Ask Wirecutter, an advice column written by Annemarie Conte, explores the best approaches to buying, using, and maintaining stuff. Email your biggest product-related problems to [email protected].
My family maintains a shoes-off house, but some people who come over seem pretty uncomfortable about it. I want to make it as easy as possible for our guests. What can I provide to make our guests less uneasy?
I’m just a girl who grew up in a shoes-on household and now lives in a shoes-off home. So even though I’ve trained myself to leave my shoes at the door, I don’t always anticipate taking them off at other people’s houses.
For many people, taking off shoes at the door is culturally ingrained and a sign of respect, and there are practical reasons for going shoeless. (I’m going to set aside general germophobia even though Johns Hopkins reports that newborns exposed to dirt, dander, and germs may have lower allergy and asthma risk.) If you live in an area that is regularly dusty, muddy, slushy, or city-grimed, not tracking that stuff into the house makes sense.
As you may have seen in a recent New York Times Open Thread advice column, plenty of people feel uncomfortable removing their shoes at the door, so your guests are not alone here.
I’ve gathered some tips and items from our Wirecutter experts to help make your entryway a little more inviting. I give this advice knowing full well that not everyone has a grand entryway to accommodate these items, but if you can incorporate one or two or just embrace the philosophy that a good host ensures their guests’ comfort above all, then we’ve made progress.
Set expectations (for yourself and guests)
When inviting someone over for the first time, give them a heads up about your shoes-off policy. Party invites especially should include this information, as many guests may be wearing fancy socks and shoes or no socks at all. I often bring a pair of slippers when I know they’ll be needed, and one of my colleagues says that their mother keeps a small pair of socks in her purse just in case.
But be sensitive to your guests’ needs and abilities. I do not require my 83-year-old mother—or anyone else for that matter—to take their shoes off at the door if they don’t want to. Checking in with someone who may need extra accommodations shows you care.
A comfortable seat
This collapsible bench assembles in seconds and offers ample interior storage for a fraction of the price of any other we considered.
Weirdly comfortable, even for long periods of sitting, this chair is wider than most folding chairs we tested, with a flexible, breathable—yet firm—plastic-mesh back and seat.
Having a small bench or chair to assist in the shoe removal and reapplication process goes a long way. If you don’t have space for a permanent one, the Seville Classics Storage Bench Ottoman from our roundup on small bedroom ideas is collapsible and foldable and, according to the manufacturer, holds up to 500 pounds.
If the Seville Classics ottoman is too big, our top-pick folding chair, the HDX Black Plastic Seat Folding Chair, is great to have on hand for this purpose as well.
A shoe rack and boot tray
This rack succeeds where most fail: It’s wobble free and assembles in minutes. It holds more shoes—and a wider variety of them—than many freestanding racks we tested, and it feels like it will last a long time.
Our top-pick Seville Classics 3-Tier Resin Slatted Shoe Rack is a sturdy and helpful addition to any entryway. But clear it off when guests come over so they aren’t struggling to make space.
It’s the same thought behind moving your own coats out of the coat closet and onto the bed to make room for guest coats: Move your everyday shoes out so the guests’ shoes have a place to land.
If our top pick won’t fit, we have two other options in our guide to the best shoe rack (one with more and another with fewer shelves). But my family prefers the four-square IKEA Kallax Shelf Unit, which has one cubby for each member of my family and a flat top we use to hold a bin with the dog’s leash, harness, coat, and poop bags.
Setting out a boot tray also gives shoes a place to drip-dry if it’s wet out before they’re moved to the rack.
Comfy slippers or socks
These modern, mostly cotton Japanese house slippers are machine washable and perfect for shoe-free households (or anyone who wants warm feet).
The Pudda bin looks more expensive than it is, with its sturdy felt and brass buttons. Unlike competitors, it can fold flat for easier storage.
To help keep your barefoot guests comfortable, consider laying out a nice bin, like the IKEA Pudda Basket, filled with slippers and socks that people can wear. The Merippa Reversible House Shoes from our list of best housewarming gifts are soft, comfy, and washable between guests.
As for socks, I have been a member of Hank and John Green’s Awesome Socks Club ever since one of my kids decided that wearing wacky socks is her personality. A new pair of fun socks comes every month and according to the company, the profit goes toward decreasing maternal and child mortality in Sierra Leone (video). You can also ask on your local free-swap group if anyone has spare fun socks to share and fill your bin with those.
If none of these options sounds viable to you or if certain guests remain stubbornly shod, consider allowing your guests to simply keep their shoes on—and investing in a good vacuum.
This article was edited by Jason Chen and Ben Frumin.