I’ve spent most of my working life on my feet. You’d think I’d be thinner, but unfortunately I love to eat and drink so much all the standing, walking, and schlepping cases of wine up and down stairs merely keeps me looking average. Probably if I cut back my french fry and rose consumption even a little, I’d look like J. Lo circa 2000, but everyone can’t be everything.
One thing I have had to learn from all these hours spent standing, though, is how to stay comfortable.
The toughest job I had when it came to figuring out what to wear that would look decent and not have me clenching my jaw from intense pain 4 hours into my shift was being a hostess at a nice restaurant. It wasn’t an explicit rule that I had to wear heels, but dress shoes of some kind were definitely expected. The first shift I tried to make it through wearing some 4 inch numbers from the clearance rack at Nine West ended in blood, tears and a lot of cursing.
After that, I tried to get around my shoe problem by wearing dressy flats. Believe it or not, this was actually worse than the heels, because cheap ballet flats provide absolutely zero arch support. When your feet have no support, your legs, knees, lower back, everything feels that neglect.
I called my mother to vent about how hard I had it, and instead of commiserating, she told me, see, I’m always telling you to wear better shoes! I decided to listen to her, never a bad idea, and tried on lots of brands and styles of old ladyish dress shoes that promised better arch support and wouldn’t squish my toes or cut into my heels.
I found that Naturalizers are just hopelessly dorky and not actually that durable. Dansko’s dress shoes make me look like a clydesdale. Seriously, that clog style does not translate well into regular shoes. Who looks good in those weird mary-jane type numbers with huge, bulbous toes?
What I found is that the Sofft brand shoes are the shit. Some of the styles are a little dorky, but there is a nice basic black or brown pump available pretty much every season, and some of the other styles are pretty cute. Most importantly, you can stand for HOURS in these. I have worked 12 (or more) hour shifts in Sofft brand heels and didn’t want to cut off my feet afterwards. Tons of arch support, the perfect amount of toe wiggle room, and the back part doesn’t cut into your heel. They are seriously the best.
I see these pop up at TJ Maxx and Marshalls quite often, too, so there’s no need to shell out department store prices unless you have your heart set on a certain style from the current season.
Once I started waiting tables, shit got really real. I was working in a restaurant that had these polished concrete floors – a trendy look at the time, and it did look cool (the whole restaurant was gorgeous, actually), but it was hell to stand on for hours at a time. That’s when an older waitress, I’m 99% sure her name was Donna, and if it wasn’t, it should have been, told me to wear compression socks: “You know, the kind for old folks with diabetes.” The first time I stuffed my feet into those babies I thought she must be nuts (they’re supposed to be fairly tight).
She saved my life. Compression socks are everything. If you ever need to be on your feet for long periods, especially if you’re standing a lot, rather than walking, you will notice a huge difference in how your feet and legs feel at the end of the day. You can buy fancy compression socks for runners and cuter styles on Amazon, but in a pinch, the plain old black ones from the drugstore work just fine.
Now I’m spoiled and I can wear comfortable sneakers to work, but for long shifts during the holidays, or working events or tastings where I’ll be standing at the tasting bar for long periods? I break out my trusty compression socks.
Thanks Mom, and thanks Donna, for getting me through those tough restaurant jobs with my feet intact. And to all you young whippersnappers out there, take care of your feet – you only get one pair!