Imagine showing up to the very first day of your first job at a restaurant. You’re excited, nervous, and ready to meet the rest of the team and get to work. There’s only one problem, though: instead of donning comfortable work shoes, you show up in sandals, inadvertently violating the first rule of restaurant footwear: never wear open-toed shoes. Shoes for restaurant workers are always closed-toe, comfortable, and slip-resistant.
While options abound, one thing’s for certain: how you treat your feet is not a decision to be taken lightly when you work in a restaurant and are on your feet every day for hours on end.
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Why Non-Slip Restaurant Shoes are Important
Anyone who’s worked in restaurants can attest that you’ll traverse many miles and landmines throughout a typical shift. You need shoes that can do the double duty of standing up to the elements and keeping you comfortable — while doing the physically taxing work of cooking or serving all day and into the night.
Here’s why it's in your best interest to choose the most comfortable and non-slip restaurant shoes available:
Hot Spills and Splatters
No matter how tight a ship your restaurant management runs, something is inevitably going to end up on the floor. Pair those scattered lemon wedges, melted ice cubes, and errant grease slicks with a server balancing entrees for a four top and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
A recent study by Emory University found that food service workers “have a 60 percent higher rate of occupational injury than workers in other industries.” For both FOH and BOH workers, non-slip shoes are non-negotiable. In fact, if you don’t have a policy requiring non-slip shoes for your staff, institute one right away. Besides protecting your staff from injury, you’ll be protecting your business.
Foot Protection and Injury Prevention
When you’re feverishly digging through dry storage or the walk-in to restock mid-shift, it’s easy to lose your grip and drop a heavy box or container on your feet. For BOH workers, hot oil and grease splashes are another hazard.
Most folks are aware of the danger of cutting or burning their hands, but dropped food in the kitchen can also burn legs and feet. To avoid a hospital trip for a broken toe or third degree burn, it’s essential to have non-slip restaurant shoes that can withstand a bit of impact.
Restaurant workers log long hours on their feet. One study found that servers on average clock 23,000 steps a day – that’s more than 10 miles! Livestrong.com notes that for each mile walked, our feet bear 200,000 to 300,000 lbs of stress. For these reasons, arch support is critical.
Slip-resistant shoes that support the natural curve of our feet – as opposed to flat shoes like flip flops – not only improve comfort during long shifts, but they also prevent injury. Ankle sprains, ankle twists, and fallen arches can all result from undertaking strenuous activity without the proper support.
Use this guide to teach your new staff about acceptable workplace behavior, expectations, roles, systems, and responsibilities.
The 14 Best Non-Slip Restaurant Shoes
Passionate opinions abound on the topic of which restaurant shoes rise to the top. This is a case where one size certainly does not fit all.
Here’s a round-up of the top picks from the restaurant workers we spoke to, from clogs to sneakers.
1) Dansko Clogs
Ask a restaurant worker about their favorite footwear and clogs are likely to be towards the top of the list.
Nordic-inspired, USA-based Dansko has a loyal following — and for good reason. They’re a staple of many professionals not just in food service, but in the healthcare and retail industries as well. They offer great support, a little height, and come in an extensive variety of designs and styles. These qualities make Danskos not only great restaurant shoes, but great everyday shoes. Ann Dittrich, Creative Director for Dansko, reveals that “more than 80 percent of our customers wear Danskos both on and off the job.” If you're going to invest in a pair of Danskos – and they are an investment, as a basic pair will cost you $140 – make sure you're purchasing a slip-resistant model.
2) Birkenstock Clogs
“I’m partial to the Birkenstock clog,” says Grace Lichaa, a 10-year veteran of the food service industry in Boston. They don’t have a “heel like Danskos, are super comfy, and you can also take out the insert and wash them in the dishwasher. The polyurethane is more protective than leather for hot water and grease, too.”
Grace reveals another important truth about restaurant shoes: they stink. The ability to clean the inserts is a huge perk, and Bon Appétit magazine agrees. When they conducted a staff survey to determine the best kitchen shoes, it was the Birkenstock London Hunter that rose to the top, earning points for practicality, comfort, and style.
3) Sanitas Clogs
Styled similarly to Danskos, Sanitas is another clog brand with a large fan base. “I live and die by my Sanitas,” says Jessica Smith, manager at Streetcar wine shop in Boston. “[They] have a snugger fit than Dansko clogs so your foot doesn’t slosh around and they last much longer. My current pair are in their fourth year and – apart from my spilling paint all over them – are still in awesome shape!”
Folks prone to back issues noted Sanitas as their clear favorite. “I wore sneakers in college when I was waiting tables and it compressed my lumbar. When I switched to Sanitas, I regrew a 1/2 inch! I’ve been wearing them for over 10 years now. Also, I have wide feet so it’s nice to have options in their sizing,” says Leona Naiki, a baker and cheesemonger in Detroit.
Julia Hallman, manager at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge, Massachusetts, also commented on the miracles Sanitas can work. “I have lower back problems so I love how well the Sanitas improve my posture. The heels never wear down so they feel as good as when I first bought them. Mine are five years old and going strong!”
4) Crocs Bistro
In 2007, Crocs capitalized on their popularity among food service workers by debuting their Bistro Clog specifically for culinary professionals.
