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Birkenstock Nursing Shoes: My Recommendations for Comfortable Footwear for Medical Professionals

Updated on March 27, 2015
Chris Telden profile image

At one point, Chris was barely able to walk due to plantar fasciitis. Years of chronic pain led her to treat it at home successfully.

Nursing Shoes Aren't Just for Nurses Anymore...
Nursing Shoes Aren't Just for Nurses Anymore... | Source

Comfy Birks for Nurses Are Still Around!

Has anyone ever said to you, "You should get yourself a pair of nursing shoes?" Nurses have a reputation for foot pain due to spending hours on their feet standing on hard surfaces, so "nursing shoes" has become a euphemism for "comfy work shoes." Well, here they are - a small selection of Birkenstock shoes perfect for nurses, medical staff and pretty much any professional who stands day in and day out to the point of foot pain.

By now, it's well known that Birks offer great arch support. Birkenstock is not the only major brand that does anymore, but I swear it's been doing it the longest. They've been making shoes for health professionals for decades. Such footwear can help prevent foot pain in women and men standing constantly on their feet on hard, ungiving floors for hours on end - something I, after my years in customer service, can attest to.

You might know Birkenstocks as "hippie" sandals, but they got their reputation for a reason. They're supportive and often repairable. They last for years. (After I list the shoe models, you'll find more information about Birks, including tips for those new to wearing them.)

For health professionals, Birkenstock manufactures neutral-colored black, brown and white man-made and leather models suited to working in a hospital setting. Nurses with flat arches, plantar fasciitis, a tendency to overpronation, or simply feet that need extra support are target candidates for Birks. The company is famous for their arch support, molded cork footbeds, and gender-neutral styles (great for feet that don't fit the typical last, like narrow-footed men and wide-footed women). I have worn Birkenstocks for over fifteen years and for people like me who are prone to foot pain, they provide essential relief.

Although I'm neither a nurse nor doctor, I know foot pain! I worked in customer service for many years, in jobs where I had to stand for hours on end on unyielding surfaces. As a full-figured woman with wide width feet and plantar fasciitis, I found Birkenstocks to be hands-down the most comfortable throughout the day. If you're a medical professional, my vote for "best shoe" is any of the following selection.

Are You a Nurse, Medical Staff or Other Stand-all-day Professional?

What Birkenstock nursing shoes or other brand of shoes have you worn and liked the best?

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Birkenstock Sizing is European Sizing for Men and Women

Please note that the sizes are different and follow European, not American, shoe sizes. They are unisex unless stated otherwise. They come in wide widths (indicated by R for Regular) as well as medium widths (indicated by N for Narrow - so note that "N" does not actually indicate a shoe for narrow feet).

Here is a Birkenstock Size Chart for picking out the right size of nursing shoe in the classic line (the line shown here) as well as a how-to-fit-your-Birkenstocks page.

Super Birki Clog for Professionals and Classic Birki Clog

The Birkenstock Super Birki Clog for nurses is a little unusual because it is NOT CUSHIONY. Cushioning is not always needed, or even recommended, for all types of support. The Super Birki clog is supportive and durable, a great medical shoe for people who stand all day. It is also relatively inexpensive and have removable insoles you can switch out with your own choice of arch support.

If you prefer cushiony support, you might want to explore the SAS brand, which has been doing well-cushioned support for nurses for decades. I wore these for some customer service work over twenty years ago. They are blissfully comfortable but they do wear out quickly (in my case, months rather than years).

Birkenstock Paris

I owned a pair of Birkenstock Paris shoes in black smooth leather for many years. They were divine - basically, a neutral-heel clog with mighty arch support but that actually have a back, so don't slip off the foot. It should be noted that though this is a closed-heel style, it's normal for the backs to slip up a bit off your heel when you're walking. Basically, it's a clunky looking, but still cute, Mary Jane. Similar to the London style, but more feminine. They were very comfy and the only maintenance I did on them was get heel taps every couple of years or so to recover the worn-down corners of the heels.

