Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Help Daddy Likey Help Your Barista!

Dear Daddy Likey,

I'm looking to find shoes that are super super comfortable for work. I'm in school and am working two jobs, both at coffee shops, which means I'm usually on my feet at least 8 hours straight a day. It seems that everyone who shares this predicament ultimately turns to those orthopedic sneakers for old women, or *gasp* crocs. Now, really the look of the shoe comes in second place for importance, but I would really like to avoid those options. Do you have any suggestions on shoes that could be attractive, but also relatively cheap (because I am constantly spilling things on them) and also don't make me want to saw my feet off by the end of my shifts?

Signed,

Disgruntled Barista Who Would Prefer to Keep Her Feet

Dear Disgruntled,

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), every job I've ever had has required a lot of sitting on my ass (we writers are a dramatic yet comfortable bunch). Although whenever I eat lunch at the restaurant where my friend is a server, I am shocked at how physical the work is, and how far and fast she has to walk (it upsets me so much, in fact, that I eat extra bread to console myself).

Unfortunately (this time for real), when I asked this friend if she'd ever found cute, comfortable work shoes, she said "No." in a tone so cold and flat you'd have thought I'd asked her to consider the merits of intelligent design.

I would ask my boyfriend, who is a barista himself, but he killed his credibility last year when he wore a pair of hand-me-downs (handed down by an 85-year-old uncle, no less) nearly identical to these for six months:

Yes, we almost broke up.

And so, I turn to you, dear, hardworking, stylish, brilliant readers. Has anyone out there found a work shoe that's attractive, affordable, and comfortable? Does such a trifecta not exist in nature? I have some issues with Dansko (I grew up in Oregon, so I have issues with Dansko the way people from Chicago might have issues with, I don't know, wind), but I know that they're mega comfy, cute (sometimes), and expensive. Have people found cute styles on ebay? Good deals in dark alleys? Any suggestions?

60 comments:

Ali said...

I wore black dunlop volleys when I was waitressing, and I know a lot of other waitresses who do - they're comfy, super cheap and replaceable, and you don't slip over on the kitchen floor! but are volleys only an Australian thing?
(I just looked it up on Wikipedia, I think they are an aussie thing. sorry)

Anna said...

vans are the same as volleys, but more comfy...

but my (similar) suggestion is converse chuck taylors. My feet are only semi sore at the end of a 9 hour coffee shift, although I wouldn't suggest a pink pair, cause mine are now an icky brown colour.

Poppy said...

When I worked as a waitress, I wore a really comfy pair of black Skechers - I haven't seen the style since, they were less chunky and trainer-ish than other styles. I wore slip-on Vans when I worked in a retail store, once you wear them in they're super comfy.

I wore (white) DC skate shoes when I worked on a farm (with red soil). They were really nice before I worked on the farm. Now I use them to run in.

My mother worked as a stagemanager and currently as an assistant chef at a cafe, and swears by plain black Chuck Taylors. Of course, by buying any of these brands you're supporting child labour :(

Anonymous said...

When I was working in retail and on my feet for 10 hours a day I used to wear.... crocs. But wait! Bear with me :) They were cute, black, ballet flat looking crocs. Not those awful hole-y things that people seem to think are appropriate wear all day everyday. I don't know if you can get them over there, I'm from Australia, but they were super comfy AND super cute, and the best thing was that at the end of the day you can just throw them in the washing machine to clean them! :)

Emily said...

At my retail job I love my simple black Target ballet flats. They aren't gorgeous or earth shattering but they're comfy enough to get me through nine hours of walking around and climbing on ladders.

Alix d'Laire said...

practically the only shoes I wear are Milano Birkenstock sandals (ie the classic hippie ones). Comfort-wise, you really can't beat them, and I personally rather like how they look, even adopting the motto "If the endeavour can't be attempted on a bike and in Birks, it's not worth being attempted at all", but it does kind of place you into that treehugger bracket if someone is judging you. (I don't really mind that...) They're also very durable and good for your feet, but I know they probably wouldn't fit with many people's personal style, and they don't offer much protection from the cold. just an idea.

susie_bubble said...

Jazz shoes/oxfords all the way....black patent ones have served me well in the office...

