The Most Comfortable Shoes to Stand in, According to Stylish Restaurant People (2024)


By Erika Veurink, a freelance contributor at the Strategist who covers fashion, beauty, and wellness. She also writes a newsletter called “Long Live.”

The Most Comfortable Shoes to Stand in, According to Stylish Restaurant People (1)

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Author

When it comes to shoes you can walk (or stand) in for hours, function often trumps style — but one doesn’t always have to come at the cost of the other. Restaurant hosts and food-industry pros who spend hours on their feet every day know this better than anyone. With that in mind, I reached out to those who work at some of the restaurants I count as especially stylish to hear about the pairs they rely on for feeling (and looking) good during their shifts. From stylish clogs with insoles that feel like pillowtop mattresses to heeled booties that are surprisingly comfortable for long days, the shoes on this list have been vetted by those who spend a lot of time on their feet.

If your days, like mine, consist of last-minute Zoom meetings or hours spent at a desk, don’t be deterred. Consider these for your next 14,000-steps-a-day trip or for taking the long route from work to dinner.


Delphine Anton, maître d’ at Ilis in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, rotates between a few pairs of shoes for work — including these heeled booties, which she told me are surprisingly comfortable for long-term wear. “Vagabond has always been in my rotation both in and outside of work,” says Anton. “I think they were recommended by a friend when I was in college.” She’s been wearing this particular style for over a year and loves that they’re “very stylish and chic, but extremely comfortable, even on eight-plus-hour days.” Just note: The Hedda boots run a little big, so size accordingly, or add insoles to adjust the fit and get added comfort for hours on your feet.

When Daryl Nuhn —owner and operator of Prima Brooklyn, Little Prima, and a partner and wine buyer at Peoples Wine — used to work at Cosme, she needed to find something slightly more dressed up that still had ample support. She looked to Camper, a brand known for its comfy and stylish shoes (and that made our list of the absolute best loafers). She purchased these in a pinch when she realized her Nikes plus her Cosme outfit just wasn’t going to work — and never looked back. The Niki boots, which have a just-under-2.5-inch heel, turned out to have zero break-in time, and five years later they are still one of Nuhn’s go-tos.


Providing the perfect amount of arch and lift is a feat of great footwear — and Cerise Zelenetz, owner of Cherry On Top, a natural-wine bar in Brooklyn, found just that in her leather slip-on Naot shoes. “They look kind of like clogs and Blundstones had a baby,” she says. The shoes — which feature a padded footbed (that’s removable should you want to slip in your own orthotics) — were passed down to Zelenetz by her mom, a teacher in Vermont accustomed to standing all day. It turns out the shoes work just as wonderfully for running a bar as they did for teaching. We’re especially fond of the all-black pair, which have a dash of ’90s crunchiness and ’90s minimalism to them.

Fernando Aciar, a former chef and current artist, is no stranger to uniforms and comfortable shoes from years in kitchens. His Bragard Renaud Chef Shoes were a gift from the Bragard family — who have been in business since the 1700s and are known for making chef apparel — themselves. The sturdy slip-ons are specifically designed for hours of standing thanks to their shock absorbing soles, breathability, and slip resistance. According to Aciar, they’re just as well suited for art as they were for his work as a chef. “Since they’re designed for cooking, they’re comfortable for long standing hours,” he says. Just note: Aciar sees these as shoes truly meant for standing, much more so than walking, so if you’re looking for something to hit 10,000 steps a day, other pairs on this list might be a better fit.

We’re big on the Ugg Tasman X shoe over here — I even wrote an ode to the shoe last year after seeing them on a server at Margot in Fort Greene and purchasing them myself. It turns out that Nuhn also sports the style for shifts and has lots of friends who swear by them, too. “They’re honestly life changing,” Nuhn tells me. “I feel like working service, at a certain point, it doesn’t matter what shoes you’re wearing, your feet just hurt — but these have amazing arch support, and they’re not heavy like other clogs.” The shoes come in black and olive green with a cozy shearling insole.

Oxfords and flats

“I have tried every shoe possible, from those designed for waiters, police shoes, Danskos, and Doc Martens,” says Michael Cecchi-Azzolina, maître d’ and owner of Cecchi’s. After his extensive hunt, he landed on these trusty Cole Haans for their function and form. They’re a bit dressier than other utilitarian styles, making them ideal for moving quickly from work to nonwork activities. Two pairs later, he cites zero break-in period. Plus, he experiences a noticeable bounce when wearing them.

Bilena Settepani, pastry chef and store manager at Settepani Bakery, sticks to Hokas and Nikes most of the time. When she’s working events, though, she slips on her Vivaia Ballet Flats, which she loves because they’re machine washable and easy to dress up while still being comfortable for hours on her feet. “They allow me to look good while also being prepared to step in if needed with my team,” says Settepani. We love a practical dresser.


On days when Nuhndoesn’t care about “looking cute,” she reaches for a pair of Hokas. “I can walk forever in my Arahis,” she says. “They wouldn’t be considered fashionable, or even ironically fashionable, but they are the best shoes I’ve found for long bouts on my feet.” Recommended through a runner friend, the Hokas beat out her old pair of New Balances, which, Nuhn notes, had less support by comparison.

Wearing all-white shoes while working in a restaurant — a bold move! But Toussaint Stackhouse, wine director and event coordinator at Heaven & Earth, a wine bar in Brooklyn, swears by his Air Force 1’s (which also happened to make our list of the best sneakers for men). Stackhouse loves the comfort, the “flyness factor,” and the ability to change after work without “kicks killing your fit.” He’s such a fan, in fact, that he keeps at least three pairs in his closet at all times. (And word to the wise: If your AF1s are gray, it’s time for a new pair, according to Stackhouse.)

$110 at Nike Buy

“I have sciatica, so I need to always be wearing shoes with proper support or else I will be in a lot of pain,” says home baker and cake artist Aimee France. She came across this pair of Merrells while shopping online for a new everyday sneaker, and decided to buy them after having owned “about five” cheaper options that “tend to rip within a few months of wear and need to be replaced.” No so for this pair, which France has now been wearing for about six months; she says she has “probably walked 1,000 miles running errands in my Merrells.” After all that, the shoes are simply “perfectly broken in” without any serious wear.

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The Best Shoes to Stand in, According to Restaurant People
The Most Comfortable Shoes to Stand in, According to Stylish Restaurant People (2024)
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