How to Choose the Best Cosmetology Shoes

Imelda Marcos, the former first lady of the Philippines, famously owned 3,000 pairs of shoes. You’d think that she would have a pair for any situation, whether she was in the mood for rock climbing or running a marathon.

But her shoes were pretty much entirely designer high heels. After all, it’s not like she needed anything comfortable for standing around in all day. She was a first lady!

However, this should be at the forefront of your mind when you’re looking for the best shoes for your cosmetology career. You will be on your feet all day. Sure, you can easily choose something stylish, but you need to find the perfect blend of comfort and style. You don’t want foot pain to distract you from the task at hand!

If you are looking for the best help for your cosmetology exam, take a look at our ultimate cosmetology state board exam cheat sheet!

A Lot of Options (But It Depends On What is Allowed)

There are many options for a happy marriage of comfort and style when choosing the right shoes as a cosmetologist. This article will help you make the best choice.

But before you buy anything, you need to check with your salon manager about whether or not your choice is going to fit their dress code. You don’t want to spend your hard-earned cash on a fantastic pair of shoes, only to be told that you’re not allowed to wear them at the salon.

More Walking Than You Might Think

You’re going to be standing up all day (every working day), and you might be walking more than you thought. Yeah, of course you’re not going to be hiking, but all those steps from one side of the salon to the other add up.

It’s been estimated that a hairdresser walks around 9,209 steps per each working day. That’s 46,045 steps per five day working week, or an astonishing 460,450 steps per year, assuming that you have two weeks of vacation. So, choosing the right pair of work shoes is absolutely critical for beauty professionals.

Always Go with a Rubber Sole

Regardless of what type of shoe you go with, the sole should be made of rubber. The upper can be leather or synthetic, but a rubber sole is essential for its traction. There are many spillages in the average salon, no matter how careful you are, and you don’t want to take a tumble.

Say No to An Open Toe

Safety first! You’re not working on a construction site, so you don’t need steel-capped boots, but you still need to protect your feet from harsh chemicals that might accidentally be dropped. Open-toed shoes and slingbacks are not recommended for this specific reason.

It’s best to go with a shoe that encases your whole foot.

Choosing a Color

The color might be chosen for you, since the dress code for your salon might insist upon shoes that are a particular color. When there is no guideline, black is best.

It’s more suitable for different styles of clothing that might be worn at the salon. Light-colored shoes are harder to keep clean, especially when you consider the different salon products that might drip onto them.

The Best Shoe Styles for Cosmetologists (and One of the Worst)

Let’s take a look at the best styles of shoe for the busy cosmetologist, along with one that should be avoided unless it’s part of a mandatory dress code.

Clogs

Best Shoes For Cosmetology Jobs Clogs

Clogs are a good starting point. They’re comfortable, although a wedged heel can take a little getting used to. They’re also plain enough so that they can work with pretty much any outfit, even though you’re not going to win any style awards.

  • The upper should be box leather or vinyl, and can be wiped clean.
  • The chunky polyurethane sole is so thick that it can absorb shocks, meaning that they’ll be comfortable for all day wear.
  • This thick sole can sometimes result in discomfort for someone with fallen arches (flat feet), and so should be worn with an orthopedic insole (and more about that shortly).
  • Crocs are clogs with a reputation for comfort, and this extends to all day wear, but this look might be too casual for a salon environment.
    Their trademark holes throughout the upper make them cool and breathable, but foot odor can then become a noticeable problem. The open style of these types of clogs (they’re usually sling backs) also means that they don’t offer as much protection as a cosmetologist’s shoes should.

A Good Choice:

Dansko Women’s Professional Clog or Vangelo Unisex Clog.

Loafers

Best Cosmetology Job Shoes Loafers

Slip-on loafers (also known as plimsolls) are somewhat more casual than mules, but they have a number of advantages in cosmetology.

  • They can have a raised heel for increased support of your own heel, while still looking like flats. They are far less chunky than mules, which might just be a matter of personal taste.
  • If you suffer from sweaty feet, you can opt for a mesh upper for breathability. This permits ventilation while still containing any odor that might be offensive to your clients.

A Good Choice:

UGG Flores Loafer or Naturalizer Women’s Saban Slip-On Loafer.

Ankle Boots

Best Cosmetology Shoes Ankle Boots

You might not have any interest in clogs or loafers, just simply because you don’t like the look of them. An ankle boot is a great alternative.

  • Choose a lower heel, since the higher the heel, the more pressure on the forefront of your feet, which is bad news when you’re on your feet all day at the salon. A moderate heel can actually help your posture and gait.
  • Avoid suede and so-called new leather. This will stain very easily if any cosmetology products were to drop onto your boots.
  • Ankle boots should not have a narrow toe box (wing-tips). This can compress your feet over time, leading to hammertoe and bunions, which is the same reason why high heels should be avoided (as you’ll learn shortly).