Pamcasso said...

gonna say Merrell's. They are not the most attractive, but they are relatively plain, which is better than ugly + bells and whistles. And they are incredibly comfortable. It might be useful to know what kind of arch the barista has though, because unlike anna who posted above, converse kill me after an hour. But I have the kind of arches ballet dancers covet:)

Anonymous said...

I work as a waitress, and I've been wearing knock-off black vans that don't fit(I had $15 to my name at the time and I needed shoes). Black chucks seem to go over pretty well also. You can never go wrong with a pair of chucks.

Both of those shoes are generally pretty comfy, but there's no arches in them so sometimes if you're standing for a long time it'll start to hurt a bit.

Erin said...

Ok! I know this I did a LOT of physical work when I was younger(and what do you know I sold shoes for about 6 months)

Go to Sears and look at their clearance racks, a lot of times they'll have decent black sketchers for under 20 dollars. Vans, Etny's, or other "skater" style shoes are a good option as well.

If you have a Hush Puppies outlet store near by go check them out if you're willing to spend a little bit but the shoes will be incredibly comfortable(and you can wear them for many many years to come.... by many I mean I have 5 year old hush puppies from my server days that are still wearable)

If you're looking really really cheap, Payless now sells Airwalks, which I lived by as a teenager... they are fairly comfortable.

I also suggest(to anyone really) to get real inserts into your shoes, they're about ummm 25 bucks a pair, the good ones(again you can get them at Hush Puppies) but they will make any shoe that much more comfortable.

*Note: I love shoes, I mean I LOVE shoes... I have over 150 pairs of shoes. I also love having feet, hence lots-o-research on my side for this.

lisalisa said...

Skechers makes some mary-jane looking sneaker/flats that have a little arch support and go for about $40-$50. They are very comfy and look cute too! I've also seen the ballet flat style crocs, which seem ok and come in several colors.

cate said...

GO GELLIN! Seriously, get a set of Dr. Scholl's gel inserts, they used to save my life at double shifts at Gap followed by Baby Gap. If you need new shoes, buy the gel inserts first and bring them with you when you go try your new kicks on--I have a couple pairs that pinch a little when I try to put them on w/ the inserts (and that's never comfortable). However, if you have a servicable pair of shoes that they fit in, you've spent ten bucks and are good to go.

WendyB said...

I would say the one time to enjoy Crocs is when you have a job like that. That's what they're for!

airstreamdiva said...

ah the comfy shoe debate!! as an opera director i spend a LOT of time on my feet and running around harassing large choruses. I have to make a vote AGAINST the converse... NO arch support. maybe my feet are whack, but those kill by the end of the night.
I wear those mary jane sketchers mentioned above, alternating with the ballet style crocs (NOT the holey monstrosities). I find it is good to switch it up, not let the feet settle too much in one shoe over several days. good luck!

Beka said...

I just always go with flats, some really well-made flats, and then buy gel insoles. I worked in retail for 5 years before graduating from college, and that combo was my saving grace!

Elsbeth said...

Spenco Walk/Run insoles! I used them as a barista and walking around Europe, and they blow Dr. Scholls out of the water. They're cheap and available on ebay.

Also, speaking from experience, I would avoid the mary janes, ballet flats, or any other shoe that leaves the delicate top of your foot vulnerable to coffee spills. Ouch, seriously.

Sal said...

As a Chicagoan who has no issues with wind, stuffed pizza, or the Daley family, I'm curious to know more about the Oregonian-Dansko bias. Especially since Dansko is my go-to brand for assisting my husband when he photographs weddings - a grueling 10-plus hour ordeal of standing, walking, and squatting. My Dansko Mayas have saved me from gnawing off my own feet. Expensive, yes, but NOT if you get 'em from 6pm. BEHOLD: http://www.6pm.com/n/brand.cgi?bid=440

casey said...

I spent years working retail, and had to look proper, and find a way to stay on my feet for 8 hours in dressy shoes. Not fun. My solution was, some cute flats in half a size too big, and I would use a Dr.Scholls insert. They make these inserts from memory foam, with great arch support for around 5 or 6 dollars. They'll make those fancy flats feel like sneakers! Seriously. :)

Veronica said...

Toms! Wear Toms!

Just kidding. I would recommend Doc Martens. The t-strap styles are easier to break in than the boots, and they're cute too.

Snofferol said...

