The best shoes for nurses and doctors who are always on their feet
May 25, 2023|By Brooks Staff
In celebration of National Nurses Month, we’re shining the spotlight on our healthcare heroes and their hard-working feet. Standing and moving around all day means you need comfortable, supportive shoes that can keep up. Let’s explore what to look for in a nursing shoe, plus get tips for keeping your feet happy and healthy on the job—and in the long run.
Let’s face it: Being a medical professional is a demanding job that can be tough on your body. Moving from room to room, patient to patient, for 12 hours a day can take a huge toll on your feet. That’s why comfortable, supportive nursing shoes are essential. Without proper support, you could be putting your feet at risk for a variety of issues, including blisters, corns, and calluses, not to mention knee, hip, and back pain. While you might be tempted to wear your running shoes, it’s important to invest in dedicated work shoes, since walking and running are very different in terms of how your feet strike the ground and the impact on your joints.
So what exactly should you look for in a nursing shoe? And how can you best support your feet at work and on your days off? Let’s dive into these questions below, so you can keep your feet and joints happy.
What to look for in a nursing shoe
Everyone’s feet are unique, and different foot types have different needs. Factors such as your arch profile (think: low, medium, or high arches) or conditions like plantar fasciitis can influence which shoe you choose. If you’re not sure what kind of support your feet need, we recommend visiting a local running shop and having your feet and gait analyzed by a Fit Expert. However, there are some key features that most nurses can benefit from in a work shoe:
Non-slip grip: Hospital floors can get slippery. Look for shoes with slip-resistant outsoles or grippy treads to help prevent you from slipping and sliding as you move quickly between patients.
Cushioning: Proper cushioning helps alleviate discomfort by providing a soft and supportive surface for your feet, so they can feel comfy throughout your shift.
Shock absorption: A shock-absorbing sole can help absorb the impact of your feet hitting the ground, reducing the amount of stress placed on the feet and legs with every step.
Breathability: Walking around all day in a warm indoor environment can spell sweaty, uncomfortable feet, not to mention odor and even infection. A breathable shoe allows air to circulate around the foot, which can help keep your feet dry and comfortable, and reduce the risk of foot odor and infections like athlete’s foot.
Lightweight: Heavy or bulky shoes can put a lot of strain your feet and legs. Lightweight shoes can help alleviate this strain by reducing the amount of weight and pressure placed on the feet. Lightweight shoes also provide greater flexibility and mobility, allowing you to move around quickly and easily.
Easy to clean: Nursing can be full of surprises—and that includes dirty and hazardous environments. Nurses need shoes that can be quickly and easily wiped down or sanitized between shifts to keep them clean and hygienic.
Arch support: Proper arch support can help to distribute weight evenly across the foot, reducing pressure and stress on the arches and helping alleviate conditions such as plantar fasciitis and flat feet. It can also help to improve overall posture and alignment, reducing the risk of back pain.
Proper fit: Shoes that are too small or tight can cause rubbing and friction on the feet, which can lead to blisters, corns, and calluses. On the other hand, shoes that are too big can cause the feet to slide around inside the shoes, which can cause discomfort and even lead to tripping and falling. When shoe shopping, try shoes on at the end of the day when feet are typically more swollen to ensure a comfortable fit throughout a long shift.
Our top pick: Ghost 15
What makes the Ghost 15 a great nursing shoe? Let us count the ways. First up is DNA LOFT v2 cushioning, which offers a plush, lightweight feel without sacrificing durability. Next is the Segmented Crash Pad, a system of fully-integrated shock absorbers that accommodate any foot landing to maximize efficiency, provide cushion, and create smooth heel-to-toe transitions. And let’s not forget the engineered air mesh upper, which provides comfort and breathability so you can keep your cool on long shifts.
Of course, the Ghost 15 isn’t the only shoe on the block. Your perfect nursing shoe is out there, and we want to make sure you get the right one for your needs. Ready to meet your match? Take our Shoe Finder quiz for a personalized recommendation, visit a local store for a professional fitting, or ask a Guru for help picking a size and fit.
