Mar 27, 2022 / Slip Resistant Footwear
5 Tips on Picking the Best Restaurant Shoes
Whether you just took your first dishwashing job or you’re a veteran server, a high-quality pair of restaurant work shoes are the most important tool in your arsenal for avoiding pain and injuries during your shifts.
The best restaurant shoe has two major functions—preventing slips and keeping your feet, back, legs, and neck aligned whether you’re on or off the clock. If your feet don’t stay centered in your shoes, you could incur injuries that will create lifelong pain throughout your body.1 Slip resistant work shoes are essential for any work environment to ensure safety, especially if you’re working in food service or customer service where you’re required to work long hours on your feet.
But, with so many options for a work shoe on the market, how can you pick the best restaurant shoes? In this guide, we’ll break down five tips to find the best shoes, including choosing the best non-slip shoes that perform well after a test run, picking up some insoles that work for your feet, and seeking out shoes that are easy to clean and maintain.
After reading our how-to guide, you’ll be ready to shop for work shoes like a pro.
#1 Find Non Slip Shoes
Slips and falls are the leading cause of injuries in the restaurant industry, especially since the floors are smooth and tend to be a more slippery surface to roll tables and carts on.2 Thus, choosing a comfortable shoe that is also a non-slip shoe is a critical injury prevention method for cooks, dishwashers, servers, and bartenders alike. If you’re wondering how to tell if shoes are non-slip, we’ve got you covered!
To answer the question, what are non-slip shoes?, Restaurant non slip shoes are usually characterized by their thick, textured soles, which provide:
- Traction across multiple surfaces to prevent slips Durability for long periods of wear Rigid support for long-term walking and standing
Beware of shoes with soles that are flat or have minimal texture. Slip resistant shoes should have tread patterns that help prevent liquids or grease from getting trapped under the sole, which can lead to slips.
Since studies show that shoes with slip resistance are the most effective prevention method for restaurant worker slip and fall injuries, you shouldn’t settle for anything less when searching for your next pair of work footwear.3
Despite their effective prevention of workplace injuries, you might have a negative impression of non-slip shoes if you’re new to the restaurant industry—but, not all non-slip shoes look the same. Overall, they are essential if you’re a waitress or a chef.
If you’re not interested in sacrificing style for safety with a slip resistant shoe, or your workplace requires formal dress with dress shoes, any shoe retailer worth their salt will have a selection of non-slip shoes that don’t skimp on aesthetics while still providing arch support with a comfortable rubber sole.
#2 Walk As Much As You Can While Trying On Shoes
To ensure that your shoes fit well and that they’ll be comfortable throughout your entire shift, you should walk in them for as long as you can while trying them on. Before heading to the cash register to pay for your new kicks, try out these tactics for testing them out:4
- Focus on keeping your foot centered in your shoe while you walk. If your heels, arches, or toes slip inside the shoes while you walk, the pair doesn’t fit well.
- Vary your walking speed. Any veteran restaurant worker will tell you that the occasional fast-walk during your shift isn’t an anomaly, so you should make sure that your shoes fit and perform well even when you’re walking above a casual pace.
- Pay attention to your arches. If you feel your feet collapsing or sinking, it’s important to assess the insole. Having an insole that offers more structural support, may be more beneficial than a foamy or gel insole that offers little support.
- Don’t settle for immediate comfort—assess how your feet feel after fifteen to twenty minutes of walking in the new pair, even if they seem incredibly comfortable the moment you slip them on. Your shoe should fit snug in the ball and arch area, and the toes should have some space where the tip of the shoe ends. Keep in mind that a little snugness on the sides is okay since the shoes upper, or mid section, will stretch and conform to the user's shape.
When testing out potential shoe options, keep in mind that it is always a good idea to own two pairs of shoes to rotate during shifts. Heavy exertion during a busy work shift can cause perspiration in your shoes, which will wear out the inner shoe lining due to the constant friction. Moisture in the shoe can also cause the shape of the shoe to stretch over time, if not completely dried in between wearing. In the long term, investing in two pairs of shoes will help to maintain the longevity of your shoes and will allow for increased wear time.
The latter point is crucial in today’s shoe market. Numerous brands use foam or other non-rigid materials for insoles to create a “wow factor” when you first slip on a pair of shoes, but these materials won’t keep your feet as comfortable or aligned during long-term wear as an insole with more structural support will.
Walking for as long as you can in your shoes before swiping your card will help you separate the wheat from the chaff at your local shoe retailer.
#3 Choose Insoles That Work For Your Feet
If you simply can’t find a pair of shoes that fit your feet perfectly, or you’re worried about long-term foot alignment or support in a low-budget shoe, you should consider investing in insoles. But, not all insoles are created equal. In all likelihood, a rigid pair of insoles are the best option.5
Rigid insoles help keep your heels, arches, and toes aligned and centered in your shoes while you walk, preventing pronating and slipping. Both of these symptoms of poor shoe fit or insufficient support—pronating and slipping—can cause foot, upper thigh, back, and neck pain, particularly for people with strenuous jobs, like restaurant workers.
While you might be persuaded by squishy or plush insoles, those materials have two major drawbacks:
- 1 They compress quickly over time, leaving you with limited additional support.
- 2 They have too much give to actually support your heels, arches, and toes.
