Whether you work in the food industry or you're a parent making three meals a day from scratch, logging a lot of time standing in the kitchen can take a toll on your whole body — not just your feet but also your knees, hips, and back.
If you aren't currently experiencing any pain, there's no problem with cooking barefoot for a short amount of time, says Dr. Grace Torres-Hodges, a podiatrist in Pensacola, Florida. But if you are carrying extra weight, pregnant, or suffer from arthritis, bunions, a pre-existing injury, or another foot condition, a good pair of shoes can be the difference between being comfortable and aching at the end of the day.
"I develop plantar fasciitis every year from standing in one place on hardwood floors in my socks while preparing the Thanksgiving feast!" says Dr. Megan Leahy, a podiatrist in Chicago, Illinois. "Patients often underestimate the damage that can occur in the comfort of their own home."
While many at-home cooks tend to spend time in their kitchen wearing socks or lightweight slippers, good shoes instead can minimize aches and pains and lower your risks of cooking-related injuries, too, like burns from hot liquids, cuts from dropped knives, broken bones from dropped pans, or slipping and falling on a spill.
More on Shoes in the Kitchen
What to Look for in a Good Pair of Shoes
1. Good arch support
"The feet take the brunt of the pressure when you're standing, so in an ideal situation, your shoes will equally distribute that weight across the plantar (bottom) of both feet," says Torres-Hodges. The true test, according to Dr. Alex Kor, a podiatrist in Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Try to bend a shoe in half. If it bends, it's not supportive enough.
"This is the layer between you and the ground that offers shock absorption for your joints," says Dr. Jane Anderson, a podiatrist in Chapel Hill, NC. Especially if you're working on hard surfaces like tile or concrete, your joints will ache without any help.
3. Top-of-foot protection
"A spill from a pot, or a dropped knife or pan can cause significant injury to the foot, and if it is protected in a shoe, the injury is going to be less severe than if the foot is bare," says Dr. Meredith Ward, a podiatrist in Asheville, NC. "Harder uppers on shoes can protect from contusions, lacerations, and fractures from dropped objects," Leahy agrees.
4. Skid resistance
Water, oil, and errant mac and cheese ingredients are all hazards on a floor! Our pros all agree that a rubber tread is ideal to keep from slipping and sliding.
5. Comfort for you
"People fixate on the brand name, but the shoe has to be comfortable for you," says Kor. You absolutely must try a shoe on and walk around in it to know that it works for you. And know that you can buy four pairs of the same shoe and they may all fit differently!
5 Shoes Our Podiatrists Recommend
- XP Clogs, from $140 at Dansko: These shoes are the go-to in the kitchen industry, and the first choice for all five of our podiatrists for their slip resistance, cushioning, excellent arch support, and protection for the toes and top of foot.
- Neria Pro Graphic Clog, $55 at Crocs: Love 'em or hate 'em, Crocs continue to be popular for their slip resistance, arch support, and general comfort. "Look for versions without the holes in the tops and sides to prevent burns and stubbing," says Ward.
- OOcloog Clog, $60 at OOFOS: Kor recommends these shoes, which have a similar feel to the classic Crocs but with better arch support, more cushioning, and a little more wiggle room if you need to add an orthotic.
- New Balance 510v2, $75 at Shoes for Crews: For guys who prefer a sports-style shoe, Hodges recommends these sneakers, which offer even support and good non-skid tread, with more structure around the toe than the typical sneaker. Just beware: "I had a patient who got burns on their foot from spilling hot oil while wearing tennis shoes, which are made of a more porous, permeable material," she says.
- Gemma Mule Slippers, $60 at Vionic: Maybe you want more of a house shoe than a work shoe? If that's the case, Anderson recommends Vionic slippers. "This brand is most known for its flip flops and sandals, but if you want to wear slippers around the house and are going to be standing a lot, this is the brand I'd recommend because they have good cushioning and support," she says. Just beware that they won't fully protect you from spills or cuts.
Note: If you're looking for a comfortable shoe in general, the American Podiatric Medical Association tests shoes and gives a seal to those that offer adequate cushioning and support. You can search for those shoes here.
Do you have any suggestions to add? Let us know in the comments below.