When to replace your nursing shoes
In general, we recommend replacing your shoes every 300-500 miles. Let’s say you walk an average of 4 miles each shift and work 3 shifts a week. That works out to about 48 miles/month, which means you should replace your nursing shoes every 6 to 7 months. However, walking and standing can actually degrade shoes quicker than running due to constant pressure on the mesh and cushioning components. Signs of wear to look out for include shoes that aren’t as comfortable as they used to be; visible rips, tears, or cracks; and soles that are worn down or uneven.
Wearing worn-out shoes means your feet aren’t properly supported anymore, which can lead to aches, pains, and injury. Make sure to replace your nursing shoes as needed to support your feet and joints.
Tips to keep your feet happy
Give your feet regular TLC and they’ll thank you in the long run. While proper footwear is foundational, a little extra care and support can go a long way in keeping your feet healthy. Here are our top tips for taking care of your hard-working feet:
Stretch it out
Stretching gets your circulation going and can help reduce tension in your feet and legs. Incorporate some simple, do-anywhere stretches into your workday to stay loose and limber. Deep breathing can also release tension in your body, and practicing yoga on your days off can improve your overall mobility.
Ready to get your stretch on? Try these go-to moves from nurse practitioner Lisa Land, who’s no stranger to being on her feet all day in her 14+ years of nursing:
Calves: Stand and hold onto the back of a chair. Step one leg back, keeping the knee straight and the heel flat on the floor. Slowly bend your elbows and front knee and move your hips forward until you feel a stretch in the calf of your back leg. Hold for 30-60 seconds and switch legs.
Hips and quads: Stand upright and balance on one leg, using a chair or wall for support if needed. Grab the ankle of the foot that’s off the ground and pull it towards your glutes. Hold for 15-20 seconds and switch legs. Repeat 2-3 times.
Neck: Bend your head slightly to the left and forward. Place your left hand above your right ear and gently pull your head downward. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat sides.
Back: Sit on an armless chair and cross your right leg over your left leg. Take your left hand and place it on the outside of your right knee. Twist to the right until you feel a gentle pull in the lower back. Hold for 10-15 seconds and switch sides. Repeat 3 times.
Treat your feet
Beyond putting your feet up, there are plenty of ways to show your feet some love after work. Try this self-care routine after your next shift. Start with a toenail trim to help prevent ingrown toenails and to stop long nails from rubbing against the inside of your shoes. Next, soak your feet in a warm Epsom salt bath—the heat will help with circulation while the minerals will help reduce swelling. Finish off by massaging your feet with a nourishing moisturizer to soothe aches and help prevent dry, cracked skin.
Enlist additional support
Sometimes you need a little extra support, especially if you have—or are at risk of—conditions like venous disease or arthritis. Two of the most common footcare aids for nurses are compression socks and orthotics. Compression socks are designed to improve blood flow, which can help reduce discomfort, swelling, and varicose veins. Custom orthotics are tailored for your feet, addressing specific issues like high arches or plantar fasciitis and providing support exactly where you need it.
Find your perfect fit
Happy feet start with comfy shoes. Get a personalized recommendation by taking our Shoe Finder quiz or stop by a local store for a professional fitting. Our Run Happy Promise means you can test out your new shoes at work and if you don’t love them, you can return them for free within 90 days. Win win!
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Our writer's advice is intended for informational or general educational purposes only. We always encourage you to speak with your physician or healthcare provider before making any adjustments to your running, nutrition, or fitness routines.
Lisa began her nursing career in 2008 as a critical care nurse. After several years of traveling and taking on roles as a travel ICU nurse and flight nurse, Lisa obtained her master’s degree and in 2015 became a nurse practitioner with board certifications in both Family Medicine and Acute Care. She worked at the Kingman Regional Medical Center for seven years before moving into her current role as a pulmonary nurse practitioner at the renowned Mayo Clinic in Phoenix. When Lisa isn’t serving her community, you can find this avid endurance runner and rider training for her next marathon or Ironman.