No matter what your role is in the kitchen – whether cook, chef, dishwasher, or some other position – shoes are an important aspect of your uniform.
That’s why, in this guide, we are going to dive into all the different important aspects that you should be looking for when it comes to evaluating kitchen shoes.
We’ll explore the different kinds on the market, some questions you should ask yourself before buying, and some of our favorite outlets for purchasing them.
So whether you are a professional chef with decades of experience in the kitchen, or someone just starting out, this guide will give you everything you need to know about purchasing kitchen shoes, and will hopefully teach you a thing or two along the way.
What to look for in kitchen shoes?
Perhaps the most important factor you should take into consideration when choosing kitchen shoes is slip resistance. In the middle of service, a kitchen can become wet or oily very quickly. That’s why it is imperative that you have shoes that can radically reduce your chance of slipping and falling in the kitchen.
According to a study done by the CDC, slips, trips, and falls (STFs) are the third most common non-fatal kitchen injury in the US, and the simplest way to stop STFs is through non-slip shoes. The study found that wearing “highly rated non-slip shoes” led to a 67% reduction in slip injuries.
When looking for high-quality non-slip shoes, there are two major factors to consider: material and tread pattern.
Material: Rubber is the go-to material when it comes to slip resistance. Not only is it soft when standing on, but it also sticks much better to the surface.
Tread Pattern: Although often overlooked in comparison to the material, the sole’s tread pattern can play a major role when it comes to slip prevention. Look for a pattern that channels liquid away from the bottom of the sole.
If slip resistance is important for what is happening underneath your shoe, water repellency is important for what is happening above it. If liquids fall in the kitchen, you want to ensure your shoes completely repel them so that your feet don’t become sogged while working.
Although leather was the most common material used in kitchen shoes to repel water, in recent years, shoe manufacturers have begun to use lighter materials, such as knit that have hydrophobic (water-repelling) properties. Both materials work great for their water-repelling capabilities, but some find leather a little harder to clean.
In general, the more durable the fabric used in the shoe, the greater lifespan it will have. Leather will most likely have greater longevity than other fabrics, but again it’s important to weigh other factors such as comfort cost. Like anything, when it comes to kitchen shoes, you get what you pay for.
Fit & Comfort
Most kitchen workers can be on their feet for north of eight hours per day. All of that standing can lead to back, knee, and foot pain. That’s why it is very important to find a shoe that fits snugly but is also something that you can withstand many consecutive hours wearing. Those slip-on Vans? They might be great for a casual day, but when it comes to working in a kitchen, they are a no-go.
Many kitchen shoes these days also come with removable insoles that provide extra comfort. If the shoes you are looking at do not, it is always possible to buy separate insoles and place them into your kitchen shoes.
Although everyone’s preferences differ, we suggest trying on kitchen shoes before buying them whenever possible.
Although perhaps the least important factor when it comes to working in the kitchen, we all still want to look good, right?
Although we still love the traditional styles of kitchen shoes, in recent years, brands such as Snibbs and Shoes For Crews have begun to embrace a more athletic style shoe.
Ultimately though, we suggest judging style last when it comes to picking shoes for the kitchen. Although those Converse’s may look great, they probably are lacking when it comes to features for the kitchen.
Exploring the Different kinds of Kitchen shoes (With Pros and Cons)
Unlike in the section above, where we explored some of the key components you should look for when choosing a kitchen shoe, the following section will explore some of the options you will see among good kitchen shoes.
Choosing a Heel
While it seems pretty standard among kitchen workers that slip-on shoes are the way to go, the design of the heel on the slip-on shoe is hotly debated.
The enclosed-heel kitchen shoe is the go-to option for most kitchen workers. It is classic and stylish and allows for the perfect combination of utility and comfort.
Kitchen shoes with a strapped heel may not seem very different from the enclosed heel, but they give the wearer much more control over the security of their foot. An adjustable strap acts like a sort of belt for the wearer.
