For some, a flying nightmare is getting stuck next to someone who slips their shoes off and has their bare feet out for all to see — and smell! Although it's not an official rule to keep your shoes on throughout a flight, there are definitely some unspoken rules in regard to the subject.
Socks Are a Clean and Kind Gesture
The first rule is to bring a clean pair of socks. Or at the very least, leave your socks on when removing your shoes. If you're traveling in sandals, it's extra tempting to slip off your shoes to get more comfortable. That's not wrong, but this is where the clean pair of socks suggestion comes in handy. You actually might be excited about this idea anyway, because a plane can be chilly and it's nice to have cozy socks on hand to keep your feet warm. Out of common courtesy, cover up those toes with a clean pair of socks.
There Are Times You Need to Wear Shoes
For your safety and the safety of others, it's essential to wear your shoes during take-off and landing. If there is ever trouble with the plane and you need to exit quickly, you can't be fumbling around with your shoes. And if there was an emergency landing with lots of turbulence, it's unsafe for other passengers for your shoes to be flying around the cabin.
Aside from take-off and landing, it's just common sense to wear your shoes in the aisles and if you're going to the bathroom. According to Carrie Trey, a flight attendant who helps out with The Points Guy, nine times out of ten, the liquid on the floor in the bathroom is not water. Ew.
Keep Cultural Norms in Mind
Before you get worked up by someone near you taking their shoes off, it's important to note that taking shoes off is considered the polite thing to do in many cultures. Almost all Asian cultures typically go barefoot inside, as well as Ethiopians, Scandinavians, and Russians. In some countries around the world, even public places like museums and schools are places where people step into slippers or socks when they enter. It's a habit of cleanliness and respect. So perhaps the person sitting next to you took off their shoes because it's what they do every single time they are indoors — and yes, we're considering a plane to be indoors.
Now these cultures often have slippers they wear just in the home. So we aren't saying this cultural difference is license for the person behind you to put their bare feet between the seats onto your armrest. That's just considered gross on all accounts. Still, be culturally sensitive and aware before making a snap judgment about someone taking off their shoes.
Be Proactive About the Smell
Let's be honest. We probably know if we are prone to smelly feet. Or you might know if a particular pair of shoes you own are especially smelly. It happens to everyone — so no shame. But we DO need to be aware of it and proactive about it when flying. What can you do about that noxious odor? Healthline gives us a few tips.
One simple thing you can do if you struggle with stinky feet is to wash them daily. At least make sure you do so before you fly. Healthline suggests alternating shoes each day so that if one of your pairs gets sweaty, it has a day to dry out before you wear them again. You can also try moisture-wicking socks, so your sneakers aren't absorbing your sweat. Aside from these practical things, you can try an antifungal foot spray or medicated foot powder to keep odors away. Some at-home remedies you can try for foot odor are wiping down your feet daily with a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol, and homemade foot soaks made with vinegar.
There Is a Place for Feet — on the Floor
Keep your feet on the ground where they belong. Don't put your feet up on the seat, on anyone else's seat, or between the seats. These acts of common courtesy will go far. So the next time you're on a flight and considering taking off your shoes, keep in mind these unspoken rules and above all, just be respectful!