I'm afraid I am one of those sad sad croc people. They're just so damn comfy! I worked at a video shop where the rule was we weren't allowed to sit down lest we look like we were slouching. It was the biggest video shop in the country (I kid you not, it actually was) and open 24-7, which meant killer shifts and a lot of running about. After a month of wearing my sneakers (which had always served me well in the past) my big toes had turned blue and I was limping home each day- I do not exaggerate. Then the manager suggested crocs. At that point I had no idea the big divide that crocs had created amongst the fashionably sane and the comfort creatures, but the instant I put them on it was... well, after so long on my feet and toes that looked like they were about to fall off I'm sure you'll forgive me for saying that it was damn near orgasmic.

That long and pointless story, Ladies and Gentlemen, is why I will defend crocs to the death. And like someone else said, you can get really cute styles that aren't the basic chunky things you hate us for. Someone I know got the cutest gray pair with a light brown patent leather lace up bit at the top, it's almost brogue-ish. And the great thing is that knock off-crocs are just as comfortable and really cheap (and therefore easily replaceable.)

shira said...

Okay, this is not the cheapest option but the most comfortable shoes I've ever had are Campers. I've worn them on vacation where I've been walking on cement for 14+ hours a day, at standing jobs, etc. and they never hurt my feet. But they're pricey. But your feet are important, so I say go for it. Search around different websites for sales - I've managed to find a few pairs at really decent prices. Oh! and they're CUTE.

I find patent shoes are really hard and difficult to wear in and don't always accommodate, you know, foot sweat.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Er, tevas. Ugly as all hell, but man are they comfy.

K2 said...

Crocs have holes, and that just makes spilling hot coffee on your feet Not Fun.

May I suggest you try to find some Privos? They're the slightly less stodgy label from Clarks, and they make some really cute techy-looking ballet flats with these pebbly gel insides - it's like getting a foot massage while you walk. Sooo comfy.

Anita said...

I'm older than all of you young whippersnappers and have been working in kitchens for 30 yrs (STAY IN SCHOOL!) Anyhoo, I can jump on the Skechers bandwagon (Clark Privos and Keens are really good, but too expensive in my opinion). Chucks and Vans are fine, but do yourself a favor and get the Spenko inserts that Elsbeth suggests above. Take out the insoles that come with your real or imitation Chucks & replace with the Spenkos and you'll have some supportive, cute, washable work shoes.

daddylikeyblog said...

These are great suggestions! Keep 'em coming!

Sal--
Hahaha well, my issues with Dansko stem from the fact that they are so popular here (and even more popular among my mother's friend group) that I grew up believing they were the only kind of shoes in the world. In my teen years I binged on uber-stylish, feet-killing shoes as a sort of Rumspringa, and I vowed to never go back to the World of Dankso.

Snofferol--
Your defense of crocs was passionate, heartfelt, and moving. I'm convinced.

Henry said...

I always thought moonboots were pretty nifty - you'd even be able to bounce over other customers!

Oh, and nice job on the grandpa shoes Nick, very pimp.

Hannah Cheeto said...

Converse or Vans are very comfortable, but if you have high arches like me it's definitely worth getting a pair of inserts.

Material Girl said...

just blogged about cute sneaker-y ballet flats & I bet some of them would be perfect for a fashionista/barista...

Nicole said...

I am a waitress/barista myself, and I found some really cute ballet flats that are surprisingly comfortable from payless, of all places. (I'd put the link but it's super long, so they're on payless.com, and are called "American Eagle Mille Bow Ballet." In fact, I've started wearing them all the time, not just to work!!

Annie said...

I second the Doc Martens comment. I worked on someone's student film running around for 12-14 hours a workday and they were the only things that didn't leave me wincing gently about my apartment at the end of the day.

That being said, invest in some thick-ass socks if you do go with Docs, and wear at least two pairs if you've never worn them before.

Vintage, they aren't that expensive. I got my 20-hole boots for $30 at a thrift store.

ambika said...

I thought I was the only one with issues with Dansko. It *must* be a Northwest thing--maybe I wouldn't be leery of them if they weren't so ubiquitous?

hope505 said...

I second pamcasso's reply: Merrell brand shoes are damn comfy.

Sara said...

Doc Marten's any style. The super thick and rubbery soul helps keep you on your feet all day. They have mary jane styles that are girly. Everything is chunky, but you can make it funky and they are very comfortable.

hannah said...

