The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Chef shoes

HeidiEin's picture

Chef shoes

I'm a girly-girl with a superficial, first-world problem.

In June I'll be heading off to culinary school where I'll be studying baking and pastry arts for 27 weeks.  The only thing that the school expects me to provide is a pair of "kitchen-ready" shoes.  Can someone explain to me what exactly makes a pair of shoes "kitchen-ready," and maybe give me some pointers as to which designs or brands are best suited for bakers, as opposed to line cooks?  Do you wear a pair in your kitchen?  Do all shoes worn in the kitchen have to be a designated "chef shoe" or can shoes with certain soles/other standards be deemed appropriate?

After doing a lot of google searching, I need to ask this: is there even such thing as a really cute women's chef shoe?  I understand that comfort > style when you're on your feet for 12 hours a day, but maybe somewhere there exists a functional-yet-attractive version of these bulky clodhoppers? 

Lastly: No crocs. Ever. (Sorry, Mario Batali... it just ain't happenin')  ;)

Thanks, everyone!

PastryPaul's picture

Nope, there are no cute suitable shoes. Work Safety boards cover what is and is not acceptable, but there is some latitude depending on work done.

In general, you need a non-slip sole and steel toe. Cute goes out the window when steel is on the toe. For school, this is definitely what you will be asked to wear. When I was in Pastry School, we couldn't even do an exam without steel toes.

When you get out in the industry, your choice of footwear may become more varied. Obviously, if you become a chocolatiere you won't need the steel, but open toed sandals are still a no-no

You may be able to find some shoes that (at least) resemble a decent looking running shoe, but honestly, your shoes won't be your biggest issue..... Just wait until you put on your uniform!!!

Nothing destroys a figure quite like a Pastry Chef's uniform. Once you put on the baggy hounds tooth pants, pull your hair up in a severe bun,  cover it with a hair net like granny used to wear, then top it with a student's hat, and button-up the jacket which always seems to be available in just two sizes (too small and too big), de-bling completely, and remove nail polish etc.... You won't worry about yor shoes.

We used to call it the reverse-metamorphisis - beautiful girls would enter the locker room and shapeless frumps would exit. I would suggest having your jackets and pants altered to provide some shape.

Cheers and best of luck. If you need any words to get over the Pastry School Humps (and you will, in a 27 week course at about week 12 or so) just holler!

FYI: Don't trash the Crocs. The wild colors may me your only outlet. If I could find steel toe versions I would wear them 'cause they're comfy as all get out.

tn gabe's picture
tn gabe

but I didn't think about being required to wear steel toes. Women's Dansko's come in all sorts of patterns and colors, Men's on the other hand come in several types of black or brown. :(

PastryPaul's picture

Steel toes are a requirement of our Work Safety Board and may not be required elsewhere. To be sure, anyone working with 20qt or more bowls should have steel toed footwear. I guess Heidi should check with her school

When I first started out we pretty much only had work boots available. At least nowadays, there are shoes that are fairly light and pretty comfortable. Stylish? No

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

in spray and in bottles and so do permanent markers and paint markers.  Have a wild swing at those steel uglies.  :)  

pink?  These could be happy feet shoes!   Where were these when I was a candy striper?


PastryPaul's picture


I spend my time about 50/50 between the shop and more businessy locales. I'm fed up of going back and forth between my work shoes and dress shoes. Some of the shoes on these pages can do double duty.

Thanks for the link

aytab's picture

At my local restaurant supply store they have "Chef's Shoes" and the have really cool ones. Some are decorated with pictures of: Fried Eggs, Bacon, Flowers, Checkerboard Patterns, Smiley Faces and numerous other things and these are just what they have on the shelf, I'm sure they have a catalog with many more designs. So, I'd check with a restaurant supply store.

