Footwear for serving tables. A beginners guide.

When you work on the floor as a server, you will clock in thousands of steps each day. I remember one day in the restaurant where I logged in 21,000 steps over my shift!

This means we need footwear to hold up to the job. And we need to take into account how our foot is structured to get the support we need.

Before we get into the details please note this article does not replace going to an orthopedic doctor and getting custom orthotics into your shoes. You will receive a custom insole that will be shaped specifically for your foot which will do better than any store-bought insert out there. If you can, go get that done! As well, the following article covers the basics of choosing an insole for your feet and workday. It is not design to treat or reduce and injuries you may have from work. Please speak to your doctor and get referred to a medical professional if you have chronic foot pain while at work.

Determining your Arch

The human foot takes a good bit of force as we walk around all day. During the various stages of the gate cycle the foot may absorb and create forces 2-3x our body weight! An immediate way to manage the forces that act on our feet while walking is finding a pair of insoles that will work well for our feet. This article aims to give you some knowledge needed to make decisions based on your daily walking needs.

Analyzing our foot and their arches.

Our feet at the first point of contact with the ground and they create the base of support to keep your body upright when walking or standing. But not everyone’s feet are built the same and the support they give. The first step is to determine if you are neutral, flat, or high arch on the bottom of your foot. Then we can better choose an insole that will work.  

Determining your arch:

We can determine the arch in our feet pretty easily at home with some simple supplies. You will need:

  1. A large shallow pan that you can step into.

  2. A piece of paper towel or a concrete floor.


Fill the pan with water just high enough that the soles of your feet are submerged when you step in it. Then step onto the paper towel with your wet foot.

The imprint you leave will look like one of the following imprints:

From this imprint you will know what kind of inserts you may need to support the inside of your shoe.

Normal foot arch:

About half the population has a normal foot arch and that is fantastic news for you. Your arches keep your ankles from falling inwards and causing pain from the lack of support.  For anyone with this foot type we are going to focus on an insole that promotes comfort. Find an insert with a high amount of cushioning around the heal and cushion support for the rest of the foot.

Low Arch or flat feet:

If you find you are flat footed with very little arch you will have less support across your ankles and this could transfer discomfort into your knees, hips, and lower back. To correct this, you will want an insole with arch support and enough cushioning to manage the continual walking on the job.

High arch feet:

With a high arch, the foot is placing the more force on the heel and ball of the foot when you walk and less shock absorption is being done by the arch itself.  Sever cases will need to be observed by an orthopedic specialist who can recommend a treatment plan that will work effectively.

Finding footwear for your workday:

Most restaurants require a specific type of shoe while working. This isn’t a big problem for most situations but if you do have some freedom in what you choose take these factors into account:

1) What type of floor do you work on?

The floor your work on will affect the amount of cushioning you will need. A harder floor such as concrete will require a higher amount of insole cushioning compared with a hardwood or softer carpeted floor.  

2) Does my floor have slippery surfaces

This should be obvious to anyone in a restaurant since all kitchens will be slippery at one point or another. If you can get shoes that are non-slip then go with those ones to prevent slips and falls.

3) How often do I work and for how long?

If you work full time as a server you will want to take into account the types of materials your insoles are made out of. A material that is more durable will save you money since they will wear out less quickly. If you only work part time or less then you could probably get away with a cheaper insole since you will be placing less wear and tear on it all the time.

Choosing an insole:


Removing the shoes insole.

The inside of your shoe is going to affect the insole you buy. Most shoes come with an insole that can be removed. You can insert your personal insole in the space that is created. If you cannot remove the insole from your shoe you will need a thinner insole that can be placed on top of the one inside the shoe. Make sure this doesn’t cause too little space above your foot for the top of the shoes is pressing down to tightly on top of your foot.

Your Arch type:

As noted earlier, insoles are designed to work with specific foot types so pick the ones that are for your type of arch.

Foot bed Type:

The foot bed on the insole will be made in for ways. A rigid arch support, a semi-rigid arch support, a cushioned arch support, or no arch support at all. An arch support with a higher rigidity is going to provide more support compared with a lower rigidity arch. I recommend you choose based on the highest amount of comfort. Having a full foot assessment will confirm which type of insole will work best for you

Materials used:

Insoles can be made from foam, cork, leather, or gel. These materials all have different lifespans and comfort levels.

Gel insoles:

The Gel material inside insoles provide a large amount of cushioning and can reduce pain at the heel. These should be replaced every 6 months. From personal experience, gel insoles will create a large amount of comfort but once they wear out, they become uncomfortable quickly.

Foam insoles:

Foam insoles are also affordable as an option. They also wear out quicker than other insoles. Version with memory foam will conform to your feet over time creating a high amount of comfort. Check your insoles periodically to make sure they continue to have give in them.

Cork Insoles:

You have probably seen cork used as a material on the bottom of different kinds of sandals. Insoles made of cork will mold to the wearer’s feet over time. They also have a higher breathability than foam or gel insoles. They will have less cushioning than a foam or gel insole but will have higher support in return.

Leather Insoles:

Leather insoles will provide a rigid support to your foot. They will also provide a moderate amount of give. They usually have a longer lifespan than the foam or gel inserts.

As you can see, the type of material for an insole will be affected by your budget and needs for support or cushioning. You can always start with a lower in price insole to see if that will work. If that does not work, you can increase your budget to a more expensive insole for your needs.

Insole Length:

Make sure the insole you choose is the correct size for your foot wear. You may need to trim across the top of the insole to make it fit. When you insert the insole, it should not bunch up or fold in the front of the shoes.

Insole maintenance:


Insoles are in direct contact with your feet which will sweat most of the day. Take the time to air out your insoles by taking them out of the shoe. This should be done once per week. This will keep them from wearing out too soon,

You can also wash your insoles with a cloth and light soap. This can help remove bacteria and keep them smelling great.

How to know when to replace your insoles:

  • They are cracked or damaged

  • The colour has faded.

  • They smell

  • They have become very flat with no give left in them.

  • If you take the insole out and squeeze the material together you should not feel your finger touch. This means there is no cushion left in the insoles.

There you have it! Follow this quick guide to find the foot ware inserts that will work for you!