I tried these shoes on recently adn they feel like a DREAM: http://www.zappos.com/n/p/dp/35911436/c/134914.html
They are Crocs, but of the cute variety (right?!).
If you're open to a more expensive option, Merrills are amazingly comfortable.
Good luck!

Snofferol said...

I must add to my previous comment by saying that perhaps not everyone *should* be won over by the power of the croc. My mother (whom I have been warning away from the 'old lady' button up, lappeled tops for years) figured that if I approved of crocs then she could invest in a pair.

She decided to jazz them up.
With gold nail polish.
And glitter.

So I suppose I should be careful to use my croc-swaying power for good, not evil.

Ingrid said...

Campers are expensive and damn comfy, but don't get ones with a bright-coloured inside. After a year of regular wear, mine were still dying the sole of any non-black socks a colourfast dark red.

lisa said...

Vans and Converse are typically made of canvas and Crocs have holes, so they're not really ideal shoes for a spilly environment. Go to Naturalizer and buy a pair of cute flats, or get leather street sneakers (like Pumas) and spray on several coats of leather stain guard before you wear them.

design for mankind. said...

HAHAHAHAH I LOVE THIS.

TheSundayBest said...

A well made pair of leather shoes will be comfortable enough to wear all day. Unfortunately, they might also cost you $600.

In lieu of that I wear MEDIUM slip ons.

Liz said...

Yep - Crocs ballet flats or black Volleys.

Chuck Taylors don't have enough support or cushioning, and they have always hurt me after a few hours on my feet.

April said...

Dansko's can be uncomfortable because they don't have any padding. I love my Marcelle's but they hurt my feet. Same thing with Converse or other flats without support. A gel insert is a good idea though.

There are some cute, not too expensive ones here: http://www.shoesforcrews.com/sfc3/index.cfm?changeWebsite=US_en&route=c_store.browseProductsByCategory&CategoryId=c4&StartAt=All

emily said...

I've worked retail during Christmas seasons before, so I can totally relate to needing good shoes. I swear by Natural Sport shoes. They're usually really cheap (thirty-ish dollars) and have built in Dr. Scholl's insoles. They've saved my feet many a time. Plus, they have some really cute styles too, like this one:

http://www.gothamcityonline.com/natural-sport-by-dr-scholls/dr-scholls-insoles-alexis-black-flats-shoes.cfm

Or you can search around for some other styles. I have the Dolly sneakers and they've held up for four years of heavy wear. Good luck!

kater said...

I work retail in a shoe store, am on my feet for many hours a day, and have yet to find a good shoe :P

I love my chucks, since my poor flat, bunioned feet like only those, but I can't wear them at work.

I don't have them, but every customer and co-worker swears by these: http://www.ninewest.com/n/browse/product.s?source=search&productId=2881306.

Alicia said...

These suggestions are all lifesavers, thanks guys! I am also a server and one of the most important things (as a few mentioned)for me is that they are slip proof. Even though I love slipping and having fajitas fall all over me and then continue on my 8 hour shift, I'd really rather not. My best bet has always been skechers, if you get desperate walmart sells a line of slip proof shoes that are not completely horrific though not good. One final plug for the skechers store is that I got 2 pairs of knee high boots there for $17 a few days ago.

Anonymous said...

get a shoe with a good arch support. i worked at a shoe store all last summer that was all about comfort. aside from Dansko, we sold brands like Mephisto (good for wide feet) and Stonefly (good for narrower feet) and Gabor. They were sooo freakin comfortable and Stonefly had some pretty cute sneakers. i'd give that a try.

Layla said...

DO NOT GO WITH CHUCK TAYLORS OR BALLET FLATS! They do NOT have the right amound of arch support, which puts more pressure on your feet, and ends up making them more sore. I don't have any particular suggestions, but seriously, go for something with arch support. If you insist on those two though, you can get removable/insertable arch support pad things from a lot of different shoe stores, like for free. It'll feel so much better, it also helps your back and your knees. Oh, also, I think my friend wears like Theresa somethings... I don't know, they're a LITTLE grandma-y but mary janes and she swears they're so comfortable.

Sister Libby said...

Danskos, but they're not really cheap.

Vanessa said...

