Don’t Make These Three Mistakes When Buying Non-Slip Shoes
Have you ever spent 8 hours working on your feet in bad shoes?
If not, take a second and think about it.
Imagine slipping every few steps... for hours. Imagine realizing your feet are starting to hurt... with 4 hours left to close.
The following mistakes can put you in this position.
1. Prioritizing price over quality
I love the saying, ‘buy cheap, buy twice.’
It’s a great reminder that if you don’t pony up and buy the good stuff to begin with, you’ll be paying a lot more down the road for a higher-quality product.
There’s two considerations here.
First, from even just a financial standpoint, you will save money in the long run by investing a bit more into shoes that will last. Would you rather spend $100 on shoes that last 3 years or $50 on shoes that have to be replaced every year?
Second, you are going to be spending a lot of time in these shoes. Your comfort and safety are worth the extra coin.
Don’t make the mistake of going cheap on your work shoes.
2. Sacrificing safety for style
The ENTIRE point of buying non-slip shoes as a restaurant worker is to keep yourself and the people around you safe.
Do not sacrifice this purpose to look a little bit better. As someone who has worked in and around restaurants for years, I promise you that nobody is judging you based on the aesthetic of your shoes.
Always choose shoes that are safe and functional.
3. Getting uncomfortable shoes
If the shoes don’t feel good when you put them on, don’t buy them.
While it’s true that certain materials need time to break in, this nearly always applies to higher end materials, and they rarely go from uncomfortable to comfortable. It’s more like adequate to comfortable or even comfortable to really comfortable.
Like many new restaurant workers, I once found a pair of shoes I liked at a reasonable price, and when I put them on, they didn’t feel that great. I thought to myself that once they break in, they’ll feel a lot better.
I was wrong.
The shoes never felt like they broke in, and my feet were in agony after every shift.
Buy good shoes. Buy safe shoes. Buy comfortable shoes.
Painful feet are the last thing you need to be dealing with while working a busy shift.
The 9 Best Non-Slip Shoes For Restaurants
There isn’t a ‘one shoe fits all’ situation for restaurant workers.
Of course, everyone in the house could wear the same non-slip shoes, but cooks have different working environments than servers.
Cooks might want to wear a sturdier shoe that doesn’t have laces, while servers want a shoe that more closely resembles a walking shoe since they’ll be putting in literal miles during every shift.
I’ll be sure to let you know how the shoes fit a particular restaurant position and why.
1. Dansko: Great Multi-Purpose, Long-Lasting Shoes
Dansko started in 1990 and is one of the leaders in non-slip footwear.
They specialize in clogs that are loved by people outside of the service industry, primarily those who work in hospitals.
Dansko shoes are of high quality and are built very well. Because of the smooth uniformed shape, they are effortless to clean, which is always a benefit when working in restaurants.
Shoes with a lot of stitching tend to get a dirty build-up along their seams and, over time, can look dinghy.
Dansko will last you for years, but people report that it has an exceptionally long break-in period, but once you get through that phase, they are incredibly comfortable.
Some people don’t like the elevated heel, which is a trademark feature of Dansko shoes, and without a lot of support around and above the heel, it’s easy to roll your ankle.
Danskos can be worn by both front of house and back of house, though if I were a server, I would probably pick a more lightweight and flexible shoe made for lots of walking.
2. Skechers: Great For Front-Of-The-House Restaurant Staff
Skechers is another name that’s been around for years in the service industry, mostly focusing on front of house footwear.
These shoes are great if you are a server. Slip-resistant and oil resistant, with a memory foam insert to keep your feet comfortable, and a relaxed fit so your toes can move around while you walk.
They have smooth uppers made from leather, are easy to clean, tightened with laces, and have a shock-absorbing midsole, so you have good support while working long hours.
Choose either black or white (the only two colors I’ve seen a restaurant require), and you have two options for the width if you have wide feet.
3. Mozo: Simple, Comfortable, No-Frills Shoes
I bought a pair of these Sharkz II; in fact, I bought them after I threw away the uncomfortable pair of shoes I spoke of earlier.
The Sharkz II wouldn’t die. I wore those shoes while working in a restaurant full-time for almost four years. They might not be the prettiest shoes, but they were amazing for working in kitchens.
The Mozo Sharkz II come with slip-resistant soles, synthetic water resistant uppers, side ventilation for breathability, elastic at the foot hole so you can easily slip the shoe on and off, removable insoles, and they are very easy to clean.
4. Crocs: Comfortable, Lightweight, Easy-To-Clean Shoes
Crocs were already super popular among culinary professionals before they decided to make a shoe that caters to restaurant workers.
The design is just like regular Crocs, but the Bistro Clogs are completely closed-toed to protect the feet from hot spills.
Beware, though, that a lot of people reported the sizing is slightly different, and they run on the small side. Others said that their feet had a difficult time breathing as well.
