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Behind each exquisite dish that leaves the pass, is you, the chef. You, who has stood for hours on end chopping, cooking, and creating that dish. You may even have maneuvered around a loud call for "hot behind" to avoid a collision with a teammate carrying scalding liquid. Or, you stopped right in your tracks for a grease spill on the floor. The spills may not happen every day, but standing for 10 or more hours on hard concrete floors is a chef’s everyday life.
"Working substrates in commercial kitchens are often tiles or concrete with mats. However, mats may not always be used in certain areas. Concrete is a killer for your feet, knees, and back," says Vahé Mekhitarian, owner of Menu for You, reflecting upon his decades of working in professional kitchens.
Standing and walking on hard surfaces for hours on end fatigues the feet, and can cause issues like backaches and sprains. Wearing the right kind of shoes to properly support your body is as important as having your favorite knife with you on the job. So, we asked seasoned chefs what shoes they liked to wear to decrease fatigue, increase safety, and navigate safely through a busy kitchen.
Here are some of the best chef shoes as recommended by industry professionals.
Best for Flat Feet: Dansko Women's Professional Clog
The Dansko Professional Leather Clog delivers a high level of comfort and support to the feet for long hours of standing. The memory foam footbed provides great arch support, which is especially useful for those with flat feet.
"Dankos help alleviate back and foot pain when you put them on for extended standing in the kitchen," says Denis Zvekic, executive chef at Kachina Cantina in Denver. He recommends replacing them every 12 months or so, if you wear them all day, every day.
Best Lightweight: Crocs On The Clock Work Clog
Crocs are known for being incredibly lightweight, breathable shoes and are also water-friendly. These are the same lightweight, relaxed-fit shoes, but with an enclosed toe and heel that meet the professional kitchen standards. The shoe is nonslip and easy to clean with just soap and water. The slip-resistant treads make it safe to wear in the kitchen while providing ample support.
Chef Jason Maybee, who is a member of the Denver Chefs Collaborative and has over 25 years in the industry, likes the Crocs for their fit. "There’s no break-in time, whereas you sometimes need to break in other clogs. The spongy comfort is awesome, and I can wear these for a 12-hour shift," he says.
Key things in to look for in chef shoes: good support, comfortable footbed, shock absorption, slip resistance, water resistance, breathable, and easy to clean.
Best Durable: SAS Patriot Nonslip Shoe
Madhoo Seth, owner of Roots restaurant and The Gourmet Kitchen Catering in Colorado, is partial to SAS Patriot shoes. "SAS is the best shoe for me as I have very long days, and in addition to being in the kitchen, I have to be at events for weddings," she says. "My SAS shoe is in its 10th year of use, which shows that the shoes are long-lasting even with regular use."
SAS recommends getting professionally fitted for a shoe at one of its stores before buying to get the best fit and comfort. Its cool footbed technology helps keep your feet dry all day long with a moisture-wicking layer and an antifriction lining. There are also removable and odor-resistant cushions.
Best Sneaker: New Balance 626v2 Industrial Sneakers
Sometimes you want an athletic-looking shoe that is made for working in the kitchen environment. The sporty profile of this New Balance work shoe offers a comfy fit for all-day wear. The 626v2 sneaker has an all-leather upper for durability, and a good combination of cushioning and compression resistance to help you stay comfortable.
The shoes also have a slip-resistant outsole for traction, making it a safe shoe to wear in the kitchen environment. For those who might find traditional chef shoes heavy, these shoes provide the familiarity of a sports shoe with the safety of a kitchen shoe.
Best Clog: Birkenstock Profi-Birki Polyurethane Clogs
Birkis, as these are lovingly called, have a huge fan following in professional kitchens. Made of polyurethane, most chefs recommended these oil- and grease-resistant clogs.
"What really hooked me was the cork insoles you can get with them. They form to the shape of your foot after a week or so, and in that respect become personalized," says Zachary Patz, chef de cuisine at Il Posto in Denver. "They have a high back to keep my foot inside while still being slip-on shoes," he adds.
The Birkenstock has a wide insertion point and is roomy in the box, which allows the foot to move freely. The removable polyurethane footbed can be washed and disinfected.
Best Boot: Blundstone 990 Leather Work Boot
"The Blundstone is the tough, total coverage shoe [that protects] against all the hazards of the kitchen," says Chef Justin Ryan Fulton, an industry veteran and freelance consultant whose past positions include executive chef at Pernoi in Birmingham, Michigan and chef de cuisine at French Louie in Brooklyn, New York. "It is a completely protective shoe that gives excellent support while being extremely comfortable for long hours."
These Blundstone unisex work boots are designed for safety with a water-resistant leather upper slip-resistant sole, and a steel shank to ensure the correct step flex point. The shoes have a removable footbed, which is antibacterial, washable, and breathable, and also have great arch support.
Best Versatile: Dr. Martens 1460 Slip Resistant Service Boots
These shoes are made for work and play. The slip-resistant boots have great support and an enhanced grip. They also look great even outside the kitchen. If you find yourself running from the kitchen to events, you won’t have to stop to change your shoes.
Made with industrial, water-resistant leather, Dr. Martens are easily wiped clean. They take a couple of days to break in, but are comfortable after that. The shoes are versatile and help you express your individuality while staying safe and comfortable at work.
Best for Personal Chefs: Adidas Originals Cloudfoam Advantage Sneaker
As a personal chef, you are mostly working in a client’s home. The surface is quite different from the restaurant kitchen and so is the environment. You need shoes that can keep supporting you on both carpets and wooden floors.
"I discovered Adidas Clouds when talking with a friend who is a surgeon and is on his feet for long hours," says Mekhitarian. "We discussed footwear and he mentioned that the Adidas Clouds are most forgiving on his arches and back." Adidas lends greater flexibility and personality in your shoes as a personal chef.
Best for Women: Dansko XP 2.0 Clogs
These Dansko shoes come in a lot of fun colors and styles. They have a lightweight construction, slip-resistant soles, and a removable footbed. The shoe also has an arch stabilizer for support and memory foam for comfort for all-day standing. The padded instep provides extra comfort and the roomy toe box allows your toes to move comfortably.
"I appreciate their durability. They're slightly expensive but they last forever," says Cammie Reed, owner of Round the Table, a Colorado-based personal chef service. "There was a marked improvement in knee and ankle pain after wearing these shoes,"
Best for Men: Birkenstock Super-Birki Cork Footbed Clog
"Birkis are light on the feet, easy to put on, and feel like you are wearing loose slippers," says Taylor Westbrook, owner of By the Brook Tempeh in Saxapahaw, North Carolina. "They are pretty durable, and my first pair lasted a long time."
Birkenstock shoes come with a removable cork-latex footbed that conforms to your feet, and is lined with moisture-wicking fabric. "Breathability is key, which I value in the Birki brand," says Westbrook. The polyurethane sole is oil- and grease-resistant, can handle temperatures up to 176 degrees, and is easy to disinfect.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Personal chef and food educator Renu Dhar is used to standing for long hours while working. She personally owns a few of the recommended shoes and is always looking for shoes that help reduce fatigue and are safe in the work environment.