A Good Choice:

Sperry Maya Chelsea Leather Boot or Vagabond Kenova Chunky Flat Ankle Boot.

Sneakers

Best Cosmetology Shoes Sneakers

If your salon allows sneakers as part of your work attire, then this can be good news for your feet (although it’s a pretty big if).

  • The lightweight design of most sneakers make them one of the most comfortable choices for all day standing.
  • Avoid bright colors and obvious logos. You’re wearing them for comfort, but you’re still working in a salon, and not playing professional sports.
  • Sneakers are machine washable, once the laces and insoles have been removed. Consider buying two pairs for the salon. One pair can be worn to work while the other pair is being washed and dried.
  • Your sneakers should be polyurethane, and not canvas. Canvas doesn’t give enough support for standing all day.
  • High top sneakers with an adjustable, vertical velcro strap across the topline can give some much-needed ankle support if you think you’ll benefit from it.

A Good Choice:

BOBS from SKECHERS Bobs Squad Tough Talk or Ted Baker Capela Sporty Strap Sneakers.

High Heels

It’s a problem when a salon stipulates that their cosmetologists need to wear high heels. This might be in line with their policy for wearing suitable business attire.

What do you need to know about wearing high heels (and being on your feet) all day in the salon?

  • High heels transfer pressure to the forefront (the ball) of your feet. Wearing them on a daily basis for an extended period of time can lead to hammer toes, bunions, ingrown toenails, as well as tendonitis of the ankle (among other things).
  • Because your body is arching forward while wearing high heels, your pelvis and lower back can become strained (not to mention your knees and hips).
  • If high heels are mandatory as part of the salon’s dress code, you need to limit the amount of time spent in them. Come to work in comfortable walking shoes, and then change into your high heels at the salon. You should also remove them during your lunch breaks.
  • As a compromise, ask if a pump with a lower heel is acceptable. This puts less stress on your body, and a rubber sole pump is going to be stylish, while still offering adequate grip in a salon environment (which isn’t going to be the case with high heels).

Do You Need Arch Support?

Fallen arches, flat feet, whatever you want to call them: they can become a huge problem in a job where you’re going to be on your feet all day.

Your arches might not be completely fallen, but they will still cause pain in your feet (centered around the arches themselves), sore calves, and even back pain.

If you’ve ever had any problems with your arches before, you need to do something about it before you begin to work in a salon.

  • If the problem has been bad before in situations where you’re standing up all day, it’s only going to get worse after those long days at the salon. Think about seeing a podiatrist to have custom orthotics made. These are rigid shoe inserts, made from carbon or plastic, and give your arches the support they need.
  • When your arches are only a minor and occasional problem, you will probably be fine with an over-the-counter orthopedic insert. Choose one with viscoelasticity (which is just like memory foam).
    These are worn in your shoes and quickly mold into the shape that offers the most support for your specific arches.
  • You have to decide if you’re going to need arch support before you buy your new salon shoes, since the size of the shoe needs to be enough to comfortably accommodate both your foot and the insert. You might need to buy a half size larger than you first thought.

Wear Them In Before Wearing Them to the Salon

Don’t just put on your brand new shoes and head straight to the salon. You absolutely have to wear them in first. There’s a quick way to do it:

  1. Put on thick socks for maximum cushioning.
  2. Warm the shoes with a hairdryer (for leather or vinyl uppers only) and then put them on.
  3. Walk around your home until the shoes have cooled and expanded to the shape of your feet.
    Allow yourself enough time to repeat the process (so don’t break out the hairdryer just before you need to leave for work).

Even once you’ve done this, you should wear your shoes out and about before their salon debut. Wear them on a (short) walk, or when you pick up groceries, just so your feet can become used to them. This allows you to identify pressure points, which can lead to blisters.

Keep a few band-aids handy at the salon, just in case your new shoes do in fact give you blisters (waterproof band-aids with a gel cushion guard are best for your feet).

After a Busy Day

Even after careful consideration that has resulted in the best pair of clogs, loafers, boots or sneakers for your cosmetology career, you still need to be aware of the impact that standing all day can have on your feet.

  • At the salon, get into the habit of doing calf raises during your shift (but not when you’re working on a client, obviously). This encourages circulation in your feet, helping to pump the blood around and prevent it from pooling in the lower parts of your body.
    You don’t need to do this obsessively, but try for a few reps throughout your working day.
  • At home, put your feet up for a few moments when you get home. You deserve it after a busy day at the salon, and elevating your feet will counteract any swelling. An ice bath can also work for particularly swollen feet.

Doing exercises at work and caring for your feet once you get home might seem a bit extreme, but if you’ve never spent all day on your feet at a salon before, you’re going to need it.

Your shoes for the salon floor are an extremely important tool for your success as a cosmetologist. You might have some limits with the salon’s dress code, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t find the most comfortable shoes possible that are best suited to your personal style.

And if you still have any doubts about your potential choice, why not ask one of your fellow cosmetologists before you buy?