To Shoe or Not to Shoe: The Great Indoor Footwear Debate

Exploring the Arguments for and Against Wearing Shoes at Home



As you step into someone’s home, you face a subtle yet significant decision: Should you keep your shoes on or slip them off at the entrance? This seemingly mundane choice is steeped in cultural traditions, personal preferences, and even health considerations. Let’s explore why scientists increasingly recommend leaving your outside shoes at the door and how it relates to the flooring choices we offer at Metro Flooring.

The Cultural Divide

  1. Symbolic Boundaries: Removing shoes before entering a home is more than a practical act—it’s symbolic. Intercultural communications scholar Lucyna Aleksandrowicz-Pędich describes it as “crossing the boundary between the public and the private.” In some places, like mosques, this boundary separates the sacred from the mundane. However, the practice varies worldwide.
  2. Shoeless Cultures: Southeast Asia embraces a shoeless indoor culture due to factors like heating systems, furniture design, and architectural norms. In New Zealand, going barefoot indoors and outdoors is common. Meanwhile, many Germans opt for dedicated “house shoes” within their homes.
  3. The U.S. Quandary: In the United States, opinions diverge. A CBS/YouGov survey found that 63 percent of Americans remove their shoes at home, but only 24 percent ask guests to do the same.

The Etiquette Experts Weigh In

  1. Flooring vs. Comfort: Etiquette experts are as divided as the American public. Some argue that asking guests to remove shoes prioritizes flooring over comfort. Miss Manners’ team quips, “Take off your shoes? You value your flooring more than their comfort!” On the other hand, Peggy Post believes hosts have the right to request shoe removal.
  2. Scientific Evidence: While etiquette remains subjective, scientists provide compelling reasons to leave shoes at the door:
    • Dirt and Grime: Shoes track in grit, grime, and tiny scratches that harm hardwood, tile, and linoleum floors.
    • Germs Galore: Microbiologist Charles Gerba discovered an average of 421,000 units of bacteria on the outside of a shoe and 2,887 on the inside. E. coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Serratia ficaria—these unwelcome guests hitch a ride on our soles.
    • Beyond Dirt: Soil contains combustion particles from traffic (city dwellers) and pesticides (country dwellers). Taking off shoes contributes to a cleaner, healthier home.

Metro Flooring offers many Flooring Solutions whether you wear shoes or not, including:

  1. Carpet: Soft, cozy, and welcoming—perfect for shoeless homes.
  2. Hardwood: Durable and elegant, but susceptible to shoe scratches.
  3. Vinyl Tile: Resilient and easy to clean, ideal for shoe-free zones.
  4. Laminate: Mimics hardwood without the vulnerability to shoe damage.
  5. Tile and Stone: Sturdy and impervious to shoe wear.


At Metro Flooring, we recognize the importance of both aesthetics and practicality. Whether you choose shoe-free bliss or prefer stylish house shoes, our range of flooring options caters to their unique needs. So, step inside, explore our collection, and make your home a comfortable, healthy haven—one shoe at a time.

Remember, the choice between shoes and bare feet isn’t just about style—it’s about creating a space that reflects your values and respects your flooring.

Erin Blakemore’s article on National Geographic inspired this exploration. Read it here.

For more flooring insights, visit Metro Flooring today!