Best Shoes for Nurses on Feet All Day

The job of a nurse is incredibly demanding, mentally, emotionally, and physically. Nurses work long hours and sometimes unpredictable shifts, which can add mental stress to a job that is already mentally stressful. Many health care workers get so involved in taking care of the needs of others that they can lose sight of taking care of themselves.

Nurses work on their feet all day, every day, and foot care and foot health are integral to whole-body health. The best shoes for nurses not only protect and preserve the body from the long-term stresses and wear over time, but also allow a nurse to move, work, and focus without the constant distraction of foot, back, or leg pain. A nurse’s shoes are an essential part of the equipment necessary to do a good job and should be chosen with the care and attention paid to any other piece of protective gear.

Being a nurse is one of the most physically and emotionally demanding jobs in existence. Nurses are not only on their feet all day, but they often work long and irregular hours, under stress and managing various crises. The average nurse walks nearly three and a half miles during every ten-hour shift. Nurses need excellent shoes, not just to keep up with a physically demanding job, but because they shouldn’t have to manage the constant distraction of foot fatigue or pain.

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Choosing the Best Nursing Shoes

Nurses work in unusual conditions with unique pressures and demands. The work can be not only physically taxing, but occasionally physically dangerous. They also need always to be prepared for a broad range of needs, emergencies, and unexpected situations. This scope of requirements, demands, and expectations can make finding good shoes particularly complicated for a nurse. Best nursing shoes need to:

  • Support good posture. The feet support the legs, hips, and spine. Proper alignment in the feet supports good adjustment in the whole rest of the body, alleviating excess pressure and preventing long-term strain or degeneration. Good posture also creates a more professional appearance, projecting confidence and authority that people find reassuring in a health care provider
  • Provide a full range of motion. The natural gait transfers weight evenly from the heel of the foot to the toe of the foot, continuing a movement that originates in the hips. A nurse’s shoe should fit well enough that it doesn’t require adjusting of the stride, or have so high a heel that the pump makes premature contact with the ground, shortening the gait. As the ball of the foot receives the body weight, it compresses, and the bones of the pad of the feet spread slightly under pressure. A shoe should have room for the natural motion of the foot within the shoe and have the design and fit to ensure natural movement in the gait as a nurse walks
  • Reduce the risk of slipping. The occasional spill or mess on the floor is, unfortunately, part of a nurse’s work environment. The shoes should have a firm, non-slip, non-skid sole to reduce the risk of slipping or falling on unpredictable floor surfaces
  • Provide shock absorption. The repeated impacts of extended work shifts on your feet can have long-term effects on the health of your feet, legs, and spine. Shoes that provide shock absorption protect your bones and joints from degeneration due to continuous small impact pressure, and prevent fatigue for greater comfort during the length of your shift
  • Protect the feet. Not only will a proper pair of shoes protect your health by supporting your feet from below, but nurses should also consider the possibility of the occasional dropped sharp object. Shoes that protect the top of the feet, as well as the soles, can be a valuable piece of safety equipment
  • Be easy to clean. Spills and body fluids are just part of a nurse’s job sometimes. Shoes that are easy to clean help prevent some of the unpleasant consequences of these kinds of spills and accidents, and help you take them (literally) in stride

What Kind of Shoes Should Nurses Avoid?

For all these reasons, nurses should avoid shoes that:

  • Have high heels. While heels that are 2-3 cm in height are often more comfortable and supportive of the feet, heels that are higher than that begin to unnaturally contract the calf muscles and Achilles tendon, reducing your range of motion and straining the legs and feet
  • Have narrow soles or heels. Soles and heels that taper and are narrow should be avoided because they provide less stability, forcing the ligaments of the ankle to work harder to maintain balance. Over time, these ligaments and connective tissues can become overworked and deteriorate
  • Have hard soles. While shoe soles should be rigid and supportive, they should not be hard. Hard soles have little to no impact protection and can cause foot pain and fatigue
  • Have open-weave uppers, soft fabric uppers, or no uppers at all. Shoes like sandals, ballet flats, or athletic shoes with open weaves in the upper can be extremely comfortable, but provide no protection from dropped sharp objects. They also don’t provide any protection from fluid spills or messes, potentially forcing you to change shoe mid-shift
  • Have no arch support. Arch support is critical for protecting the feet from long-term pain and injury. Over time, working long shifts in shoes with no arch support can lead to flattening of the feet, pain, and injury in the plantar fascia, and other foot problems

Suitable Comfort for Prolong Standing

As mentioned, the majority of your day as a nurse will be standing or running up and down seeing to patients. Therefore, the cushioning in your shoes should be comfortable enough to last the entire day until your shift ends. Searching for shoes with memory foam and other dense materials can offer the support and comfortability your feet need.