When you try a new pair of insoles, give them the same test run that you would if you were trying on shoes. Take note of their supportive qualities (or lack thereof), how your feet feel after a moderate period of standing or walking, and whether or not they help your feet stay centered inside of your shoes while you walk.
#4 Look For Low-Maintenance, Easily Cleaned Shoes
The restaurant industry isn’t kind to shoes—between long wear times, occasional spills, and kitchen floors that won’t be clean until closing, restaurant workers’ shoes take a lot of hits. While knowing how to clean work shoes properly can help with longevity, work shoes that have protective features from daily wear and tear prevent you from constantly having to clean your shoes.
So, the best restaurant shoes will be easy to clean and maintain. Look for the following qualities:
- Waterproof or water-resistant materials, which will prevent stain setting and allow runs through the washing machine.
- Removable laces or slip-on shoes to reduce cleaning time.
- Ventilation holes to prevent odor buildup.
You’ll achieve different results with different materials. Let’s explore three common materials for restaurant shoes and how you should expect them to perform:
- Leather – Leather is waterproof or water-resistant in most cases, and it’s durable. But, without proper polish, it’s not always stain-resistant. Plus, leather shoes can come at a high price tag.
- Faux leather – Faux leather is a less expensive option than genuine leather and usually retains the same benefits. However, some faux leathers are more stain resistant since they’re less porous—but, reduced porosity leads to reduced breathability, so prepare for sweaty feet.
- Cloth or canvas – Cloth or canvas is easy to wash, durable, and breathable. Unfortunately, these materials are rarely water-resistant, so you might experience increased upkeep requirements for stain removal, which is not the most ideal for Restaurant workers. If choosing a shoe of this material, you’ll want take extra care to avoid spills.
- Rubber – While shoe soles are usually made from rubber, some shoes use this sustainable, durable material for other shoe components. Rubber bests all competitor materials in lifespan, stain prevention, and waterproofing. However, rubber is the least breathable of all of the above materials. If you seek out rubber shoes, try to find a pair with ventilation holes to prevent odors.
Overall, you should prioritize pairs durable enough to run through the washing machine once per week (or whenever you inevitably spill something greasy, sticky, or smelly on your shoes).
#5 Balance Weight And Durability
Unfortunately, the most durable shoes are often made with the heaviest materials—leather and rubber are heavy, but they’re the materials most likely to stay in good shape after extended wear.
However, since restaurant workers spend so much time on their feet, lightweight shoes are especially attractive. While you simply can’t get by in a busy restaurant with the lightest shoes on the market, you should consider weight during your search.
While shopping, narrow your shortlist to three or four pairs of shoes. Each pair should be non-slip, comfortable, durable, and well-fitted. Before making your final decision, consider the weight of each pair. While you don’t have to use a scale to precisely measure them, compare how heavy they feel on your feet and choose the option that’s the least likely to weigh you down.
To cut down on your carry weight, search for shoes that lean towards minimalism, like:
- Slip-on shoes, instead of lace-ups
- Shoes with moderately thinner soles than average
- Soles with synthetic rubber or another lightweight slip-resistant material
- Shoes with interspersed canvas or cloth elements instead of all-leather designs
Are You A Restaurant Worker Looking For Shoes? Boot World Has Your Back
In today’s world, you have more options than ever before when looking for the best restaurant shoes, but the five tips above are guaranteed to help you find a high-quality, non-slip, comfortable, and durable pair for your upcoming shifts. Even if you’re working on a tight budget, finding the highest quality shoes in your price range will improve your workplace safety and reduce your likelihood of injuries and long-term pain.
If you’re looking for a shoe retailer who can help you find the perfect work shoes, look no further than Boot World. Founded over forty years ago by two bonafide shoe experts, Boot World is committed to providing top-notch, long-lasting shoes to workers across the nation.
Whether you’re shopping on a budget, looking for safety and style, or seeking unmatched durability, the experts at Boot World are ready to help you find shoes for work in restaurants, construction sites, manufacturing, and beyond.
A Final Boot World Advantage Tip: In today’s modern world, there are no shoes that are entirely slip-resistant. Instead of searching for the most slip-resistant shoe possible, the trick to remaining on your feet is working in an environment that is frequently cleaned of contaminants that could lead to accidents, like water and oil. Other forms of debris like small rocks, glass and loose food can become lodged in your work shoes increasing the likelihood of an accident occurring and turning even the most slip-resistant shoe into a slip-and-slide.
- 1 National Library of Medicine. A systematic review: the effects of podiatrical deviations on nonspecific chronic low back pain.
- 2 National Library of Medicine. Workers’ Experience of Slipping in US Limited-Service Restaurants.
- 3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Slip-Resistant Shoes.
- 4 Shoe Service Institute of America. The 10 Points of Proper Shoe Fit.
- 5 Hospital for Special Surgery. Advice on Custom Orthotics from Nonsurgical Foot Specialists.
Ed Stone brings over 45 years of footwear knowledge and passion to his role as President of Boot World, a family-owned company and an industry leader in safety and occupational footwear. A second generation "shoe dog” Ed's footwear knowledge is unparalleled, serving as an informal advisor for some of the worlds largest footwear brands including Wolverine, Timberland PRO, and Reebok Works.
A lifelong Southern California resident, and ardent conservationist, Ed enjoys hiking and open water swimming.