Work Wear

On the Job: Real Workers Sound Off

Real workers sound off on the footwear that takes them through the day

By Jennifer Ernst Beaudry, Cara Griffin and Bob McGee. Lawn and garden workers, delivery drivers, restaurant workers, nurses and doctors are on their feet day in and day out on the job. But these hard-working consumers aren’t looking for a traditional work boot. While their needs vary by job — slip resistant? Stain resistant? Washable? They’re looking for shoes that work for them, and that will keep them comfortable for a full shift and beyond. So we went right to the source to discover what they’re looking for. Here, real end users tell us what they wear, where they shop and what they’re looking for in their on-the-job footwear.


Jen Mooney, 47 | West Hartford, CT | Owner, Paula’s Perennials

What’s an average day like for you?
It’s all seasonal. Yesterday, I was overhauling a garden — we redid beds and had trees removed. There was a huge plant order delivered, so I loaded the truck with all the 5-gallon pots then spent the whole day in mud getting the soil ready, pre-planting, spreading mulch and raking out, then removing all the waste. Today I’ll be beginning to cut back hostas and baptista, and raking waste and then dragging the tarp its on, then doing fine pruning on boxwoods, which is all standing. The job is very athletic: It’s pushing, squatting, lifting and pulling.

Jen Mooney owns a garden design and landscaping company.

What footwear do you wear to work?
A couple of years ago I discovered hiking boots, and they’re amazing: They’re rugged, withstand the conditions for years, and keep out dirt. And they have the support you need. Right now I wear Oboz Bridger Mid boots, and Merrell hiking shoes. I also have two pair of Saucony Excursion trail runners that I wear if I know it’ll be a dry day and I’m weeding.

What qualities are critical in your footwear?
They need to be athletic and supportive: I used to wear gardening shoes and they destroyed my feet and I got plantar fasciitis. They need to have grip and support, and I don’t want all the dirt pouring in. And they should be waterproof and breathable.

Is outside-of-work style important?
Style is important to me — I still like to look nice. But the features are what attracts me.

Do you buy your own shoes or are they provided through work?
I buy my own.

A couple of years ago I discovered hiking boots, and they’re amazing. — Jen Mooney

Where do you shop for your work shoes?
I discovered REI,  and recently I went into Fleet Feet Hartford and got fitted with sneakers and it changed my life. [Outside of those places], I’ll never buy anywhere else again.

How often do you replace your work shoes?
I keep about five pairs going at a time for different needs. The hiking boots last way longer — about two seasons. The sneakers last one season.

How much do you generally pay for on-the-job footwear?
I generally spend between $120 and $160 — the Merrells weren’t over $100, the Oboz were $140.

How could your shoes or work shoes for your job in general be improved?
What I would love is a shoe with the quality of my New Balance sneakers, that fits me really well, and has a lugged sole but not super super rugged. The main thing that drives me bonkers about my hiking boots is that they hold dirt and if you walk over the client’s yard or patio all the hunks of dirt fall out of the treads. It would be lightweight, waterproof but breathable and not too hot, and would keep out dirt and water. I’d love it if it was more flexible, and more athletic. I’ve been searching for the perfect boot for 10 years and I don’t believe there’s a perfect gardening shoe that exists.


Waitress Kylee LaBollita.

Kylee LaBollita, 20 | Middleboro, MA | Waitress at Dave’s Diner

What’s an average day like for you?
I’m on my feet for six to eight consecutive hours, walking continuously from the small kitchen — which often has wet, slippery floors — to the dining area.

I’m on my feet for six to eight consecutive hours, walking continuously from the small kitchen — which often has wet, slippery floors — to the dining area. — Kylee LaBollita

What footwear do you wear to work?
Nike and Vans. I have two pairs in the rotation.

What qualities are critical in your footwear?
Support and comfort.

Do you buy your own shoes or are they provided through work?
I buy my own.

Where do you shop for your work shoes?
I bought the Vans at the Vans’ store in Braintree, MA. I went to Famous Footwear for my Nikes.

How often do you replace your work shoes?
Every other month.

How much do you generally pay for on-the-job footwear?
I spend around $50 to $80, and I expect them to last at least six months.

How could your shoes or work shoes for your job in general be improved?
They could provide more slip-resistance on the outsole, or provide more fashion-forwardness in a slip-resistant styles. We are running around a lot during our shifts. We want to look good, but we don’t want to fall.


Waitress Danielle Jigerjian

Danielle Jigerjian, 37 | Middleboro, MA | Waitress at Dave’s Diner

What’s an average day like for you?
I’m on my feet for 35 hours over five days a week.

What footwear do you wear to work?
Two pairs of Sauconys.

What qualities are critical in your footwear?
Comfort.

Do you buy your own shoes or are they provided through work?
I buy them myself.

Where do you shop for your work shoes?
Bob’s Stores and Dick’s Sporting Goods.

How often do you replace your work shoes?
Every three months.

How much do you generally pay for on-the-job footwear?
$80

How could your shoes or work shoes for your job in general be improved?
I wish they offered more slip-resistant outsoles. I also wish shoemakers and retailers could address my ailment — plantar fasciitis — in their products and marketing. It would be great if there were a particular model that addressed it, or if [stores or brands] offered suggestions on the best insoles to use.


