test cooks
The Shoes Every Serious Cook Needs for the Kitchen, According to Our Opinionated Test Cooks
A good pair of shoes is an underestimated piece of kitchen equipment.
06-24-2020
Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm
Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

You probably haven’t given much thought to the shoes you wear in your kitchen. Heck, you might even cook barefoot. But when you work in a professional kitchen, you quickly learn that a pair of dedicated kitchen shoes is essential. During my first week working at America’s Test Kitchen, it became clear I needed to buy myself a proper pair of kitchen clogs—not only for comfort, but safety. 

Take one look at our test cooks’ feet (when they're working in the Test Kitchen or working in their home kitchens, as they have been since March) and the majority of them will be outfitted in some variation of clogs—thick-soled shoes that cover nearly the entire top of the foot. Some of the clogs are kitchen-worn light brown leather, others are solid black or dark red, and some are patterned. All are there to protect test cooks’ feet in case a knife accidentally falls onto the ground or hot pasta water splashes over the side of a pot and onto unsuspecting toes. They also offer support, as many of us are on our feet for eight hours a day. Not having good shoes can translate to having back, leg, and foot pain by the time 5 p.m. comes around.

Which means, not surprisingly, a lot of us test cooks have strong opinions on which kitchen clogs we like best and why. Here are the brands that get the most love from our test cooks—and if you're a serious home cook, you might want to invest in a pair of one of our favorite brands.

Dansko

Dan Zuccarello, Executive Food Editor: “They’re snug, but still easy to slip on and off and provide good support when I’m standing in them for a long time. They’re also pretty durable.”

Meridith Lippard, Test Kitchen Manager: “I love my Dansko clogs. I wear them all the time. This is my third pair in five years, but I wear mine almost every day, so I get a replacement pair every year or two. They are comfortable, easy for me to walk fast in, and just an overall great work shoe.

Christa West, Assistant Test Cook: “I wear the Dansko XP clogs and I love them. I've worked long hours on my feet for a long time and always struggled with sore feet and legs at the end of the day. My first few days here at ATK I wore sneakers that I first believed to be comfortable, but quickly discovered otherwise. When wearing sneakers all day, I'd have noticeable pain in my legs, back, and feet, and would feel especially grumpy by the time I got home because of this. The Dansko clogs are probably one of the most comfortable shoes I've ever owned. I look forward to slipping them on when I arrive at work, and my feet, legs, and back are still happy by the end of the day. They give a tremendous amount of support and I never feel at risk of slipping or losing traction.

Cecelia Jenkins, Senior Editor: “I have the Danskos with the XP insole. They’re extra cushion-y and you really feel the difference when you're in them for 14 hours. One thing to note: I wore my last pair for about two years and one day noticed the sole actually split in half crosswise on the underside toward the top of the shoe where the ball of your foot is. I'd never seen this happen before—so just fyi, the plastic sole can split if you wear them hard.”

Morgan Bolling, Deputy Food Editor: “I LOVE my Danskos. They're comfy and I can stand in them a full work day. They have great arch support. They’re ultra-sturdy. I spill a ton of stuff and have never slipped in them. The only complaint I've ever had is that they're tall so when I first started wearing them I remember turning my ankle a couple times and it was a harder fall than in shorter shoes. But now that I'm used to them it doesn't happen.”

Crocs

Lauren Savoie, Senior Editor: “I was that person who absolutely hated on Crocs; that is, until I started working in a kitchen. My aim was entirely function and not fashion: they don't skid, they're easy to wash, and the rubber construction is super sturdy so I don't have to worry about a rogue knife slicing through the top of my shoe. They're definitely not the prettiest shoes out there, but my fingers are crossed that the recent “VSCO girl” trend will make them cool again.

Birkenstock

Lawman Johnson, Associate Editor: “I really like these Birks—they’re very comfortable, light, easy to slip on, very well made (in Germany), they have great arch support . . . I like them much better than Dansko, which I’ve worn for many years.”

Hannah Fenton, Assistant Test Cook: “I wear Birkenstock Professional Tokyo Clog (with supergrip bottoms). I absolutely love them. They have a cork footbed so are super comfortable and supportive. The top of the shoes is made of a protective leather so food and spills can be wiped right off of it. There are two adjustable buckles for a more secure fit. Your foot can move freely because they are clogs, but the backstrap helps your foot from slipping out all the way. Speaking of slipping— they have a supergrip bottom so they are slip-resistant, which is great for working in a kitchen, especially on the line in restaurants where the floor can get pretty greasy and dirty. Another added bonus is that they are actually very attractive and don't feel like kitchen shoes.”

Sanita

Stephanie Pixley, Deputy Food Editor: “I love my Sanitas much more than Danskos. I’ve found they don’t require breaking in like Danskos but they offer the same protection and non-slip sole, and are super durable.” 

Lisa McManus, Executive Editor: “I have Sanita Sonja Cabrio clogs in black leather, with open backs and Dansko Professional clogs in black embossed leather and I love them both. The open-back ones are super easy to slip into, and feel amazing. I'm on my second pair (wore the first ones down to nubs). I wear them a lot even on weekends, because they're like slippers with support, and at home I wear them barefoot.”

Suzannah McFerran, Executive Food Editor: “I love my Sanita clogs (especially the sparkles!). They give good support and help me stand for longer in the kitchen.

Joseph Gitter, Senior Editor: “My Sanita clogs were bought almost exactly six years ago. They've seen a year of cooking school, 15 months of restaurant service, and four years of ATK test kitchen experience. I used to marvel at how easy I found standing for 10 hours but recently my feet and legs have become tired after a day in the kitchen. I'm hoping my new pair will remedy that.”

Klogs

Nicole Konstantinakos, Senior Editor: “I really like my Klogs. For me they’re much more comfortable than Danskos and Sanitas, which I wore for years, because the insole is very cushioned. They also come in many cute colors and styles. The only thing I really don’t like about them is that they squeak on most floors.”

Samantha Block, Test Cook: “I am a big fan of Klogs. I have been attached to these shoes for about four years now; I’ve probably had five of the same pairs. What I love about them is the option that you can buy them in wide sizes. Not once have they ever given me blisters or pain while I was breaking them in. They just feel like they're giving your feet a warm hug, which is quite satisfying when you're on them eight hours a day. “

Zuzii

Alexxa Benson, Assistant Test Kitchen Director: “I recently switched over to Zuzii clogs, which I really like! They are leather and wood so they don't do too well when they get wet and the solid wood base tends to be quite loud when you walk, but they are super comfortable and I think a bit more stylish than my Dansko clogs. They are not quite as non-slip as the Dansko clogs though. They are open back which I like and they keep my feet much cooler.”

Calzuro

Andrea Wawrzyn, Test Cook: “I just got a pair of Calzuros and I am obsessed. They are super comfortable and supportive. Both the arch and heel support is better than any other shoe I've tried. They're rubber, which makes them very easy to clean. I have the ones with upper ventilation because, well . . . they're rubber. I haven't worn them through hot weather yet, but so far so good! Mine are black, but they do come in a ton of fun colors, if that's your thing.”