Gee, I’m getting a lot of set questions lately. J.G. writes in:

I would also love suggestions for the types of shoes/sneakers that are most comfortable for those 14+ hour days on set? Are those custom shoe inserts worth the cost? Nothing is worse than coming home with throbbing feet every night!

I’m not super picky about shoes, or my feet. I just wear sneakers.

Honestly, I’m of the opinion that, unless you have a major physical impediment, you should try to rely on what God gave you. I don’t wear sunglasses; I don’t drink coffee; I don’t change my outfit throughout the day as it gets warmer, then colder again.

Therefore, I never forget my sunglasses in the car when the sun is out1; I’m not tired and grumpy until I get to the crafty table in the morning; I never2 complain about how hot or cold it is.

But maybe you have lower back problems, I dunno. Who am I to judge? You’ll have to gauge for yourself what works for you and what doesn’t.

If you’re a girl, I will say definitely do not wear heels.

Don’t wear open-toed shoes, either. The easiest way to tell if someone actually has work to do on set is to look at their shoes. Flip-flops just scream “lazy,” “green,” or “lazy greenie.”

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. A fairly predictable turn of events.
  2. Okay, rarely.
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15 Responses

    1. You are silly. Im a grip and being prepared and having the things you need (and a home for everything, bags and pouches) allows you to be ready. No soldier goes to war without a gun and protection. Your investments will be well rewarded. There are bright lights that will burn your eyes and the heat and cold will have you for breakfast. Spend what you can but dont overdo it. Having good equipment shows you are dedicated and meant to live on set.

  1. When I was a set PA I rocked some Nike running shoes. They’re light and comfortable and I never had problems with them. I tried the merrell keen thing for a while, but nothing I’ve worn beat my Nikes in flexibility and comfort. They’ll run you between $100 and $150 and they come in varying ranges of comfort vs lightness. So go to a nike outlet and try on a few different types.

    Along the lines of what Michael says — Now that I live in the office… I pretty much wear whatever I want. However, if you’re an office PA going on a lot of runs you might want to wear shoes that are comfortable for driving.

    On a side note — I can’t live without sunglasses, I drink a shit ton of coffee, and ALWAYS bring a jacket. I don’t know how anon does it… but if you’re on a 6 hour lock up in the shade with the wind blowing without a jacket… you life sucks. Trust me. Or if you went to work a day on the beach in shorts not realizing they’re going to go into major overtime with a night shoot… and you’re still wearing shorts while it’s cold as fuck on the beach… you will hate life.

    Bring layers. At least keep a change of warm and cold weather clothes in you car just in case.

  2. I used to wear skate shoes with thick foam insoles, but after 7 days of straight work the insoles were squished down to nothing and my feet were numb. I invested in some Merrells with gel inserts shortly thereafter. For jobs in the field – where dirt, burrs, and thorns find there way into the ventilation mesh of regular shoes – I have a pair of Caterpillar work boots (again with gel inserts.) Though I’m thinking I should have gone with Red Wing.

  3. the new balance ones! We used to joke all the time during preps that they’re the ‘unofficial film set crew shoes!’ because if you look for the N insignias on people’s shoes you start to see them EVERYWHERE on film sets! Seriously, they should just do a tie in with movie studios!

  4. I’m was big on the switching shoes during lunch idea, until I started wearing minimalist shoes (Merrell Barefoot, New Balance Minimus, etc). But I’m with Mike up there. Be prepared. Invest in appropriate gear, depending on where you live/work.

  5. Well, if they were girls, not only would they not be wearing heels on set, they also probably wouldn’t be PAs, because they would be under the age of 18 & would therefore be unemployable.

    Now ladies/women, on the other hand… Whatever you can wear to kick a box & run down the hall.

