Healthy feet are among a nurse's most important assets. Working long hours on your feet make proper footgear not only helpful, but essential.
"The most important consideration for healthy shoe wear is the accommodation of the width of your foot," said Dr. Barbara Bergin, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon in Austin, Texas. "The next consideration is arch support."
Your shoes should also provide ample support and fit the general shape of your feet well. Because feet needs vary, the brand that works for one nurse may not work for you.
The most important consideration for healthy shoe wear is the accommodation of the width of your foot. The next consideration is arch support.
- Barbara Bergin, orthopedic surgeon
The ability to easily slip backless shoes on and off may seem appealing, but they are a major don't for nurses, according to Bergin.
"There are only two ways a backless shoe stays on your foot," she said. "Either it’s tight across the arch, or you have to use your toes to hold it on when your foot is in the swing phase of your gait."
A good alternative? High-quality clogs, said Bergin, who wears and often recommends to her patients Dansko clogs. Husband and wife team Mandy Cabot and Peter Kjellerup created Dansko shoes with lasting comfort in mind.
"Your foot kind of floats in the shoe and seeks its level of comfort," said Bergin. "Because it stays balanced on your foot with the finger breadth of space, there is no compression on sensitive areas."
As of 2013, most Dansko clogs cost $115 to $145 at a variety of retail and online stores.
"As a fitness trainer, I've got to have a power-house shoe, one that I can rely on when exercising or hitting the pavement to train clients," said Shawnee Harkins, creator and producer of fitness themed TV shows, including "Fit in the Street." She wears and recommends Therafit shoes, a line co-created by Dr. Lisa Masterson, an obstetrician/gynecologist and host of the TV show "The Doctors."
Therafit's patented Personalized Comfort System allows you to adjust the impact protection and cushion level to suit your personal needs and preferences. The wedge absorbs shock, and the outsole can be adjusted to increase or decrease impact resistance.
"Therafit [shoes are] the embodiment of a proper shoe for exercise, play and work," Harkins said, adding that they can help relieve muscle and joint pain while guarding against occupational injuries. Most Therafit walking shoes sell for $95 through the company's website. If your shoes don't fulfill your expectations, you can exchange or return them at no charge for up to 30 days after the purchase date.
Nike Free shoes are designed to let your feet move more freely and naturally than typical athletic shoes. The company's website claims this freedom allows your feet to grow stronger over time.
"Nike Free is my favorite shoe for walking around in all day," said Heather Binns, a certified personal trainer and coach at Full of Life Fitness in North Hollywood, California.
While some shoes are best suited for narrow feet, Nike Free is designed for average-width and wider feet. Because you'll likely use muscles in your feet more than you're accustomed to, Nike recommends you make a gradual transition from your current shoes to Nike Free. Nike Free shoes are available at most online and brick-and-mortar shoe stores and sell for $95 to $160.
Binns and Bergin both recommend New Balance as a suitable brand for nurses -- and you need not opt for walking-specific styles. Running shoes, for example, are designed for high levels of impact and activity.
"New Balance makes a high-quality running shoe," Bergin said. "In general, I think good quality running shoes make good work shoes."
As an added perk, New Balance stores are staffed with professionals who can help you make the best purchasing decision while allowing you to learn more about your shoe-fitting needs. New Balance running shoe prices range from about $64.99 to $174.99, depending on the make and model. They're available at most athletic shoe stores and websites.
Dr. Jordana Szpiro, a podiatrist and board-certified foot surgeon in Boston, recommends nurses seek a "well-cushioned shoe with a supportive sole with some give and good arch support, well contoured to your foot." Her prime example is Nurse Mates.
As the name suggests, Nurse Mates are specifically designed to meet the demands of a nurse's hectic, on-the-go work demands. Most are black or white with slip-resistant soles. For the best support, choose Nurse Mates clogs with a back or an athletic-style shoe that suits your foot arch and width. Nurse Mates clogs and lace-up athletic shoes range in price from $67.95 to $77.95. If you don't want to buy them through the company's website, you can pin down the retailer nearest to through the company's virtual store finder.