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Ten long hours into a bakery shift, and my poor, tired feet are screaming at me. All they want is to fling off those concrete shoes, take a warm bath, and be blanketed by the saving grace of fuzzy slippers.
If you have ever worn the wrong shoes for a long period of time, I’m sure you have your own memories of painful experiences! From home cooks to professional chefs, we all deserve the best shoes to get us through our work.
In this review, we’ll go over the best kitchen footwear on the market. Whether you are standing for the whole day doing your Sunday meal prep for the week, or doing a double shift on the line, we are here to help you and your feet shop for the best options.
In this footwear guide, I’ll start by discussing five points to think about when you are shopping, including:
We’ll explore three styles for men and women, as well as unisex footwear. Then, I will share our top recommendations including:
Shopping for YOUR Perfect Shoe
No two feet are the same, and everyone has their own personal opinions when shopping. Take these guidelines into consideration to help you through the process, to find your own perfect kitchen footwear:
First, it’s important to consider what you really like in the shoe department.
Do you prefer the ease of sliding your feet into basic slip-on mules or clogs? Or would you rather have your feet tied tightly in place with laced-up sneakers?
Work shoes offer a variety of styles, but the main point of contention here is whether you want the security of a laced version, or the simplicity of a slip-on.
Personally, I prefer the sneaker variety for my work environment, because I like securing my feet in place with laces.
A few of my chef friends, however, like simple slip-ons, complaining that the laces of sneakers collect all forms of junk throughout a shift. Imagine the difficulty we had cleaning off thick homemade pancake batter that was lodged inside and among all the knots and laces!
If you decide to go with slip-ons, also take into consideration the fact that the toes and the back of the heels must be completely covered in the restaurant environment. Some clogs leave heels exposed, which increases the risk of your feet sliding right out.
In addition to style, work shoes are offered in many different materials. Your choice of material will depend on your own personal needs and preferences.
Leather and steel-toe materials are ideal for those working in the industry who need additional protection. Rubber is another option if you need long-lasting wear. If you prefer something softer, most sneaker varieties offer great comfort in addition to support.
The type of material will also determine if your chosen pair is acceptable to wear in a professional kitchen environment.
Some professional kitchens do not recommend wearing Crocs, even though the brand has recently developed better models for the food service industry.
The lightweight material and open holes, though great for breathability, are not the safest option to wear in a potentially dangerous kitchen environment that’s full of bustling line cooks, heavy pots and pans, freshly sharpened knives, and searing hot foods (in addition to ideal shoes, we’ve got some awesome kitchen safety tips for you to read about here).
The same goes for your kitchen at home, especially if you’re prone to spills.
With that said, if your feet still bear stepping away from the Crocs, we have selected our favorite option that is the safest and most practical of the styles available from this brand, suitable for wear in most kitchens.
The color is another factor that’s important to consider. While you are often required to wear black footwear in many professional restaurant and bakery kitchens, you may want to add some extra flair to those worn for home cooking.
Brands like Dankso and Klogs offer a wide selection of fun colors and prints. Why not razzle-dazzle in patent leather zebra-print shoes (which they totally have, by the way) when prepping a pot roast for your next dinner party?
4. Non-Slip Option
Another requirement in most professional kitchens is that footwear must be slip-resistant – and for very good reason.
Both in a professional kitchen and at home, spills happen quite often. Water splashing out of sinks or a bowl of melted butter accidentally knocked to the floor are just a few of the many potential slipping hazards present in kitchens, for even the most graceful of cooks.
No matter which model(s) you choose to buy, be sure to read product descriptions carefully to ensure that the ones you select are made from slip-resistant materials.
Some phrases to look for include:
- With tread or traction patterns
Most brands will openly advertise that their products are made with their own patented slip-resistant technology. Crocs, for example, market their Crocs Lock™ technology for slip resistance.
For your shopping convenience, all of the models listed in this review are slip-resistant.
5. Buying Multiple Pairs
Can’t decide on just one pair? We actually recommend having a few different options for your feet to wiggle in while you’re working. This will give you a chance to try out different styles, to find what is best for your feet.
