Just like for nurses and care workers, the shoes you wear as a surgeon can have a significant effect on how you work and how you feel. Surgeons and many others in a hospital or clinic are on their feet all day, and as such, uncomfortable shoes can cause fatigue, discomfort, back problems, foot problems, distraction, and more. As a surgeon, being distracted by your back or your feet while you’re working is a recipe for disaster!
A good pair of comfortable and supportive shoes can go a long way towards preventing or alleviating these problems. However, it’s not as easy as just wearing your favorite shoes to work, either. Medical professionals have specific standards of dress that they should adhere to both for safety and sanitary reasons.
As such, in the paragraphs below, we’ll tell you all about how to find and purchase the best shoes for surgeons. Traditionally, surgeons wear clogs in the operating room and at work, though lace-up tennis shoes aren’t unheard of, either. These shoes provide more support than loose-fitting clogs, but they’re not allowed in all environments. We’ll go over several shoes of each type below.
Read Also: Best Shoes for Waitressing or Restaurant Workers
Our Top Picks
- Best Overall Choice: Dansko Professional Clog
- Best Premium Product: Birkenstock Boston Soft Footbed
- Best Value Product: Skechers Women’s D’Lites Lace-up Sneaker
Shoe Restrictions and Recommendations for Surgeons
For the most part, surgeons are permitted to wear virtually any shows in the operating room, with one restriction: they must be closed-toed. This only makes sense in the operating room, of course.
If a surgeon were to drop a sharp object like a scalpel, it could easily damage their toes if they were to wear open-toed shoes. This would be even worse if said implement were covered in bodily fluids; diseases transmitted through fluids this way could be transferred to the surgeon, in the worst case.
Bodily fluids alone can be a concern, as well. Despite the surgeon’s best efforts, sometimes blood and other fluids can go beyond the operating table. Births are an excellent example.
Aside from puncture or crushing hazards from falling objects, hygiene is its own concern, as well. Not only is getting blood and other fluids on your skin a health hazard – it’s gross, too!
For this exact reason, many surgeons prefer to wear shoe coverings in the operating room itself. This helps to protect shoes that have vulnerable areas, such as laces or mesh. However, as long as the closed-toed shoe requirement is met, just about any shoe is permissible – even strange ones like:
- Cowboy boots
- High heels
- Tennis shoes
While closed-toed shoes are the only real “requirement” among surgeons’ shoes, there are a few more recommendations to keep in mind, too. Non-slip soles are a critical example. We talked about bodily fluids above, and these same fluids can result in slippery conditions in the operating room. While non-stick rubber can’t prevent you from slipping all the time, they will reduce the chance of such a thing happening.
Of course, there are a lot of other recommendations for surgeons’ shoes that aren’t necessarily required. If you wanted to, you could wear the most uncomfortable, ugly shoes you wanted into surgery. However, you would end up with soreness at the end of the day, and you could end up causing yourself long-term issues, too.
Ill-fitting shoes, especially when you’re on your feet all day, can cause many issues, including the following:
- Plantar fasciitis
- Athlete’s foot or other infections
- Ingrown toenails
- Back pain
- Bad posture
- Foot pain
If you work on your feet as surgeons do, you’re probably familiar with many of the above symptoms already. However, you’d be relieved to know that cushioned, well-fitting shoes can keep these symptoms at bay and reduce your risk of injury, too.
Loose-fitting shoes, for example, can be tripping hazards that could even lead to twisted or sprained ankles. This is especially common with clogs and other slip-on shoes, so it’s something you should be aware of.
Of course, well-fitting shoes are always a recommendation for people who are on their feet all day. But imagine how unfortunate it would be for a surgeon to trip or twist their ankle while in the midst of an operation. They could end up compromising themselves, their team, and even their patient in the process.
Standard-issue doctor and nurse clogs aren’t typically the most fashionable shoes you’ll ever see or wear. They’re made to be practical and functional, not fashion-forward. However, they do come in a variety of unique designs that help surgeons, doctors, and other medical professionals show their personal style despite that. Tennis shoes can share some of the same traits, too.