The line forgoes the porous design of original Crocs and offers slip-resistant treads, reinforced toes and the signature feature that made Crocs famous: cleanability. Crocs can be hosed down, soaked, and scrubbed like no other shoe, a major advantage for those wading through grease and grime all shift long.
Not to be outdone by the clog cult, sneakers can also be a safe and practical option to get you through a shift. Gregg Ciccone, baker at (swah-rey) dessert bar in St. Petersburg, FL swears by Hoka running shoes because “they’re super comfortable and supportive.”
Sneakers are also a go-to for Mackenzie Jacobs, a catering server at Four Seam Hospitality in Sutton, NE. “They allow for full movement of your feet and are very comfortable,” she says.
6) Skechers Non-Slip Work Shoes
Skechers Work collection is perfect for sneaker fans who need a slip-resistant option that can support them for long shifts. They're also amazingly affordable, with styles ranging from classic sneakers to boots.
7) Vans 'Made for Makers' Shoe Line
Vans Made for Makers line is designed for "tough jobs, and the creative communities around them. Whether you're an artist, surfboard shaper, barber, or tattoo artist, Made For The Makers was built for maximum comfort so you can do what you love all day."
Styles include classics from the Vans catalog, including the ubiquitous SK8-Hi hightop's, the Slip-On, and the Old-Skool, each equipped with a non-slip vulcanized lugged soles and a canvas upper that repels dirt and liquids.
8) Dr. Scholl's "Work" Slip-Resistant Shoe Line
Dr.Scholl's "Work" line is specifically made for professionals who spend hours on their feet, but don't want to compromise comfort or curb appeal for support and slip resistance.
The line offers customers a variety of styles – including clogs, lace-up sneakers, slip-on sneakers, Mary-Janes, ballet flats, and even heeled wedges – that each offer the wearer a sturdy, durable shoe that protects from the elements and can be worn comfortably for hours on end.
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9) New Balance Arishi V3
New Balance sneakers are known for their comfort and arch support, and the Arishi V3 doesn’t fail to deliver. These shoes feature a cushioned insole, are slip-resistant, and have TripGuard which allow fluid movement between slippery environments. They’re also made with a breathable mesh material that’s easy to clean.
10) Keep Company Shaheen Gourmand Mid-Top Sneakers
Tested by real chefs, Keep Company has designed a line of shoes that don’t sacrifice style for comfort. The Gourmand has a non-slip rubber sole, and the shoe is both oil and water resistant. The insole provides a good amount of heel and arch support, and the lace-up provides extra ankle support without looking clunky. And a bonus: these shoes are vegan, so it’s a great option for those who don’t want to purchase leather shoes.
While Clove’s sneakers are relatively new to the block and are made with healthcare professionals in mind, their slip-resistant shoes are a great option for restaurant workers. These sneakers feature “liquid-repellent and stain-resistant Clarino™ fabric [and] odor-fighting, machine washable insoles from Ortholite™.” Clove also features a cushioned foam insole and a cushioned foam midsole for all day comfort, along with a slip-resistant rubber outsole.
Snibbs dubs their product as “the last work show you’ll ever need” — and since they were designed by an orthopedic surgeon, those claims may not be too far-fetched. Snibbs features Ortholite™ insoles like Clove, and offers a breathable, lightweight, and supportive shoe that repels water with a non-slip sole. There’s no need to worry about being stuck with a pair of Snibbs if they don’t work for you — they offer a 30-day trial period with a full refund.
13) Emeril’s Footwear
If you’re wondering if the Emeril Lagasse is behind this shoe, then yes, you’re right. He offers both slip-on and laced options that are slip-, water-, stain-, and odor-resistant. All of the shoes have a comfortable mid-sole for comfort and a patented B.A.M. memory foam technology for all day comfort and stability.
14) Merrell Jungle Moc Pro Work Shoes
Sturdy yet lightweight, Merrell’s Moc Pro shoes feature full grain, waterproof leather uppers with an oil and slip resistant rubber sole. While the shoes are made with leather, the lining is made from breathable mesh which keeps the feet cool and dry all dry.
What Not to Wear to a Restaurant Job
In the search for the perfect pair of restaurant shoes, knowing which shoes to avoid is equally important. Here’s a cheat sheet for which shoe types to steer clear of.
Exposed feet equals vulnerable feet. Besides making yourself vulnerable to injury, most establishments simply won’t allow them. In some states, having exposed toes in a restaurant kitchen is against the health code.
Ah, ballet flats. So chic, so trendy, so...flat. The lack of arch support is the number one offender here. Feeble protection of the toes and tops of your feet are close behind.
Boat shoes are supposed to be non-slip, right? Yes and no.
While many boat shoes are designed to prevent slips on deck, throw a greasy floor in the mix and it all goes out the window. Slick floors and boat shoes don’t mix. Also, these casual shoes offer no arch support and have ample room for kitchen debris to get in.
The one exception here may be for those working the host stand. For everyone else on the floor, heels won’t get you far.
Ever heard of someone attempting to walk a half marathon in heels? There’s a reason you haven’t. You’ll be setting yourself up for painful cuts and calluses — not to mention back and shoulder issues from the lack of support.
Find Yourself Some Comfortable Work Shoes
There are many ways to get burned working in a restaurant and wearing the wrong shoes is one of them. Investing in a quality pair will carry you through many a shift and pay dividends in the form of happy and healthy feet.