Footwear For Uncommon Professionals - Now Live On Kickstarter

Press Kit



 Media Contact: 

Austin  Degenhardt | 650.438.1731 |


From tending bar to chasing dreams - former bartender seeks to change industry one shoe at a time  

(San Francisco, CA) – After years of experiencing the physical after-effects of working long shifts on his feet, former bartender-turned-entrepreneur Austin Paul Degenhardt, founder of the Paul Hardt company, is filling a longtime void in the hospitality industry with new, high performance shoes, they include all of the practical must-haves: arch support, anti-slip, and waterproof leather, and are finally, thanks to some help from renowned UK designers - fashionable.


Growing up in the San Francisco Bay area, Austin became enamored by the area’s legendary food and wine scene. His first job in the industry was waiting tables at the Fish Market in San Mateo while in college. When someone did not show up for work one day behind the bar, Degenhardt stepped in, and was hooked.


Eventually, his fascination behind the bar led him to spearhead a podcast, “Service Mavens”, which profiles local service industry celebrities. Through the podcast, Degenhardt created an invaluable network of connections throughout the industry, and a renewed public awareness and appreciation for the industry.


However, after nine years of football, the 12-hour shifts in cheap “work shoes” took a hard toll on his body, resulting in foot and back pain. I love this industry and the artistry that goes into it,” Austin says. “But, physically, it is grueling. The same commitment to excellence that goes into serving customers should go into making the footwear that it is literally holding us up. It is critical to foot health, a healthy back, emotional balance and an overall healthy lifestyle.”


Degenhardt knew there were several orthopedic-type shoes for service professionals, but none that he would consider stylish. “We’re talking about highly-skilled artisans creating extraordinary work – wearing cheap shoes that look outdated. I didn’t see any reason why we couldn’t have it all – shoes that are functional, athletically-designed, and also fashionable.”


Along with three like-minded friends, he fleshed out the concept, wrote a business plan, and conducted months of extensive research. Degenhardt then reached out to globally renowned shoe designers Dan Bailey and David Mawdsley of ConceptKicks, a design company and online magazine dedicated to footwear design.


Using Degenhardt’s concept, the ConceptKicks team brought the shoes to life, designing four unique styles.  Degenhardt then traveled to Portugal, touring multiple factories, finally  discovering  an 85-year-old, family-owned factory that exclusively manufactures luxury footwear. After six rounds of prototypes, and countless trips between Porto and San Francisco, the Paul Hardt shoe was created.


Using water-resistant and non-slip materials, along with beautiful, hand-stitched Portuguese leather, the Paul Hardt shoe is unique in many ways. Perhaps the most distinctive feature is a temperature regulating lining that offers added comfort through proactive heat management during long shifts. Since every individual’s foot is different, Paul Hardt is also partnering with WIIVV custom insole company to offer high-tech customized insoles that provide a superior foundation. WIIVV technology digitally maps each foot with over 200 points to create a 3D-printed insole that is unique to each individual.


Current styles include wingtip boots, oxfords, leather flats, wedge booties and a Chelsea boot is in development now. Degenhardt adds, “The shoes are designed so people won’t need to change them transitioning from work to a night out in the city.”


Kevin Diedrich, owner of Pacific Cocktail Haven in Union Square, saw the vision from the start. “You could see Austin was passionate about the industry and creating something outstanding. There are only so many ways you can support the health of your staff and with the amazing designs, I knew the Paul Hardt footwear would be great for our staff and for our brand.”


In addition to the Paul Hardt company, Degenhardt will give back to the industry by donating a portion of the shoe sales to a new, non-profit foundation, the Hardt Fund, dedicated to the educational advancement of service industry employees.  


Degenhardt's vision has generated the capital to produce the prototypes and he is now preparing for a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, set to launch the first half of May. For more information on the Paul Hardt company visit





About Paul Hardt:


Paul Hardt makes luxury footwear for performance focused professionals.


Anyone who works on their feet has a dilemma when it comes to footwear. Do they choose comfort or style? Paul Hardt is on a mission is to end that dilemma. The founders asked themselves, “why can’t we have both? And while we’re at it, why can’t we have the best of both?”


It’s taken them three years to get to this point and now they’re proud to say, “We believe this is the most supportive and comfortable leather footwear available today. And we see this as just the beginning.” Paul Hardt is constantly striving towards their guiding principle: NEVER SETTLE! Take a walk in their shoes, you’ll feel the difference.