Crocs have a slip resistant tread, a contoured foot bed, and a strap that rests on the heel to keep the shoe in place.
Because all Crocs are made from a mold, they are extremely easy to clean. You can completely submerge them under water and scrub the insides and out, and they’d come out good as new.
I would recommend these shoes for the back of house since they don’t look like they’re built for putting in a lot of miles
5. Shoes For Crews: Easy, Cheap, Fits Onto Most Shoes
The Shoes For Crews Overshoes are perfect for when someone forgets to wear non-slip shoes to work, or you have visitors you’re trying to show the whole restaurant, but you want them to stay safe.
The most remarkable feature about these is they stretch to cover multiple shoe sizes, so you don’t need to have a pair for every size foot.
They are very affordable and help put your mind at ease and protect the restaurant from liability cases if someone comes in without slip-resistant footwear.
6. Birkenstock: Great For Back-Of-The-House Restaurant Staff
Birkenstock's history of making shoes goes back for centuries, starting in 1774. Anyone who has owned a pair can tell you that they are exceptional shoes.
The Boston Super Grip has a rubber outsole that is made from genuine rubber; the uppers are made from leather and have metal buckles to tighten or loosen the shoe depending on your foot size.
Birkenstock’s cork and latex footbeds are where they create their legendary comfort. Be aware, though, that the break-in period for a set of Birkenstocks can take weeks, but once they’re broken in, you’ll never go back.
The cork and latex footbed molds to the shape of your foot, so it’s like you have a custom pair of shoes.
One of the great things about Birkenstock is that as the soles of your shoes wear out, you can send them into the company to be replaced. You’ll get to keep your comfy footbeds and uppers but get brand new non-slip soles.
Birkenstocks can be worn by both front and back of the house, but they’re especially popular with back of house workers.
7. Vans: Your Favorite Shoes Redesigned For Restaurants
Vans is an old shoe company, but their new Made for the Makers line of non-slip shoes shows they know what restaurant workers need in protective footwear.
I know a lot of cooks and servers who have been waiting a while to get a pair of Vans made for work. They’re stylish, comfortable, and can be worn on a day off.
Made for Makers comes with a non-slip vulcanized outsole, a canvas top that repels liquids and spills, and padded collars for support and comfort.
This shoe is a slip-on, but they also come in a laced-up version, and if you’re looking for more ankle support, they also sell a high-top shoe as well. All versions come in black.
8. Snibbs: Comfortable Shoes Designed To Go The Distance
Chef Daniel Shemtob created Snibbs in 2015. He was sick of his work shoes falling apart, so he decided to fix the problem himself and began working on the perfect non-slip shoe.
The shoes look stylish and modern and can be worn by both kitchen staff and front of house workers.
Snibbs boasts that it will be ‘the last work shoe you will ever need,’ and I believe them.
The shoes are built for all-day comfort, are slip and water resistant, the uppers are made from robust, long-lasting material, comes with a custom Ortholite insole, it’s a slip-on, and they look great at work or when you go out.
9. Keep: Stylish Shoes That Don’t Sacrifice Function Or Quality
Keep’s collection of non-slip shoes runs with the same crowd that models their shoes after streetwear companies.
The shoes are stylish, simple, and will look good outside of the restaurant on a day off.
Keep has created an advantage by working with chefs and crews to help them craft their non-slip shoes.
Working hand in hand with the people who wear Keep shoes helps them to troubleshoot any issues that arise from wearing the shoes over time.
The Homer Black Non-Slip featured here has a non-slip rubber outsole, synthetic nubuck uppers that are both water and oil resistant, extra heel and arch support on the insole, and are very easy to clean.
Keep shoes are cruelty-free and ethically produced in factories audited by international third parties.
What Makes A Shoe Non-Slip?
The first step to creating effective and safe non-slip shoes is the material.
All non-slip shoes are made from rubber or EVA. EVA stands for Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate, a naturally stretchy polymer that acts like rubber but is made from plastics.
Just like car tires, the soles of non-slip shoes are made from rubber because they have an amazing ability to grip the ground as they are in motion and on a wet surface.
The next step is tread design.
We’re again going to look at non-slip shoes like we would car tires.
Both non-slip shoes and car tires have grooves, raised ribs, slits, and angled blocks.
When our feet step down onto a wet surface, these blocks and grooves channel the water, soup, or spilled coffee away from the shoe's point of contact with the ground.
It’s important that the tread design allows the escape of the channeled fluid.
For example, grab a pair of non-slip shoes; if you don’t have a pair handy, hit this link to see examples of non-slip shoe treads.
If you hold your non-slip shoe at a profiled angle, you can see the edge of the sole is ridged and has lots of points of contact for your shoe.
It’s these openings that allow the fluids under your shoes to escape so only the sole comes in contact with the ground and doesn’t trap the liquids under your feet, causing you to slip.
