Here’s a fact I know from wearing shoes all my life: shoe preference is highly subjective. What works great for one person, may not work for another. There’s a whole bunch of science behind this relating to things like feet dimensions, leg angles, skeletal alignment, and perceived levels of cushioning (that’s even an acronym—PLC!).
This is why, when evaluating whether or not to formally review the best kitchen shoes, we decided instead to pose the question to Serious Eats staffers, to gather subjective answers on a subjective question.
That said, there are a few things to look for in a good pair of kitchen shoes.
The Criteria: What to Look for in Kitchen Shoes
Because kitchens are full of very sharp things (knives!) and hot things (boiling water! scalding oil!) that can fall onto the floor and therefore your feet, kitchen shoes should offer protection. They should have a closed toe and be able to be slipped off lest something does fall or splash onto your feet. They should also be comfortable to wear: if you’re standing on your feet for hours and hours at a time (like we do in the test kitchen), you want something supportive. They should be non-slip, too.
Here are some staff-favorite kitchen shoes. (And, yes, you’ll find some conflicting answers because, again, subjectivity!)
“Even though my home kitchen is less hazardous than a restaurant, I often cook without proper foot protection, which is both foolish and something I don’t recommend. So when I was offered the chance to try out a pair of Dansko kitchen shoes as part of a company product test, I immediately signed up. Turns out they’re wonderful, and something I should have purchased years ago. Unlike the flip-flops I would otherwise be wearing, the Dansko Wynns are comfortable for long periods, extremely grippy, and offer closed-toe protection. Dansko also has a great reputation, and I’ve been told I can expect these shoes to last for multiple years.” — Jacob Dean, updates editor
Calzuro Classic Clog
“I've owned these shoes for a couple of years now and wear them for gear testing and general cooking at home. They have a supportive heel, side vents, and bumps on the foot bed that are somewhat massaging, but mostly keep you from slipping and sliding around. I like that they don't have a back, which allows me to slip them on and off with ease. In fact, Calzuros were designed for surgeons and can even be sterlized in an autoclave. Though, at home, your could throw them in your dishwasher or washing machine.” — Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm, commerce editor
Crocs Bistro Graphic Clog
“Back when I was a fresh-faced prep cook, I bought a pair of these Bistro Crocs to sooth my soles during long hours spent standing. There were two reasons I chose them: first, I already owned a pair of Croc Classic sandals that I wore all the time in my home kitchen (I know, I know, it’s bad to have exposed toes in a kitchen but I stand by these! They are easily the most comfortable pair of shoes I own!), and second, they were much cheaper than other shoe brands. And they turned out to be a fantastic pair of kitchen shoes (minus the fact that they were white, which was a rather puzzling decision on my part. Oh well.); they were cushy, nice and wide (no pinched toes or heel blisters), supportive (and I have a very high arch), and surprisingly durable. Plus, while Crocs are divisive as a fashion trend, most people won’t really look at your feet while you’re cooking.” — Grace Kelly, associate commerce editor
Dansko Professional Clog-Slip
“I have owned multiple pairs of Danskos over the past decade or so of working in kitchens. They're sturdy, supportive, easy to clean, and made to last a few years, which is great given the higher price point. I love the range of colors, but am a big fan of the honey distressed ones. Even though I no longer cook professionally, I find myself wearing them a few times a week: to pick up my kids from school, run errands, take out the trash, or just walk around my yard.” — Kristina Razon, former editorContinue to 5 of 7 below.
Birkenstock Amsterdam Felt Clog
“In the winter, I switch to these felt clogs. I love the classic supportive Birkenstock footbed and the added warmth of a felt upper in the fridgid months. They're not quite as easy to keep clean (on bread mixing days I have to get the flour off of them), but there aren't any alternatives with a neutral heel, wide footbed, and warm upper to wear around my drafty, old house.” — Jesse Raub, commerce writer
Birkenstock Women’s Super-Birki
“These are pretty indestructible and easily wiped clean. I wear them during extra-long days (read: eight, 9 hours) testing gear. While I love my Calzuros, these have less of a heel and, some days, that’s what I want as someone who’s admittedly prone to rolling their ankles.” — Riddley
“I used to wear proper Dansko kitchen footwear when I cooked in restaurants, and from time to time I'll still put that pair on in the test kitchen, but the soles have always felt too narrow for my feet, and it wasn't uncommon for my ankles to twist in them, so they're not a pair I can recommend fully. Now that my kitchen time is either in a home kitchen or a test kitchen that's exactly like a home kitchen, I'll usually just wear whatever comfortable shoes I've put on for the day or...no shoes at all. That said, from a safety perspective, here is what is best: nonslip, hard, closed-toe shoes that are non-porous (so a spill of hot liquids is less likely to seep into the shoe and burn your feet and a dropped knife is less likely to skewer you between the metatarsals), with an easy-off open back so that if hot liquid does get inside, you can pop your foot out as quickly as possible. And, if you're going to be on your feet all day, the more support, the better.” — Daniel Grizter, senior culinary director
How do you clean kitchen shoes?
The best way to clean kitchen shoes depends on the shoes. For example, these Dansko’s should be wiped with a clean, damp cloth and then treated with leather conditioner. These ones from Calzuro can be machine washed, disinfected with bleach, or even thrown into a dishwasher. And these Crocs can be hand-washed with soap and water or tossed in the washing machine. The bottom line: just check the manufacturer’s care instructions.
Where can I buy kitchen shoes?
Many kitchen shoes are available on Amazon or can be purchased directly from the manufacturer/brand. For the shoe’s we’ve highlighted above, we tried to include both options.
Miller JE, Nigg BM, Liu W, Stefanyshyn DJ, Nurse MA. Influence of foot, leg and shoe characteristics on subjective comfort. Foot & Ankle International. 2000;21(9):759-767. doi:10.1177/107110070002100908
Goonetilleke RS. Footwear cushioning: Relating objective and subjective measurements. Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. 1999;41(2):241-256. doi:10.1518/001872099779591231