We all know that being a chef can be tough. Being on your feet all day can be extremely tiring; mentally and physically. It's important to take care of your body whilst spending extended periods of time on your feet, so investing in a good pair of chef shoes is worth every penny. In our short list below, we have everything from the most comfortable chef shoes to the very sexiest shoes on the market (if that's your thing!).
The following list contains the best chef shoes from our testing. Every shoe on here is a solid choice, depending on your needs.
Our expert's rating
Chef Shoes - Your Complete Guide
In the kitchen, chefs face hazards on a daily basis. Many of the kitchen tools are dangerous, and if they fall, they can cut or bruise a chef’s legs and feet, or those of staff members. It doesn’t take much for a serious accident to occur.
Spills are just as dangerous. Not only can they burn the feet, but they can cause accidents which can lead to serious injuries. It is both the owner and the staff’s responsibility to follow safety regulations, which exist for good reasons.
Detailed Chef Shoes Reviews
Crocs Unisex Specialist Clog
The Best For... Also your budget
One of most budget friendly kitchen shoes on our list come with a huge range of great added features. This classic clog has a sure grip outsole to prevent slips and falls in the kitchen. The footbed also has a massaging feature to massage your feet as you work in the kitchen and to stimulate circulation. There is also enhanced arch support to help prevent aches and pains in the middle of your foot at the end of a long shift in the kitchen.
Birkenstock Tokyo Super Grip Leather Work Shoe
The Best For... Staying Cool and Dry for the Whole Shift
These are some of my favorite shoes for working in the kitchen. They are available in both black and white for when your workpalce decides to change the uniforms back to black pants. There are less expensive brands of work shoes with a similar shape to fit challenging feet, but they are often made of plastic and do breathe. These are made of a nice, naturally breathable leather which lets you get through your full shift without soaking through your socks. As usual with Birks, the natural materials (leather and cork) take a little bit of time to break in. The "super grip" part of the "Tokyo super grip" is a non-skid sole which you'll appreciate.
Skechers Flex Advantage Mcallen Slip-On
The Best For... Mesh Fabric
These Skechers are the only entry on our list made with a mesh fabric around the toe. I know what you're thinking; what if I drop something heavy, or my chef's knife? Granted, these aren't going to offer you the greatest protection around the toe so they may not make the best chefs shoe if you're permanently in the kitchen. Though we had to include them in the list as their memory foam insole make them super comfy and a great option; as long as you're not always dropping knives on your feet, that is.
Keen Utility PTC Slip-On Work Shoe
The Best For... Non-Slip
You can't really find KEEN PTC's much cheaper than the recommended retail price, and with good reason; they're a quality product. A relatively young brand, KEEN have stormed onto the footwear market over the past few years and are now a firm customer favourite. This is probably due to their extensive warranty service and confidence in all their product, none more evident than with their PTC slip ons. They meet all national non-slip testing standards, they have a luxurious memory foam footbed and are stain-resistant as well as water resistant. We can see KEEN going from strength to strength in coming years and becoming a major player in the footwear market.
Birkenstock Professional Slip Resistant Work Shoe
The Best For... People Who Want to Whack Them in the Dishwasher After Their Shift
Birkenstock offer some of the highest quality shoes on the market right now, especially their range of chef shoes. They are more than double the price of the Skechers, but with good reason; each shoe serves a purpose. If you're looking for a shoe that will last you for a few years, then definitely look no further than the 'Birkie' professional. The soles are replaceable, meaning that after you extended use of them you can easily swap them out for new ones, maintaining the longevity of the shoe. What we love most about this shoe is its toughness and indestructibility; you can pop these in the dishwasher at the end of every shift with no concern for wear and tear.
Remember: Birkenstocks are pretty huge and they usually fit at least a size above your regular shoe size.
Crocs Bistro Clog
The Best For... A Loose Heel Fit
Crocs have taken a bit of a battering over recent years for their appearance; there's no doubt that these shoes are pretty damn <em>UGLY! </em>Though for all the abuse Crocs get, they still haven't declined too much in popularity, with everyone from Michelle Obama to little Prince George being snapped in their favourite pair of Crocs. Why? Because they're practical, easy to slip-on and almost indestructible, the likelihood is if you invest in a pair of Crocs you won't need to worry about getting another pair for a while. Aside from their fantastic non-slip 'Crocs Lock' tread, the heel strap makes these the only chef shoe in our list that gives your ankles room to breathe (and avoid those horrible heel blisters).
