Nursing is a tough profession for lots of reasons. There’s the emotional aspect of caring for injured and sick patients, the grueling pace, and the immense amount of knowledge you have to keep in your brain. Still, more than anything else, the worst things nurses have to deal with are super long shifts on their feet!
Being on your feet for 8 hour shifts is already asking a lot, but many nurses work 12+ hour shifts! To survive, you need some fantastic shoes. It’s super tricky to find a great pair of nursing shoes, though, since you also have to think about things like slip-resistance, sanitation, and workplace dress codes. Meeting all those needs and still coming out with something comfortable is a stressful, time-consuming process.
That’s why we created this guide! It’ll introduce you to all our favorite footwear for nurses. We’ve included men’s, women’s, and unisex options. There’s something for every workplace, as well as every personal style and preference. We’ve written in-depth reviews for each pair, and come up with a handy guide to figuring out which ones to buy!
First, here’s a glance at our Top Three:
Best Nursing Shoes Reviews:
- Dansko Professional Mule
- Skechers’ Loving Life Sneaker
- Birkenstock London Clog
- Merrell Men’s Jungle Moc Pro Grip
- Birkenstock Super Birki’s
- Birkenstock Boston Professional
- Brooks Addiction Walker
- Nike Flex 2016
For ladies in the medical profession, it can be a challenge to find shoes that aren’t clunky, ugly, or depressingly utilitarian. These two pairs are the exact opposite!
1. Dansko Professional Mule
Dansko’s are one of the most popular and beloved shoes for nurses on the market, so it would be absurd not to include them in our recommendations! These classic clogs are supportive, comfortable, and very classy. We think they’re a no-brainer for any women who want a rocker clog for their nursing job!
More than anything else, we love these for their comfort. They’re a rocker clog, with a loose-fitting heel and rounded sole for easy walking and stable standing. Just what nurses need!
They have strong arch support inside, thanks to a combination of a traditional cork footbed and a layer of memory foam cushioning on top. They have wide toe boxes, so your feet have room to expand through the day. The arch support keeps plantar fasciitis at bay, and the nearly-level heel drop places weight further back on your feet, rather than on your metatarsal area.
They come in lots of different styles, from patent leather to bright, funky patterns. That makes it easy to find a pair which suits both your own personal look, and the dress expectations of your workplace. Most are very easy to keep clean, and all the soles stand up extremely well to wear. Whichever style you buy, leather shoes like these simply get more comfortable the more you wear them!
On the downside, Dansko’s have a very particular sizing system, so it can be tricky to find your exact fit. You’re better off if you can try on a pair in person before ordering online. Or, check for free returns when you buy, and simply grab a few pairs to see which fits best!
These are also European ergonomic shoes, which means they’re all about support. There’s some cushion, but they’re not as soft as most American shoes. We think the strong support is a better choice, since it helps you keep good posture and keeps your arches happy. However, if you like softer, bouncier shoes, these won’t be for you!
2. Skechers Sport Loving Life Memory Foam Fashion Sneaker
If you prefer something on the opposite end of the spectrum from Dansko’s, these Skechers should be right up your alley! They’re all about cushioning, breathability, and lightweight comfort. They’re super popular with nurses. These sneakers fit like a cozy pair of slippers that you can wear all shift long!
On the top, you get a stretchy mesh upper with bungee laces that never have to be tied or untied. The fabric is super airy, which keeps you cool over your shift. These are perfect for nurses who have had issues with sweaty feet before! On the bottom, there’s a segmented rubber sole that’s very grippy on hospital floors and other slippery surfaces.
Our favorite feature is in the middle: a memory foam insole! Memory foam is pretty rare in shoes, aside from thin layers like you get in the Dansko’s. By making the whole insoles out of memory foam, Skechers have come up with something that’s extremely soft and adaptive. Like a memory foam mattress, it relieves pressure where your feet press into the shoes, and fills in with support in the places they don’t, like your arches!