Annapolis Birkenstock

I own the Annapolis shoe in brown suede leather. The footbeds are not removable, but rather contoured and made of cork so they mold to your feet as you wear them. This particular shoe is part of the Footprints collection and uses alternate sizes, so you'd have to go up a size - if you're normally a size 38 in, say, the classic Boston style, you'd be a size 39 in the Annapolis.

The Annapolis has a more modest arch support than the classic shoes. It has a low raised heel and the footbed is not removable. This shoe is unlike the classic Birkenstocks in another way - it has a slight (I believe 1/2 inch) heel. So the heel is NOT a neutral heel. It is best for people accustomed to a bit of a lift in the heel area. Footprints shoes fit more closely than the Classic line. They are less clunky and more elegant.

Tips for Those New to Birkenstocks

If you're new to Birkenstocks, you may find the looser fit at the heel a bit funny. The back of the shoe will allow your foot to slide out at the heel, as if it were a clog, even if it's not one of the clog styles. This is intentional and part of what makes Birkenstock shoes ergonomic to wear.

And then there's arch support. If you've never worn shoes with really good arch support, you may have to ease into your new Birkenstock shoes showly. Before you bring them to work and wear them all day, wear them just for a few minutes the first day, a few more minutes the second day, and gradually increase the length of time until the muscles in the bottoms of your feet get accustomed to the arch support. Eventually, if you're like the many people who are obsessed with Birkenstocks, you may find the Birkenstock arch support to be the most comfortable shoe design ever.

However, although the fit and arch support might feel funny at first, the shoe should not hurt your foot or feel uncomfortable. Birks are designed to feel good, not hurt. So if they don't fit right, maybe your feet are not a good match for Birkenstocks, and you might consider trying a different comfort shoe brand for nurses, like Dansko clogs.

Why Can Birkenstock Shoes Specifically Help Keep Nurses' Feet from Hurting?

The first tip I have for you is NOT to generalize. Birks don't work for everyone. YOUR most comfortable shoe will be the one suited to YOUR individual feet. Some folks like Dansko clogs better (they've been a staple in the nursing community for decades), or Mephisto, Ecco, or other general comfort brands such as you'd find at The Walking Company stores.

The reasons I favor Birkenstock for nurses and medical professionals include:

  • Certain Birkenstock shoe models are made to accommodate professionals such as chefs and nurses, who must do constant standing but also need discreet colors and styles, sometimes with white soles or electrostatic protection.
  • Some have removable footbeds to accommodate the insertion of orthotics.
  • Though Birkenstock makes lace-up shoes in many models, Birkenstock shoes for on-their-feet professionals are slip-on rather than with laces and are very easy to slip on and off. Even when they are closed back, they fit rather like a clog - without a clog's nosebleed height.
  • While not cheap, Birkenstock shoes tend to be durable and well-made. My Birks last me years, even ones I wear all day.
  • Birkenstock shoes are made to be roomy in the toe box. That gives them a somewhat clunky look, but they're made that way for a reason - comfort. When you're standing all day, your feet probably tend to swell throughout the day. The right size Birks will never get tight and pinch your toes.
  • The classic Birkenstock style has a natural neutral heel. This is NOT the same as a negative heel. A neutral heel mimics the level of the heel when going barefoot and neither stretches nor compresses the achilles tendon behind the ankle.
  • Birkenstocks stabilize the foot with a contoured anatomical footbed. The footbed underneath the suede or manmade insole are made with cork, which has many advantages, including:

    1. Cork is supportive, while still being somewhat cushiony. This is great for people who are overweight or on their feet all day.
    2. Cork molds to the individual foot's contours over time.

Nursing Shoes - Dansko

OK, they're not Birkenstocks, but the main other comfortable shoe brand I'd recommend for nurses and medical personnel is Dansko. Dansko makes traditional-style clogs that have the super thick sole. I have owned Dansko clogs and thought they were great, with one caveat. If you are clumsy like me, don't go there. I was always afraid I would trip because of the thick sole. But they do seem to have a built-in stability somehow, because I never did trip over them.

The clogs and shoes have excellent arch support and a bit of a raised heel - though not extreme. They are very durable in my experience.

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