You might want a pair for work and a pair for home. If you prefer to wear sneakers in a kitchen work environment, think about keeping another pair of slip-on kitchen clogs for home use, ones that you can easily change into and out of as you go about your daily chores throughout the house.
Our Top Recommendations
Now that you are well equipped with the necessary knowledge, continue reading below for our three top picks of the best men’s, women’s, and unisex kitchen shoes!
Skechers for Work
True to its name “softie,” these shoes have added inner cushioning made of breathable cotton lining for maximum comfort.
While these may be soft on the inside, they are tough and ready for a food fight on the outside. With high abrasion rubber and leather material, they are more durable than most sneakers for vigorous kitchen work. Plus, the price is reasonable.
What Others Are Saying
With over 1,000 reviews on Amazon.com to date, many happy customers rave about being able to stand or walk for long periods of time while wearing these, with comfort and support.
Many appreciated how soft and comfortable they felt, and liked how the shoes were ready to wear immediately, without the need for any breaking in.
The biggest complaint is that they did not last as long as expected. Some reviewers complained of worn-out soles after just a few weeks of wear. However, many customers wrote that they have bought a second set of these because of the superior level of comfort that they offer.
Are you looking for a long lasting, high quality, incredibly strong slip-on clog? We have the perfect item! As one of the highest rated and most reviewed Dansko women’s work shoes, this is truly a leather-clad warrior.
One of the defining characteristics of a Dansko clogs is the sturdy quality, especially in the heel and platform. The heel is about 1.5 inches tall and the platform about 1 inch.
This is a truly heavy-duty piece of apparel, made of leather (or strong, water-resistant fabric in a few styles) and rubber. The shipping weight comes in at 3 pounds, which is more typical of something a bit more substantial, like women’s snow boots.
This style also features a reinforced toe box, and a shock-absorbing sole. And with reinforced arch support and an insole made from polyurethane foam, which is designed for breathability and temperature control, you should feel comfortable whenever you must stand for a long amount of time.
Available in over 30 different prints and colors, you have the option of creating a fashionable look whenever you enter the kitchen. Depending on the color or print you choose, they’re a little more expensive than other options we’ve reviewed.
These clogs also come in solid colors like black for those who need to don a more professional work uniform.
Another bonus? They are very easy to clean with just soap and water.
What Others Are Saying
The downside? While most of the many reviewers to date on Amazon.com applaud Dansko for the strong durability of their products, there is a negative side that you should be aware of as well. This assessment is based on personal experience, as well as reviews from disappointed customers.
Most of the complaints are due to a lack of comfort. Because I have worn these personally and can attest to some of the difficulties involved, I will provide my own advice below on how to deal with these somewhat inconvenient (but fixable!) issues.
Dissatisfied customers complained that the hard material is not comfortable, and that there is not enough cushioning provided. Essentially, you are wrapping your feet in an inflexible box of tough leather.
Another issue that reviewers discussed is the challenging heel and platform. This model is far heavier than most clogs, and walking around may be a little awkward at first. On more than one occasion, even after months of wearing them, some reviewers complained that their ankles turned while walking.
As a warning for those who want to purchase these, I highly suggest you wear them on a trial run at home before wearing them to work. This will ensure you are at least introduced to and somewhat familiar with the fit and feel.
Despite these complaints, this brand is always a popular choice, and is definitely worth considering. I like to compare Dansko’s offerings to a knight’s armor – it may not be the most comfortable, but it can withstand a lot of physical craziness!
After owning a pair for over four years and through multiple kitchen jobs, my shoes are still in amazing condition. All they need is a bit of DIY tinkering.
For example, even though you cannot remove the insole, you can easily add a thin cushioned insert for more comfort. You can also reinforce the toe area with a fabric like moleskin to further shield your toes from the solid lining.
If you are a woman who enjoys following the latest fashion trends, you will fall in love with this new and popular style. Similar to other casual canvas-style slip-on shoes, this design is specifically reinforced for the kitchen scene.
Townforst’s research and development department continuously evolves their non-slip shoe technology through independent slip-resistant testing. In addition to their patented shock absorption and traction, these stylish beauties are flexible, lightweight, and feature a cushioned foam footbed, all for an affordable price.
