Best Shoes for Bartending Reviewed & Rated
If you have been tending bar for a while, you know there is nothing more important than the right pair of shoes. Working a full shift on your feet, moving back and forth, at a near sprint if it’s busy, can take a real toll on your feet. When your feet take that kind of beating, your knees and hips aren’t far behind. You know, more than most, that you need a shoe with superior support and comfort.
You also know what most of your customers don’t. It gets messy back there behind the bar. It doesn’t matter how many rubber pads are laid down on the barback floor, drinks spill, ice spills, extra slippery orange pieces fall down back there like they are aiming for you. Sometimes glass breaks. All these things fall on your shoes and, more importantly, they fall on the floor and matting under your shoes, creating a surface that is slippery, might have glass on it, and you don’t want to fall on. While you’re keeping your balance, all those items are also getting all over your shoes, ruining the leather, the canvas… or they would be if you weren’t wearing a pair of the best shoes for bartenders from the list below. Smart!
10 Best Shoes for Bartending
1. Nike Tanjun
The injected unit insole and midsole is what makes these sneakers so lightweight (a size 8 weighs about 8 oz). They are one unit constructed of EVA foam for extra cushioning, comfort and shock absorption.
These sneakers feature extra padding where you need it most for those on their feet all day. They are padded in the collar for ankle stability but also flexibility. There is also extra padding in the upper through the tongue and below the laces for comfort all around.
Cost and Value
This shoe is in the higher range of the shoes on the list. For that extra price, you are getting superior comfort that will let you run (or stand) all day long. The Flyknit mesh upper is also so breathable that you might feel like you are going barefoot. For that back of the bar floor, these sneakers also feature above-average grip.
- Injected unit sole
- Above average grip
- Additional padding in upper
- Ultra lightweight
- Simple design
- Sizing runs small
2. Dr. Martens 1460
Working behind the bar can be slippery and the slip-resistant sole on these boots are a life (and ankle) saver. The AirWare sole also has added friction. It’s oil and fat resistance will keep your classically styled combat boots looking great.
Excellent ankle support
Along with a very comfortable sole, this boot has excellent ankle support, important if your moving around quickly during all of your shift. The extra durable leather upper and well designed lacing keeps your foot where it should be in the boot, preventing slipping.
Cost and Value
These boots are at the higher end of the price range but they are well worth the money. For the investment you will get a pair of boots that last, no matter what your job throws at you. You can’t go wrong with slip-resistance, style, and durability.
- Slip resistant outsole
- Shock absorbing sole
- Excellent ankle support
- Classic style
- Stand all day comfort
- Longer break in time
- Sizing runs large
3. Skechers Sure Track Trickel
With memory foam insoles and shock absorbing sole, you will get through your shift in great comfort. Extra padding means the top of your foot and ankle stay comfortable and the ventilation built in means you will stay cool.
Made to Last
Bartenders wear out a lot of shoes but this won’t be the case with these rubber soled, leather upper, durably built shoes. Besides the slip resistance and cushioning, they are built of high-quality rubber that will last no matter what you’re stepping in.
Cost and Value
These shoes are in the mid range of shoes in our list, which is a remarkable value for shoes that will last you many, many long shifts. The removable insole means you can insert your own orthotic sole if you need to, or enjoy the extra cushion of the memory foam. These shoes were designed specifically with long hours on your feet in mind and it shows.
- Memory foam insole
- Rugged rubber sole
- Exceptionally breathable
- Durable leather upper
- Excellent slip resistance
- May not fit narrow feet
4. Dansko Professional
The polyurethane sole on this comfortable clog gives excellent shock absorption and cushioning for your feet. Polyurethane also offers fantastic slip resistance for those wet floors and surfaces.
TPU Heel Counter
The heel counter allows your foot to slip nicely into the clog while preventing your foot from travelling too much. Your heel can move up and down while you’re walking while still being supported on the sides.
Cost and Value
The Dansko clog is in the high range of shoes on this list but well worth the extra money. They will last a long time, will provide that sure footedness you need behind the bar, and offer fantastic shock absorption, fatigue resistance and comfort. You could work a double in these shoes and still walk all the way home.