In the end, the shoes you wear in the operating room are mostly up to your discretion. As long as they promote your long-term health and comfort, keep you and your patients safe, and match your definitions of style, then they’re a definite success.
Best Shoes for Surgeons
Deciding which type of shoes to wear in the operating room is just the beginning. Even beyond shape, fit, and style, shoes for surgeons can significantly differ. We’ll show you that through the recommendations below.
1. Skechers Men’s Elite Flex Wasik Loafer
This shoe from Sketchers is an excellent one to start our list with, and it’s an excellent example of the non-clog options that surgeons can wear, too. These shoes are very lightweight, with a foam outsole, a knitted mesh upper, and decorative features instead of laces. If you find that your calves, knees, and ankles are fatigued after a long day, then these lightweight shoes may be the answer to your problems.
While these shoes don’t come in an incredible array of colors, they come in enough options besides black-on-black to satisfy someone looking for another option. Additionally, while these are branded as men’s shoes, they’d likely be suitable as a unisex shoe, as well. They come complete with a comfortable memory foam insole that cushions the foot, too.
As far as a lightweight, sporty-looking shoe goes, these are some of the best you’ll get. However, as with many name-brand shoe options, they can be imitated by less-than-savory companies and sold as the same thing.
This can happen with Sketchers, Merrell (another brand we’ll be looking at), Crocs, and almost any famous brand of shoe, so it’s not localized to these shoes, so please be careful about where you buy your shoes from. If you suspect that something’s not quite right with your shoes, don’t tough it out and keep wearing them; return them immediately and buy them directly from the dealer instead.
That being said, these shoes may not be your best option because of their mesh construction, either. If you’re a surgeon that almost exclusively tends to partake in small-scale surgeries and operations, these may be okay. However, without external shoe covers, they can be susceptible to liquid invasion.
In the end, if you’re specifically looking for a lightweight shoe, these are an excellent option. However, they have enough other drawbacks, such as a distinct lack of arch support, that unless you need lightweight shoes, they’re not your best option. However, that doesn’t mean they’re not a great contender; for what they are, they do their job well.
- Several color options
- Prone to water invasion
- Lack of arch support
2. Merrell Men’s Encore Gust Slip-On Shoe
Aside from their slip-on nature, these clog-style shoes are about as different from the previous Sketchers we looked at as you can possibly get. These shoes are not lightweight, they have a rubber outsole and a leather upper, and they have excellent shock absorption qualities. The soles are also non-stick, unlike the previous shoes, and Merrell is known for their arch support, as well.
These shoes also have a two-inch rubber heel that’s relatively common in clog-style shoes. This helps to absorb shock all day long and improves your shoes’ grip, too, but it inevitably makes these shoes much more substantial than the previous alternative. Some wearers will prefer the lightweight shoe, while others will surely think the added shock absorption is worth it.
Additionally, the thick rubber sole on these shoes tends to provide more cushioning, too. A thinner sole, no matter how much memory foam is layered over it, just can’t offer the same level of all-day compression that a thicker sole can. Additionally, this shoe has an air cushion inside of this thick sole, too, further improving upon its comfort.
While these shoes have a non-permeable rubber outsole that doesn’t breathe well, they’re lined with a moisture-wicking mesh that keeps feet dry and sweat-free. They won’t ever be able to match an all-mesh shoe like the previous one as a sweaty-feet solution, but they’re an excellent alternative for those that need non-permeable shoes. With full-grain leather outsoles, these shoes will protect your feet from any spill or dropped tool you might see on the job.
These shoes do tend to be a bit loose, but at the same time, a bit narrower than you might expect, especially around the opening. As such, they may be unsuitable for people with broad or duck-shaped feet. All in all, though, these shoes will be an excellent option for those who need an all-day shoe that provides excellent support and protection. They do only come in black or brown, but if your workplace asks that you follow a dress code, this will work to your advantage.
The one thing to keep in mind about these shoes is that they are indeed backless. They’re formed so that their backless shape shouldn’t flop or wiggle around despite this, but some workplaces may specify that backless shoes are not allowed, as this can be a safety concern and tripping hazard. Make sure your workplace allows them before making this purchase, and make sure you’re okay with this backless fit, too.
