A Nurse’s Guide to Buying the Right Work Shoes

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Nurses are on their feet for at least 8 to 12 hours a day, sometimes longer.

The constant walking means you need good footwear.

Having the right work shoes can mean all the difference when it comes to comfort.

Below I’m going to give you some tips and some things to think about to help you buy the right work shoes.

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How to Choose the Right Nursing Shoes

Here’s a quick summary of what we go over below.

1. Pick a Shoe That Has the Design You Need

There’s a lot of different shoes out there and some of them won’t fit your feet the way it’s suppose to.

Make sure you’re trying on the shoes to see how it actually fits you.

Pro Tip:
If you have special shoe requirements and need help finding the right pair of shoes try talking to your primary care provider to see if they have any recommendations or if they can give you a referral to see a podiatrist.

If you buy it online make sure you know what the return policy is for those shoes.

2. Pick a Shoe That Has the Design You Want

Shoes come in all sorts of different designs nowadays.

It’s not uncommon to find the shoes that come in 10+ different designs.

What this means is you shouldn’t have to settle with a shoe that doesn’t look the way you want it to or that clashes with your style.

3. Check the Support and Stability of the Shoe

For nurses that are flat-footed, this is very important.

Back when I was wearing shoes that poorly supported my feet by the end of my shift I was dealing with throbbing feet and swollen ankles.

4. Make Sure the Weight of the Shoe Feels Right

There are some shoes that are just going to be heavier than others.

With as much walking as nurses do that’s going to lead to very tired feet by the end of the shift.

Pro Tip:
If you require a shoe that has a lot more support, keep in mind that those shoes tend to be heavier than the shoes with zero support or motion control.

5. Check the Grip on the Bottom of the Shoes

Make sure you have shoes that have some slip resistance.

You’re going to be stepping on liquids a lot so make sure you’re shoes are non-slip.

6. Make Sure it’s at a Price You Can Afford

Honestly, a lot of the very supportive shoes tend to be on the more expensive side.

But it doesn’t mean you have to break the bank to buy the shoe you want or need.

One thing you can do is to make sure you’re doing some comparison shopping.

How much do nurses actually walk in a day?

Nurses, on average, walk 4-5 miles in one 12-hour long shift (source).

That’s equivalent to roughly 10,000 steps.

While walking this much is certainly good for staying fit, it can wreak havoc on the feet and lower extremities.

While many people struggle to get in their 10,000 steps each day, nurses are achieving this in a single 12-hour shift.

That’s why it’s so important that they have the proper footwear. Not wearing quality footwear can lead to problems like (source):

  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Hammer toe
  • Corns
  • Calluses
  • Ingrown toenails
  • Sore, swollen feet
  • Other foot and ankle conditions

Is arch support really that important?

Arch support, particularly for people with high arches or flat feet, is a very important factor in a work shoe.

If you’re applying constant pressure to the arch of the foot and it’s not properly supported, it can lead to more than just foot pain.

The pain can travel to the ankles, knees, hips, and lower back.

Arch support helps to properly align the body from the feet up, avoiding potential problems in the future (source).

Nurses with flat feet should wear shoes with additional arch support, or be fitted by a podiatrist for custom orthotics that can be placed in the shoes for additional arch support.

Those with a regular or high arch may not need any additional support than what already comes in the shoe, but those with high arches may also benefit from additional arch supports being placed in the shoe.

Some exercises can relieve pain and pressure that results in the foot from poor arch support, but one of the best treatments is wearing the right work shoes and preventing problems altogether.

How can I prevent slips and falls at work?

Nurses encounter many challenges during their work day, from critical patients to demanding physicians.

Another thing they often encounter is slippery floors.

Slippery floors may occur because of spilled medications, chemical spills, or even incidents with bodily fluids.

Traction control on a shoe can help prevent slips and falls on even the most challenging surfaces like tile and linoleum.

Rubber is the top material used in shoes to provide traction control.

While many shoes naturally come with traction control, sometimes it’s not enough. There are things you can do to make your shoes less slippery, such as (source):

How can you avoid painful, cramped toes?

If you have to rub your toes every time you remove your shoes, it might mean you need a wider toe box.

A toe box is the front portion of the shoe that covers the toes (source).

Toe boxes come in all different shapes and sizes, but ones that are narrow can lead to painful, cramped toes.

Pain can occur frequently for those with wide feet if the toe box is narrow.

The best way to avoid this is to purchase a wider version of the work shoe you like.

Some shoes naturally come with wider toe boxes, even though the shoe itself is not listed as “wide” size.

You should be able to easily wiggle your toes while wearing the shoes.

If you can’t, then the toe box probably isn’t wide enough and you may experience things like:

  • Blisters
  • Ingrown toenails
  • Corns
  • Calluses
  • Bruised toes
  • Bleeding toes
  • Pain and cramping
  • Deformed toes

Are breathable shoes really beneficial?

If you suffer from hot, sweaty feet, then breathable shoes are a must for you.

Anyone’s feet can become sweaty and hot when worn for a long shift, but some people actually suffer from a condition called hyperhidrosis (source).

What is Hyperhidrosis?
Hyperhidrosis is a diagnosis for excessive sweating that’s not related to exercise or heat exposure.

Hyperhidrosis is more common in young men, but anyone can get the condition.

There are many ways to treat it, including wearing shoes made from breathable materials like mesh.

Mesh allows air to flow into the shoe and around the foot, allowing the feet to breathe and less sweating to occur.

Other ways to treat hyperhidrosis include wearing breathable socks, washing the feet daily, placing powder on the feet and in the shoes to help soak up excess moisture, and certain medications.

Sneakers, clogs, or dress shoes?

While other footwear may seem like a more fashionable choice, the best shoe choice for nurses is the trusty sneaker.

Sneakers offer the best traction control and foot support that nurses need in order to perform their job safely and efficiently.

Many doctor’s offices, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities require their nurses to wear sneakers because they are the safest option.

Not only do nurses encounter slippery floors and plenty of walking, but they are also faced with things like challenging patients who may step on their feet or even drop things on a nurse’s foot.

Sneakers cover the foot fully, making them the best choice for avoiding injuries while at work (source).

They are also the most comfortable option which is a must for busy nurses who are on their feet for 8 hours or more each shift.

Final Thoughts

Having the right work shoes on can make the job of a nurse a bit easier.

For a job that’s challenging on its own, this is an important benefit.

Wearing the right footwear allows you to focus more on your patients and less on your feet, making you more productive.

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