Is It Okay to Remove Your Shoes When On a Plane?

If you’ve done a fair amount of flying then you’ve probably wanted to remove your shoes at some point to increase your comfort level.

But is it a breach of airplane etiquette to remove your shoes on a plane?

Or is this something that passengers commonly do without causing a problem?

Let’s take a look at the issue below and dive in to whether or not it’s okay to take off your shoes when flying.

Is it okay to remove your shoes when on a plane?

It’s generally acceptable to remove your shoes on a plane as long as you’re not putting off an offensive odor or putting bare feet (especially unsightly bare feet) on display.

Still, when removing your shoes on a plane you also want to think about other considerations like being prepared in the event of an emergency landing or dealing with feet that could be swelling on the plane.

For more detailed tips on this issue, keep reading below!

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Why it’s not taboo to remove your shoes on a plane

Some people act like it is taboo to remove your shoes while traveling on a plane.

This is a weak position to me for a few reasons.

For one, when you fly premium business class and first class, you are sometimes given slippers or even socks to change into.

No airline would issue these if they did not think it was okay for you to remove your shoes at some point during the flight.

First class seat with airline slippers

But more importantly, keeping shoes on during a long-haul flight can be quite uncomfortable for lots of people.

The idea that they should be forced to endure discomfort or pain for hours upon hours because of some taboo on removing shoes just doesn’t make sense.

With all of this said, I do think that there are some key considerations you want to first think about when choosing to take your shoes off on a flight.

So below I’ve broken down some situations where are you should not take your shoes off or should at least consider taking some measures before doing so.

When you should NOT take your shoes off

If you have smelly feet

The number one reason why you should not take your shoes off on a plane is if you have a smelly feet, socks, or shoes.

This is common sense but the problem is a lot of people don’t think that their feet smell. They may even be incapable of detecting how bad their own odor is.

Some recommend that whatever odor you can sense from your own feet, multiply that by 10 and that is what other passengers can smell! Yikes.

The odor issue is the worst when someone has been sweating in their shoes for some time.

This could be because they were doing a lot of running around during the day before the flight or because they were breaking a sweat getting through the airport.

Other times, it’s the long term sweat that has been absorbed into the shoes causing the odor. This can be common in shoes used for working out, working boots, etc.

So if you suspect that your feet or shoes will have an odor, consider not removing your shoes.

Or, if you still want to take your shoes off take some measures to prevent the bad odor.

One of the best steps you can take is to wear quality wool socks. Wool fibers can absorb large quantities of water vapor allowing you to better keep odors in check, retaining 66% less body odor than polyester and 28% less than cotton.

Plus, these socks can be very comfortable and warm when traveling.

You can also explore other ways to reduce foot and shoe odor like washing your shoes/insoles and using deodorant with a baking soda base. 

If you’re flying in a business class or first class cabin with a private suite or semi-private pod, you will have much more leeway because other passengers will not be so close to you.

But trust me, you still don’t want to push it because odors can travel farther than you think they can.

Shoes off reclining in business class

When you don’t have socks on

Lots of travelers are not comfortable with seeing or being close to bare feet on a plane.

There may be evolutionarily reasons for this but beyond that an aversion to feet is understandable considering lots of people just have a gross feet and toes.

I realize lots of people can’t help the appearance of their feet so I have sympathy, but I’ve seen some seriously misshapen toes that don’t necessarily need to be showcased during a flight.

So if you have chosen to not wear socks with your shoes, it’s probably best to just keep your shoes on.

This is one reason why flip-flops or sandals are sometimes frowned upon on a plane.

But at least people wearing those have aired out their feet so the odor issue may not be as big of a problem.

If you’re wearing snug shoes

It’s pretty common for your feet to swell when flying on a plane. For some people, the swelling can be pretty dramatic.

This means that if you have snug fitting shoes and you take them off at the beginning of your flight, you may not be able to put them back on at the end of your flight!

You can help reduce the swelling by wearing things like compression socks which can reduce the swelling and threat of things like deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and clotting.

When flying on a short flight

If you’re on a short flight, say 2.5 hours or under, it’s probably not hard for you to get through that flight without taking off your shoes.

If you don’t have any offensive foot odor then I don’t think there is any problem with taking off your shoes on short flights but it may not be worth the hassle.

Passengers will probably be quicker to roll their eyes and less understanding of even faint odors on shorter flights.

When close to departure or landing

If you are getting ready to take off consider keeping your shoes on until you get to altitude. Or if you are about to descend, make sure that your shoes are on around 10 to 15 minutes before you touch down.

This is because in the event of an emergency landing, you don’t want to be running around a plane with no shoes on.

Putting your feet on armrests or on the bulkhead

One thing that is taboo is putting your feet on the armrest in front of you or on the bulkhead.

If you have shoes on, putting your feet up on the bulkhead is not that offensive to me although it does make you look like a certain type of person.

Passenger with foot on bulkhead

But if you have no shoes on or are barefoot and you put your feet up on the bulkhead that’s a pretty egregious breach of airplane etiquette.

Nobody, or maybe I should say the majority of people, wants to see your wiggling toes on display — especially if you are flying first class!

Passenger with bare foot on bulkhead
AA first class, July 2019.

As for putting your feet on the armrest in front of you, that should never be acceptable.

I’ve seen some unbelievable videos of people feeling like it’s okay for them to do this to window seat passengers in front of them and once again that’s a major violation of airplane etiquette.

And finally, please for the love of all humanity do not clip your toenails on a plane!

Walking around the cabin bare foot or with only socks on

Another thing that can be pretty gross is when a passenger walks to the lavatory and back with only socks on or even worse, with bare feet.

The passenger isn’t necessarily hurting anyone when doing this, although if they are having to climb over you to get in and out of the aisle that could be gross.

But even if they have an aisle seat, shoeless cabin wandering is something they probably don’t want to do.

For one, you may get some strange looks from disgusted passengers.

But you also are putting your skin into contact with the floor of an airplane lavatory.

In addition to stepping on urine, you could be coming into contact with bacteria, viruses, and of course fungus. Those lavatory floors and cabin aisles don’t get cleaned as often as you might think.

Sometimes flight attendants might even request for you to put shoes on when heading to the lavatory so you can avoid that embarrassing situation by having your feet covered.

This is where slippers can come in handy so that you at least have something between your feet/socks and the floor of the airplane.

Or you can do what I do and just have your shoes easily accessible so that you can slip them on when you get up.

Final word

Taking your shoes off on a plane is not inherently problematic or a breach of airplane etiquette. The problems arise whenever you have an offensive odor or are putting unsightly feet on display.

You also want to think about some personal considerations like if your feet will swell and if you will be ready in the event of an emergency landing.

But by using just a little bit of common sense you should be able to deal with the shoe problem when flying relatively easy.

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