If you’re looking at a shoe’s profile and you can’t see the ridges of the tread, those shoes will cause you to fall if you step on a slippery surface.
Features That Make The Perfect Non-Slip Shoe
There are several features that make the perfect non-slip shoe, and you’ll need to consider all of them carefully.
A shoe might be the best at preventing falls, but if they hurt your feet one hour into the shift, you’re going to have some serious problems. They also need to be comfortable enough to wear forty to sixty hours a week.
As we discussed above, the tread is a critical element in creating the perfect non-slip shoe, so it bears worth repeating.
Make sure the soles are made from rubber or EVA.
The tread needs to have channels, grooves, angled blocks, and slits, creating many points of contact with the ground.
This style of tread pattern will direct the fluids under your shoe away from the soles' surface, and out the sides, so you make firm contact with the ground.
Many people experience foot pain, and it may have to do with a lack of arch support.
I personally have issues with arch support, and if I don’t use the proper shoes, it begins to take a toll on my feet.
Over time, improper arch support could lead to issues traveling up your body to your ankles, knees, legs, and lower back.
Lack of arch support means an uneven distribution of your body weight.
For example, let’s say you have a typical arch in your foot.
If there isn’t an arch in your shoe or a well-designed arch, there’s nothing to push up into the curved part of your foot.
Without the shoe arch, all your body weight will rest on the heel and ball of your foot, which is a lot of weight for such a small area.
You need the support of the arch to feel comfortable in your shoes and to help support all your body weight.
As hospitality industry professionals, we are on our feet for long periods of time day after day.
Your feet may feel a little sore after a couple of shifts, but after six months, you’re going to want to throw those shoes in the trash, which gets expensive if you keep buying the wrong pairs of shoes.
Non-slip shoes for the hospitality industry are notorious for looking terrible.
Luckily, many companies have heard the cries of service industry staff and have begun making pretty cool-looking shoes in many styles.
The most significant style changes have been for kitchens.
Many cooks have been shedding the traditional blocky clogs and moved onto styles that they would typically wear on the streets.
Companies like Vans, Mozo, and Shoes for Crews are releasing non-slip shoes that can easily be worn outside a restaurant and look great.
That being said, you’ll also want to look for shoes that have padded collars, are lightweight, and have a well-shaped toe box so your toes can wiggle and aren’t all smashed together like sardines in a can.
Don’t sacrifice safety for a sharp look. There are literally thousands of options available; you should be able to find something that compares to the style you’re trying to achieve.
The shoes, above all else, need to perform well over how cute they will look with the restaurant uniforms.
Water resistant or waterproof non-slip shoes will pay for themselves almost immediately.
Liquids being spilled on your shoes during a busy shift is inevitable.
It might be beer, water, or hot coffee, but because the uppers are water resistant, the fluids will bead up and fall to the floor.
The shoe laces might get soaked, but spending seven dollars on a new pair of laces is much cheaper than buying all new shoes because someone spilled a pot of coffee all over them in a rush.
The other thing about water resistant uppers is that if you do spill a pot of scalding hot coffee all over your nice non-slip shoes, the coffee won’t soak right through and burn the tops of your feet.
And this doesn’t just go for coffee either; it could be anything that’s close to boiling and headed for the floor.
One thing to be aware of is avoiding 100% waterproof shoes.
While they might guarantee to keep the water from seeping into your shoes and cleaning will be a breeze, it also means that no moisture can escape the insides of your shoes.
More specifically, sweat.
Our feet sweat approximately 8oz of water a day.
If all that sweat stays in your shoes, you will have a bad case of swamp foot. Once it’s wet inside waterproof shoes, it can be difficult for them to dry out since there’s such poor air circulation.
How Important Are Non-Slip Shoes?
Years ago, I was given great advice; “Always spend good money on what connects you to the ground.”
My friend was referring to your bed, the tires on your car, a work chair, and of course, your shoes.
People often think of shoes as a place to save money rather than spend money, and I’m here to tell you that it’s a terrible idea—especially when it comes to non-slip shoes being worn in restaurants all over the world.
Restaurant workers are on their feet for long periods of time, moving at a rapid pace, over surfaces often covered with dropped food and spilled drinks.
If you’re not wearing non-slip shoes, it's not a matter of if you’ll fall but when you’ll fall.
All restaurant floors are hazardous—it’s just a part of the job, but well-made non-slip shoes can significantly reduce the chances of a bad fall.
Non-slip shoes also protect restaurants and restaurant owners.
If you’re a restaurant owner or manager, it would be wise to implement a non-slip shoe policy at work if you don’t have one already. It will save you a lot of headache and keep your employees safe.
If a worker was to fall, owners may be liable for workers’ injuries and have to pay expensive medical bills. Plus, the employee could miss work for an extended period, causing strain on the staff to pick up extra shifts.
Besides, no one wants to see anybody getting hurt.
Non-slip shoes are an effective and cheap way to protect workers and the restaurant.
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