Perhaps the most comfortable of the three options, the open heel is also the most casual. By removing any sort of strap or heel, the shoe allows for much more airflow and movement of the foot.
Some open-heeled shoes, such as the one shown below from Birkenstock, actually have an adjustable strap that can swivel down to act as a strap if wanted.
At the end of the day, it comes down to preference on which kind of heel you enjoy on your shoe.
With that being said, some restaurants or jurisdictions may have rules around wearing open-heel shoes in the kitchen, so it is either worth playing it safe and choosing something with a heel or first checking in with your kitchen manager.
The Different Styles of Shoes
When searching for kitchen shoes, you will most likely come across three different options: clogs, boots, and traditional shoes.
In the normal world, clogs are not a go-to option for most people, but you will see them everywhere in the kitchen. Chefs around the world adore clogs for their breathability and ability to quickly kick them off in an emergency.
Clogs are also a great option in the kitchen because they are usually made of one solid piece of material, which reduces any trip hazards.
Boots in the kitchen are much less popular than they used to be, but that doesn’t mean you won’t still see brands such as Dr. Martens. Ultimately, though, we suggest sticking to either clogs or shoes, as boots can become cumbersome and hot.
- Traditional Shoes
For years, you would hear of chefs having a “no athletic shoes” rule for their kitchen. They meant that they didn’t want employees coming into the kitchen wearing Nike or other shoes that might look like kitchen shoes but didn’t have the necessary safety aspects.
Although a good rule to live by, in recent years, brands such as Snibbs have begun offering kitchen shoes that look like athletic shoes but are actually designed to work in the kitchen.
Common Questions You Should Ask Before Buying a Shoe
Do I need to wear steel toe shoes in the kitchen?
Although steel toe shoes are not required in kitchens, some chefs and kitchen workers swear by wearing them.
Steel toe shoes can be very uncomfortable, but if you work with heavy pots or deal with sharp knives (such as in the butchering station), you may want to protect your feet with a steel toe.
Should I wear insoles?
Most kitchens are designed with simple concrete flooring that has been shown to reduce your foot’s natural shock absorption. Combine this with standing for 8-12 hours, and you can end up with multiple negative side effects and just a general uncomfortability.
To counteract these side effects, we suggest either wearing insoles or looking for kitchen shoes that have a natural shock-absorbing insole built in.
Should I wear compression socks?
Standing on your feet for hours on end, day after day, can lead to your legs fatiguing, swelling and even risking the chance of developing blood clots.
Compression socks can help alleviate this by helping promote circulation, decrease swelling, and prevent blood from pooling in the legs.
When evaluating compression socks, we suggest ones that are water-wicking and don’t have stitching on the inside of the socks.
Does my employer allow color?
Although Mario Batali was famous for his orange Crocs in the kitchen, that doesn’t mean that every employer will allow you to wear colorful shoes. So before you go rocking some of your personality in your shoes, it is best first to ask your employer if it is acceptable to wear colorful shoes in the kitchen.
How do you clean kitchen shoes?
Without stating the obvious, a professional kitchen can be a messy place that can lead to your shoes quickly becoming sweaty, dirty, and even potentially smelly.
There are two ways to counteract this. One is just to buy new shoes every 6-8 months. This option can become expensive though quite quickly.
The other option is to buy kitchen shoes that are easy to clean. Kitchen shoes such as those provided by Calzuro and Crocs can be cleaned by simply throwing them in a commercial dishwasher.
Where To Buy Kitchen Shoes
In no particular order, below is a list of reputable retailers that we believe sell high-quality kitchen shoes that you can’t go wrong with.
Putting It All Together
Although at first glance it may seem like a petty concern, hopefully, this article has helped explain why good shoes are such an important aspect of any kitchen worker’s uniform.
Ultimately, the best shoes you can buy for working in a kitchen are those you never think about while wearing. If you constantly have to loosen them, take them off, or just generally feel uncomfortable, it’s time to try another pair. Comfort is key.