Frequent Flyer's picture
Frequent Flyer

...makes chef shoes in the bacon, fried egg, etc patterns, but I didn't notice steel toes on the list of features.  Try


Susan Kline's picture
Susan Kline

Once I worked at a manufacturing facility and even the office staff was required to wear steel toed safety shoes.  I tried loafers so that it wouldn't look too odd if I was wearing a dress when I had to go into the work area.  They weren't terribly uncomfortable, but you can never bend your foot properly.  I saw a pair of Rockports in one of the sites other responders provided and the most comfortable sneakers I ever had were Rockport.  They weren't steel toed, but I recommend that you ask around and find out what others have to say and definitely find out if you are required to wear steel toes before purchasing them.

aytab's picture

also look at they have a "food service" section with a bunch of different styles

PeterinVT's picture

I've recently found that medical uniform supply stores have a good selection of kitchen suitable shoes.   The soles are non-slip and they are waterproof.   Most commercial kitchens require you to wear black shoes so you may want to check that.  Crocs are sometimes frowned upon because they don't have  a covered heel.   Many kitchens are now prohibiting shoes with laces now since they are too hard to clean.  

Maybe NurseMate brand at about $70?  I paid about $30 for my AnyWears, but those are definitely in the croc zone.

As for steel toes, that will vary from state to state.  I've never had to wear steel toes in any kitchen.  However, I can see why they would be required by some safety boards.  

It's important to keep in mind that most kitchen work is STANDING in one spot.  One reason crocs are so popular is they have a nice cushy sole and your feet are not being compacted all day long.   You will likely be on concrete floors all day long.


jackieosjunebug's picture

I use Dansko shoes, no slip. Crocs make an OSHA certified shoe now that many of the cooks in our kitchen use. I've had the Dansko shoes for more thatn two years and they are just now starting to wear out. They are expensive, but they seem to outlast everyone elses.

hanseata's picture

My daughter is a chef, and PastryPaul's colorful description of the swan-to-ugy-duckling metamorphosis of girls changing into their chefs' outfits absolutely nailed it.

I'm pretty positive that steel toed shoes are are common requirement in professional kitchens - and, if not, they should be! If you don't think it's necessary, just drop a 50-qt mixing bowl on your foot, as happened to my daughter a while ago. If she had not worn those ugly, hunky steel capped shoes, she would have ended in a cast!


HeidiEin's picture

Hi again, everyone!

I'm two weeks into my program and I thought I'd give you all an update on how things worked out with the shoe situation!  My school (Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, in case anyone is interested) does not require the shoes to have steel toes, however, they must be non-slip, slip-off, and black.  I ended up purchasing this pair of Danskos, and, as you all had predicted, I learned that beauty truly is "shoe deep."  I got a job right away working in a bakery where my shifts are 7 hours long, so between work and school I essentially LIVE in these chef shoes and I have not once experienced achey feet or legs! For that I am very, very grateful.

And PastryPaul, you were so right about the whole metamorphosis!  The uniform I'm required to wear is heinous, and was obviously not designed with a woman's shape in mind!  I was beyond excited when my chef instructor (a woman) gave us permission to substitute our own black pants; as it stands, the elastic waistband on my pants is hovering somewhere around my bellybutton! Ack!

Thanks again for all of your input and anecdotes!  I really enjoyed reading them and I saw a lot of cool shoes that I would have loved to have gotten if it wasn't for the black-only rule.  Bacon and eggs?  Genius! 

PS- I LOVE CULINARY SCHOOL!  As a Bachelor's degree-wielding career changer, I can safely say that I have never felt so passionate and satisfied about attending class, studying, and doing homework as I am right now.  Ugliness be damned, it's worth it! Haha!

hanseata's picture

to hear that, Heidi.

Good luck and all the best for your career!


HeidiH's picture

I've been wearing Dansko Professionals for years and many of them I got fairly cheaply on Ebay.  They run true to size and I've have very little trouble with any of them.  What I find is that it's easy to get a very slightly used pair.   Once you find the style and brand that works best for you, you will want to stick with them.  In my case, it's the Dansko Professionals in the winter and Mephisto Helens in the summer.  Over the years, it has become apparent on Ebay that folks buy these expensive shoes and quickly find whether they are right for them.  If they are wrong for them, they end up on Ebay.  I just searched "dansko kappy" on Ebay and there were several used pairs there today. 

Now, used shoes?  You say, "yuck."  But I figure they are just a little more used than they were being tried on in the store. 


BrickAndMortarBaker's picture


Make a decent leather kitchen shoes. Not too nice, or too ugly. They last a loooong time though. A friend has 6 years full time baking on his.