- Comfortable and supportive
- Protects from fluids and dropped tools
- All-day cushioning
- Non-stick sole
- Too narrow for some wide feet
3. Crocs Bistro Unisex Clog
If you’re a fan of clogs (or any outdoor sandal, for that matter), you’ve probably heard of Crocs before. While the original Crocs aren’t as suitable for the workplace due to their perforated design, these Crocs were explicitly made with service professionals in mind.
These Crocs don’t have the “polka-dot holes” that the original Crocs style features and they have a thicker metatarsal shield that works to protect your feet from drops and spills. They’re also made with slip-resistant treads that help you keep your footing at work, though the Crocs foam material (called Croslite) will never be as slip-proof as a genuine rubber sole.
Unlike the leather Merrell clogs above, these Crocs come in several different work-friendly color options, such as black, white, grey, and navy. Additionally, you can’t get more waterproof than crocs! Since they’re made of nonporous foam, not only are they waterproof, but they float, too! For this reason, they’re an excellent choice for waterparks and other aquatic adventures, but they’ve proven their use in the workplace, as well.
One thing to note about these shoes, since they’re entirely waterproof, is that they don’t breathe at all. While the Merrells above at least have a moisture-wicking liner that keeps feet dry, these shoes do not – there’s only the Croslite material to speak of.
As such, if you’re prone to getting sweaty feet, these are not the model for you, but they do come in varieties with more ventilation holes. Predictably, these varieties won’t be able to protect you from moisture as well as these shoes, but they’ll add in a bit more airflow instead. Alternatively, moisture-wicking socks could do a lot to make these shoes more bearable.
Of course, the one main drawback of these shoes (and all Crocs, in fact), is that many people find them to be terribly ugly! The shape and style of these shoes are all blocky and utilitarian, even to the point where some require ordering a size down just to get them to fit correctly. Additionally, since they’re a unibody, molded shoe, these are particularly sensitive to counterfeiting, so keep this in mind.
- Slip-resistant (but not non-slip)
- Crocs offers many styles and colors to choose from
- Inexpensive (compared to many clogs)
- Easy to counterfeit
- Some sizing quirks
4. Lugz Men’s Clipper Sneaker
These sneakers from Lugz are an excellent example of the options available to surgeons that dislike clogs, tennis shoes, and the other shoes typically worn in the medical professions. These sneakers are thin, lightweight, and lacking in support, but they’re incredibly fashion-forward. While they come in work-friendly black-on-black, they come in several other color options, too, ranging from patterned camo to fire engine red.
However, one thing to remember is that these shoes are built with form, not function, in mind. While they’re highly fashionable, they’re not really intended to be worn as an all-day on-your-feet shoe. It’s essential to keep this in mind while purchasing them, as they will neither hold up as long nor provide as much support as a shoe that’s meant for all-day wear.
That being said, these shoes are workable, especially for the price. These shoes are incredibly affordable, and while some other shoes in our lineup can vary widely in price based on size, these shoes will not. They are undoubtedly the best value in our list, though they probably don’t last as long as the sturdier options here, either.
Because these shoes are so inexpensive, you can easily outfit them with orthotics or supportive insoles to make them more bearable throughout the day. However, because these shoes already fit quite snugly, this may not be a feasible option for everyone. You should already be ordering at least a size up for these shoes to fit correctly, and any more sizes up will result in anomalies and quirks. As such, if you have unusually wide or tall feet, it may be best to avoid these.
As long as you keep the limitations of these sneakers in mind, they’re an excellent option for both men and women who enjoy the style. While they provide a decent amount of breathability due to their canvas upper, they also offer a bit less protection to the tops of your feet. While the cloth should protect your feet from spatter and lightweight falling objects, they’re far from puncture-proof, and they won’t survive being drenched, either.
- Suitable for men and women
- Rubber sole
- Fits very small
- Lacks support
- Mediocre foot protection
5. Skechers Men’s Superior Milford Slip-On Loafer
These loafers from Sketchers are the big brother to the skater sneakers we looked at just above. While these loafers are just a bit more casual than the previous shoes we’ve looked at due to their chunky mesh weave, they’re still sharp-looking, and they provide a measure more support than the other sneakers we looked at. These shoes also have a gripper, sportier outsole than the sneakers above, though they’re both made of the same non-slip rubber.
