Here's how to make sure both you and your guests feel good about your "no shoes" policy.
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boot tray for home entrance
Credit: Kirsten Francis

There are many reasons to have a "no shoes" policy in your home—cleaner floors and better health, to start. But does asking your guests to take theirs off as soon as they cross your threshold cross the line? Liz Bryant, president and founder of Liz Bryant Business Etiquette in Richmond, Virginia, shares her tips on when—and how—to ask your visitors to remove their shoes so that each one feels like welcome guest (and not someone on their way through airport security).

Give advanced warning.

Your ultimate goal when hosting guests is to make them comfortable and welcome, but when your first order of business upon their arrival is asking them to remove their shoes, they might not feel that way. To avoid that initial awkward shuffle at the door, Bryant suggests letting company know ahead of time that your home is a shoe-free place. To keep this friendly, your request should be light, she says: "Something simple like, 'We have a no-shoes policy here at our house, so when you come over please bring your favorite slippers or comfy socks' works."

Set up a changing station.

If you are going to ask your guests take off their shoes, give them a comfortable place to do so. "Make sure you have a place near the front door where guests may sit to change their footwear," she says, adding that there should also be a convenient spot for storing shoes. The last thing you and your guests want is to have to try and wrangle their way through piles of discarded footwear.

Bryant also suggests keeping a supply of single-use slippers on hand so that your shoeless guests feel more at home. "They can be used when someone forgets the 'no-shoes' policy, if they arrive with muddy boots, or if they stop by unaware of the rules of the house," she says.

Think about the type of event you're hosting.

If the event you are hosting is more formal, guests may be reluctant to take off shoes that are part of their attire. "I would host such an event elsewhere or, if an outdoor space at your home is appropriate, use that so guests may keep their shoes on," Bryant says.

Always be gracious.

If you failed to let your guests know that you have a no-shoe policy in your home because you did not decide you had one until someone shows up with dirty footwear, asking your friend to take off his or her shoes may feel rude—especially if the rest of your guests are still wearing theirs. To avoid feeling like your request is out of line, or making your friend feel singled out, Bryant says to frame your shoes-off request in a way that makes you sound helpful, instead of worried about your flooring: "Use language such as, 'Oh my, we really must do something about that mud puddle out front. Let me take those shoes from you so you'll be comfortable during our visit.'"

Comments (9)

Martha Stewart Member
October 8, 2022
Graciousness requires making people feel welcome and comfortable. There are many reasons people may prefer or even need to keep their shoes on: many of us find it uncomfortable, others of us have medical reasons for always wearing shoes (my podiatrist was very clear about this), and others might just feel embarrassed about putting their feet on display. Absolutely requiring shoes to be left in the front, whether or not announced in advance, does bring the word "Karen" to mind (apologies to the kind Karens out there). A more gracious approach for those who prefer a shoeless household might be to say "We typically leave our shoes at the door. You're welcome to do so, if you'd like" and leave it up to guests whether to enter shod or unshod.
Martha Stewart Member
July 2, 2022
Being born and raised in Hawaii, this article cracks me up! The culture here considers it rude NOT to take your shoes off before entering someone's home. While I agree that the host should make the guest feel comfortable, the culture here is to be a guest who respects the customs of the host. That said, I think it's completely acceptable for a guest to explain that they need to keep their shoes on for orthopedic reasons.
Martha Stewart Member
June 3, 2022
Sorry, I have to agree with the poster that says she is NEVER comfortable without shoes on. I have bone spurs, planter facetious and diabetic neuropathy. My doctors say I should NEVER be without some sort of foot support. Like the other writer, I have special orthopedic sandles that I were to get from the bed to the bath - otherwise I have shoes on. And I really think that all of those folks walking around in their sox may live to regret it when they start having orthopedic issues.
Martha Stewart Member
April 22, 2022
I am NEVER comfortable without shoes on even at home. I have special orthopedic slip-ons that I use when going to bed or getting out of bed. At all other times I have shoes on. Unless you are doing it for religious or deep cultural reasons don't ask. Isn't it the role of the host to make the guest comfortable?
Martha Stewart Member
April 22, 2022
Those are some very rude comments. I do not understand how the name Karen came to be the poster child of rudeness. The name is flaunted all over media and by comedians in derogatory ways. I used to love my name and thought that it sounded happy, cheerful, and kind. I was proud of my name. Now I don't like to give people my name because it is such a joke to people. I don't understand how it is politically incorrect to talk about or treat groups of people in derogatory ways, but it is acceptable to make a person's name the butt of jokes. I do not appreciate this and wish that people would be more considerate. During my entire life, I have been kind to people. I am a loving mother who continues to do what she can for her adult children. I am a caregiver to one of my parents. I treated my special education students with care and dignity during my teaching years. Again as I said before, I don't understand how it is acceptable to make fun of people because of their name. We need to lift all people up.
Martha Stewart Member
April 14, 2021
If Karen turns up just tell her to remove her shoe's then send her home.
Martha Stewart Member
June 27, 2020
I subscribed just to say this one word to this article, "karen"
Martha Stewart Member
June 27, 2020
I subscribed just to say this one word to this article, "karen"
Martha Stewart Member
June 27, 2020
I subscribed just to say this one word to this article, "karen"