Why are chef shoes important?
Chef shoes allow cooks to do their job at a high level while keeping them safe and comfortable. Chef shoes also need to be practical. The footwear must be comfortable, water resistant, non-slip, and still sturdy enough to protect the feet from falling objects and heat impact.
All these aspects are important and need to be covered, but there is an even more obvious factor as to why these shoes are crucial. Wearing chef shoes is often mandatory. In these cases, it is the employer’s responsibility to enforce the rules and make sure the chefs wear appropriate shoes.
Comfort and functionality are important, but work regulations and safety play another, equally crucial role. To ensure the safe, productive, and uninterrupted operation of a restaurant, it is essential to comply with all safety regulations.
Complying with regulations is what creates a safe work environment, which is good for everyone, the chefs, the owner, and the operator of the restaurant. Establishing work safety allows the workers to carry out their daily activities safely, and concentrate on what they do best, which is cooking.
If the relevant authority discovers any safety deficiencies during an inspection, the penalties can be substantial. With proper risk assessment and by complying with the regulations, restaurant owners can avoid these problems, and at the same time, drastically reduce the chances of workplace accidents.
The first step of risk assessment is identifying the hazards at the workplace, including potential deficiencies regarding safety gear. If a cook does not wear regulatory chef shoes, they open up the restaurant to potential lawsuits, while also endangering their own safety.
Labor safety is often regulated
Workplace safety shoes—including chef shoes—are often provided by a work safety technician at the workplace. He or she determines what rules the workers must follow, and what kind of extra protective capability the shoes need to have. When purchasing footwear, one has to choose products that meet the safety standards of the workplace.
From a chef's point of view
In addition to the regulatory aspects, there are other reasons why chef shoes are important. Their features allow chefs to do their job at a high level. Any professional, be it a cook or a teacher, can only offer their best if there are no distractions.
It is not just about comfort, but also practicality, functionality, and maybe even style. The latter is not the most important trait in chef shoes, but if possible, why not?
Chef shoe guidelines
There are three main criteria the best chef shoes have to meet to be considered adequate. These are practicality, functionality, and style.
This criterion includes ergonomics, comfort, and design.
- Ergonomics: Wearing a shoe with ideal ergonomic qualities is important for reasons other than safety and comfort. The right shoe is capable of providing ergonomic support for the wearer, based on the unique biological characteristics of their feet.
- A shoe that can support the wearer in this fashion provides tremendous ergonomic advantages. Because chefs often have to stand and walk around for 10, 12, or sometimes as much as 14 hours straight, their feet need to be supported in every way imaginable.
- If the shoe is ergonomically sound, made out of the right material, providing ample arch support, the feet and legs can function in a structurally sound way. Shoes that are too small or cannot provide enough arch support are bad for health. The right shoe can help cooks prevent ligament injuries, not to mention the more common problems like calluses.
- Wearing inadequate shoes may not be a problem short-term, but it is certainly not good in the long run. When the shoe is ergonomically sound, it allows the feet and the legs to have sufficient blood support while reducing the wear and tear on the body, especially the joints, bones, muscles and ligaments of the legs.
- Comfort: Comfort is very important for work shoes. Unless working part-time, chefs spend anywhere from 8 to 12, or on occasions as much as 14 hours at their workplace, most of that on foot. In an uncomfortable shoe, they may get distracted and make mistakes, which is not a good idea in kitchen environments.
- Orthopedic shoes may be the exception, as they often don’t feel comfortable to wear, but that discomfort has a purpose—to correct bad posture and other non-degenerative problems. Shoes that are the right size and are made from the right material, are usually more comfortable, but there are exceptions to that as well. If possible at all, chefs should always try on their shoes before purchasing them.
- Design: Whether one buys slip-on or lace-design work shoe, it is important to choose footwear that is appropriate for the work environment. If the kitchen tends to get very hot, breathable shoes are better. Slip-ons are generally superior for chefs, but some cooks prefer laces nonetheless.
- The other important aspect of design is weight. The shoes not only have to be flexible and comfortable, but ideally, they should not weigh a ton. The wear and tear can set in much more quickly if the shoes are heavy. Any chef shoes should allow easy, quick movement around the kitchen.
This category includes material, breathability, water-resistance, grip, and cleanability.
- Material: The material of the shoe is very important. Ideally, one would be looking for a flexible design that has a durable upper section. Moving around in the often extremely hot kitchen environment puts extreme wear and tear on the shoes.
