I don't know about y'all, but my feet (and lower back) start to threaten mutiny/revolt if I try to work in the kitchen barefoot. Plus, there was that time I just about dropped a hot Lodge pan on my foot...and the dropped knives...and the dropped forks...let me think, anything else?
(Really, it's a miracle I have feet at all still. Dangerous place, the kitchen.)
I've found over the years that Crocs provide the best support for my feet (and for only around $30, a real steal).* This was confirmed recently when I ran across a helpful article that reviewed the best shoes for people working full-time in the restaurant industry. I used to just wear sneakers in the kitchen when standing up for long periods of time, but the main problem with most sneakers is that they don't protect the tops of your feet from scalding liquid (not very well, anyway--you can get major burns right through the upper material). Neither do those cute Crocs with little holes punched in the top of 'em, come to think of it. This is what the Crocs "Bistro" clog is designed for--lots of protection for your entire foot, with a supportive footbed...I'm testing a pair out as we speak. (Please see the end of this article for my update.)
I've also got a trial pair of the "Boston" Birkenstocks recommended by the article above, waiting for a kitchen test-drive. At the steeper price tag (about $140 for the "soft footbed" offered in this style) they'll have to really live up to their reputation, although I've read that they last forever, and can be repaired to keep them going even longer. If you go this route, I'd recommend trying to find a local shoe store that carries Birkenstocks, so you can try them on in-person (and so you can also avoid accidentally buying an expensive knock-off pair through some online retailers). Between the European sizing and the big difference between the "narrow" and "regular" footbeds, it's worth tracking these shoes down in person, if possible.
You know how it is with new shoes: you may love them, but your feet inevitably do not. Just comfort yourself with the thought that everyone's feet are different, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution for good kitchen shoes. In my book, the main criteria for superhero kitchen shoes are:
- Do they provide some cushion/support for your feet against the unforgivingly hard surfaces (tile, linoleum, etc.) kitchen floors are made of? More importantly, why has no one figured out how to put ergonomic floors in kitchens?
- Do they protect your feet completely from hot liquid spills, especially hot oil/fat? This is one of the most dangerous things to spill on your skin.
- Do they have some kind of non-skid sole, so your feet don't go out from under you when you step in that puddle of water on the floor? The one that's leaking out of your new dishwasher? (Just kidding.)
Another trick I've found helpful is to place an ergonomic mat in front of the kitchen sink (this is the one I have). There are a lot of different colors and styles to choose from, and they can help take the pressure off your feet and lower back while doing the dishes.
Our feet support us all day long, so I figure the loving thing to do in return is to protect them from falling knives, scalding liquids, and the like, while keeping them somewhat protected from too many hours of contact with hard kitchen floors.
Here's to your feet, the real kitchen superheroes!
UPDATE: After my kitchen shoe trials, I found the "Bistro" Crocs to have an uncomfortably hard footbed, and an odd fit overall. The "Boston" Birkenstocks were an okay fit, but the leather uppers were stiff and rubbed the top of my feet--this problem would probably be solved by buying this shoe in suede uppers (wasn't available from Birkenstock when I ordered). I found better luck with a different shoe from Crocs, the Crocs "Baya" clog. They have a perforated upper, which means the top of my feet aren't protected as much as I'd like them to be, but they are super-comfortable and have just the right amount of cushioning for my feet. Also, they aren't slippery at all--I've stepped in water splashes on the floor without sliding around. I was a little concerned about how the Birkenstock "Boston" soles would perform on slick linoleum, they aren't that "grippy." In this department, the "Bistro" Crocs stole the show: they have super-grippy soles, way beyond what your normal Crocs have. I was disappointed that they didn't work for me with the fit, since the soles were fantastic!
Everyone's feet are different, so please try out whatever shoes seem right for you. Good luck!
* Usual boring disclaimer here (drumroll, please): Four Cats In The Kitchen is a not-for-profit enterprise, and is not affiliated, financially or otherwise, with any other individual, company, brand, or product. The mention of any other individual, company, brand, or product on this site does not constitute an endorsement.