- Anti-slip PU sole
- TPU heel counter
- Leather upper
- Rocker bottom
- Foam insole
- Slightly heavy
5. Skechers Flex Advantage
The FlexSole on this rugged work sneaker is flexible enough to allow you freedom of movement, light enough to feel good and they will absorb all the shock your feet take being on them all day.
Sporty and professional
These sneakers will fit in whether you are tending bar at a Tux and Gown event or keeping the taps running at the neighborhood sports bar, all while moving comfortably and securely on your feet.
Cost and Value
These Skechers are in the mid-range of our list. For the money you are getting a sneaker that is designed to be a solid, slip resistant, shock absorbing, ultra comfortable work shoe while still allowing those tired feet to breathe. The removable insole also means you can wear your own custom insole. Most importantly, you will have a comfortable, work shoe that will last through shift after shift.
- Slip resistant sole
- Built to last
- Cooling mesh panels
- Gel memory foam insole
- Shock absorbing midsole
May fit narrow
6. Keen Kaci
The footbed is designed for great arch support and to cradle the natural curves of your feet. It’s removable if you have a custom insole and made of polyurethane for comfortable, secure footing.
Engineered for Work
This shoe is water-resistant while maintaining low-key style for any work environment. For those days on your feet, it also features natural odor control so you won’t have to air them out every second shift.
Cost and Value
This shoe is in the upper price point for shoes on this list. For the money though, you are getting a shoe that was carefully engineered for work and is recommended by bartenders for their all day or all night comfort. Non-marking shoes will make the boss happy while the footbed and odour control will keep a smile on your face. The shoe will also last longer than most, giving you the most value for your dollar.
- Water resistant upper
- Natural odour control
- Metatomical footbed
- Non-marking outsole
- Recycled foam insole
- May fit small
7. New Balance Mid626V2
The midsole provides important cushioning for your feet and you really don’t get better than an IMEVA crafted midsole. This shoe can take all you give it and come back the next day for more.
Abzorb Crash Pad
The Abzorb crash pad in the heel works with the midsole to provide superior shock absorption. This is an important feature when you are moving constantly behind a busy bar. Your heels and ankles will thank you.
Cost and Value
This shoe is in the lowest range of shoes on our list. Don’t let the price fool you though, these shoes have value. Designed for work by a company that engineers for high performance athletes, you are getting shock absorption, comfort and style in a slip resistant work shoe. The 100% leather upper will need a little waterproofing before you get behind the bar but that’s a minor issue considering the price.
- Abzorb crash pad
- IMEVA midsole
- Slip resistant
- 100% leather
- Sizing may be narrow
- Sizing may be small
8. Dansko Pro XP
Dansko’s rocker bottom helps your feet through the hips resist fatigue for long periods on your feet. Add to this the rubber sole for shock absorption and you have a shoe you can wear all day and night.
Room for Toes
When you need to stand all day, the last thing you need is cramped toes. This shoe features lots of room in the toe box for extra comfort. Pair that with the padded instep and your feet will serve you at least as long as your shift.
Cost and Value
The Dansko Mule is on the higher end of our list in terms of price. You are getting great value for that money though because this shoe will last. Your foot will be comfortable for hours and hours will well thought out engineering. Your feet won’t tire easily either, with a specially designed sole. It’s also slip resistant so you really are getting a lot of features for the price.
- Fashion meets comfort
- Rocker bottom
- Slip on ease
- Memory foam footbed
- Roomy toe box
- May not suit high arches
9. Blundstone Original 500
This boot is engineered for longevity with 2.5 mm leather in the upper and a sole that is resistant to hydrolysis, microbes, oil, acid, and fat. It also has twin stitching reinforcement to prevent separation.
Supportive and stable
The midsole is made of polyurethane for support underfoot while a steel shank prevents overflexing in the sole. An ergonomic toe spring also helps prevent your feet from tiring while moving around.
Cost and Value
This boot is on the higher end of the shoes on our list. You will get great life from these boots, however, given how sturdily they are constructed and how resistant the sole is to any sort of breakdown. They are very comfortable and in the insole is removable for accommodate a custom insole, if you need one. Shock absorption is built into the sole, heel and front.