Shoes with a squishy or soft insole might feel comfortable at first, but as the shift goes on, the soft insoles tend to compress which doesn’t leave you with any support. So a more dense construction is required to offer long-lasting support.

How Often to Replace Your Nurse Shoes

A nurse’s shoes should be replaced every 500 miles of walking, which amounts to roughly twice a year. Over time, shoes naturally lose their cushioning, and the soles develop wear patterns that affect your gait. While the shoes may still look good, the essential supportive structures wear down over time, and they stop providing all the support you need.

It’s also best to not wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row. The best strategy is to find the best shoes for nurses, get two identical pairs, and wear them on alternate days. Wearing the same pair of shoe day after day allows the inside of the shoe to accumulate moisture because it doesn’t have time to thoroughly dry between wearings. Excessive moisture can lead to foot odor and even fungal infections. Furthermore, prolonged exposure to moisture is bad for the shoe itself and reduces the durability of the material and construction.

Remember that there may be incidents at work that damage your shoes or require extensive cleaning, so having a backup pair is desirable in any case.

It’s also important to adopt the best possible shoe and footwear practices from the very beginning of your nursing career. Many shoes that feel comfortable and don’t cause pain when you are younger don’t actually provide the needed support or cushioning, and unnecessarily strain your feet over time.

It often happens that nurses don’t pay adequate attention to their footwear needs until they are experiencing pain and have developed foot problems that require more care to heal. As with all medical problems, an ounce of prevention goes a long way, and nurses should look after their foot health from the first day on the job.

Ultimately, this can mean that a new nurse isn’t looking for a single pair of work shoes; a nurse needs at least 2-3 pairs of work shoes, and to rotate them often, and replace them frequently. In other words, a nurse should adopt the footwear habits of athletes, for whom shoes are essential pieces of performance equipment, and are well maintained and frequently updated.

Additional Foot Care Accessories for Nurses

Many nurses adopt additional footwear accessories to promote health and prevent pain and injury. Here are some of the accessories most often advised by long-term nurses.

  • Compression Socks

Compression socks are socks that gently squeeze (or compress) the lower leg. This consistent, gentle pressure supports circulation in your legs, helping the body return blood to the upper body against the pull of gravity. They ease swelling in the legs and ankles, reduce fatigue in the legs, and help to prevent spider and varicose veins. Many nurses love compression stockings and rely on them to get through a long shift.

  • Arch Wraps

While it is critical to get shoes that provide the proper arch support, there are times when additional support is needed. For people with high arches that have hard-to-fit feet, or for those suffering from the pain of plantar fasciitis or other foot arch conditions, supportive arch wraps can be an excellent solution. They are lightweight and compact and can be used as needed to help support the feet and prevent pain and injury.

  • Insoles

Again, a good pair of shoes should provide the support, comfort, and impact protection a nurse needs at work, but many nurses also use insoles for an extra boost. Insoles can be particularly helpful for feet that have unusual arches or that pronate or supinate when walking. They can also be a temporary solution for helping imperfect shoes get you through the day if your favorites are out of commission for some reason.

Changing Needs Over Time

Finally, it’s important to remember that the shoes that were the best and most comfortable a few years ago may not be the best choice for your feet now. Life changes like pregnancy, weight gain or loss, illness or injury, and simple aging can change our footwear needs over time.

Also, shoe manufacturers are always developing new materials and technologies, primarily driven by the needs of athletes, that become more widely adopted and can provide significant benefits for nurses.

Even if you have found the perfect pair of shoes for nurses, keep an open mind and try new options every few years to make sure that your footwear choices are continuing to meet your changing needs and support your long-term health. A nurse should use every tool available to stay as healthy, focused, and as pain-free as possible, and shoes are a critical part of that process. Don’t underestimate what the best shoes for nurses can accomplish in the long run.

Conclusion

Nursing is a demanding job, and nurses need to pay extra attention to their health and safety to have a long, healthy career. Because the situation is so physically taxing, requiring agility, strength, and endurance, it can be helpful for nurses to treat their bodies with the care and attention of athletes and practice the best possible behaviors for lasting health.

Footwear is a critical part of a nurse’s equipment and can help to protect the health and peace of mind for years to come. Choosing shoes that provide good posture and range of motion give the necessary support and impact protection and reduce pain and fatigue help to support a nurse while they focus on the needs of others.

The best shoes for nurses not only benefit the nurse who wears them but has a positive effect on coworkers, patients, and everyone else who relies on a nurse to function at peak performance every hour of the day.

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