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Shoes For Nurses: Finding the Best Footwear for the Job

shoes for nurses: nurse wearing athletic shoes

The importance of footwear for healthcare professionals cannot be understated. As a nurse, you’re on your feet for 12-hour shifts and can’t be held back by aching feet or low back pain. So what are the best shoes for nurses? 

It’s sometimes difficult to identify what the best pair of shoes will be for those long shifts, especially with so many options to choose from. From slip-ons to lace-ups, breathable material to water-resistant fabric, rocker bottoms to classic walking shoes, there’s a variety of features to consider. Fortunately, we’ve narrowed down some of the top insights for finding the best shoes for nurses to help take the mystery out of shoe shopping.

Clogs vs. Athletic Nursing Shoes

As you may already know, there are two main categories of shoes for nurses and medical professionals: athletic shoes and nursing clogs. The two styles are so different that they’re often polarizing in the opinions of nurses – you love one and hate the other. Both styles carry numerous benefits (along with a few drawbacks), so it all comes down to personal preference. 

Nursing Clogs

shoes for nurses: white clogs

Arguably the most popular brand of clogs, Dansko professional clogs are modeled after the European wooden clog shoe, which is known for its support and durability. According to World of Clogs, this type of shoe has been popular with nurses since the 1800s thanks to the high level of support they provide for those long days in the hospital or clinic.

However, support is not synonymous with comfort – traditional clogs take some time to break in. But the great thing is that once they’ve molded to your foot shape, arch, and gait, they’re likely to last a long time before you need to break in another pair.

Another selling point of nursing clogs is that they don’t have laces, so they’re easy to get on and off. Plus, you don’t have to worry about tripping over untied shoes. Clogs have a large closed toe box and tend to be made of water-resistant material, making them an ideal option for not absorbing any foreign liquids on your feet! They’re also rather easy to clean.

A few downsides to nursing clogs mainly have to do with the sole. They can be downright painful when initially breaking them in, which can be frustrating for the first few shifts you wear them.

Pro tip: Wearing thicker socks can help cushion your midfoot during this “breaking in” period, and wearing them around the house in short bursts can help soften the leather quicker.

Also, since clogs are designed to fit loosely to allow for the classic rocker bottom of the outsole, there is nearly zero ankle support. As a result, making quick direction changes or walking on uneven ground can create a scenario to roll an ankle or drop a food tray. 

Athletic Shoes

There are seemingly endless options for athletic shoes. From Nike to Brooks to Skechers, there’s no shortage of styles and features when it comes to athletic footwear. 

A pair of tried-and-true sneakers tend to provide more cushioning and security than traditional clogs. Most athletic shoes have laces, which are particularly helpful to keep a good fit when working in a setting that requires you to move quickly – like the ER or trauma unit. The obvious downside of lace-up tennis shoes is that they can become untied, posing a potential risk for tripping or falling. 

When deciding what athletic shoe or style to invest in, check out the intended use for the shoe. Running shoes or weight lifting shoes will probably not be great for standing during those 12-hour shifts; walking shoes or cross trainers will be your best bet as they tend to be supportive but also comfy. 

If you like the look of a clog with the feel of a sneaker, Skechers has a slip-on shoe that seamlessly blends the two styles together. 

Foundations of Footwear

different types of athletic shoes

In addition to determining if you’re Team Clog or Team Sneaker, there are certain features you want to consider when picking your next pair of comfortable shoes. The sole of the shoe, whether they have anti-slip and water-resistant details, closed-toe or open heel, and color are all factors you’ll want to think about when purchasing your new work shoes. 

Sole Potential

Being on your feet all day can set you up for foot pain and back pain, but having proper support in the right places can make a world of difference. Pay attention to the description details when shopping online (or on the shoe itself if shopping in-person) so you know what the sole is made of.

Most sneakers and some clogs can be worn with inserts (hello, memory foam insoles!) if desired. If changing out the insole is something you prefer to do, be sure to find a style that has a removable sole or at least can accommodate adding an insert. Looking for midsole and arch support as well as shock absorption in the footbed can help cut down fatigue after those long hours. 

Slip Resistance

Most modern brands have integrated slip-resistant treads and soles, but you want to make sure it’s specified when looking at shoes for nurses (especially when shopping online). Clogs are notorious for slipping, but most shoe brands have evolved with the times. For example, Crocs has a clog with non-marking soles and non-slip treads.

Water-Resistant Material

Certain jobs in the hospital can get downright messy. Although shoes with some breathability might sound nice at first, breathable fabric usually means it’s not water resistant. The breathable mesh in shoes can absorb fluids and liquids that get dropped on your foot and can also hold onto bacteria.

Mesh and canvas shoes are more difficult to clean (unless you toss them in the washing machine) compared to water-resistant shoes. Finding a shoe you can easily wipe down with CaviWipes can be a time saver.

Open Toe vs. Closed Heel

Some hospitals and healthcare establishments include requirements for footwear along with their medical scrub dress code. Open-toe shoes are a no-no at most places for safety (and also to maintain a professional look). After all, the last thing you want is something in the hospital dripping or falling on your exposed toes. 

Open versus closed heel has more variability in regulation, but it’s good to know what your guidelines are before purchasing a pair of cute Alegria Bronze Swirl Clogs.

Shoe Color

Thankfully, nursing fashion has evolved beyond white being the only acceptable color for your uniform. As such, you’ll find scrub fashion ranging from wild prints to funky colors. (Although there’s something to be said about classic solid colors, like those from Keswi premium scrubs.) Shoes for nurses are no different. There is a seemingly endless supply of patterns, color schemes, and finishes, especially when it comes to clogs. Clogs come in leather, patent leather, or suede, to name a few. 

When deciding if you want to pick a bold color versus classic black, brown, or white, you need to consider how they will look with your scrubs. If you don’t mind them not matching with every set you own, then buying a fun pattern like these leopard suede clogs shouldn’t be an issue. But if you’re someone who prefers matching head to toe (and you don’t want to invest in multiple pairs of shoes), a classic black Reebok shoe may be your best bet. 

Find the Best Shoes For Nurses Today

There are plenty of features to consider when shopping for nursing shoes. First, determine if you want to try clogs or athletic shoes and consider the pros and cons of each style.

Slip-resistant and water-resistant shoes can help with safety in the hospital. Features like the ability to add some shock-absorbing insoles can add to the versatility of your shoe. Also, you’ll need to make sure you’re within your hospital regulations when deciding on open-toe or closed-heel shoes. Lastly, finding your color is key to completing your nursing attire. Making sure your shoes go well with your favorite pair of joggers or straight leg scrubs will be the finishing touch to start your day.

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