Every six weeks (or so it seems) on Twitter there is an argument about whether you should leave your shoes on when you enter your home or take them off. Both sides staunchly believe they are right. My answer: Both. Yes, I always take off my shoes when I come into the house. And yes, I also wear shoes in the house. (Just call me Mister Rogers, I guess?) Indoor shoes are a very specific genre. And the most important of them: kitchen shoes.
I’m never going to be one of those carefree barefoot cooks. Stepping on a shard of glass once led me to be so serious about foot protection that I often bring slippers when going to others’ homes. Especially when I’m in the kitchen, I simply need shoes. I mean, have you seen most kitchen floors mid meal preparation? They’re quick to get slippery and sticky with all manner of spatter and slime (ew). I may cook for work, but I still drop things in the kitchen—and sometimes those things are heavy or sharp (or both). A sturdy pair of kitchen shoes offer traction and protection, and you absolutely need them. When I was working in professional kitchen environments, which meant standing for a minimum of 8 hours at a time, I looked no further than Blundstone boots and my trusty Hoka Clifton sneakers; when I'm cooking at home, I turn to slightly more casual options.
Of course, if you have a shoes-on household, I guess you’re good to go with whatever’s already on your feet. But as someone who feels very strongly about outdoor shoes remaining only for the outside, I’ve tested my fair share of (indoor only) kitchen shoes, and am here to share the good word with you.
When it comes to kitchen shoes at home, I have two preferred styles, and a few brands to recommend.
Remember that Thanksgiving flashback in Friends where Monica drops a knife on Chandler’s toe? That wouldn’t have been such a fiasco if he were wearing clogs. Thick and sturdy leather clogs with a slip-resistant heel are without a doubt one of the finest shoes to wear in the kitchen. My preferred brands, Sanita and Dansko, have the American Podiatric Medical Association’s seal of acceptance, meaning they’ve been formally tested by medical professionals and proven to promote good foot health. Obviously that’s more helpful information for people who cook for hours and hours at a time, but who’s mad about a doctor-approved shoe? As someone who is finding herself googling “lower back pain why,” more than ever, not I!
I’d recommend trying on clogs before buying, if you can, to ensure you’re buying the right size, and even going a half-size up from your usual shoes—these clogs are meant to grip your feet, but your exact shoe size can be a bit tight around the heel and toes. They’re heavier than a sneaker, but that grounding quality can be very helpful while moving around in 17 directions as you prepare a meal. After wearing them for more than 8 hours straight, my calves can start to feel that weight, but it’s still a minor discomfort. And I’d probably recommend a shoe change to anyone after that long.
My other favorite kitchen shoe is essentially the opposite of a leather clog: lightweight, washable, polymer mules. My favorite so far is Calzuro, an Italian co-polymer shoe brand marketed for healthcare professionals (see: washable/autoclavable), but beloved by many in standing-heavy professions. They’re available in a bunch of bright colors, which immediately piqued my interest. These slip-ons are more slim in makeup than leather clogs, and the slight heel, which is technically intended to reduce fatigue, makes them look more like fashionable shoes than workwear. (Can you tell I do not actually work in fashion?) Personally, I’m into the backless aspect, as nothing is a bigger distraction to me than an Achilles blister, but Calzuro also sells heel straps if you’re worried about stepping out of your shoes.
I'll be honest: I have not yet dropped a knife while wearing polyurethane mules. But I suppose now I've jinxed myself. So I guess, uh, come back and reread in a week or so to see if I’ve updated this.
Do you wear shoes in the kitchen? Let us know in the comments.
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Rebecca Firkser is the assigning editor at Food52. She used to wear many hats in the food media world: food writer, editor, assistant food stylist, recipe tester (sometimes in the F52 test kitchen!), recipe developer. These days, you can keep your eye out for her monthly budget recipe column, Nickel & Dine. Rebecca tests all recipes with Diamond Crystal kosher salt. Follow her on Instagram @rebeccafirkser.
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