It’s apparent from the color options that this shoe is available in that it wasn’t designed to be a working shoe; it doesn’t have an all-black variant, for example (though its all-grey option is an excellent alternative). However, this doesn’t mean it fulfills this role inadequately. While it can be a much more expensive option than the Lugs above, it still fills that style requirement while maintaining function as a work shoe.
The main difference between these shoes and the Lugs we just looked at is in support. These shoes have a decent amount of arch support where the Lugs do not. As such, while these shoes can be undeniably more expensive, you can save money on a costly support insert with these shoes, too.
These shoes are also incredibly comfortable and suitable for walking. While the clogs in our lineup may be ideal for standing for long periods of time, these shoes are excellent for those surgeons who walk for a good portion of the day. While they work for standing, too, their real value lies in their walking comfort.
While these shoes aren’t water or moisture resistant at all, they’re very breathable, and they’re made of high-quality materials, too. What isn’t mesh on the exterior of these shoes is 100% suede, making them feel luxurious and high-end. However, one drop of moisture and these shoes will be ruined, too! As such, to get the most use out of these shoes, you need to be a surgeon who doesn’t mind wearing covers over these while in the operating room.
All in all, as long as the more casual look of these loafers is permissible at your place of work, they’re an excellent option, especially if you’re looking for shoes in the loafer-sneaker style. Do keep in mind that sizing on these shoes might take some getting used to, as they’re specifically designed to fit a bit loosely.
- Comfortable and supportive
- Several color options
- Susceptible to water and moisture
- Might be a bit too casual for some establishments
- No “black-on-black” option
6. Skechers Women’s D’Lites Lace-up Sneaker
These lace-up tennis shoes from Sketchers are an excellent example of the ideal tennis shoes to wear at work. While these shoes are designed exclusively for women (while they might work for men if you ordered them in a large enough size, they have a feminine design that would likely be off-putting to most men), we’re using them more as an example to follow here. Sketchers, of course, has men’s counterparts to these tennis shoes, and many other brands do, too.
The beauty of lace-up sneakers is that they provide a more secure fit than any of the other options in our lineup. This is excellent both for people who walk most of their day and those who stand most of their day alike. They’re especially useful for those who are prone to twisting their ankles or tripping over their own feet!
While this “D’Lites” style from Sketchers is undeniably a bit flashy, these shoes come in several all-black options, including a mesh-free all-leather option, too. However, for those looking for a bit more variety, these shoes also come in many other attractive colors. If your workplace allows them, they’re a great way to express your personality and style through color.
Another excellent option about these shoes is that they come in flexible material options. Not only do these shoes come in an all-leather (synthetic) option, but they also come in an all-knit version, too. The main style of this shoe seems to be suede-on-mesh or suede-on-textile, but besides the mesh and leather options, there are a few full suede colors to choose from, too. There’s even a holographic option that bling lovers will appreciate!
All in all, if you’re looking for the full package in terms of support, stability, and flexibility, these shoes (and others like them) are an excellent option to pick. Just keep in mind that, as they have laces and an open tongue, they can be prone to water intrusions. They’re best worn with shoe protectors in the operating room if you want to maintain the integrity of these shoes.
- Many color and style options
- Snug, secure fit with laces
- Non-slip rubber sole
- A bit on the heavy side
- Some women may not like the “girlish” style
- Memory foam sole tends to thin quickly
7. New Balance Men’s MW411v2 Walking Shoe
These men’s tennis shoes from New Balance are an excellent example of the options that exist on the market for men. While the D’Lites we looked at above are specifically for women, these tennis shoes are a similar option, but for men. As such, they don’t come in as many styles or material possibilities as the women’s shoes above, but it’s enough to satisfy any male looking to buy them. They come in all-white and all-black for work purposes, too.
