correct to take your shoes off at the door.
When I grew up, in the country, we took off muddy shoes or boots - but ‘clean’ footwear was considered fine inside. Despite that, I am a total convert to the custom, and a big fan now more than ever.
What’s bad about wearing shoes inside?
When you walk outside, your footwear gets dirty - whether you see it or not.
It can be obvious - you’ve stepped on chewing gum or a pooch’s doo-doo. Equally, it might be invisible - dust or viruses that you can’t ever see.
According to study by the University of Arizona, the outside of your shoes average at 421,000 units of bacteria, and fecal bacteria is found on 96% of shoes. You carry all this into the house. The transfer rate of those bacterias to clean tiles is between 90% and 99%.
This leads to more dust coming in. This can lead to allergies, or even attract insects such as ants and cockroaches. It also means a lot more cleaning the floor to keep the dust levels down.
Those nasty bacterias could directly affect your health, and can lead to picking up viruses and infections. This is an even more acute danger if you have kids or babies in the house who are going to be spending time on the floor.
What are the advantages to taking off your shoes?
You create a barrier and make sure that inside the floor remains clean. It also helps to form a mental attitude that gives respect to your house and makes it a more peaceful environment to live in.
It is also good for your feet not to be in shoes all day. Taking off your shoes, boots, or sneakers at the door gives your feet a chance to get some air. This is good to stop foot odor and infections. It also allows them to stretch and relax.
Finally, it allows you to be more in touch with the ground - this is calming and some people say it helps them to think better!
How to implement it in your house:
There are several ideas that you can take into consideration to make your house more ‘barefoot friendly.’ If you implement all these ideas, you will not think twice about keeping this tradition.
In the entrance area, you want it to be comfortable to take off your shoes.
There is nothing worse than that awkward hopping around and pulling off or putting on your shoes. It is not only asking to say adios to that lovely vase in the entranceway, it is also not good for your nice shoes.
What you need to have is a place to sit that is comfortable and where you can happily reach down and put on your shoes, without any rush. It could be a nice armchair, or a simple wooden bench.
It’s also good to have a shoehorn on hand to prevent damage to your shoes as you put them on and perhaps even a little cloth to give them a rub down before you go out.
The other thing you need at the entrance is a shoe rack. There are lots of options for this - some are covered, some are open, and some are even designed with the seat on top, so you kill both birds with one stone.
Guests must feel comfortable taking off their shoes and have somewhere to place them until they leave.
A top tip is to have slippers on hand for you and your family - and extras for guests.
Slippers are great to keep your feet clean and warm.
Our Larsen slippers are perfect. They are both comfortable and, since they are made from gorgeous full-grain leather, they also look the part. They have a midsole made from a recycled plastic material that was designed for sports shoes. They even have suede soles, which are soft on the floor and naturally anti-slip.
This all translates into a slipper that works for the day-to-day, and are perfect to offer to guests who come to the house.
Keep the slippers in good condition and clean. This is not only good for peace of mind, but also gives a good impression when friends visit.
Unless the slippers are only for your personal use, it’s best to use them with socks. This makes for good hygiene, as it should avoid foot-odor or transferring bacterial infections.
While you don’t need to worry about a spit shine, leather slippers, like ours, will benefit from some leather conditioning cream from time to time. Insert a shoe-tree to make sure that the slipper keeps its shape and gently rub in the cream with a cloth.
Keep the floor clean
It becomes a lot easier to keep the floor clean once you aren’t bringing in all the dirt from the street. Nevertheless, it also becomes more important because you will notice the dirt a lot more when you are in socks or barefoot.
This is an eye-opening revelation. It shows you just how important it is to take those shoes off.
Take off your slippers before going upstairs
I take off my slippers before climbing the stairs. I don’t know if all Asian households do this, but it is quite common in families that take off shoes indoors.
This creates an even stronger barrier to not bring any dirt at all from the street up to your bedrooms and other upstairs rooms. It’s as if when you step on those stairs you are on the entrance to a sacred upper-sanctuary.
It also has a practical reason - it stops you slipping or tripping up as you go up and down the stairs.
Store commonly used shoes away
You shouldn’t store all your shoes in the shoe rack in the entranceway - it is all too easy for a shoe rack to get full up and unattractive looking. Plus, if you don’t use shoes all the time, they can gather dust.
The idea is it’s like a temporary stop-gap, and later on, you can store away any shoes you don’t need urgently.
For that reason, it is a good idea to have an organized space where you can keep your shoes, boots, and sneakers.
Try to have it somewhere that you can easily access them - so putting them away or taking them out doesn’t become a chore.
Don’t be shy
Some guests can be problematic. They might not like the idea of taking off their shoes.
While you shouldn’t force them to do this, make sure they know that this is the custom in your house, and explain why you do it. Who knows - they might convert to the idea, too!
The comfortable seat in the entrance way and offering slippers should be enough to convince most stick-in-the-muds.
If it’s summertime and you know your guests are going to turn up in sandals or without socks, warn them in advance that they should bring a pair of socks.
Have shoes that are easy to put on and take off
If you are nipping out to the shop, or you are in a hurry, or if you always forget something and have to go back to the house - then perhaps you don’t want to be spending all day lacing up your boots.
With this in mind, you should have some easy to put on shoes and boots.
A conscious lifestyle
Part of the philosophy of Beckett Simonon is the idea that living a simpler life makes us happier people. Using fewer, but better quality, products means that we get rid of unnecessary clutter and help positively contribute to the environment by reducing waste.
Taking off your shoes can be part of a conscious and mindful lifestyle. Researching the shoes and slippers that you buy, and the impact they create, can be part of building yourself a sustainable wardrobe.
Taking your slippers off before you enter your bedroom can also help to make your bedroom a temple of sleep.
Since our artisans make all Beckett Simonon products from full-grain leather, it means that you can easily keep them clean and, when well looked after, they will last for a long time.
If you have any suggestions for other techniques to help establish a routine, leave me a comment below.
I have $850 inserts in my shoes. If I do not wear them for a very short time I will not be able to walk at all for a much longer period of time. Luckily, my family understands, they take their shoes off, I keep mine on without a bunch of crap. Just a thought.