Best Shoes for Clinical Rotations: No More Discomfort

Having a good pair of shoes as you move into the later years of med school is crucial. Take it from me, as soon as you hit the third year and are caught standing on your feet in hospital all day, you’re going to want something comfortable. Something that doesn’t pinch, rub or tear up your feet.

Personally, after starting out with big leather boots, I found the lighter the shoe the better. Sneakers, if your hospital or school allows them, work great here. Even better if they have a bit of stretch to them to accommodate your feet swelling as the day goes on.

One thing to remember when it comes to shoes though; my medical school? Very liberal with their dress code – meaning we can even wear whatever color scrubs we want!

So check your school or hospital’s dress code before you go shopping. As this can limit your buying options.

And you don’t want to waste your money!

Best Shoes for Clinical Rotations

As for my recommendations, there are two styles I’d recommend:

  • Best Overall Pick: Adidas Ultraboosts
  • Best Budget Pick: Merrell Men’s Jungle Moc Slip-Ons

Best Overall Pick: Adidas Ultraboosts

PROSCONS
LightweightPrice
BreathableStyle (not suitable for formal dresscode)
Flexible Stretchweb Outsoles
Heel Frame Support

Why I Recommend Them

Adidas’ Ultraboost range comes highly recommended by doctors, nurses and healthcare workers alike. Even if they are on the more expensive side sneaker-wise.

Here’s YouTube sneakerhead (and nursing student) Jeff Fallout discussing their suitability for hospital work (up against the Nike Vapormax).

The best thing about the Ultraboost? Their Flexible Stretchweb outsoles. The traction on these things is great, meaning you’re unlikely to slip on any spills and thrills both inside and outside of the operating theatre.

Other key things that set this shoe apart from others is the seamless knit finish that Adidas have imprinted with their motion weave technology. This means the Ultraboost stretches to support your feet while the 3D heel frame offers extra arch support.

The lacing system that locks your feet gently into the shoe is another nice touch. The fabric is easy to clean too, meaning you can work with them in almost any ward.

One potential deal breaker (although not for me) is this. The Adidas Ultraboost is unmistakably a sneaker. And looks and performs like a top of the range running shoe.

Meaning in some hospitals, particularly those with a strict dress code, this could be an issue.

Best Budget Pick: Merrell Men’s Jungle Moc Slip-Ons

PROSCONS
PriceWeak Rubber Adhesive
DurabilityWide Heel
Heel Cushioned Support

Why I Recommend Them

Merrell’s are similarly placed to Clarks as a budget-entry brand but offer a bit more technology-wise than the latter.

These Jungle Moc’s are another comfortable slip-on that feature an air cushioned heel that stabilises the shoe and absorbs impact. Making them great for busy students in the middle of rotations.

Here’s Dr Thomas McClellan giving his view on the brand. Although he’s trying out clogs for use in theatre.

Merrell’s are famous for their durability, with many doctors (just like the video above shows) claiming they’ve had pairs last them years.

Similarly the Merrell women’s Jungle Moc walking shoe is another popular choice with female colleagues.

What Makes a Shoe Great for Clinical Rotations?

Clinical rotations are where med school moves from classroom and lecture-based learning to the real world. Now you have wards to work on and patients to check-over. As well as supervisors, residents and attendings to keep happy.

They also involve you being on your feet. As well as being able to rush from room to room in a hospital if you’re suddenly bleeped or called in.

Due to the nature of the work then, you’re going to need a very good pair of shoes. But not just any pair.

Hospital work? Has a unique set of circumstances. And things that absolutely need to be considered when shopping around for footwear.

Here’s where I feel any shoes you buy will need to shape up.

In order of importance:

Comfort

This is the number one thing to consider given the intensity of hospital work. You’ll want something that’s made from a material that’s pliable, that can stretch to work around the shape of your feet.

Here are other key features to look for in terms of comfort:

BreathabilityWeightMaterial
CushioningSole strengthDurability

Style

Certain rotations, that involve a lot of patient-doctor consultation (think family medicine) call for a touch of formality. Others, like surgery, call for practicality (more on this later). Either way you’ll want a pair of shoes versatile enough to do both.

My recommendations? Go for something minimal. Meaning no crazy prints and no bright colors.

Instead go for neutral colors; black, brown, blue etc. And get styles that work with a range of outfits. Both scrubs and white coats.

