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How to Select the Best Shoes for Teaching English in Japan

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Start your English teaching job off on the right foot by packing the best pair of indoor shoes.

Every person and work assignment might be a bit different, but here are some safe bets for shoes to buy and bring to Japan.

Top Japan English Teaching Shoes Comparison

Tree Loungers

A Feel-Good Shoe


  • Lightweight

  • Sustainable

  • Neutral, Modern Look

  • No Breaking-in Period

Personal Favorite

On The Clock

An Easy, Reliable Choice


  • Slip-Resistant

  • Arch Support

  • Washable

  • Affordable

Best Price


For the Serious Teacher-In-Training

$58 to $120

  • Slip-Resistant

  • Professional Look

  • Highly Reviewed Comfort

  • Reputable Brand

Most Professional

These comparisons are a combination of insights gained from the lived experience of working as an English teacher in Japan, feedback from peers, and from combing the internet. Yes, I spent my first two years living in Japan as an ALT in rural Shikoku. I primarily taught at a Junior high and Elementary school, but also shuffled around a bit.

It’s a customary part of Japanese culture to remove outdoor shoes at the entrance of many different kinds of buildings – homes, some museums and tourist attractions, and yes, schools. If you are a visitor, there will be indoor slippers available and your outdoor shoes should be tidily arranged next to the step with the toes pointing towards the outside. But cubbies and lockers are there for regular staff, generally at a separate staff entrace.

While two years wasn’t long enough to “wear through” shoes, I did keep a different pair at each school I visited, so I was able to learn some things by active comparison.

What is different about shopping for indoor shoes for Japan?

Outdoor shoes will be removed at the genkan (the entry area), placed in a cubby or on a shelf, and indoor shoes will be put on. There may sometimes be a bit of a traffic jam as teachers arrive at the same time, so you will want to be able to slide your shoes on quickly. While a shoe horn is often kept at the genkan, it is most convenient to find shoes that slip on and off with little effort and without sitting down. Avoid shoes that need to be tied and untied.

Many Japanese schools get super hot and humid in the summer, then icey frigid cold in the winter. Keeping your feet comfortable will either mean getting two pairs of shoes (something breathable for summer and cozy for winter) or beef up your sock choice for cold days.

Your indoor shoes will be worn both during everyday classes and formal ceremonies. At ceremonies, most people will wear a black suit or black skirt suit with a white button-up shirt. Anticipate how your shoes will coordinate with a black suit. Steer clear of sporty neon stripes, which would be distracting and unprofessional during ceremonies. Grey, brown leather, navy blue, black and white English teacher shoes are safe choices.

Some teachers will be assigned to several different schools – sometimes visiting multiple schools in a single day. If this is you and you prefer to purchase only one pair of shoes for teaching English in Japan, then carrying them between schools, you may want to opt for a lightweight pair that is resilient if crushed in a bag.

Every situation is different. Some teachers will spend the majority of their time at a desk and some will be much more involved with student activities. Private high schools may prefer a more formal oxford. Ask your predecessor or supervisor what kind of environment you are entering – it will depend on the school.

What other qualities are important for Japan work shoes?

  • They should be brand new, clean, and indoor-only
  • Consider mark-free soles
  • Find a shoe with good arch support, as you’ll be standing during class
  • Closed toes are necessary
Best shoes for working, teaching English in Japan

Can I buy shoes in Japan?

You can buy shoes in Japan, but you will have a more difficult time and might not find exactly what you have in mind. Especially if you are going to live in the Japanese countryside like so many other English teachers. Japan sizing is different than western countries, there are often only smaller shoe sizes available for both men and women, and you may encounter difficulties finding and purchasing items online with a foreign credit card. Most ALTs start immediately or soon after arriving, so you will want to have a reliable pair ready to go.

For reference, I wear a women’s size US 9 size and have yet to find a pair of shoes in Japan (including online) that was 1. available and 2. fit properly. Yikes.

Allbirds – A controversial top pick as teaching English shoes?

Yes, Allbirds has received some criticism. Due to their more eco-oriented material choices, Allbirds tend to wear out a bit quicker, looking a bit slumpy. They are also on the expensive side.

Read More → People Complain that Allbirds Fall Apart [Insider]

That taken into consideration, I haven’t found another kind of slip-on shoe that combines comfort with sustainability the same way. I found the eucalyptus fiber to be comfortable in the summer, and the weave provided enough flexibility that I could layer two pairs of warm socks in the winter. If you have another suggestion, please drop a comment!

Finally, Allbirds shoes are an excellent choice for English teachers who are mindful of their environmental impact. Allbirds is a company that prioritizes sustainability, using eco-friendly materials and processes to make their products. For example, the merino wool used in Allbirds shoes is sourced from farmers who practice regenerative agriculture, which reduces the carbon footprint of the product. You can read more about their sustainable programs here:

☀️ Energy:
🌸 Agriculture:
🦀 Materials:
👟 Carbon Footprint:
🌳 Carbon Offsets:
🐑 Animal Welfare / Labor Practices:

That should be all you need to find just the right shoe for your new job teaching English in Japan. I sincerely hope you have a great time and find what you need on my foreigner blog here!

You might also be interested in: Best Shoes for Traveling in Japan