- Durable construction
- Dual pull on straps
- Shock absorbing
- Sole resistant to breakdown
- Removable insole
- Lower arch
10. Steve Madden Troopa
The leather in these boots is genuine and will soften with wear. They are easy to fix with mink oil and polish if they scuff, as leather does. The steel zipper won’t break down with repeated use.
All day wear
These boots are very comfortable for walking in all day. With a good quality sole, solid ankle support and cushioning below the leather insole, you will be able to stay on the go for your full shift.
Cost and Value
These shoes are in the mid-range of shoes on our list. For the price, you are receiving genuine leather boots that will soften without losing ankle support. Like other Madden footwear, you get a trendy boot and with the combat style, you also get a classic. The boots will stay comfortable all day and have more than enough room to accommodate a custom insert.
- Genuine leather upper
- Easy care leather
- Instep zipper
- Cushioned insole
- Trendy classic
- May stretch with wear
- Lack of tread
You work hard all shift and so do your feet. The shoes we have added to our list will all provide you with the comfort you need to do the job without killing your feet and joints. They offer support and cushion and will deal with the water, alcohol, and other spills that happen behind the bar, keeping your feet safe from broken glassware the entire time. With different types, styles, and fashions to choose from, every bartender is sure to find the one shoe for them – from boots that slip on to work sneakers.
Criteria Used to Evaluate the Best Shoes for Bartending
When you work on your feet all shift, you need a shoe that is comfortable for both standing and moving around. But what makes a comfortable shoe? The comfort of a shoe, according to the Shoe and Allied Trades Research Association (SATRA) is measured in a 16 step process. 16 steps. Don’t fret though, because if you are not a researcher or engineer who studies comfort, it really comes down to support, size, shape, and stability.
It is not uncommon for people to have one foot that is a different size than the other. If you are unsure of your size a podiatrist can take the exact measurements for you. A shoe should fit your foot well, not so large that the foot travels in the shoe and not so small that your feet become cramped and rigid. If you have a wider foot, it is important to look for a shoe with wide sizes to prevent compression. If you have a high arch, look for shoes that are specifically built with higher arch support.
Shoes have different shapes as well because they are built on last that are straight, semi-curved or curved. You should find a shoe that matches the shape of your foot as much as possible for the most comfortable wear. If you have a straight foot, it just will not be comfortable in a curved shoe.
This is another important factor in finding a comfortable shoe, especially if you are going to be standing it in for hours. You need a shoe that will keep your feet in the right position. It should be flexible enough for your foot type. Wider, flatter feet need a shoe that is a little more rigid for sufficient stability while a high arched foot needs a little more flexibility and cushion to “hug” the foot.
Other factors to consider to increase your comfort include padded linings, cushioned insoles, a flat base (no heel), toe room, and a cushioned midsole.
You know what it’s like behind that bar. Things spill, things break. It can get slippery and you need to protect your feet and the rest of you from falls. There are a number of tricks you can use to make shoes more slip resistant:
- scuffing up the outsole
- using traction spray, or
- spray the soles with hairspray
There are two factors to look at here when considering slip resistance:
- Tread Pattern:
A tread pattern can help to provide grip in slick situations. The deeper the groove on the tread the more friction you have with the ground and the less likely you are to slip. Keep in mind this does not apply to snow (why are you bartending on snow?) where the snow can pack into the tread. The more grooves, the more friction you achieve as well. The shape of the tread pattern can also affect grip. Circles and multiple patterns increase grip while flatter, singular patterns do not work as well.
- Outsole Material:
Outsole material is also important and can provide protection from slips and falls. High-grade rubber works well on greasy surfaces and generally provides great traction. Polyurethane and neoprene soles also provide superior slip-resistance. PVC and nitrile offer good slip-resistance. Generally, these materials are soft enough and tacky enough on slippery surfaces to grab hold of the floor and push water, grease, oil, and other hazards away while still protecting your foot from broken glass and other items that may have fallen to the bar floor.