Practicality

You’ll want your shoes to be machine washable. Hospital work and the myriad procedures you’ll be expected to master; bloods, cannulations etc. can involve various fluids getting on you.

Synthetics are much easier to manage in this regard. But leather can work in winter, especially as they’re usually more water resistant.

Commonly Recommended Brands/Styles

And these are some other brands and styles commonly mentioned by colleagues and clinical workers.

  • Clarks (unisex)
  • Dansko Professionals (women)
  • Crocs (unisex)
  • Cole Haan Wingtip (women)
  • Rockport Men’s World Tour Classic (men)

Dansko Professionals

Dansko are another common recommendation among female clinicians. Like the Ultraboost they also tend to run on the expensive side. But they more than make up for that in terms of the comfort they deliver.

Here’s an interesting testimonial for Dansko’s from an ER nurse. Notice how she mentions being on her feet for such long hours? One famous feature of Dansko’s is the amount of support they offer to arches. Meaning your feet are much less likely to ache at the end of a long shift.

Style-wise Danko’s are considered a clog. Made from 100% leather, most style also offer a padded instep collar.

Possibly the best feature of this brand is the amount of room they allow for in the toe box. This makes them great for med students with wide feet who need something with a bit more space to prevent tight pinching.

A couple of drawbacks I’ve heard from female colleagues of mine rocking a pair of these is that they can run quite heavy. Making them a bit uncomfortable to carry around after changing your kit.

Other doctors critique them for looking ugly. But I don’t mind that. Next to Crocs I think they look quite stylish.

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Clarks Men’s Cotrell Loafer

Clarks are on this list because a lot of med students (not just the men) swear by them. Not only in terms of their price (which is very budget friendly) but also because of their comfort and durability too.

This men’s Cotrell style is a good looking loafer type model that adds a touch of elegance to the white coat or scrub look. It’s also a far cry from the more casual sneaker or tennis shoe look a lot of younger medics seem to go for.

The fact that these are non-marking, 100% leather and have Ortholite memory foams makes them all the more attractive as a sleek, budget shoe for your rotations.

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Crocs

No list of best hospital shoes would be complete without some mention of Crocs. They’re possibly the most common of all brands you’ll see decorating a doctor’s foot.

Check out this surgery resident’s review of the Bistro style.

Favored due to their breathability and open-heel, they are also famously super easy to clean. Thanks mainly due to their synthetic build. Not to mention being waterproof too. Handy when you work on a messy ward.

Although they get some blow-back for looking ugly, they are still one of the most lightweight of styles a med student can choose.

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Cole Haan Womens Stitchlite Wingtip Oxford

Cole Haans have a very strong reputation with clinicians as a brand that combines both comfort and class. The example featured here, the Stitchlite Wingtip Oxford, deserves a place on this list next to other choices like espadrilles.

Available in eight different colors; including optical white, true blue and black, this classy women’s shoe is designed to maximise airflow. Making it a nice choice for rotations during the summer months.

Wingtips are well known for making use of the brand’s Grandfoam technology, which helps the shoe’s out-sole cradle the foot and provide maximum comfort.

One slight drawback to this style is that some claim it to be less robust to leather-style shoes. Especially those like the Clarks and Merrell styles already on this list.

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Rockport Men’s World Tour Classic

Last on the list is the Rockport brand, a quality leather shoe-maker that runs close to the high end of a med student’s budget (although not as steep as the Ultraboosts or Danskos).

Again famed for their comfort and style, the Rockport men’s World Tour Classics are purposely designed with walking in mind and make use of full-grain leathers to do so.

Other great features of this style are the removable footbeds. Meaning you can customise the shoes with your own orthotics without disrupting the padded tongue that cushions your shin.

The wide-base of this shoe is another good choice for students with feet on the flatter side of the spectrum who need plenty of space to avoid blisters and unnecessary rubbing.

Summary

Any choice you make on footwear during your clinical years should be guided mainly by your feet. From my own experience trying to cut corners with my budget and buying a pair of very uncomfortable Sketchers, I now wish I spent the extra the first time round!

Other popular brands that kept cropping up in my discussion with other med students that might be worth a shout:

You can find out more about each and see their different styles etc by following the links.

Stay happy on your feet in healthcare.