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Nurses share the comfiest shoes for a long shift — plus 4 factors to consider

From Hoka to Crocs, these are their top picks.
Nurse sitting in scrubs and sneakers on break
We asked nurses for their go-to shoes that don't compromise when it comes to comfort. The Good Brigade / Getty Images

Everyone could use a reliable pair of comfortable shoes. However, perhaps nobody needs them more than medical professionals who are hard at work and on the move for 12 hours or more at a time.

Nurses are a prominent example. Standing or walking for long periods of time puts an extraordinary amount of stress on their feet, which are enclosed in closed-toe shoes due to their work environment. But that's not the only risk to nurses and other workers on their feet all day, according to Dr. Krishna Tikiwala, DPM, podiatrist at Northern Illinois Foot and Ankle Specialists.

"Unsupportive shoes can lead to joint pain and foot deformities" like plantar fasciitis, she explained. Dr. Bonnie Chien, an orthopedic surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, echoed this.

"Prolonged standing and weight bearing can predispose [one] to certain conditions, such as calluses, plantar fasciitis, leg edema (swelling) and pain in the ball of the foot or heel," Chien said.

That's why Tikiwala and Chien, who themselves work with nurses, look for particular things when it comes to finding the right shoes for nurses, like cushioned support, grip and ventilation.

With these factors in mind, Shop TODAY asked nurses, as well as our experts, for the pairs they recommend for getting through long days. From athletic sneakers to practical clogs, these are the shoes that have the seal of approval from nurses who prioritize support and comfort.

Factors to look for when buying shoes for nurses

  • Cushioning: Constant standing and loading weight on their feet make nurses susceptible to various foot health issues, so comfortable shoes with "a supportive sole that is thick enough is crucial," Chien said. Furthermore, "it’s important to have good arch support to help stabilize the foot and ankle," Tikiwala urged.
  • Breathability: Nurses' feet are also often confined in closed-toe shoes for hours at a time. Ventilation is important "so that sweat (and odor) do not accumulate, and fungal/bacterial infections are prevented," Chien explained. For the medical setting, she recommends a sneaker with a mesh upper.
  • Shoe shape and fit: Tikiwala argued that getting a properly fitted kick with the right shape for your feet is an integral factor when shoe shopping. "The biggest issue is that people are wearing one or two sizes smaller than their actual size, which can then lead to painful deformities," she said. Make sure to avoid shoes with a narrow toe box so your toes don't rub against the tops or sides, Chien added. A good rule of thumb, she said, is to measure up to the largest toe of your larger foot. Make sure, too, that there is "about half an inch, which is usually the width of a finger, between the tip of the longest toe and the end of the shoe," said Chien.
  • Non-slip sole: A grippy sole helps with stability and balance — helpful for nurses who have to walk or run around multiple times a day in an environment where they're likely to be exposed to various types of fluids and liquids.

Best shoes for nurses, according to nurses

Hoka One One Arahi 6

These Hoka sneakers are designed to provide plenty of support, and that's largely thanks to its special molded footbed.

"Nurses are on their feet most of the day, so the Hoka sneaker provides great support for nurses with bad backs or plantar fasciitis, which is inflammation in your feet," Monique Goguen, a nurse based in Boston, told Shop TODAY.

The cushioned design comes in plenty of colors, and men's sizes are also available.

Brooks Levitate 5

"Brooks sneakers are extremely supportive but also extremely comfortable," Goguen said. "Being on your feet for 12 hours a shift, comfort is so important."

The Brooks Levitate series are running sneakers, so they are designed with a runner's comfort in mind. They feature a removable cushioned footbed that provides support and also aids in shock absorption.

Asics Gel-Challenger 13

“I use Asics. A lot of nurses I know wear tennis shoes for the support," nurse Katy Morgan told us. The Asics Gel-Challenger — which is also available in men's sizes — has a foam footbed, as well as two additional layers of foam under the heel that help to provide comfort and support. The mesh outer allows the foot to breathe, but also helps keep the foot sturdy and protected.

Dansko Paisley Sneakers

Audra Whitton, a nurse based in Chicago, says she recommends Dansko's sneakers if you're a fan of the popular brand but want something other than clogs. The outer material is waterproof, while the durable sole is slip-resistant to ensure safety.

Best clogs for nurses, according to nurses

Dansko Professional Patent Clog

If you want comfort without sacrificing style, Dansko offers plenty of eye-catching colors to choose from. Plus it's got a seal of approval from the American Podiatric Medical Association.

"Danskos come in lots of fun patterns and since we wear scrubs, it’s one place to express your personality," said Debbie Jok, a nurse in Novi, Michigan.

Tikiwala recommends these for those working in a medical environment, not only for anatomical footbed, which helps with stability and comfort, but also for its antimicrobial lining.

Crocs Classic Clogs

Several nurses recommended Crocs, noting that they're an affordable shoe that is easy to clean. The brand's classic clog style is a popular choice, and in their 2021 Environmental, Social and Governance report, they declared their goal to become Net Zero and reduce emissions by 50 percent per pair by 2030.