- If they are not capable of withstanding that daily pressure, they may deteriorate after just a few weeks. The right material can take a beating and remain in good shape for years before the inevitable decline of the material.
- Breathability: This aspect can make or break any chef shoes. In the hot kitchen, people often sweat excessively, and the moisture has to evaporate. If the moisture cannot evaporate, the shoes become uncomfortable and the humid environment a breeding ground for bacteria.
- Footwear made out of high-quality breathable material can eliminate this problem by allowing the feet to breathe, and letting out the extra moisture while still protecting them. This is an underrated aspect in chef shoes, one that needs to be factored in.
- Water resistance: Wearing water-resistant or even waterproof shoes in the kitchen is very important. At the very least, the upper sole has to be able to withstand moisture, for safety reasons. In the kitchen, chefs are always within the vicinity of boiling water or hot oil, making spilling accidents quite frequent.
- These accidents should be avoided, but sooner or later, even the most professional chefs may find themselves in a situation where spillage is inevitable. With low-quality shoes, the hot cooking oil, animal fat, or boiling water can make its way inside the shoe, and seriously damage the feet.
- Grip: The most common mishaps in the kitchen environment are slip and fall accidents. Sometimes, they are unavoidable, but in the vast majority of cases, they are the results of ignored or loosely defined safety regulations. Chefs should always wear anti-slip footwear with a good grip, so even when there is spillage on the floor, they can stay on their feet.
- Cleanability: The best kitchen shoes are easy to clean. Under constant use, the kitchen environment very quickly makes footwear dirty, no matter how clean they initially are. Most chef shoes need daily care and therefore, they should be easy to clean.
There are three major categories in style, slip-ons and laces.
- Slip-ons: Slip-ons are often more ideal for chefs, because they are easier to put on. The fact that they don’t have laces means that there is no chance for them to come loose, and cause the wearer to trip.
- The other factor is food safety. If a chef has to stop to tie their shoes, they have to wash their hands afterwards, which can be annoying if they have to repeat this over and over again.
- With slip-on chef shoes, cooks can avoid that problem, but it is important to choose a model that can firmly hold the heels. Crocs are popular, and those with heal-straps are safe too, not just comfortable.
- Laces: Shoes with laces are fine, or maybe more than fine, until they need to cover all aspects that quality chef shoes must. Are they water-resistant? Do they have a strong upper section?
- What about their grip? If a lace design can deliver on all important fronts, they can be just as ideal for the kitchen environment. With frequent lace replacement, they can be more durable than slip-ons.
Common mistakes when buying chef shoes
People tend to make the same mistakes when buying chef shoes, mistakes that are more likely to happen if they view these purchases like an everyday task. But, there are different guidelines and rules that should be taken into account.
For example, when it comes to kitchen footwear, comfort and functionality are always more important than aesthetics. If the shoe is able to deliver these aspects and happens to be visually stunning that’s great, but functionality and practicality must never be compromised.
It's not just about the price
Good quality chef shoes don’t come cheap. One may think twice about spending too much money on a work shoe, but is this really the right place to save money?
Not to mention the fact that more expensive shoes are usually more durable. Many cooks fall into the trap of using cheap slippers, not realizing that not only do they increase the chances of a potential work accidents, but they have to replace their footwear much more frequently.
The right shoe for the right job
One has to take each aspect of the job into account. What kind of kitchen is it? What are the specifics of the work? Cooks can have vastly different responsibilities depending on whether they are tasked with getting the ingredients or not.
The best chef shoes are practical and functional, while also able to provide a comfortable experience. It is important to find specialized footwear that was designed by people who understand the kitchen environment and all its challenges.
Some brands took on that challenge and have already delivered great products, but the good news is that the world of chef shoes is still evolving, and specialized footwear is gaining traction each year, in all industries, not just the restaurant business. Sometimes, it is not a matter of innovation, but a matter of regulation.
Depending on the country or state, kitchen regulations can be vastly different. Some places have laid down rules demanding specific safety codes, whereas in other regions, they may leave the decision to the chef. Even if that is the case, being proactive pays out.
Having the right kitchen footwear is important whether the regulations demand it or not. The right equipment can help professional cooks prevent accidents, allowing them to concentrate on their craft and the quality of their work.
Chef shoes should be durable, water resistant, non-slip, and ideally made from breathable materials. When this combination is present in a shoe, it can provide ideal support for the everyday challenges of the chef profession.