  6. I foolishly worked as a set PA on the side of a mountain in the middle of winter, without proper footwear. I had borrowed boots from a friend that fit well, but didn’t realize my feet couldn’t breathe. Within a few hours my feet had started to hurt, and by the end of the first day, my soles had started to bleed and were in agonizing pain (imagine the affect water has on your hands/feet, then imagine being on them for 16 hours). I’ve never been in such pain in my life by day 3, and with no help or options, I was a complete mess.

    Needless to say after that I went down to mountain co-op and bought a pair of all weather hiking shoes with dr scholls insoles. If you can get by on sneakers awesome, but if you’re unsure, the risk isn’t worth it. footwear is important!

  7. I can’t imagine an office PA would need particularly good shoes (just something comfortable), nor would sunglasses or layered clothing be essential in an indoor, climate-controlled office. But if you’re working on set — especially an exterior location — you’d better come prepared. As a juicer, I usually get to rest my feet between setups, but the set PA’s on my shows are on their feet all day long, so good shoes are important. I know lots of industry people who go for Merrell and Keen boots/shoes, but my choice is Ecco. Those boots are expensive — $200 and change — but a pair will last at least three years in regular use (I’ve had pairs last as long as five years), and still be comfortable when the sole finally does disintegrate. It works out to around $70/year, which is very reasonable. Much as I used to like athletic shoes (New Balance were light and comfortable), they’d go flat after six months of work, so I was spending $200 a year on fresh shoes. I’ve never needed after-market inserts with Eccos.

    And since the boots are a work item, I write the expense off my taxes under “tools and equipment.” If the IRS doesn’t agree, they have yet to challenge me on that.

    If you’re working a sixteen hour shoot outdoors in the LA summer, you’d better invest in a good pair of UVA-proof sunglasses to protect your eyes and ease the cumulative strain of such a long day. Layered clothing is a must — you don’t want to freeze in the pre-dawn chill or sweat your ass off as the sun moves to high noon, then freeze again as night falls. Just keep your extra gear in a backpack or in your car so you can get what you need when you need it.

    The key maintaining a level of comfort on set is to be prepared for everything within reason without loading yourself down like a pack mule. Time and experience will teach you what you really need — and what you don’t.

    1. Hey, now! I wasn’t born an office PA. I put in my time on set. I’ve shot in the desert, where it went from 55 in the morning to 110 at lunch, and back down to the 60s by the time we wrapped. All I’m saying is, if you don’t get used to something, you won’t become dependent on it. 🙂

      1. Understood — you’ve been around the PA block more than a few times — but were you comfortable wearing the same clothes at 55 degrees in the morning, then 110 at lunch, and back into the 60’s at wrap? I wouldn’t be — and the work on set is hard enough without being too cold or too hot. The ability to add or subtract clothing as needed to meet the changing weather conditions can make the day a lot less unpleasant… and unless you want to risk having cataracts by the time you’re 50 (yes, that seems like a long way off, but 50 will be breathing down your neck before you know it), wearing quality sunglasses in that bright desert environment is a good idea.

        Granted, if you don’t get used to something, you won’t become dependent on it (and I applaud that philosophy when applied to cell phones) but you could say the same about television, movies, the internet, indoor plumbing, and air conditioning, none of which are strictly essential to life in LA. Still, they do make life more pleasant.

        To each his own, I suppose, but I’m not about to strap on the hair shirt and suffer any more than necessary during a long day on set — and if that means becoming dependent on a few more items, so be it.

  8. I’ve been told to bring an extra pair of socks and shoes. Switch them out at lunch. It makes the world of a difference! Your feet have something knew on and aren’t rubbing against all the same spots for the full day.

  9. Merrell or Keen hiking shoes are the best.

    I added a pair of those Dr. Scholls inserts, the kind where you stand on the platform in the store and it tells you which ones you need. And they are amazing.

  10. A good set pa should have 2 decent pair of running shoes(which will last at most, 6 months), and a good set of waterproof boots. I’m one of those people who change socks at lunch…

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