Shoe Etiquette – What can you ask of your guests?

show etiquette from


Ah, yes. The great shoe debate.

Keep them on, take them off…what is the proper thing to do, and what can you ask of your guests?

It really is an interesting debate when you are hosting a party in your home on what the etiquette is in having guests remove their shoes. It can cause confusion, embarrassment or awkwardness and it is a topic that always seems to illicit opinions.

But really, is there a truly proper etiquette when it comes to this question?

Personal experience speaks greatly to what side you lean towards but, in my opinion, I believe that it really isn’t a cut and dry answer.

Here in Canada, it really is an unspoken understanding that coats and shoes remain at the front door. Much of this has evolved because of our inclement weather and the necessity of keeping the outside, well, outside.  I never go into a home with my shoes on, and my guests always, instinctively remove their shoes when they come over. That isn’t the case in many other parts of the world, including the U.S. so, is there a rule for everyone to follow?

I know what I would say, but what would the experts say? Well, a quick reference to my Emily Post Manual didn’t reveal any definitive answer either and actually confirmed what I would suggest is the best thing to do: You Decide.

It is your home and you have the right to ask your guests to remove their outdoor shoes when coming into your home. For a super casual get together with a few friends, hanging out without shoes is not a big deal but, for an open house or larger gathering you should be ready with some alternatives.

  • Tell people in advance to bring an extra pair of shoes to change into. You can make a light-hearted note on the invite so they are prepared.
  • Have slippers at the door for guests to borrow should they feel more comfortable with something on their feet.
  • Ensure you have a chair or small bench at your front door to allow guests to easily remove their shoes and put them back on.
  • Remember to be flexible. Even if you are annoyed that someone doesn’t want to remove their shoes, just go with the flow.  You never want to make someone feel unwelcome.

You also have to give careful consideration for what type of event you are holding. As I said, a smaller more intimate gathering makes it easier for the no-shoe request. But, typically at an open house, cocktail reception or holiday party where there are many guests invited, it would be difficult to manage having guests remove their shoes. And many guests would likely be more dressed up, some even in cocktail dress, and the shoe is a super important part of that!

In the end, as the host, it still is your decision. But, the best hosts know when to bend their own rules and be flexible. Happy planning.


Post a comment

Captcha * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.