Oofos OOclog Clogs

These low-maintenance shoes are popular among nurses and healthcare workers, not only because they're easy to slip into and comfortable to wear. They also have the company's so-called Oofoam foam technology, which it claims absorbs up to 37 percent more shock than traditional clogs. Plus, they're machine-washable.

"These are perfect for workers who have plantar fasciitis pain and back pain [because of] their nice shock absorbing memory," Tikiwala said.

Alegria Debra Professional

Joanna Cannata, a nurse from Knoxville, Tennessee, recommends Alegria shoes for comfort. These close-heeled clogs are made for all-day wear, as the combination latex and cork footbed is intended to conform to the foot. The footbed can also be removed to insert custom orthotics, while the outsole is designed to help prevent slips and also guides the foot in the heel-to-toe motion.

More shoes for nurses under $100

Ryka Devotion Plus 3 Walking Shoe

This breathable shoe was designed specifically for high-performance walking, which means it has the lightness, support, comfort, durability and traction that nurses look for in a work shoe. One of its key features is Ryka's so-called RE-ZORB responsive cushioning, which it claims absorbs shock and softens impact. One reviewer with flat feet and plantar fasciitis raved, "The support pods on the sole are absolutely the perfect support!"

Skechers D'Lites Slip-On Mule Sneakers

Perhaps the "d'lite" in its name refers to the fact that this shoe is both sneaker and mule, or perhaps it's that they're both stylish and easy to wear. Whichever it is, nurses on their feet for long stretches will find plenty to like in these unique kicks. For starters, its insole is made of memory foam, which more than one reviewer claimed felt "like walking on clouds." The shoe is also backless, meaning no more raw heels.

Adidas Cloudfoam Pure 2.0 Shoes

The original version of these sneakers from Adidas have amassed over 56,000 verified five-star ratings on Amazon. Cloadfoam Pure 2.0, just like its predecessor, is lightweight, but the Cloudfoam midsole provides enough support for a "springy" feel. Whether you're heading out for a walk around the neighborhood or a quick errand run, they'll provide both comfort and function.

New Balance 411 Walking Shoes

With a plush cushion and sturdy outsole, these walking shoes from New Balance are a top-rated option that prioritize comfort. "I had the cute-heeled nursing clogs, but at the end of my clinical rotation my feet were killing me, so I ordered a few pairs of all white sneakers on Amazon and these were the most comfortable out of them all," one verified reviewer said.

Shoes custom-made for nurses, plus men's sizes

Figs | New Balance 5740 Unisex Shoes

It's no surprise that a company dedicated to making functional, comfortable and stylish scrubs for healthcare workers would work with a popular walking sneaker company to make a shoe tailor-made for nurses. Case in point: These unisex shoes boast an antimicrobial insole and inside lining, a lightweight mesh underlay, water-repellent upper and laces and a grippy rubber outsole.

Bala Twelves Nocturnal

Sure, we can run through all the impressive specs of this shoe: a supportive and impact-absorbing base layer that "hugs" your foot, an outer layer that's resistant to water (and other fluids!), and a high-traction rubber sole. But let's let one emergency healthcare worker do the talking with this review: "My feet don’t hurt after running around the emergency department for 12 hours, and [the shoes] are definitely fluid-resistant," they said, adding, "I’ve gotten many compliments on the way they look."

Clove Women's Aurora Clove Aeros

Clove, a popular healthcare sneaker brand, is probably one of the first results to show up in your online search for a good nurse shoe. And in addition to the brand's mission, this new Aero design shows why. Also available in men's sizes, the chic shoes are designed with a lightweight mesh fabric and are an even more flexible iteration of the core Clove pair.

Nike Women's Air Max 97

These highly-rated sneakers (designed with Japanese bullet trains in mind!) are perfect for all-day wear -- they're made of a mesh and leather upper and a springy yet absorbent foam support that will keep you light on your feet for those long hauls. Plus, a men's version is available. A bonus? They come in over a dozen different colors!

Best athletic shoes for nurses

Hoka One One Bondi SR

Available in both women's and men's sizing, this pair of Hokas has updated features that make it suitable for nurses and other healthcare workers constantly on their feet, like its water-resistant leather construction and super-grippy rubber outsole. Tikiwala recommends the Bondis to her patients with plantar fasciitis, due to their ample width, the heel's memory foam that helps with ankle stability and good shock absorption.

Brooks Catamount

These lightweight, comfortable kicks, designed for trail runners, are the only athletic pair Tikiwala recommended. For starters, it has an airy soft mesh lining that she says allow for more toe space. It also has a cushioned midsole, which provides arch support and shock absorption.

Tikiwala also highlights two unique features. First, she likes super-responsive extra cushioning layer that protects against bruising on the heel and ball of your feet. But the "best part: The sole features drainage slits that release water, so the feet can dry more easily."

Vionic Walker

Vionic's Walker boasts a polished leather upper and a removable cushioned insole. They also feature padding, which helps provide additional stability on walks or runs. The Walkers are also available in men's sizes.