What Others Are Saying
Many who reviewed this product on Amazon like the fashion-forward canvas-style design. They were happy that they did not need to wear chunky clogs or sneakers for their daily work.
Even though the majority of customers were satisfied with the non-slip traction and long-lasting comfort, others had complaints about the memory foam design. Some women argued that the insert flattened during long periods of standing or walking, and was therefore not as supportive in the arch as expected.
Skechers for Work
Yet again, the Skechers brand reigns supreme for kitchen footwear! Men who appreciate a snug, secure feel can rock an athletic style in this workhorse sneaker, and they are affordable, too.
With an ethylene-vinyl acetate mid-sole (meaning it is well-cushioned) and removable insole, you can actually customize the support level to get personalized comfort with this shoe.
What Others Are Saying
Many customers were in agreement that these do the job to get them through a long day. Some shoppers who bought them for their significant others were excited to comment on how comfortable their beaus felt after wearing them.
As with the women’s Skechers, some customers were disappointed that they did not last as long as expected before the rubber started to wear, or the stiches came undone. However, many were happy to purchase the same shoe a second time due to the high comfort level that they experienced.
Merrell makes a great option for those working in the industry who like a more stylish designate a reasonable price. The shoes provide a useful slip-on alternative to a clog, since they are closed in the back to keep the foot snugly in place without exposing the ankles.
The simple, smooth leather material is incredibly easy to clean with soap and water, and the sleek look of the shoe is ideal for someone who does not want to be hassled by laces. The padded collar and flexible inserts are nice additional touches.
What Others Are Saying
Customers gave them high praise overall, and they were pleased by how well their feet stayed put while wearing them. People working in production bakeries and restaurant kitchens as well as day-to-day wearers like how comfortable the shoe is, and how easy it is to put on and take off.
The downside? Some customers who purchased these online complained that they ran smaller and narrower than the size indicated. Many had to return the pair they ordered in exchange for the next size up. Our advice is to order one size bigger and perhaps wider than what you normally wear.
For men seeking the added protection of a steel toe, this shoe is one of the highest rated options. With a sneaker design that resembles other New Balance athletic shoes, men can feel comfortable wearing these both in the kitchen environment and on a daily basis.
Products from the New Balance brand feature ABZORB® cushioning technology, which provides a blend of both foam cushion and compression materials. Combined with the steel toe design, you will be all set for a comfortable and safe workday without breaking the bank.
What Others Are Saying
Overall, men liked this sneaker style for its comfort and arch support. New Balance is popular due to its wider foot designs, another reason that customers appreciated this particular pair.
The main complaint was that the toe area became uncomfortable after long periods of wear, due to the addition of the steel toe.
Unisex shoes, as opposed to those marketed specifically as men’s or women’s, provide both advantages and disadvantages.
First, unisex varieties have a wider array of options available in clogs and slip-on designs.
These are also perfect picks for customers seeking more wiggle room in the toe area, as they tend to be wider in fit to satisfy both male and female standard sizes.
As for their disadvantages, there definitely tend to be more sizing issues overall, because these are designed to satisfy a universal range. This can be especially difficult when purchasing footwear online, since customers aren’t able to try them on before purchasing – but returns and exchanges are relatively painless.
Take a look below for our top unisex favorites!
This Bistro clog from Crocs was designed specifically for the foodservice industry, and cooks looking for light-as-a-feather comfort favor this style. The tailored tread on the bottom has been tested to meet the slip-resistant standards of Crocs Lock™ with increased traction support.
The contoured massaging footbed and famous Crocslite™ material and foam construction will give you long-lasting comfort. Your feet will be singing – not screaming – after hours of standing work, and the affordable price is hard to beat.
This model is also designed with thicker material than other Crocs, while still feeling lightweight and comfortable – not to mention all of that gunky buildup from hours of cooking comes off easily with soap and water. You also get to enjoy the odor-resistant feature that helps to make all Crocs very popular.
While they are not completely closed in the back, the back strap and closed toe (without ventilation holes) make these particular Crocs acceptable to wear in some professional kitchens.
