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12-hour shifts are no match for these shoes, according to nurses

Nurse shoes aren't "one size fits all," experts say. Here's what you should look for.
Nurse relaxing in a chair reading
We asked nurses for their go-to shoes that don't compromise when it comes to comfort. The Good Brigade / Getty Images

What to look for | Best nurse shoes | Meet our experts

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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.

"Unsupportive shoes can lead to joint pain and foot deformities," she explains. Dr. Bonnie Chien, an orthopedic surgeon at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, echoes 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," she says.

We asked experts about what to look for when buying shoes for nurses. Plus, we consulted healthcare pros for the best clogs and sneakers for nursing they can't live without.

What to look for when buying shoes for nurses

Support

Constant standing and loading weight on their feet make nurses susceptible to various foot health issues, so Chien advises to go for comfortable shoes that have a thick-enough supportive sole. It’s also important to have good arch support for stabilizing the foot and ankle, Tikiwala adds. Kelly says that one way she tests for adequate support is by trying to bend a shoe in half. “A good supportive shoe will not easily crease in the middle,” she explains.

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 explains. For the medical setting, she recommends a sneaker with a mesh upper.

Shoe shape and fit

The biggest thing to keep in mind, Kelly says, is that shopping for nursing shoes isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” approach. “Based on the foot shape and associated issues related to the foot, some shoes may be more suitable and comfortable than others,” she adds.

“The biggest issue is that people are wearing one or two sizes smaller than their actual size, which can then lead to painful deformities,” Tikiwala says.

Make sure to avoid shoes with a narrow toe box so your toes don’t rub against the tops or sides, Chien adds. A good rule of thumb is to measure up to the largest toe of your larger foot, leaving about half an inch (usually the width of a finger) between the tip of the longest toe and the end of the shoe, she says.

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,” says 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 and healthcare workers

Asics Gel-Challenger 13

What we like
  • Suitable for plantar fasciitis
  • Mesh outer
  • Three layers of foam for cushion and support
Something to note
  • Some say these run a little narrow, so you might want to size up

Size range: 5-12 | Available in half sizes? Yes | Available in men’s sizes? Yes | Colors: 11 | Slip-resistant? Does not specify

“I use Asics. A lot of nurses I know wear tennis shoes for the support,” says Katy Morgan, a nurse in Belvidere, North Carolina. Another worker on Instagram raved: “Team ASICS for this nurse! My plantar fasciitis is basically gone.”

And the specs support the praise: The Asics Gel-Challenger 13 — 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.

Oofos OOclog Clogs

What we like
  • Machine-washable
  • Moisture- and bacteria-resistant
  • Suitable for those with plantar fasciitis and/or back pain
Something to note
  • Some say there isn't much depth in the heel, so your heel might slide off if wearing socks

Size range: 6-13 | Available in half sizes? No | Available in men’s sizes? Yes | Colors: Two | Slip-resistant? No

These low-maintenance shoes are popular among nurses and healthcare workers, and 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% more shock than traditional clogs. One nurse on Instagram raved, “So soft! I work in the OR and stand all day; with the Oofos, my feet never hurt!”

Tikiwala agrees, adding, “These are perfect for workers who have plantar fasciitis pain and back pain [because of] their nice shock-absorbing memory.”

Ugg Tasman X

What we like
  • Comfortable and lightweight
Something to note
  • Can get warm on the inside

Size range: 5-12 | Available in half sizes? No | Available in men’s sizes? No | Colors: Four| Slip-resistant? Does not specify

Lately, Long Island, New York-based nurse Aliyah Miller has started to wear these to work and is surprised by how comfortable they are. She gives them a “10/10” rating for style, durability and comfort. The sock liner is removable, perfect for those whose feet get hot easily or when it’s time to give them a wash.

Dansko Kane Clog

What we like
  • Anti-microbial lining
  • Easy to clean
  • APMA Seal of Approval
Something to note
  • Some say ankle tends to roll more

Size range: 4.5-13 | Available in half sizes? Yes | Available in men’s sizes? Yes | Colors: 16 | Slip-resistant? Does not specify

Tikiwala recommends Danskos for those working in a medical environment: not only for their anatomical footbed, which helps with stability and comfort, but also for their antimicrobial lining. Plus, the brand has a seal of approval from the American Podiatric Medical Association.