Overall, they’re some of the softest shoes we’ve ever come across. They don’t feel too squishy, though, and many nurses find they do a good job keeping foot problems at bay. If you find that cushier shoes work best for you on your shifts, you won’t find anything cushier than these!
They come in a few different color patterns, which makes finding a balance between your style and your dress code a cinch! They’re washable as well, so you don’t have to worry about stains or other aesthetic hazards at work.
If you’re after lots of anatomical support, though, these won’t help you very much. They don’t have much in the way of structure, and they can’t give you the postural support that Dansko’s or Birkenstock’s can.
They also aren’t as durable as other nursing shoes. The cushioning doesn’t last as long as a running shoe would (like the Nike’s we’re recommending for both men and women), and they don’t have the kind of structural integrity you get from a Dansko.
At first glance, it looks like there aren’t a lot of options out there for male nurses looking for work shoes. However, on closer inspection, there are a few comfortable clogs that look more masculine than Dansko’s, but still give you that comfort factor! Here are two of our favorites!
1. Birkenstock London Clog
These Birk’s are our go-to nursing shoes for men. They’re supportive, classy, and they get better with age. They give you all the comfort of a clog with a masculine touch!
They have the Birkenstock cork footbed, which is legendary for its unique comfort and support. It’s designed to keep your weight back on your feels, instead of on your metatarsal zone–a common problem shoes with raised heel sections. It has strong arch support, a metatarsal ridge, and a deep heel cup to relieve pressure. All in all, the Birkenstock footbed is a no-brainer for anyone dealing with foot problems, or anyone who wants to prevent them by wearing shoes that promote proper posture and a healthy gait. There’s also a soft-footbed option for people who like more padding.
If you’re a male nurse who’s run into chronic aches and pains on the job, these London’s are a much better choice than your average sneaker or nursing clog. They can alleviate plantar fasciitis symptoms, joint pain, or back issues, to name just a few.
They have great rubber outsoles, and the uppers and linings are all high-grain leather. Both the uppers and the cork footbeds break in gradually, so the London’s both look and feel better the more you wear them! Cork adapts to your feet, giving you a custom fit. Plus, it softens as it wears in, which gives you some extra padding. And, of course, leather uppers gradually soften and become like a second skin.
These are also some of the highest-quality shoes on the market. They’re made entirely in Germany, and they have precise sizing that you can count on every time. They can last for years, and they have next to no issues with quality control or durability!
There’s not much we don’t love about the London’s! The one obvious downside for some people will be the price, though. These are expensive shoes, at $150+. They might be a lot for some people to spring for. With that said, they’ll last you years of long shifts on the floor, and they can more than pay for themselves in saved podiatrist bills!
2. Merrell Men’s Jungle Moc Pro Grip Work Shoe
If you want something a little more traditional than the Birkenstock’s, these Merrell’s could be just the thing. They’re a slip-on shoe with a plain leather upper, rubber outsoles, and a flexible fit that’s very comfortable through a long shift. They aren’t the most attractive things in the world, but if you’re looking for something practical, they’re pretty ideal. They’re slip-resistant, easy to clean, and unobtrusive with scrubs.
They have a slip-resistant outsole, which is a huge plus for many nurses. The Birkenstock’s have good grip, but they’re not as grippy as these Merrell’s! They have lots of texture for gripping tiles, even wet tile! You never need to be afraid of losing your footing with these.
They feel more like a traditional American shoe than the Birkenstock’s. They’re raised slightly at the heel, and they have a narrower fit that’s a lot less “clog” and a lot more “moc”! The footbeds are more conventional too: a mix of EVA support in the arch, and padding along the whole foot.
They’re pretty supportive, as well! One reason Merrell’s are so popular across a range of professions is that they have great arch support, and the cushioning material lasts much better than other insole and midsole materials. EVA is actually the material that’s used in Merrell hiking shoes, and anything that can handle trekking up a mountain is ideal for nurses on 12-hour shifts!
