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!
Best Shoes For Clinical Rotations
- Dansko Professional
- Cole Haan Stitchlite
- Adidas Ultraboosts
- Merrell Jungle Slip-Ons
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!
Let’s take a closer look at these recommendations.
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 people 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. This can make 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!
Hugely popular across the pond in the UK’s NHS, Birkenstock’s are growing in popularity stateside too.
Similar to Dansko’s stylistically, Birkenstock’s are a little classier and more varied in style. They’re heavy duty and slip resistant, making them great for any rotation.
They get a great recommendation here…
Cole Haan Stitchlite
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 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.
Adidas’ Ultraboost range comes highly recommended by doctors, nurses and healthcare workers alike. Even if they are on the more expensive side.
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.
Merrell Jungle Slip-Ons
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.
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 extra the first time round!
What Makes a Shoe Great for Clinical Rotations?
Clinical rotations are when med school moves from the classroom to the real world. Now you have wards to work on and patients to monitor. As well as supervisors, residents and attendings to keep happy!
They also involve you being on your feet. As well as helping you rush from ward to ward, the right pair of shoes will prove very important.
Hospital work has its own unique set of circumstances. And things that 100% should be considered when shopping around for footwear.
So here’s what to look out for…
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:
- Sole strength
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.
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.
Born and raised in the UK, Will went into medicine late (31) after a career in digital marketing and journalism. He’s into football (soccer), learned Spanish after 5 years in Spain, and has had his work published all over the web. Read more.