Try shoesforcrews.com. They're recommended by my place of employment (part time college student, part time yacht club waitress), and some of them are kind've cute as far as work-wear goes. The "Sabrina" is adorable (only 50 bucks), and they also have some mary-jane-type styles. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Fluevogs--a relation to Doc Martens, but lighter in the sole. Good support, supple leather which is easier to break in, and they last a VERY long time. Wore a couple of pairs over an 8-year period working on my feet, and nothing felt better. (Can find them on sale for about $60-100. but really worth it.) --Terri

Sal said...

Ahhhh, I totally get ya. Ubiquity can certainly breed disinterest, especially in the world of shoes. Even worse if your mom's pals are Dansko fans! Ech. I still swear by my Mayas, but then again, I swear like a sailor ...

Gotta second Terri's comment above, too. I shall Fluevog till I die. Even wearing a pair today, bless 'em.

Say, Winona, any chance of swapping links? I've had you in my blogroll for ages and would be honored to have a spot in yours!

dana said...

Danskos. Margots, my most comfy and fave Danskos ever (and they come in four colors of striped patent leather) are on sale for $51 at Sierratradingpost.com. I have three pairs, and am considering buying more. Of course, they are sandals.

And for you rockers, try the creepers. I have a cheap pair by Demonia, which has no arch support. I would like to try insoles with these, or try the more expensive T.U.K. brand, which seems like it would be more foot friendly. But these babies are fab, because you're walking on top of two inches of crepe rubber! And no one can hear you coming!

Finally: platforms. Of equal height front and back. i think that's what the comfort comes down to: support.

enc said...

I was going to say Dansko, but I realize that might get me in trouble! ;)

Becky said...

They can be pricey and sometimes old lady-ish, but I wear Borns and Softt shoes to and from the bus each day and hiking downtown (well over 3 miles a day). You have to look hard but there really are some stylish options. My Softts are red Mary Janes and I get compliments every time I wear them. I would suggest sizing up a half size or more is the only thing... Good luck!

haus_Frau said...

I don't know if anyone has mentioned these yet, but when I worked retail (mostly in the stockroom), I lived in my Earth shoes. They're an initial investment, but they are still comfortable and in very good shape after a year of solid wear almost every day. Plus, being leather, you can polish them if they get messy. I worked at a gourmet store, which meant lots of weird things dropping onto my shoes. They're worn, but still cute.

Short of Birks, they're the only ergonomic shoes that don't scream fugly to me (I thinking Danskos here).

hollarback said...

I vote Docs - used to be a barista myself. Mary Janes are cute - but you want a boot or oxford lace up style. Trust me, someone WILL spill boiling coffee or water. If you look at long time baristas - they all have some burn scars. That vibram sole will save your feet; add some insoles and you are golden. Love the look of converse - but not a work shoe at all, no support and they are fabric - asking for trouble.

Docs are also the least ugly in my book, they look good forever too, no muss no fuss.

enjoy said...

When I worked at Whole Foods, we were required to buy non-slip shoes. The company we bought from has some VERY ugly designs, but also some cute mary jane and converse-like designs. When I got my pair, I was shocked at how comfortable the shoes were! They are made for people in the service industry who have to stand all day. I HIGHLY recommend.

Marie said...

I second a few suggestions:
Merrells really are amazing and you get used to their goofy look after wearing them awhile.
I have some slip on Sketchers that are very comfy and come in a huge range of colors. We have a Sketcher's store in town which carries many more styles and colors than regular department stores, so try to find one near you.

I also suggest Me Too "Nevada" ballet flats. Unlike most ballet flats, they have great rubber soles, so you don't feel like you are walking directly on the ground. I have 2 pairs and they come in several colors, including sequined and glittery!

Mademoiselle Frou-Frou said...

that shoe is so ugly, it's painful to look at!!!
xo alison

Dao said...

I would recommend Aerosols shoes. They're not so stylish or groundbreakingly chic or anything but they sure are very comfortable. I'm a lab person so I have a fair share of standing on my feet. Between sneakers (New Balance) and Aerosols, I survive. You can get them at Ross for around $20 a pair or at Macy's etc when they are on sale.

purrsikat said...

Imma jump on the Birkenstock bandwagon;
1) lots of styles, different each season, so lots of choice;
2) comfy insoles, some can be removed & replaced with orthotics or other insoles;
3) (not cheap _but_) replaceable soles which keeps the shoe going for years & years; and
4) depending on the type of Birk, they can be really easy to keep clean (obviously suede is a no-go due to spillages)
( and also 5) cheaper on the intarwebs, like on eBay!)

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