What Others Are Saying
Most customers adore these shoes. With nearly over 1000 reviews on Amazon at the time of this writing, this is one of the most popular professional-style Crocs currently on the market. The professional cooks among the customers applaud the slip-resistant technology that is employed without sacrificing their famous lightness.
On the downside, many customers complained that their feet became incredibly sweaty after wearing these for a few hours. Even though they are designed for foot comfort, they are not as breathable as other Crocs that are designed with holes for ventilation.
Another easy slip-on option, this Birkenstock is great for both home and restaurant wear. The thick, rubbery exterior is able to endure heavier work, and the cotton-lined cork footbed is designed to keep your feet comfortable.
There’s even a surprise added bonus: once you remove the insole, the shoes are dishwasher safe. Easy to clean, and a good buy to boot!
Let’s face it: we can all be a little messy sometimes… like when we accidentally overfill the blender on smoothie night. (Whoops!) That sticky, purple berry-chia seed slop (or basically whatever else you manage to spill on them) will come right off after you clean them in the dishwasher.
What Others Are Saying
Many customers really love how they can throw these in the dishwasher for easy cleaning. A customer who works in a pizza shop praised this model for being easy to clean in his particular work environment that’s filled with grease, flour, and cheese.
Customers also like the high arch support, but this may be a problem for those who do not need that much support in the soles. Too much arch support (or lack thereof) is a common issue with fittings.
With these Birkenstock shoes, the high arch may be too severe of a curve under the bottom of the feet for some wearers, causing unnecessary strain and discomfort.
The main complaint has to do with sizing issues. Many of the female reviewers commented that the ones they ordered were too big, and had to return them for a size down.
These closed-back clogs are ideal if you prefer a simply designed, lightweight slip-on option for both the professional and home kitchen.
They are also offered in different colors, ranging from the more traditional plain black and navy to more vibrant options like hot pink confetti and grape kiwi punch. At an affordable price point, it’s nice to have the option to purchase a pair with some added panache.
Key features include superior shock absorbent, odor-resistant, and anti-microbial polyurethane material. The inner sole is removable, and it provides very soft cushioning and decent arch support.
These are also very easy to clean – simply use soap and water to wipe off any mess with a towel.
What Others Are Saying
Customers were happy overall with the style, support, and comfort of these shoes. Reviewers who were looking for a durable kitchen slip-on clog described Klogs as a less expensive and softer alternative to Dankso.
Some complained that the back did not come as high on the heel as they wanted, resulting in feet slipping out with every stride.
Multiple reviewers also complained about loud squeakiness when walking. This may be a concern when working with others, as the constant noise may antagonize everyone around you! In noisier kitchens, however, this may not be as much of an issue.
There are so many footwear options to consider when shopping for your next pair of kitchen shoes.
Sneakers or slip-ons?
Work or home?
Black or hot pink?
The final decision is yours, based on what you think is best for your own situation.
Your feet deserve proper footwear, especially when working as hard as you do in your kitchen!
You NEED shoes that are comfortable and supportive enough to remain standing for countless hours as you prepare the next meal for your family, or tackle the long line of tickets during a busy Saturday night dinner shift.
You NEED shoes that are durable and strong enough to withstand a busy kitchen environment of spilled cupcake batter and dropped utensils.
All of the factors reviewed in this article will determine the outcome of your purchase, and will ultimately improve your overall well-being and performance in the kitchen, both in the home and at work.
Your feet will thank you!
What are your own footwear trials and tribulations? Do you have a favorite work shoe? Let us know by posting your thoughts in the comments!
Photo Credits: Shutterstock. Product photos courtesy of Skechers, Dansko, Townforst, Merrel, New Balance, Crocs, Birkenstock, and Klogs. See our TOS for more details.
About Nikki Cervone
Nikki Cervone is a full-time cheesemonger and specialty foods buyer living in Pittsburgh. Nikki holds an AAS in baking/pastry from Westmoreland County Community College, a BA in Communications from Duquesne University, and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. When she's not nibbling on her favorite cheeses or testing a batch of cupcakes, Nikki enjoys a healthy dose of yoga, wine, hiking, singing in the shower, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.