Best Shoes for Bartenders on Feet All Day
It is a busy night at the bar (like every other night you work), and you have not had the chance to rest since you started your shift six hours ago. Only six more hours to go. You ache for a moment to just put your feet up and rest them, but it should not be like this. You should not be waiting to take your shoes off to let your feet relax; you should have a pair of shoes which help your feet to relax.
Bartending involves long periods of standing in one place or moving furiously within a small area. The surface below is hard and slippery. A badly fitting pair of shoes can be the last straw which can drive from you from this vocation forever, but it need not be.
The secret to being able to tend bar for years without having any foot problems is having a great pair of shoes. It may seem beyond all hope when you get home and release your feet from their death trap, but you have to believe us when we tell you that there are comfortable shoes out there. Stay with us, while we show you how to find the best shoes for bartenders.
Last update on 2019-08-20 PST – Details
Best Shoes for Female Bartenders
Last update on 2019-08-20 PST – Details
Your Shoes Need to Last
This is one of the key features you need. Yes, the shoes need to be comfortable, but you are also going to be wearing them for over eight hours a night, night after night. If they fall apart on you, not only are they going to become progressively less comfortable, but you are going to have to buy a new pair before long.
You are going to be standing, walking, even running, for long periods of time. It does not matter how comfortable they are if they do not last. Look for high-quality materials and stitching, and do not be hesitant to spend a little more to get a shoe which is going to last you.
Comfort is Important
Comfort is king when it comes to a buying a shoe for bartending. Yes, you need the shoe to last, but as long as that is taken care of, comfort is what you really need to focus on. You need to find a shoe which is both comfortable to stand in and comfortable to walk in. A lot of comforts is going to be derived from the fit of the shoe.
I spent a few shifts with shoes which were slightly too big for me and my feet have never been as raw. I would recommend having your feet measured (and later in the day when they are bigger), and then choosing your shoes.
It does not stop there though. All manufacturers use slightly different measurements, and not all shoe sizes are the same. It is also common for you to have one foot which is slightly larger than the other. You should always choose your shoes based on the larger foot.
The shoe should fit your foot exactly while giving you a little room for movement. The toes should have around an inch between their ends and the end of the shoe. The heel should fit snug but not tight. The shoe should grip the sides of your feet while being able to stretch a little as your feet move. The upper and tongue should have padding also.
One key thing to make sure of is that the sole of your foot does not overhang the footbed. If there is an overhang, your foot muscles are constantly going to be compensating and this is going to lead to strained and sore muscles.
If you have ever worn hard and rigid shoes for a long time, then you know how uncomfortable they can become. There are two things to focus on when it comes to cushioning: the outsole and the insole.
The outsole should be made of sturdy and flexible material like rubber. This kind of material gives you a good balance between flexibility and stability (you can bend it with your hands, but the shoe will not bend in half). Stability is important for protecting your feet as you work, while the flexibility will allow your foot to move naturally.
The other great thing about rubber is that it also provides some shock absorption. If you press down on a rubber outsole with your fingers, it will compress and spring back. This elasticity is going to absorb impact as you move around the bar, and less impact will travel into your foot.
For the insole, you want to look for more cushioning that you would get with a regular shoe, but before you do that, you want to know how high your arches are, and then choose to cushion based on your arches for optimum comfort. I have high arches, and once wore shoes better suited for people with flat feet. My arches ached for a week.
To determine your arch height, take a piece of a paper or cloth (which water will show up on) and place it on the floor. Wet the bottom of your foot and then place it on the paper or cloth. It is a good idea to do this from a sitting position from a chair, so you do not put too much weight on your arches, and press the arch down onto the paper.
When you lift your foot, you will have an imprint. If the imprint shows your whole foot with an equal width across it, then you have flat feet. If the middle of your foot is thin, then you have high arches. Somewhere in-between means that you have medium arches. You can now choose a shoe accordingly.