They’re leather like the Birkenstock’s, but the leather on these Merrell’s is less supple and refined, so you won’t feel as bad getting it dirty or having to sanitize it. The flexible goring through the uppers makes these easy to move around in, and the lining and insole material wicks moisture and heat away from your feet.
They fit a bit narrow, though, and they don’t have nearly as much room in the toe boxes as the Birkenstock’s. They’re not so great for guys with wider feet, even if you go for one of the extra wide sizes. These also don’t have as wide a range of foot and posture benefits, so guys with problem feet should go for the Birk’s!
They’re fairly utilitarian. These aren’t going to get nearly as many compliments as the Birkenstock’s, and they’re not going to look better with age. That’s because the leather isn’t finished naturally, and it’s got an outer layer that will crack instead of patina. On the upside, it’s easier to clean and sanitize!
They don’t last as long as Birk’s, either. You probably won’t get more than a year out of a pair of these.
We know the term “unisex” doesn’t always inspire confidence when it comes to clothing and footwear. “Unisex” tends to translate to “fits badly on anyone.” Not so with these shoes! We’ve rounded up a few choices that are either unisex styles (like the Birkenstock’s), or that are sold in both men’s and women’s versions! They all fit well on nurses of any gender, and they’re just as comfortable and supportive as the styles we’ve already looked at!
1. Birkenstock Super Birki Clog
These Birk’s are without a doubt the most “industrial” shoes here. They’re the ideal footwear for nurses working in ER’s, surgeries, or other wards where you need to be able to clean and sanitize your shoes on a regular basis. They give you Birkenstock’s cork comfort system with an impervious, easy-to-clean synthetic upper. They’re a great alternative to Birkenstock London’s or Boston’s for people who don’t want to think about maintaining leather uppers!
The shells of the Super Birki’s are a big selling point for nurses. They’re a synthetic PU material that’s flexible enough to walk in, but structured enough to keep the footbeds in place and give you a stable walk. They have nice and roomy toe boxes, and a semi-closed heel which gives you a bit of a clog feel without slipping off.
They might not look as great as Birkenstock’s with leather uppers. However, in the nursing world, these are a much more practical choice–especially in ICU’s and ER’s. They’re easy to sanitize, and you can clean them as much as you need to without worrying about damaging leather. They’ve also got slip-resistant soles on the bottoms, so you can walk around tile and spills all shift long without having to worry.
Of course, as with most Birk’s, the star of the show is inside the shoes! Inside, you have a set of Birkenstock cork footbeds just like you’d find in any of the company’s other clogs or sandals. These footbeds have a deep heel cup to bring your weight back off the metatarsal area, and a neutral alignment to support natural, proper posture. There’s lots of arch support and a metatarsal ridge to keep your feet happy, too!
Overall, lots of nurses have come to rely on these as the most comfortable, practical shoes for relieving leg pain, back pain, joint issues, and plantar fasciitis in busy wards. They’re ideal for places where you want the support and comfort you expect from Birk’s, but where you can’t take leather shoes. The shells of these clogs last forever, and you can keep swapping out the footbeds as you wear them down!They’re also cheaper than other Birk’s.
Knock-off’s abound, though, so be sure to buy from a reputable vendor, or straight from Amazon. You also have to know your Birkenstock size and width. The company’s shoes are easy to size once you figure out your size, but it’s best to use their own millimeter size chart to get you started. They get a bit sweaty, too, because of the upper material. And, as with all Birk’s, the cork footbeds are very firm out of the box, and take some time to wear in.
2. Birkenstock Unisex Professional Boston Super Grip
If you like the idea of having something slip-resistant and professional-grade like the Super Birki’s but want something a bit classier, these Boston Professional’s are our all-time favorite Birk’s for nurses! They’re a unisex style, and they fit well for both male and female nurses. They’re industrial enough to handle ICU’s, but they’re classy enough that you won’t feel bad wearing them uncovered!
