Our good friend Erick Castro recently posited a question on Facebook about bartenders’ footwear of choice, which got me thinking about mine. So I thought I’d share my experience with you in the hopes that folks could chime in and build a discussion that might be of help to other bartenders out there.
About thirteen years ago, after years of working on my feet in normal, uncomfortable, black dress shoes, it became nearly impossible for me to stand. It happened pretty quickly over the course of opening a new bar I started working in. The long hours on my feet spent getting the place off the ground, combined with new lengths of walking quickly developed into the most excruciating foot pain I had ever experienced.
A visit to the doctor informed me that I’d fallen prey to the ailment suffered by so many of us who work on their feet, plantar fasciitis. And holy shit does it hurt. There’s really no way to describe the pain other than a hot needle being shoved into my heel every time I took a step.
A friend and longtime server suggested I try a change of footwear, a hideous clog I’d seen before but would have ever considered placing on my own feet: Danskos. The footwear of choice for midwives, alternative bookstore employees, energy healers and vegan baristas everywhere, these monstrosities have literally changed my life.
But not at first. See, after just a week or so after adopting Danskos behind the bar, my symptoms had disappeared and I was running around again, stoked to be able to walk without pain. So I switched back to my normal, uncomfortable, black dress shoes. And then it happened: while running into the kitchen I hit a patch of wet, oily kitchen tile and landed flat on my back. And it occurred to me then and there, lying on my back on a greasy kitchen floor in the middle of a busy service, that those ugly Danskos I’d been wearing were totally non-slip.
The next day I switched back to my Danskos and I’ve never worn anything else behind the bar. My plantar fasciitis has never returned, I’ve never slipped on the floor since, and my lower back — subjected to years of abuse from lifting kegs and cases of liquor — is still in great shape. You can get a pair here, and I highly recommend the oiled leather finish as they’re much easier to break in than their other offerings.
Since a large percentage of you reading this are bartenders, I’ll put it to you: what do you wear behind the bar to combat foot pain, slipping, and lower back issues? On behalf of other service industry workers out there, your advice is appreciated.