Like the D’Lites above, these tennis shoes come in both all-leather (synthetic) and mesh-on-suede options, too. If you’re looking for tennis shoes that repel water a bit more reliably, the leather style is for you. However, if you’re looking for more breathability, the mesh and suede is also an excellent option.
Like our previous shoes, these also have a rubber outsole, which is purportedly the best for slick surfaces. However, the synthetic leather variety of these shoes, both in black and in white, apparently falls prey to some quality issues. If you absolutely need the leather look, keep in mind that these shoes may wear out quickly, and keep an eye on your return period just in case.
While it’s unfortunate that the construction of these shoes can be shoddy, they’re still an excellent shoe. Of course, quality flaws like these can sometimes be due to counterfeit shoes being mixed in with the real ones, too, or they can come about as a result of a manufacturing change.
That being said, New Balance has historically made excellent shoes that hold up to abuse well, so the relative fragility of the leather shoe option may just be a fluke. However, that doesn’t mean you should discount these shoes as an excellent option for men. These tennis shoes and many others like them provide more support and security than you’ll ever get with a clog or slip-on sneaker, regardless of how well the clogs fit!
- Several color and style options
- Non-stick rubber outsole
- Good support
- Quality control issues
- Previous generations of shoes seem to be better quality
- Inaccurate sizing
8. Skechers Performance Women’s Go Walk Slip-On Walking Shoe
The GoWalk series for women is one of Sketchers’ most successful lines of walking shoes. However, surprisingly, these are not lace-up shoes; these are lightweight, slip-on walking shoes. While they don’t have the same level of platform support and stability as a lace-up shoe, they make up for that in comfort and weight.
This is a 100% synthetic fabric shoe, but it doesn’t have any mesh areas. As such, while it might protect your feet from a bit of moisture, it would be difficult to get any stains out of these shoes again. As such, wearing protection with them is definitely recommended.
Additionally, the lightweight, flexible uppers on these shoes provide little in the way of drop protection, but they should offer a small measure of protection against sharp objects. They won’t protect your toes from crushing, but what they sacrifice in rigidity they make up for in breathability.
One essential thing to note is that, while these walking shoes are incredibly comfortable due to their synthetic foam insole, they don’t provide the same level of grip as rubber insoles, either. This is a trade-off of having synthetic outsoles. If you work in an environment with floors that are frequently slippery, this is something to keep in mind.
This shoe is available in several different styles and colors, including dress-code-friendly all-white and all-black options. However, they come in a few spirited color choices, too.
All in all, these shoes are an excellent option for the female surgeon on the go. As long as you keep their limitations in mind, these shoes will serve you well. In fact, the entire Sketchers GoWalk line is an excellent source of comfortable and breathable shoes. Just be sure that these shoes can thoroughly protect you from the hazards you experience at work before purchasing them.
- Lightweight and comfortable
- Several color options
- Lacks in protection
- Not a non-slip shoe
9. Dansko Professional Clog
These clogs from Dansko genuinely are the industry standard when it comes to professional clogs. Unlike the other shoes in our lineup, these carry the seal of approval from the American Podiatric Medical Association. This means that these shoes are known and proven to promote good foot health while on the job.
While these clogs, like all clogs, are a bit on the heavy side, that’s a sacrifice that many professionals are willing to deal with. They do provide a stable platform and cushion that’s great for those who need extra support. However, as a result of this, these shoes can be rather tight across the arch, making them difficult for those with wide feet to wear.
Clogs such as these indeed are a very different kind of shoe. They’re meant to slide up and down your heel slightly as you walk, which may take some real getting used to if you haven’t worn this type of shoe before. However, they’re one of the only shoes that can balance a loose fit with excellent support and stability.
These clogs have an excellent protection factor, as well. While, since they don’t fit tightly, the opportunity exists for small objects to fall inside this shoe, the shoe itself is rigid, not flexible. Because of this, just about anything that might fall on or towards your feet will simply bounce off these clogs harmlessly. They won’t replace a steel-toed boot for dangerous environments, of course, but they provide all the protection you should ever need in a medical setting.
Out of all of the shoes we’ve looked at so far, these Dansko clogs are available in the most color and style options. While the basic version is available in several leather finishes, such as Cabrio leather, box leather, and oiled leather, they’re also available in different materials (such as Nubuck), patterns (such as floral prints and sparkles), two-tones, and even tooled leather.