Gales Frontline Nurse Shoes

What we like
  • Slip-resistant soles
  • Fluid- and water-resistant
Something to note
  • Some say they could use a little more ventilation
  • Some say they run narrow

Size range: 5-17 | Available in half sizes? Yes | Available in men’s sizes? Yes | Colors: 8 | Slip-resistant? Yes

These simple shoes made for nurses come in a variety of cute colors, but that’s not all they have going for them. Made by Gales, a company whose products are designed by healthcare professionals who work in “fast-paced environments,” these shoes’ outsoles are made of so-called XL Extralight compound material, which the brand says are soft but durable, as well as ultra-lightweight.

Their removable Ortholite insoles are also no slouch: They add 7 mm of extra cushioning and are antimicrobial and machine-washable. Add to that the non-slip, grippy tread and air holes for extra breathability, and you’ve got a solid shoe to last you that 12-hour-plus shift.

Kizik Women’s Roamer

What we like
  • Hands-free slip-on sneakers
Something to note
  • Roomy, might want to size down

Size range: 6-13 | Available in half sizes? Yes | Available in men’s sizes? Yes | Colors: 12 | Slip-resistant? Does not specify

Kizik’s sneakers are another brand we’ve been hearing buzzed about by healthcare workers on our socials, mainly for their convenience and support.

One reported, “I prefer them over my [On Clouds] and my Nikes; got a new pair and walked three days all over NYC and my feet were not screaming at me. ... I was in NYC for doctor appointments at Columbia and the staff thought they were awesome.”

But what really makes the pair special is their so-called Unified technology, an award-winning shoe-entry heel system that lets you put the shoes on and off, hands free (and no bending down!): After you slide your foot in, the heel springs back up. The pair’s other perks include a breathable knit upper with four-way stretch, as well as a responsive foam outsole and a rebound insole so you can spring into action when needed.

Calzuro Classic Autoclavable Clogs

What we like
  • Machine-washable
  • Anti-microbial, removable insoles
Something to note
  • May not be ideal for those with wide feet

Size range: 5.5-12.5 | Available in half sizes? Yes | Available in men’s sizes? Yes | Colors: 13 | Slip-resistant? Does not specify

Calzuro was another brand whose name was echoed by nurses and healthcare workers alike on social media, especially when it comes to foot support for long shifts. Associate social media editor Dani Musacchio says her nurse friend had only “good things” to say about her pair.

These clogs are “autoclavable,” that means they’re tested to be washable in an autoclave, a machine commonly used in hospital settings to sterilize medical devices. (And yes, they’re safe for commercial dishwashers and washing machines, as well as bleach.)

Their features are specifically designed with healthcare and culinary workers in mind. The insole is antimicrobial and removable, and it has bumps that gently massage your feet to encourage blood circulation. Furthermore, the heel is low enough to minimize fatigue, the grained sole is slip-resistant and stabilizing (and has been tested as such by paramedics and other medical staff), and unlike similar clogs, these offer full upper protection while having side ventilation holes that let your feet breathe.

Dansko Professional Clog

What we like
  • Stain-resistant exterior
  • Protective heel counter
Something to note
  • Some say ankle rolls more

Size range: 4.5-13 | Available in half sizes? Yes | Available in men’s sizes? Yes | Colors: 24 | Slip-resistant? Does not specify

The Pro clog boasts the silhouette one expects from a supportive clog, plus a protective heel counter and stain-resistant exterior. The Kane mule is good for both work and recreational wear: It’s got a breathable upper, a lightweight EVA insole that’s removable and ample arch support.

“Danskos come in lots of fun patterns, and since we wear scrubs, it’s one place to express your personality,” says Debbie Jok, a nurse in Novi, Michigan. But not just that; they’re practical too: “I work in the OR, so all the blood and fluid just wipes off,” notes one nurse; another adds that along with support hosiery, their Danskos have proven “stylish and supportive” over three decades of “standing, running and lifting patients.”

Alegria Debra Slip-On

What we like
  • Slip-resistant
  • Removable footbed
Something to note
  • Some say they run a bit big

Size range: 5-13, regular and wide | Available in half sizes? Yes | Available in men’s sizes? Yes | Colors: Three | Slip-resistant? Yes

Joanna Cannata, a nurse from Knoxville, Tennessee, recommends Alegria shoes for comfort. These close-heeled clogs are made for all-day wear, since 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’s heel-to-toe motion.

