Along with all the chopping, cutting, marinating, cooking, sautéing, tasting and presenting, your clothing and footwear choices are essential to your level of success as a chef. Your footwear is particularly important since the majority of chefs spend a huge amount of the working day on their feet; this could mean working a busy, twelve-hour shift on your feet daily, so it’s important to have shoes that are comfortable and supportive.
Riding on your choice of footwear is your entire level of satisfaction and enjoyment at work, directly affecting the service that you provide – so it’s more important than you may realize to get it right. With that in mind, we’ve put together some top tips to help you pick the perfect pair of chef’s shoes.
1. Slip Resistance is Essential
Working in the kitchen is a dangerous job, not only due to the hot machinery, boiling oil, and sharp knives, but also because of the significant risk of slips and trips onto an often hard, unforgiving kitchen floor. Falling when carrying dangerous kitchen equipment or hot food can cause serious and life-changing injuries or even lead to fatalities, which is why any well-regulated, safety-conscious kitchen will always insist that their staff members wear shoes with a slip-resistant sole. This will help to keep you firmly on your feet in the event of spillages. Kitchen floors can easily become slippery from greasy oil, liquid spillages, or from cleaning liquids.
2. Opt for Removable Insoles
Everyone’s feet are different, so it can be difficult to find a pair of chef shoes that are the perfect fit. Choosing a pair of shoes with removable insoles will allow you to modify them to best fit your feet. If needed, change your insoles to ensure that your shoes are suited to both your gait and foot arch structure.
The best place to visit if you need help with choosing insoles is a specialist running or fitness shoe shop. They will be able to analyze your gait and determine your foot placement to give you the best recommendation on the type of arch support you will need to support your weight and distribute it evenly.
3. Choose Sensibility Over Fashion
Even though looking clean, polished, and professional is all part and parcel of the service that you provide as a chef, don’t be tempted to buy a pair of shoes simply because they look good. When it comes to getting the best comfort, quality, and longevity of your work shoes, it can often pay to go for the ‘ugly’ option.
At the end of the day, wouldn’t you much rather work in shoes that might not look the best but can be relied on to offer the best support for your feet during long shifts and busy periods?
4. Prioritize Your Comfort
The first question that you should ask when trying on new chef shoes is ‘how comfortable do I feel wearing these?’. After buying a new pair of work shoes, it’s wise to take them home and wear them around the house for a while to break them in a little and determine how comfortable you feel wearing them for long periods.
Bear in mind that a pair of shoes that feel comfortable in the shop could be very different once you’re walking and moving around in them. Shoes with soft edges and rubber soles are usually least likely to rub and chafe your feet. For more information, take a look at some of the most comfortable shoes for the kitchen.
5. Protect Your Toes
Whilst working in the kitchen, your toes can often be one of the most vulnerable body parts. Shoes that don’t offer a high level of protection for your toes can lead to injuries from falling objects, hot foods, or liquids, or even stubbing your toe by accident. Since heavy pans, sharp knives, and hot food is always at risk of being dropped in the kitchen, it’s best to invest more in a sturdy pair of shoes offering excellent toe protection.
Just how much toe protection you’ll need will depend on your roles in the kitchen – the more regularly you find yourself around these risks, the more protection you will need.
6. Avoid Creating New Hazards
A bad choice of shoe in a kitchen environment can turn into an additional hazard. One of the first decisions you’ll need to make is whether to wear lace-up or slip-on shoes for work. Although this will depend on how much time you spend in the kitchen and the tasks that you typically carry out, it’s good to bear in mind that laces tend to be a needless trip hazard.
Lace-up shoes carry the risk of coming undone whilst you work and tripping you or others up. To avoid this problem, opt for slip-on shoes or kitchen clogs. If you need something smarter, slip-on leather shoes with a non-slip sole or a smart shoe with the appearance of laces will usually do just fine.
7. Think About Cleaning Them
Lastly, like everything that you wear in the kitchen, you’ll be required to keep your shoes clean and in good condition to prevent the spreading of bacteria in a food-handling environment. Any good chef knows that it’s extremely bad practice to work with dirty shoes since it’s so unhygienic, so make sure that ease of cleaning is right at the top of your priority list.
The accidental spilling of food, sauces, and other liquids is just a typical part of a career as a chef, so look for shoes that you can easily wipe clean if anything spills on them. If your busy lifestyle doesn’t allow you the time to sit and clean your shoes, look for machine-washable options that you can simply throw in your washing machine after a shift.
In a fast-paced kitchen environment, chefs are under pressure and constantly on their feet. The right pair of comfortable, safe kitchen shoes can make a world of difference to your experience at work as a chef.