If you’re looking for a time-tested shoe that will still let you show your own sense of style, these are unequivocally the shoes for you – as long as you can get used to them, that is.
- Time-tested style and design
- Countless color and material options
- Structured and supportive
- Water and impact resistant
- Clogs are not for everyone
10. Birkenstock Unisex Boston Soft Footbed
These slide-ons from Birkenstock are a bit of an unexpected addition to our lineup. Like the Merrells we looked at earlier, these shoes are backless, so they may not be allowed in all medical facilities. However, they’re exceedingly comfortable and supportive, one of the hallmarks of Birkenstock shoes.
While these shoes are advertised as being unisex, Birkenstocks have come to be associated more and more with women in recent years. Additionally, these sandals are not intended to be work shoes. However, they do the job of supporting your feet so well that people find them to be excellent work shoes anyway.
While these sandals capitalize on support, they end up sacrificing in some other areas, too. For example, while these shoes have a leather upper, it’s not reinforced. It can easily be caved in or crushed by a heavy object. While the leather upper will prevent your feet from sharp object dangers, they do not protect from heavy falling objects. This is especially true for the suede Birkenstock options.
Birkenstocks come in several different materials and finishes, too. Typically, these shoes come with the option of vegan leather, genuine leather, or suede leather, and they can come in several colors and finishes, too. Despite this, the interior suede-covered cork sole of these shoes remains the same.
As we mentioned, the defining feature of Birkenstock shoes is their level of support. Because of the cork and suede material of these shoes, they mold to the shape of your feet over time. And they already start out comfy, to boot! As such, with these shoes, you start out with proper support, and that support only gets better over time rather than degrading like most shoes.
Another great feature of Birkenstocks is that they’re created to be easy to repair. They can be resoled, renewed, and pretty much completely put back together when they sustain damage or wear out. There’s very little need ever to buy an entirely new pair of Birkenstocks unless you’re looking to own multiple pairs, and this justifies the high price a bit.
All in all, these shoes definitely have some limitations in the workplace. They won’t protect your feet from moisture, for example, though they’ll shield them from some minor splatter if necessary. As long as you’re allowed to wear backless shoes in the workplace, these are an excellent option, but they’re not particularly secure on foot due to the lack of any rear support or strap to keep them in place.
- Excellent support
- Several colors, materials, and styles
- Easy to repair rather than replace
- No backs
- Not overly waterproof
We’ve included a wide variety of excellent working shoes on this list, and while not every shoe will be acceptable for every medical establishment, the full range we’ve provided here should fulfill just about every medical professional’s need. That being said, though, some of the shoes on this list clearly stand out more than others in terms of suitability.
In fact, our best overall choice is the Dansko Professional Clog. While these shoes aren’t cheap, they check off virtually every box on the list of things a surgeon needs in a shoe. Additionally, they even have the American Podiatric Medical Association’s seal of approval! That, coupled with its advanced support and protection, make for an excellent medical shoe – if you can get used to the “clog” aspect of it, that is.
Our favorite premium product, inevitably, is the Birkenstock Boston Soft Footbed shoe. Because this shoe is backless, it may not be appropriate for everyone, and it costs a pretty penny, too. However, like the Dansko Clog above, it’s a unisex shoe, and it lasts longer than just about every other shoe in our lineup. It also provides excellent support due to the way it forms to the shape of your feet.
Our best value product, unsurprisingly, is the Skechers Women’s D’Lites Lace-up Sneaker. While these shoes are meant for women only, they’re an excellent example of the quality and stability that tennis shoes can provide if you find the right ones. They come at a very reasonable price, too, especially when compared to our other two picks! Men may have a harder time finding a tennis shoe that matches this one in terms of quality, but such shoes are definitely out there.
While it might take a few tries before you find the perfect surgeon shoes for you, there’s no doubt that there are plenty of excellent options out there. Even if none of the options on this list appeal to you, we hope we’ve provided you with enough of a starting point that you can make your way from here. Good luck!