They have just as much grip as the Super Birki’s, since they have the same “super grip” outsoles on the bottoms. Nurses and chefs both said they got perfect grip on floors, even with spills and wet spots. The soles are attached to a cork footbed like the normal Boston clogs. It’s the standard Birkenstock design, with strong arch support, a balanced foot profile, and a deep heel cup to cushion and relieve pressure. On top, there’s a leather upper with a strap and buckle to get your perfect fit.
They’re just as good for resolving arch issues like plantar fasciitis as other Birkenstock’s. The metatarsal ridge also does a great job keeping your toes engaged as you walk, as they would be barefoot! That has the effect of engaging more of your leg muscles, and it has the added benefit of keeping you firmly in your clogs. Like the Super Birki’s, they have nice wide toe boxes so that your feet can expand through your shift. And like any Birk’s, the cork footbeds will soften and shape to your feet over time! So, these get more and more comfortable as you wear them.
We think the leather uppers on these are absolutely ideal for nurses. The thick leather finish on the outside makes them super easy to clean. The black and white color options make these easy to suit to your scrubs or uniform, too. On the inside, though, they’re lined with suede. That makes them a heck of a lot cozier than the Super Birki’s! Leather is also naturally breathable, which helps these stay cooler. The open heel helps with that as well!
Be aware that they take a while to break in, though! Most nurses who used these said it was about a two-week period before the Boston Pro’s started to feel like home. Even when they break in, cork footbeds are always going to be firm, too! The leather uppers are also less indestructible than the PU material that the Super Birki’s are made out of. You’ll have to take care of them, but the thick finish makes them easier than other leather shoes.
3. Brooks Addiction Walker
These Brooks shoes aren’t the most attractive things on the market–far from it. In fact, they’re pretty darn ugly. But if you’re the sort of nurse who needs maximum cushion and support, and you don’t like Birkenstock’s or Dansko’s, these are a good American alternative. They’re much cushier than European shoes, and they have a slightly raised heel. In other words, they’re a classic American walking sneaker with a lot of running shoe features to straighten and support your gait!
These Addiction Walker’s have leather uppers and thick, synthetic soles. They’re a pretty standard walking sneaker, only with a super sized sole! They’re so large because they have so many comfort and support features built in! We think they’re the best shoes here for people who have a history of injuries or foot problems and can’t do the cork footbed approach.
These have strong arch support, like the Birkenstock’s and Dansko’s, and they also have a roll-bar in the midsole to keep pronation (wobble) in your gait at bay. They’re super good for people who have ankle issues, since they keep your feet going straight and smooth.
Where they really differ from our other recommendations is in the cushioning department! These are ideal for people who prefer more cushion than you can get from a cork footbed or clog format. The Brooks’s have gel cushioning in the heel and forefoot, as well as thick midsole foam all along the foot. They’re not quite as cushy as the Skechers, but that’s because they provide more anatomical support, and longer-lasting cushion.
So, we know they’re comfortable for standing and walking long periods. What about the features you need as a nurse? Well, they have breathable sock liners which you can remove to dry out at the end of your shift. The leather uppers are easy to wipe clean or sanitize, and the thick outsoles also have pretty good traction. They’re simple, but highly practical.
There’s no getting around the fact that these are pretty unsightly, though. They’re nowhere near as classy as the Birkenstock’s or Dansko’s we’ve recommended. We wouldn’t wear these outside the hospital. With that being said, they’re great when you’re at work, and most people are going to be wearing scrubs or foot covers that mask them anyway. If you don’t really mind what your work shoes look like, you’ll be more than happy. Just don’t buy them hoping they’ll look better in person.
These Brooks also don’t last as long as Birkestock’s or Dasnko’s. They tend to come apart at the toes, between the uppers and the outsoles, after 6-12 months. That’s a fraction of the working life you get out of a clog, although it’s on par with a lot of other walking sneakers.
