Over the past couple decades, work dress codes have relaxed in Corporate America. Most employees are no longer required to wear suits and ties for non-customer facing jobs. Many jobs have eased the slacks requirement for jeans. Offices for the most part have let nylons go the way of the dinosaur.

While the corporate world does not require high heels any more, employees’ footwear choices can still get them in hot water. In fact, shoes are one of the top reasons why employees are sent home for dress code violations.


  • Job A allows open toe shoes, but not backless shoes
  • Job B allows backless shoes, but not open toe
  • Job C allows you to choose open toe or backless, but not both
  • Job D will dictate you can show no more than two toes
  • Job E allows closed shoes without nylons, but anything with an open toe requires nylons
  • Job F does not allow shoes with straps between or around any toes
  • On top of that, there is the whole “flip flop vs sandal” debate.

All of this, we are told, is for “our safety.” Some Human Resources departments even claim that other footwear is “against health codes” or “against insurance codes.”

In fact, the truths are:

  • Health codes only focus on food items and not the cubicle jobs. Health inspectors do not inspect call centers. If there is a restaurant on the property, the food is inspected. While the Health Department does keep dress codes, they are to ensure hair, dirt, and foreign objects (such as fingernails) do not contaminate food. Clean aprons are an example of a Health Department dress code requirement. Some health departments may stress that employees must wear non-slip shoes in an area that might contain grease. However, this would be a case of injury prevention that is not applicable in an office environment.
  • As far as OSHA rules, their web site states, “OSHA does not have a specific policy on the wearing of open-toe shoes in an office environment. The OSHA occupational foot protection standard at 29 CFR 1910.136(a) requires the use of protective footwear when employees are working in areas where there is a danger of foot injuries due to falling or rolling objects, or objects piercing the sole, and where there is a possibility of the employee’s feet being exposed to an electrical hazard.”

A computer, staple, telephone, food, employee coffee cup, or other general office supplies are not considered OSHA-related hazards.

The direct link for something with an official OSHA heading can be found here.

  • Business insurance companies do not put shoes in as a requirement to have business insurance. Nowhere in an insurance application will you find questions about your employees’ footwear. Insurance premiums are not lowered for requiring shoes. Insurance premiums do not get raised by allowing open shoes or even no shoes at all. Liability insurance does not focus solely on feet, just as they do not usually require all employees to wear back braces to prevent injury, helmets to prevent bumps on the head, or knee pads to keep from banging knees against a desk.

So, then why are people worried about feet?

Most people truly believe there are laws in relation to feet. People see “No shoes, no service” signs. Managers have told employees they must wear shoes. People just believe the people that tell them this – without doing any research.

Are people actually offended by feet in a society where most of the public wears open shoes? Does a customer wearing flip flops get offended because the person helping them is wearing backless shoes? Do customers refuse to pay their bill because someone has their shoes off under their desk?

Reasons For Relaxing Shoe Rules


Barefoot to School

Barefoot in classSchool is the equivalent to work for kids. They spend the majority of the day in the classroom Monday through Friday and sit at desks. Relaxing shoe rules for kids has a lot of the same benefits as above, with a few additions.

  • Quieter classrooms without shoes hitting the floor and
  • Calmer students as they don’t get shoes around under their desk

Just as a child’s brain is developing when they learn, their feet are developing as they grow. While nourishing minds, the school can also be encouraging proper foot development.

In countries such as Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa it’s common to see students barefoot in class. Even in schools with dress codes, footwear is left up to the child.

Don’t wait until reaching adulthood and work. Start kids off right with going barefoot to school.