You’re working in an environment where alcohol, ice, glass, and bottles can fall onto your feet. Beyond slipping and falling, injuries from items falling on you are a problem for bartenders. The best course of action is to choose a shoe that has a protective upper as opposed to an open toe shoe or a shoe with a thin or weak upper.
Leather is a great material for uppers as it is soft enough to be comfortable but tough enough to protect your foot from sharp or moderately heavy objects that might fall and hit you. Other materials that offer great protection for an upper include thicker synthetic leathers, rubber, and any shoe with a steel or synthetic reinforced toe no matter the material covering it.
You also want to avoid shoes that slip off too easily. Slip-ons are fantastic in the work environment but once slipped on, they should stay on your foot. This has less to do with the upper and more to do with the design of a part of the upper – the heel cap. Look for a solid design that will hold the back of your foot well.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do I know that I’m not getting a knock-off when I buy online?
A: The internet is a great place to shop but you should be cautious. One way of protecting yourself is to read product reviews, as many as possible, before making a purchase. If an item offered is a knock-off, someone will tell you about it. Read the reviews of verified purchasers wherever possible but beware that some bad reviews and some good ones are also fake. The more reviews an item has, the more you are likely to get a real picture of the product you are purchasing. For shoes, you should also look carefully at the pictures provided. Do they have the correct logo and other brand markings? For example, is the Nike strike clearly visible on both sides of the shoe? One more tip here, purchase from sites that offer good and fair return policies. For a more in-depth guide, you can check out our full article here.
Q: I want to purchase a size 8 shoe online. I wear a size 8 US in most shoes. I haven’t worn the brand I’m considering though. How can I know it will fit?
A: Excellent question! Most online shoe vendors will have a “sample” size in the description. For example, they might tell you how long and wide their size 8 is. This is great information to have but if it’s not there, there are still ways to find out whether the shoe is “true to size”, or whether it sizes larger or smaller. That is to read those reviews. When people purchase a product that fits them well right out of the box, they will tell you about that. If they purchase a product that fits too small or too large, they will also tell you about that. Reading a handful of reviews from people who have purchased the shoe before you will let you know whether you should purchase a half size or full size up or down or whether you can go with your usual size 8.
Some online sellers will allow you to post questions online about their products that other users, the seller or the manufacturer can answer. If you ask for a sizing recommendation, you are likely to get good information back.
Q: I’m loving the leather boots but aren’t they going to stretch?
A: Most leather does stretch yes, as all natural materials do to one extent or another. Leather is pliable and the thinner or lower quality it is, the more it will stretch and the quicker it will stretch. Purchasing thicker, higher quality leather is one way to ensure that the stretch is minimal. Another way is to ensure that you treat your new leather shoes with protective sprays and creams that will keep them water resistant. Nothing will stretch faster than wet leather. This is another area where reading the reviews will help you determine whether and by how much your leather shoe purchase may stretch. If you expect them to stretch a half size, you can purchase a half size smaller and allow for a break-in period. Avoid wearing them for very long periods during the break-in process. You will end up with a soft, comfortable leather shoe that fits your foot.
Q: My feet sweat. Work shoes just feel like my nightmare. Any tips for me?
A: Yes. We’ve come a long way with working shoes and many brands now offer good ventilation through the sides to allow some air circulation for hot, sweaty feet. Look for a shoe that has side ventilation so that your sole and upper are still protected but your feet stay cooler. Also, using a spray deodorant or underarm bar deodorant works well on feet to help keep them dry. You can also consider bringing an extra pair of socks to work and changing them midway through your shift for fresher, drier work days.
Q: My leather shoes are in great shape but they were stained with water and alcohol. Is there any way to bring them back to new?
A: If the leather is good quality, you can likely clean out stains like these. To start, brush away any loose dirt and debris and wipe the shoes down with a soft cloth. Dip a soft cloth in warm water with dish soap and wring it out well. Using a gentle, circular motion, wipe down the entire shoe, gently buffing out the water or alcohol stain. Use a clean damp cloth to wipe the soap away. Dry immediately with a towel. Once the shoes are thoroughly dry, apply a leather conditioner and sealant, as recommended by the manufacturer.