I swear by memory foam and memory gel, though I do like that memory gel is cooler at the start of your shift. I have worn shoes with air pockets for cushioning and never had any problems with them. If you find that your feet are sore after a few weeks, you can always buy an additional foam insert to put inside the shoe. Always remember that more cushioning does not necessarily mean better cushioning. Look at the materials used for cushioning and do not be afraid to spend a little more for comfort.
How Should They Grip
If there is one thing which I have learned from working in a bar, it is that there may be spills from time to time, and when I say from time to time, I mean all of the time. This often leads to slipping hazards. When I say often, I, again, mean all the time. Thankfully, I have good balance, but I cannot count the number of times that my leg has slipped out from under me, only to catch myself on a bar or a shelf. I did go down once, but thankfully, I was not seriously injured. This is why I rank grip as highly as I do comfort.
If you work in a bar, you are going to slip. You need to ensure that your shoes have the best slip-resistance possible. This does not mean looking for shoes which are advertised as slip-resistant but looking at the actual materials used. You should also look at the tread on the outsole.
I talked about rubber is great for stability and flexibility. It is also great for grip, as long as it is high-grade rubber. Polyurethane and neoprene are relatively new to the market and may set you back a little more money, but they are also excellent at preventing slips, and, as they become more common, the price is also going to come down.
PVC and nitrile also offer good slip resistance while offering a lot of the same properties as rubber. All of these materials will also protect you from hazards on the floor, such as broken glass, and I would recommend checking after your shift to remove any and prolong the life of your shoes.
Once you buy your shoes, I also recommend totally destroying the bottoms by scuffing them up and spraying with a traction spray to add extra grip (of course, you may want to try them for a few days before you totally destroy them or you will not be able to take them back).
It is not just the underside of your foot that you need to protect. The top of your foot also needs protection, and not just against liquids. You will find that ice and glass are commonly dropped from a height, and they somehow always manage to find a foot. You want to find shoes (especially the uppers) which are made from waterproof and also tough material.
I always like to choose natural materials when I can, and leather is always the one which springs to mind. The leather is great for offering water resistance while also being tough enough to repel ice and broken glass. One thing which I am thankful for when wearing leather shoes is that they expand with your feet. Over the course of a night, the leather never gets too tight, and I always feel that my feet can breathe.
Please, never wear open-toed shoes or even open-top shoes. If liquid spills, it is going to get in. If ice falls, it is going to leave a bruise. If the glass is toppled, believe me, it will make its mark. Slip-on shoes are fine, but I still feel that they leave too much open or do not give you a snug fit. I always recommend shoes with laces.
Velcro can work, but I always find that Velcro comes attached to some sort of material which wears down over time with exposure to liquids, and the Velcro is rendered useless. With laces, they hold, no matter how much moisture they are exposed to, and they also give you a tight and adjustable fit. Go for a double knot to keep your shoes in place all night.
What About Breathability?
If you do go for leather shoes, then you are going to get some natural breathability with the material, but there are other options out there too. If you find that your feet sweat a lot when you are on your feet all night, then you can find shoes which give you ventilation slots on the sides of the shoes. These are usually positioned to allow the air to circulate through the shoe, but not let falling liquid in.
If you still have problems, think about investing in a pair of insoles which will wick the moisture away.
Being a bartender is not often rewarded by the money you make or even the tips you receive, but over time, the people you meet and the stores you hear are treasures in themselves. It is hard enough work, being on your feet all day, moving from person to person, dealing with drunks, and watching for slip threats, without having to do all of that with sore feet. And you know what, you do not have to do it all with sore feet. Not if you invest in the right pair of shoes.
I want to leave you with some advice. Take care of your shoes. Stains can be washed out with a little care and will better protect the material. A little warm water and soap will do wonders for most pairs of shoes. The better care you take of your shoes, the longer they will last. Also, when you do find a great pair of shoes, ones which comfort your feet all night, remember to buy at least two pairs of them. Once you find your favorite shoe, you are never going to want to let go of it.