Clove Women’s Classic

What we like
  • Easy to clean
  • Fluid-resistant
Something to note
  • Half-size up if you typically wear wide width

Size range: 5-12.5 | Available in half sizes? Yes | Available in men’s sizes? Yes | Colors: 25 | Slip-resistant? Yes

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. These chic shoes are designed with a lightweight microfiber fabric that acts like real leather, meaning that they’ll stretch and conform to your foot shape over time. Plus, they’re fluid-resistant, which makes them easy to clean.

On Cloud 5

What we like
  • Lightweight
  • Breathable
  • Comes with classic laces and a speed-locking lace system
Something to note
  • Some say they run small and to half-size up
  • Some say they're not the most comfortable for high arches

Size range: 5-11 | Available in half sizes? Yes | Available in men's sizes? Yes | Colors: 13 | Slip-resistant? Does not specify

The last few times we talked about shoes for nurses on our Instagram, nurses and other workers who are on their feet all day kept asking where the On Cloud shoes were on the list. One who's been a nurse for decades even said, "After 31 years of nursing, I will never wear any other." Many others said they swear by On Clouds, which they see in hospitals everywhere.

One nurse summarized what their biggest selling point is: "So. Much. Cushion!" Indeed, the shoe is cushioned by the brand's patented CloudTec cushioning in Zero-Gravity foam, which both helps keep your feet comfortable and supported while standing — and at the same time allows you to push off your stance quickly should an emergency arise.

Long Island-based nurse Katie Hoffman is also a fan of the brand, calling the Cloud X 3 style "the best sneakers she's had for work."

Dansko Paisley Sneakers

What we like
  • Slip-resistant
  • Waterproof outer
Something to note
  • Some say they wear out faster than other Dansko shoes

Size range: 5.5-12 | Available in half sizes? Yes | Available in men’s sizes? Yes | Colors: Six | Slip-resistant? Does not specify

Audra Whitton, a nurse based in Chicago, 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.

Hoka One One Bondi SR

What we like
  • Great for hospitals and long shifts
  • Slip-resistant tread
  • Good for plantar fasciitis
Something to note
  • Some say they need more heel support
  • Some say they aren't the best for slippery floors

Size range: 5-11, regular and wide | Available in half sizes? Yes | Available in men's sizes? Yes | Colors: Two | Slip-resistant? Yes

Dr. Meghan Kelly, assistant professor of foot and ankle surgery at Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine, pointed to Hoka sneakers as one example of a shoe that provides plenty of support, 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," she says. And nurses agree; one raved, "As a nurse for 41 years, I LOVE Hoka Ones!"

Tikiwala recommends the Bondis specifically 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.

Nike React Vision

What we like
  • Comfortable
  • Wide size range
Something to note
  • Errors in delivery

Size range: 3.5-15 | Available in half sizes? Yes | Available in men’s sizes? Yes | Colors: Three | Slip-resistant? Does not specify

These Nike sneakers are the go-to for Miller. She loves how comfortable they are, especially when working three 12-hour shifts back-to-back. Rubber pods on the sole are meant to provide traction, while a padded tongue and a padded heel keep you comfy while you're on the move.

MBT Huracan-3000

What we like
  • Soles designed for comfort
Something to note
  • Some say they run a bit small

Size range: 6-12 | Available in half sizes? Yes | Available in men's sizes? Yes | Colors: Six | Slip-resistant? Does not specify

"The 'rocker bottom' soles take pressure off the joints in the middle of our foot as we walk as it makes the shoe do some of the work as well," Kelly explains.

The "rocker bottom," or curved sole, of this particular pair of running shoes boasts so-called SensorTechnology, which cushions impact on the heel, as well as "a strong Pivot Axis" that causes a "roll" from the back to the front of the foot, according to Michael Russina, the country director of MBT USA, Inc.

"[This] provides a rolling movement that disburses weight with less movement in the foot, which relieves pressure in the heel and toes. ... The forefoot then allows the shoe to roll forward with a toe-off rather than the typical bending of the toes when walking," he explains.

Meet our experts

  • Dr. Bonnie Chien, MD, is an orthopedic surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center. She specializes in operative and non-operative procedures addressing foot, ankle toe and heel conditions.
  • Dr. Meghan Kelly, MD, PhD, is an assistant professor of foot and ankle surgery at Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine, specializing in foot and ankle disorders. She also serves on the health policy and humanitarian committees of the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society.
  • Dr. Krishna Tikiwala, DPM, is a podiatrist at Northern Illinois Foot and Ankle Specialists in Crystal Lake, Illinois. She completed her three-year foot and ankle surgery residency at Mercy Health St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo, Ohio.