4. Nike Flex 2016
If you like to wear sneakers for your nursing shifts, these Nike’s are a great option for both men and women. They’re lightweight, airy, and highly comfortable. They have lots of bounce, without feeling wobbly. We recommend them to anyone who doesn’t need to be able to sanitize their shoes, and doesn’t have any chronic foot issues to speak of.
They’re super light! These are “free running” shoes, so they have an ultralight sole and an all-mesh upper, both of which are supposed to move “freely” with you as you run. And since they’re made to be light enough to run in for miles, you won’t have any complaints about the weight in the course of your nursing shift!
They have lots of springiness in the soles, even though they’re light! They’re made from one of Nike’s new synthetic materials, and they return the energy of each step back to your feet. You don’t feel like you’re tiring out over the course of the shift!
There’s a supportive insole, too. It has basic arch support, and some cushion along the length of the footbed to keep your feet happy.
Overall, though, the best part of these Nike’s is how simple and minimal they are. They don’t feel as restrictive as other sneakers or running shoes–especially compared to something like the Brooks! The fly wire system keeps things in place without rubbing or pulling anywhere, and the soles return energy without feeling like they’re keeping you elevated above the floors. While they’re springy, they’re not as cushioned as other options. They aren’t motion-control shoes, and they aren’t heavily padded. That’s why we suggest them for people with relatively healthy feet, who don’t need all those special therapeutic features.
You can swap out the insoles for more arch support, and they’re available in lots of different color schemes.
They’re expensive, though, so don’t plan on finding these under $150! That’s expensive, but these stay comfortable for a long time compared to something like the Skechers, which wear down pretty quickly. They run small, too, so order up!
So, which of these shoes is your perfect nursing pair?
The Dansko Professional Mule’s are our go-to clogs for women in the medical world, especially those who like rocker soles. They’re a bit more padded than Birkenstock’s, and they fit looser, too. Rocker-sole clogs are an acquired taste, but the popularity of these shoes among nurses speaks for itself.
The Skechers’ Loving Life’s are an affordable alternative for female nurses who want the absolute opposite of Dansko’s. They feel like comfortable slippers, but they’re supportive and grippy enough to handle medical jobs with no problems. Just don’t expect them to last for the long haul, or to give you lots of anatomical support
The Birkenstock London Clog’s are our top quality pick specifically for male nurses. They’re super classy, with their leather uppers and funky look. Yet inside, they’re just as comfortable (if not more so) as the Dansko’s are for women! The only downside to the London’s is that they’re rather nice to have to clean and sanitize every shift. If that might be an issue for you, look at the Boston Professional’s!
The Merrell Men’s Jungle Moc Pro Grip’s are a more utilitarian men’s option for folks who like a more traditional American shoe profile. They have lots of arch support, with more cushioning than you get with Birk’s. They’re leather, too, but not so nice that you’ll worry about getting them dirty or having to sanitize the uppers.
The Birkenstock Super Birki’s are our top choice for nurses (both men and women) working in the messiest, most unpredictable facilities. They’re the easiest of the bunch to clean or sanitize, and they have the same footbed support and comfort as other Birk’s. The only downsides are the heat trapping uppers and the plain looks.
The Birkenstock Boston Professional’s are our top quality clog recommendation, period. In fact, they’re our favorite nursing shoes here. They stay cooler than the Super Birki’s, and have phenomenal traction. They’re every bit as comfortable as the Dansko’s, and even better for your feet. Even though we’re rating them the highest of our recommendations, though, we know cork footbeds and clogs aren’t for everybody.
The Brooks Addiction Walker’s give you a lot of the same comfort features as the Birkenstock’s in a more “American” package. They have lots more padding, and they’re softer out of the box. They’re not particularly attractive, but if you have injuries or foot issues which are eased by lots of cushion and control, these are the shoes to provide relief! They’re easy to sanitize, and they also have great traction. They’re our “if you don’t care what they look like” pick!
