In the service industry world, the unsung hero of any shift are the shoes on your feet. They can be difference between a pain-free clopen and that mysterious lumbar pain that starts to hit right as the lunch rush picks up. But finding the right footwear can be a tall ask (or venti even)—you want something that speaks to your personal aesthetic all the while protecting your future self’s joints and ligaments. And when that perfect balance of style and substance doesn’t magically appear, sacrifices must be made, to your style or your cartilage.
So that’s why we asked the good folks of the Gram what their go-to footwear was for working a barista shift. From the near-200 comments we received, there was a general consensus on what you should and most definitely should NOT wear.
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When it comes to being on your feet all day, a majority of the commenters agree: the boot is best. We’re not talking Lucchese’s here, though in my neck of the woods I wouldn’t be too shocked to see a pair. Baristas want thick, cushiony soles and protection from the wear and tear from hundreds of hours behind a coffee machine. And for that, people went with Doc Martens and Blundstones. Past that, though, the choice of which is left up to your own style. Want a Chelsea boot or an English oxford, a slip-on or a ten-eye lace-up? That much is up to your own personal taste.
For the non-boot crowd, the humble Vans sneaker popped up again and again. In particular, the Hedly and Bennett collab Vans were many a commenter’s go-to. Non-Vans sneakers include the Nike ACG collection as well as the Air Max, Merrell or Salomon hiking shoes (which make a lot of sense honestly, even if they can be… style challenged), with a New Balance, Saucony—whom we won’t mention because they refuse to ever send me any sneakers—and even an AllBirds thrown in there.
And where would the service industry be without clogs, that goofy shoe that’s so bad it’s somehow cool? And while the clog du jour is without a doubt the Crocs, the post-modern nihilist marshmallow you can put your foot in, many folks suggested a more refined option, the Dansko clog. The Croc has the benefit of being more cost-conscious, but the Dansko has a nice weight to it and could double as a projectile you can easily launch from your foot at the first sign of danger.
But for all the varied opinions on what to wear, there was one shoe that rang out most loudly as the one to not wear. That is, unfortunately, the Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star. We can be honest here, footwear was forever changed with the invention of the Chucks; it was the shoe that would make you run faster and jump higher, and its classic design hasn’t changed in the century since its invention, for better or worse. It is an iconic silhouette, that just so happens to also wreak havoc on your body. Can you believe people used to play professional basketball in these?! Chucks will forever be part of classic, casual style, but keep them in the closet for your barista shift.
No matter what your style is, one this is for sure, service industry folks are now lousy with choice when it comes to good quality footwear. You don’t have to wear your ill-fitting Shoes For Crews to your post-work hangs, outing yourself as a member of the hospitality sector. Footwear these days are made to provide the support you need for those long doubles on your feet all the while providing the lewks that make you not embarrassed to have them a nanosecond longer than absolutely necessary.
Zac Cadwalader is the managing editor at Sprudge Media Network and a staff writer based in Dallas. Read more Zac Cadwalader on Sprudge.