Nursing is a job done on your feet all day long often with long shifts and few breaks. Surgical nurses stand for long hours with no breaks and ER and trauma nurses not only stand, but may have to run. The best shoes for nurses is hotly debated among healthcare professionals, but for on-the-go and on your feet all day activity, you need a practical choice to protect your feet from pain and wear and tear problems.
As podiatrists, we see overuse injuries in our practice every day from people whose jobs require them to be on their feet all the time – like nurses. With your feet in near constant use, it’s critical as a nurse that you make a wise choice in footwear so you don’t end up with aching feet, toes, and joints that can spread and cause back and neck pain.
A good shoe choice for busy nurses will have stability, support, and comfort.
Both your arch and the width of your foot are critical considerations when choosing a shoe for all-day long standing and walking. Here’s a look at four common types of shoes for nurses and the pros and cons of each.
Clogs can be really stylish and can feel comfortable as well, but unless they are specifically designed for all day wear, nurses may end up regretting this choice. Clogs with no heel coverage can allow slippage as you walk which can lead to missteps and injury. Dansko makes some highly rated clogs that have the stamp of approval of the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA).
But many “fashion” clogs that have a higher heel, no rubber bottom, and are designed more for looks than wear can harm your feet and legs and even shorten your Achilles tendon when they are worn all day, particularly if you are always in motion. Other side effects of poorly fitting or low-quality clogs can be bunions, stress fracture, foot pain and back aches. If you want a clog, spend the money on one intended for all-day wear.
#2) Orthopedic shoes
When you think of “orthopedic” nursing shoes, the lace-ups of Nurse Ratchet may come to mind. But orthopedic shoes have come a long way and now offer support and pain relief for people with chronic foot and ankle conditions while still looking attractive enough for work. Orthopedic shoes offer the advantage of enhanced support for the foot and ankle which can be important for nurses.
Alegria makes a line of professional shoes with cork and memory foam in the foot bed which conforms to your foot. Orthopedic shoes should also have a nice roomy toe box and these fit the bill. Orthofeet is another good brand for nurses with existing foot problems. They make attractive Mary Jane models that are stylish but come with all the orthopedic benefits in mind.
#3) Running shoes
Stable running and athletic shoes are some of the smartest choices in nurse footwear. These keep the foot stable when you’re on your feet and on the go all day. Running shoes usually come in a variety of widths so you can find one that fits the architecture of your foot. Because they are designed to absorb the shock of hard strikes to the foot, there is more heel cushion to protect your feet.
Cross trainers usually cover more of the ankle and can be good for those who have a tendency to rolling ankles. Walking shoes have the least cushion and thinnest soles, so you may want to avoid these. Almost all running shoes have removable insoles which allow easy use of prefabricated or custom orthotics to improve support and comfort.
#4) Rocker shoes
For nurses with ball of foot pain or big toe joint pain, a rocker shoe can help. Rocker shoes have thicker soles and rounded heels. These are great because they help replace function that has been lost. For instance, if you have hallux rigidus (stiff big toe), rocker shoes help with the lost flexion. This can also help those that have range of motion issues for the ankle.
Dansko, New Balance and Skechers Shape-ups are rocker shoe brands that may help those with ankle or foot arthritis, bunions or big toe problems. PW Minor and Hoka One One are also great rocker shoe choices. It’s important to be aware that rocker shoes change your center of balance so you’ll have to adjust how you step, but these can be very beneficial for nurses on their feet all day.
Accessories to consider:
In addition to choosing a good quality shoe that offers support, are a good fit, and have enough cushion to keep your busy feet supported all day – consider some accessory choices. Good socks are a must. Most nurses think more about shoes than socks, but socks can make a big difference in your comfort. Socks with extra padding are something to consider and if you have ball of foot pain, cotton socks should be avoided.
And anyone who is constantly on their feet should also wear an arch support to prevent foot fatigue. Over-the-counter arch supports can be great for nurses that don’t have foot problems but just have tired feet from standing and walking all day. For those with chronic foot pain, though, custom made total contact orthotics can provide more support and pain relief.
One final note for busy nurses is this – whatever shoes you choose, you should replace them periodically. Your shoes can still look good on the outside, but have begun to structurally break down inside. After about six months of all-day wear, most shoes need to be replaced. Owning several pairs that you rotate is also a good idea to keep your feet in tip-top health.
Dr. Larry Huppin and Dr. Doug Hale are top-rated podiatrists who practice evidence based medicine at their Seattle podiatrist clinic. Both Dr. Huppin and Dr. Hale believe that most cases of foot, ankle and heel pain can be addressed non-surgically and are expert practitioners and educators in orthotic therapy.