When compiling our list of the absolute best nursing shoes, we had to ask ourselves, “What makes a good nursing shoe?”
But that’s kind of like asking hundreds of different people, “What makes a good partner?” In the same way one person might say “Dependability” and another might say “Chemistry,” one nurse might prioritize comfort and another might be looking for something stylish.
With that in mind, we decided to compile a list of 12 things you should look for when picking out medical footwear. But just like with dating, when you’re trying to choose between a few great options, be sure to ask yourself which qualities are most important to you, which ones you could go without, and then make an informed decision from there.
What is the shoe made of? Typically the best combination for a nursing shoe is a leather upper and a rubber sole. Leather has a lifespan that’s generally better than synthetic alternatives, and because of how often you’ll be wearing these, a durable material is crucial.
There are essentially two styles of nursing shoes: Clogs (or slip-ons) and sneakers (or tennis shoes). The biggest difference between the two? Laces.
Clogs offer you the ease of simply popping your foot in and out of your shoe, and you never need to worry about tripping over untied laces. That being said, laces allow you some give in the way a sneaker fits — you can tighten or loosen them to conform to your foot shape.
Generally, sneakers are lighter on the feet than clogs, and their more streamlined silhouette makes them easier to maneuver in while wearing them. That being said, it’s more challenging to find tennis shoes that are as easy to wipe down and keep clean as smooth clogs.
And at the end of the day, some nurses just prefer one look over another. Clogs are clearly uniform-wear and your coworkers probably wear them, while sneakers are common street shoes, meaning they’ll blend in with your after-work apparel.
Great traction/No-slip soles
Maybe you’ve never slipped during your nursing career, but chances are you’ve encountered wet floors somewhere on your journey. When you’re job is to help the injured, it doesn’t do anyone any good if you fall and hurt yourself on your way to a patient.
That’s why your shoe’s soles need to have great traction. Thankfully, most nursing shoes are made to withstand slippery floors. Just take a peak at the product description and look for something like “no-slip soles.”
Nursing isn’t always glamorous: There’s blood and other bodily fluids sloshing around all day. Perhaps you packed a spare pair of shoes, but if you didn’t, you don’t want your only pair soaking in who-knows-what after the first hour of your shift.
Make sure to find a shoe that will repel water rather than absorb it. Leather and rubber shoes are your best bet; just be cautious with breathable sneakers because a mesh upper is rarely waterproof.
Easy to clean
See the above point. You have no idea what may end up on your shoe after 12 hours, and if you pay good money for nice shoes, you don’t want them ruined after one spill.
Generally, if it resists liquid, it’ll be easier to clean off. Rubber shoes like nursing Crocs are probably the easiest shoe to wipe down after a long day.
This gets tricky. You really don’t want holes in your shoes when you’re a nurse, even if it means your feet stay cooped up for hours on end.
While you might look for breathable mesh when choosing a running shoe, that won’t do you any favors when encountering spills. Instead, try to stick with leather: It breathes more than man-made materials without sacrificing water-resistance.
Comfortable/Room for Orthotics
Did you know an average nurse walks more than 4 miles in a 12-hour shift? That’s a lot of time on your feet. In other words — You need comfortable shoes.
You have two options when it comes to searching for the most comfortable shoes for nurses: Either find a pair that has excellent built-in arch support or cushioned insoles, or, find a pair with removable inserts so you can customize your shoes with orthotics designed especially for your feet.
Because like people, feet come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, you might be best off finding shoes with removable inserts. It could be worth splurging on fancy orthotics in order to keep your feet happy for years to come.
Nurses make a decent salary, but you aren’t rich. And for students in medical school, the thought of shelling out $100+ on any pair of shoes seems insane.
Of course, the adage goes, “You get what you pay for,” but that doesn’t mean that price isn’t an important consideration when choosing the right shoes. There’s no shame in wanting to find nursing shoes for cheap! Even if you want a high quality shoe, keep an eye on sales to get the best deal possible.
Remember how much walking you do in a day? That means if you want shoes to last you longer than a couple months, you’ll need to seek out a durable pair.
In this case, reviews are your best friend: Check out how long other nurses were able to wear the shoes you’re interested in. And again, think about the materials: Leather will generally last the longest, so consider paying top dollar to get maximum longevity.
You may work somewhere with strict shoe-color rules where white scrub shoes are the only shoes. But if your practice or hospital is more lenient, finding a shoe that comes in a number of fun colors and patterns could be very important.
Most shoes marketed to nurses will come in solid white and solid black, so your focus is on locating those leopard nursing clogs you dreamed of, or a pair covered in abstract floral designs. Just make sure the pattern goes with most of the scrubs you already own.
Depending on where you’re working, you might spend a good portion of your day lifting or supporting people and helping them get in and out of bed. Basically, you don’t need any extra weight to lug around.
Finding a pair of light shoes will keep you walking on clouds rather than trudging down the hallway. Sneakers naturally tend to be lighter than clogs, so if your feet feel heavy after a shift, consider switching to a more lightweight shoe.
You wear these shoes a lot; you might as well like the way they look! It might not be the most important factor, but a pair of shoes you enjoy wearing can really make or break your day — “Look good, feel good,” right?
In short, there probably isn’t one shoe that fulfills all 12 characteristics perfectly, but this list should give you some things to think about when comparing the shoes on our Best Nursing Shoes guide. Choose a handful of the 12 characteristics that you care about the most, and then make an informed decision that’s best for your personality and your feet!