The Nike Flex 2016’s are our final choice, for nurses of any gender who have healthy feet and simply want something to keep their energy up. These are springy, airy running shoes that are right at home on the ward floor. They don’t correct any foot problems, but they’ll also keep you from developing any. We think they’re a fantastic choice for nurses who don’t need to worry about sanitizing their shoes, or having any special ergonomic features.
Here are a few key things to think about when you’re comparing your options:
We know nursing isn’t the most luxurious profession, so many nurses are naturally looking for a bargain on their work shoes. That’s perfectly reasonable, but being stingy with your shoes when you’ll be in them for 10 or 12 hours at a time isn’t a smart move! Walking and standing for such long shifts is asking for trouble, unless you’re wearing shoes with proper cushioning and support.
So, we encourage you to think of your work shoes as an investment in your health and happiness! If your feet are happy, chances are you’ll be in a better mood at work, too. Bad shoes can give you chronic pain in your feet, joints, or back. We think it’s more than worth spending a bit more money up front to avoid those issues. Plus, if you invest in proper shoes, you’ll be saving yourself lots of money in podiatrist’s bills down the road!
We generally suggest spending at least $100 on your new nursing shoes, if you can afford to do so. And remember–cheap shoes don’t last long, so you’ll spend just as much money replacing cheap shoes as you would buying one pair of nice shoes that lasts!
Medical facilities usually have smooth, slick floors that are major slip hazards. So, do yourself a favor and save a fall! Opt for shoes with slip-resistant soles.
Support Vs. Cushion
This is where shoes start to get subjective. You want your nursing shoes to be super comfortable, but that means different things to different people. Here are a few pointers to help you narrow down exactly what’s going to keep your feet happy:
First, get to know your foot type. Figure out if you have high arches, collapsed arches, or any other arch issues that need specific support. If so, you’ll need lots of arch support in your shoes. Check whether you have pronation (side-to-side wobble) in your gait. If so, it’s better to buy shoes that are supportive and corrective, to straighten your gait and keep your joints happy! If you don’t have any issues, you can choose something more minimal, with only moderate support.
The idea is to address any foot problems you currently have or have experienced in the past with your new shoes. Most chronic conditions are best solved with firm anatomical support. However, some people find that firm insoles hurt their feet and aggravate their conditions further. You want to figure out what helps most, and find your own balance between padding and support!
Whatever profile your feet are, we think any pair of nursing shoes should have basic support. Look for moderate to strong arch support in the middle of the foot, and a relatively low or level heel cup to take pressure off the fronts of your feet. Having too much rise in the heels can cause problems with the metatarsal area! Aside from these features, you can pick and choose the comfort aspects that make your feet happy!
Wide Toe Boxes
This is a really specific aspect of a shoe which is make or break for us! Having wide toe boxes is an easy way to make sure that a shoe that’s comfortable at the beginning of the day stays comfortable through the end of your shift! Your feet naturally expand the longer you’re on them. So, having some extra space to accommodate for that natural swelling is very important.
One other inescapable effect of being on your feet for hours is that your feet will start to heat up. Look for shoes which keep you cool as you work! That’s one reason we love clogs. They have a loose fit which helps promote air travel inside your shoes, and the open heels have a similar benefit. Regardless of which type of shoe you’re wearing to your nursing job, look for airy upper materials like natural leather or mesh, and gaps around the ankles to help you stay cool.
Nursing can be a messy, unpredictable profession. Make sure your shoes are up to the challenge! If you’re in a position where you often need to clean or sanitize your shoes, look for thick, finished leather or synthetic uppers which can handle that treatment. If you’re wearing galoshes or in a job where your feet stay safe and dry, you can get away with a nicer leather upper or mesh sneakers which aren’t easy to sanitize.
Finally, you want your nursing shoes to express your personal style and meet your workplace dress rules. So, try to choose something that encompasses the best of both worlds!
To find more details for any of our recommendations, just click on the links in the review! That’s the easiest way to check sizing charts and current prices on Amazon. Or, head to our homepage to get more expert shoe reviews and recommendations!