We Asked Baristas, Retail Workers, and Servers About Their Comfiest Shoes

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Scouted/The Daily Beast/Retailers.

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Most people, except maybe people who use the word “summer” as a verb, will work a service job at some point in their life. And while the vocations under that umbrella vary from barista to line cook to showroom sales associate and beyond, they all require one thing: surviving long shifts—and often long shifts on their feet for eight hours straight.

When I was in my twenties, I worked retail at a chaotic fashion boutique in Paris’ Marais district—think, the SoHo neighborhood of NYC—and one of the only things that got me through the long periods of standing, folding, and organizing stock boxes like I was in an analog Minecraft hellscape was my pair of Nike Huaraches. My white Huaraches were versatile enough to go with everything; they went with my go-to ’90s high-rise jeans and a turtleneck combo, a vintage floral dress, and the good old suit-and-sneakers look that the French do so well. But, most importantly, they made me feel like The Flash during physically demanding shifts.

Buy on Nike, $125

Compared to my high-top Air Force 1s—my favorite non-work shoe at the time—Nike’s Huaraches were far more lightweight and flexible. They were also perfect for my wide feet, and very breathable thanks to their neoprene material.

I will always have a sartorial soft spot for those Huaraches, but I recently started to wonder what shoes other service workers swore by. One retail worker’s pair of Huaraches is another’s Birkenstock clog, after all. Curious to know about the best ride-or-die shoes for standing all day, I hit up some folks who have worked as baristas, sales workers, cooks, and chefs for years to find out what the best shoes for standing all day are, whether your budget is $1,000 or under-a-hundo.

Adam (Barista and Cook, 37)

Adam has two favorite shoes from his days of working in coffee shops and kitchens. “When I knew I was going to be doing something fairly stationary for long periods of time, like food prep or expo, or making espressos and lattes, I would wear these New Balance non-slip shoes,” he says. “For one, NBs are the most comfortable shoes on the market; furthermore, these are super supportive, almost clunky (but in a good way). And you’re (mostly) not going to feel it if you drop a big Cambro of food or spill a 32-ounce coffee on your foot.”

Buy on Zappos, $95

On the other hand, he says, “When I was doing something that required more movement, like cooking or running around, there’s really no beating the non-slip Crocs. They are way more nimble and less restrictive, which feels good in a hot kitchen. These closed Bistro clogs are awesome, and still have good airflow.”

Buy on Crocs, $50

Bianca (Server, 29)

“OMG, I have feet issues,” says Bianca, “My fave [shoes] are Hoka Bondi 8s with insoles. They’re like a cloud. It’s really hard to find a wider shoe that has good support and is cute.”

Buy on Zappos, $165

Buy on Hoka, $165

When it comes to departures from sneakers, Bianca says that Miista makes great shoes for standing for long periods of time and just copped a pair of the brand’s Danica boots because they’re “wide-set and comfy.”

Buy on Miista, $250

Eric (Chef, 31)

“I always wore Shoes For Crews slip-ons until I got a real chef job and made the jump to Blundstones,” he says.

Buy on Amazon, $65

“They’re great—very trendy now. I guess farmers in my hometown on Martha’s Vineyard swear by them now.”

Buy on Blundstone, $230

Layla (Retail, 35)

Layla is a self-described “retail princess” who rotates between quite a few footwear options. Lately, they have been loving UGGs. “All UGGs (every style) are so comfy,” she says, “[especially] the Platform Mini.”

Buy on Ugg, $160

Buy on Ugg, $160

If you’re looking for a sneaker that gives you great support and has some flair, they recommend two of their personal favorites, chunky black Buffalos and the Sandy Liang x Salomon sneaker, which is a colorful riff on the brand’s GOATed slip-on Speedcross 3 sneaker.

Buy on Stockx, $407

Domi (Barista, 28)

There are two shoes that help Domi feel comfy and unbothered while whipping up cappuccinos: Hoka Bondi 7s and Birkenstock Super Birkis. As Domi explains about their footwear needs, “I have feet that overpronate. So, I have a really weirdly-shaped foot and arch. The Hokas are fucking number one! You know how there’s that cushy mat in coffee shops that supports [baristas] feet? The Hokas feel like that, but wherever I go. They’re amazing. I have had mine all three years that I’ve lived in New York, and I love them,” they said.

Buy on Amazon, $200

Buy on Stockx, $167

“I also love the Super Birki because it’s super easy to just slip them on and get right out the door. And they’re made of polyurethane so I can just wipe them clean. It feels like a true service shoe. I slide an insole in mine, but even without an insole they have really great arch support.”

Buy on Birkenstock, $80

Buy on Zappos, $80

Bennett (Server, 27)

Bennett works at some very upscale restaurants and bars and says that he has two footwear options for his go-to loafer look. As Bennet explains, “I was wearing Camperlab squared-toe loafers [... ] but now I wear my Prada derby loafers, even though they’re $1,200.”

Buy on Farfetch, $218

“If someone asks what brand my shoes are, the pay-off will be massive. They’re my favorite because they’re beautiful.”

Buy on Saks Fifth Avenue, $1200


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