Sean McLain, 37 | Chicago suburbs | Delivery driver for UPS for 15 years

What’s an average day like for you?
It’s a fast-paced, physical job. I average 250 stops per day and handle 350 to 450 packages a day ranging from a letter to boxes weighing up to 150 lbs. I drive an average of 70 miles a day and work in all weather conditions, and I average 10 miles walking every day, for an average of 20,000 steps with constant lifting and lowering and stepping on and off the truck.

What footwear do you wear to work?
Nike Air Monarch IV. I’ve been wearing Air Monarchs for most of my career. I have tried other brands, [but] have always come back to Nike. I keep two pairs and rotate them every day. I keep [each pair] for 12 weeks. When we get snow, I switch to my boots, which are Teva Chair 5 winter boots.

What qualities are critical in your footwear?
I need a black shoe and something comfortable for all the walking; I also need something sturdy and good traction. Durability is a plus.

Is outside-of-work style important?
I actually like these shoes enough that I wear a white pair for outside of work like the 80-year-old man that I am inside.

Do you buy your own shoes or are they provided through work?
I have to buy them on my own.

Where do you shop for your work shoes?
I buy my Nike shoes from Zappos. They are not the cheapest, but they are reasonable and very convenient. I buy my boots from Amazon. The price is good and, again, it’s convenient.

How often do you replace your work shoes?
I’ve found that after 12 weeks, it’s time to switch them out as the tread is almost gone and they begin to get less supportive.

How much do you generally pay for on-the-job footwear?
The Nike shoes are typically $55 a pair and the boots were under $50. I’m only on my second pair of boots since they are only worn in snowy conditions.

How could your shoes or work shoes for your job in general be improved?
I would like it if my shoes were lighterweight, since I am pleased with the comfort. I will say I hate how squeaky these shoes can be, but that’s my only real complaint. I always buy shoe inserts for every pair and double sock every day of the year, which I have found reduces blistering and helps with comfort, especially the break in, and keeps the shoe nice and snug. I’m a creature of habit and I make these shoes work. I just hope they keep making them.


Firefighter/paramedics Trevor Chute, left and Cody Medeiros.

Trevor Chute, 25 | Raynham, MA | Firefighter/Paramedic, Raynham FD

What’s an average day like for you?
I’m in the station, doing vehicle maintenance and making emergency calls.

What footwear do you wear to work?
I have two pairs of Merrell Tactical boots — summer and winter styles.

What qualities are critical in your footwear?
Comfort, breathability and waterproofness.

Do you buy your own shoes or are they provided through work
I buy my own.

Where do you shop for your work shoes?
I buy them directly from Merrell online, but it doesn’t have the fitting and product information.

How often do you replace your work shoes?
As needed, so every year or two.

How much do you generally pay for on-the-job footwear?
I spend $100 to $150, so hopefully they last one or two years.

How could your shoes or work shoes for your job in general be improved?
They could be made of stronger materials to hold up better to wear and tear.


Cody Medeiros, 24 | Raynham, MA | Firefighter/Paramedic,Raynham FD

What footwear do you wear to work?
[I have] three pairs of Under Armours.

What qualities are critical in your footwear?
Durability and that they are easy to take off.

Do you buy your own shoes or are they provided through work?
I buy my own.

Where do you shop for your work shoes?
I shop online and at Dick’s Sporting Goods and Bass Pro Shops.

How often do you replace your work shoes?
Every four months.

How much do you generally pay for on-the-job footwear?
$120 to $180.

How could your shoes or work shoes for your job in general be improved?
I think the boots could be more durable — comfort, durability and accessibility are key.


Registered Nurse Maricar Centeno, far left, with co-workers.

Maricar Centeno, 41 | Stony Brook, NY | Registered Nurse in the Labor
& Delivery department at Stony Brook University Hospital

What’s an average day like for you?
As an RN in Labor & Delivery, it’s either a 12-hour or 8-hour shift. Depending on the patient’s situation — for example, early labor being induced, laboring, pushing with the patient, C-section in the OR, post-partum hemorrhage, et cetera — the amount of being on our feet varies. I sometimes can be standing for three-plus hours straight during a delivery, and don’t sit until the baby is stable.

What footwear do you wear to work
I wear the Dansko XP clog in both leather and the synthetic material and the Dansko Twin Pro clog, which has a message on the top of the shoes — “little dreams” on one and “big adventures” on the other. I keep two pairs at work and one at home.

What qualities are critical in your footwear?
First is comfort, second is slip-resistance, third is durability and fourth is style — which is sometimes first if they’re really stylish or cute like the Dansko Twin Pro clogs!

As an RN in Labor & Delivery, it’s either a 12-hour or 8-hour shift. — Maricar Centeno

Do you buy your own shoes or are they provided through work?
I buy my own — there are no funds from my employer for them.

Where do you shop for your work shoes?
Amazon. They usually have the better deal. It doesn’t really have the fitting and product information I need, but now Amazon has “try it free” with Prime wardrobe, which I haven’t tried yet. Customer reviews help make the decision of which ones to buy as far as how they fit.

How often do you replace your work shoes?
Once a year.

How much do you generally pay for on-the-job footwear?
My Danskos are usually between $100 and $150. I bought two pairs on Amazon on Prime Day for $60 each pair. I expect my Dansko footwear to last two to three years.

How could your shoes or work shoes for your job in general be improved?
The upper part of the shoes need to be a little roomier for feet that have a high dorsum like mine. And nurses deal with body fluids, so the waterproof aspect is very important so that sanitizing the shoes is not an issue. The shoes should be constructed in a way so that using sanitizing cloths will not damage the shoes or affect the durability.