Why You Should Never Take Your Shoes Off on a Plane
For starters, it’s gross. But some Conde Nast Traveler editors disagree, and say go on, let your feet loose. Which side are you on?
We’ve all been there: You board your red-eye, settle into your seat for what’s hopefully a snooze, and wrap your legs in a blanket. And then a thought hits: I’d be so much more comfortable without these damn shoes. Some airlines encourage you to free your feet, offering thick socks to wear for long hauls. But there are other factors at play: 1.) Feet can smell, and so can shoes when there’s nothing shoved inside of them. 2.) If you take your shoes off, when you get up to use the restroom, do you then have to put them back on? It turns out, Conde Nast Traveler editors have very strong—and very divided—opinions on the matter.
TEAM “NO SHOES, NO PROBLEM”
“Not only do I take my shoes off as soon as I get on a plane, I spend the rest of the flight padding around in my socks, like I’m in my living room. Is it hygienic? Not really. But neither is the pillow I’m resting my head on, or the tray table in front of me that I’m most likely going to eat off of. Planes are already a germy, weird place to begin with, and I think wearing my socks to the bathroom won’t kill me. It might kill any germaphobic passengers who catch a glimpse of me doing so, but that’s their problem, not mine. #shoefreeforlife!” —Jayna Maleri
“Don’t we all just wash our socks after we wear them on a plane? Stuff them in a dirty clothes portion of the suitcase, not to be touched again until we land? It’s not like these socks do double duty. As you can tell, I’m all for removing shoes on a plane, given how much the pressure changes can make toes and ankles swell—sometimes enough that you can actually see your feet straining against the laces. It’s the tiniest bit of relief in an already taxing environment. Not that I’m pro bare feet on planes. That’s just anarchy.” —Laura Dannen Redman
TEAM “NO SHOES? BIG PROBLEM”
“Having spent many of my recent months writing about germs in hotels, on trains, and on planes, it’s safe to say I’ve developed a knee-jerk reaction to anything on a plane regarding cleanliness—or lack thereof. Buckling your seat belt, or eating off your tray table? There’s a germ for that. And while this no doubt makes me sound like a crazed germaphobe, the science of it all just seems too much for me to ignore: Taking off your shoes, putting your feet on the armrest ahead of you, then on the floor—with a shoeless bathroom break thrown in there for good measure—means that while you’re spreading germs, you’re also exposing yourself to them. That, and the thought of stepping into a wet airplane bathroom with nothing but a thin layer of fabric separating my toes from reality, is too much for me.” —Katherine LaGrave
“Here’s the thing: Before you leave for the airport, you know very well that you’re getting on a plane. So prepare accordingly by wearing comfortable shoes. I always travel in a pair of loafers made with the softest, most buttery leather—they’re basically slippers with a hard sole, and I can sleep in them without thinking about it. I can sort-of-kind-of-maybe get behind people slipping off their shoes and putting on thick, fresh socks while dozing off. But walking around the plane? No way. Between the nasty carpet and the bathroom floor, you’re soaking up more germs than you need to, not to mention grossing everyone out who has to walk in your path.” —Caitlin Moscatello