I value few things more than my friends, and when they're good enough to come by for dinner, my primary goal is to help them feel welcome and comfortable in my home.
When I visit them, I try to be a good guest: if they're teetotalers, I rarely ever arrive falling-down drunk; if they're Tea Partiers, I sensitively do not bring up the touchy topic of reality; if religious folk, I avoid overt references to the godless universe in which we all spin, anchorless if not for the warmth and camaraderie of our cherished amigos.
Several of my friends run shoe-free households: when you arrive, you're asked to remove footwear before stepping into their homes. During times of inclement weather, when slush and slop cover my boots, this is fully understandable – in fact, you don't even have to ask; bada-bing, I'm shoeless. What I cannot understand or abide is the request to doff my Doc Martens by the door when the weather is fine, my shoes perfectly clean, and the chance of damaging floors close to zero. Of course, homeowners can make any request they desire of those who enter their private domiciles, but that doesn't mean that any such request is reasonable or that I will comply with the more absurd requests willingly and without at least perfunctory bitching.
About this issue I am not doctrinaire. I will remove my shoes at Asian restaurants (as required), Islamic mosques, and before going to bed. Otherwise, either my shoes stay or I don't.
I respect the homes of my friends. I would never think to smoke in their space, put feet on furniture, or sleep with their spouses (unless explicitly requested to do so). However, when I'm asked to take off my shoes, the message I receive is that the host feels their property (rugs, floors, etc., which presumably might be damaged by my shoes) or their sense of propriety or ritual (which apparently involves the perverse ceremony of disrobing my feet at the door) takes precedence over the comfort of their guests; i.e., me.
No doubt about it: going shoe-less outside one's own home is an uncomfortable experience. Walking around a strange house exposes the gentle toes to various stubbing obstacles, and in the winter, wearing shoes keeps the lower extremities warm. In addition, I'm not a very tall person (just "average height") and removing my shoes causes me to lose some altitude, and I could use the extra inch (still referring to vertical dimensions, of course).
Anyway, I am actively avoiding dinner dates at households where friends ask me to shed offending articles of pedestrian protective gear before entering. When they come to my house, they sometimes ask, "Should I remove my shoes," to which I reply, with exaggerated incredulousness, "Why no! Why in the world would you want to do that? Come on in."