If it’s true that you can learn a lot about a profession by the shoes they wear, then surgeons desire comfort over all else. And it makes sense. They have one of the most highly trained jobs on earth. It requires years of dedication and focus. They need to be alert and ready at a moment’s notice to save a life or slice a ligament.
But there’s more to the best shoes for surgeons than comfort alone. Like any profession, their shoes balance style with materials and ingenuity. Plus, not all shoes for surgeons boast the same specifications. What’s perfect for one surgeon may be rubbish for another.
Below, I’ve put together the complete list of my favorite surgeon shoes as well as important answers and tips to simplify your purchase. From renown brands like Merrell and Crocs to some insider secrets many new surgeons haven’t heard of, you’ll find something on this list that will last you hundreds of grueling hospital hours.
Table of Contents
- Best Shoes for Surgeons – Comparison
- Top 7 Reviews: Shoes for Surgeons
- Merrell Men’s Encore Gust Slip-On Shoe
- Merrell Men’s Encore Bypass Slip-On Shoe
- Calzuro Autoclavable Clog
- Keen Utility Men’s PTC Slip-On
- Crocs Classic Clog
- Skechers for Work Mcallen Flex Advantage
- Dansko Men’s Professional Oiled Leather Clog
- Why Do Surgeons Need a Special Shoe?
- What to Consider While Choosing the Best Shoes for Surgeons
- Frequently Asked Questions
- My Verdict
Best Shoes for Surgeons – Comparison
|Merrell Men’s Encore Gust||Leather||Casual||Ortholite footbed|
|Merrell Men’s Encore Bypass||Leather||Casual||Breathable mesh|
|Calzuro Autoclavable Clog||Rubber||Clog||Autoclavable|
|Keen Utility Men’s PTC||Leather||Casual||Slip resistant|
|Crocs Classic Clog Shoe||Rubber||Clog||Synthetic sole|
|Skechers for Work Mcallen||Synthetic||Casual||Synthetic sole|
|Dansko Men’s Oiled Leather||Leather||Clog||Washable|
Top 7 Reviews: Shoes for Surgeons
The Merrell company opened its doors with one product, a cowboy boot. In the early 80s, Randy Merrell traded in his cushy industry job and went it alone. He expanded on his years of shoe making and introduced a level of quality and comfort that had been lacking in the shoe industry. Soon he had multiple inventive designs. One of his most famous is his unique slip-on shoe.
The Merrell Men’s Encore Gust Slip-On boasts one of my favorite insoles and tread combinations ever. I placed the Encore as my number one pick because I’ve owned them longer than any other shoe in my closet. After years of heavy use, the outsole still grips, and the original insole still softens my footsteps.
Merrell fashions the Encore out of 100% full grain leather. That means it’s 100% washable and 100% waterproof. I like the feel of the shoe. It’s soft to the touch strong enough that it won’t scuff or tear. The double-stitching throughout the cuff and inside seam provides additional longevity often lacking in leather slip-ons.
For you surgeons seeking comfort above all else, the 2” shock absorbing heel in the Encore will make you a devout Merrell fan. Flat shoes often degrade your arch and cause back pain. Unlike a lot of slip-on shoes, the heel here is much taller. This provides a more professional look and supports those with strong or wide arches.
I also love what Merrell brandishes the compression-molded EVA footframe. It’s a mouthful of a phrase. But it means they have molded the sole with high quality plastics. It won’t break down or lose its shape in two years or two decades. The grip here is outstanding.
Another addition to the comfort you’ll enjoy with the Merrell Men’s Encore Gust Slip-On Shoe is an Ortholite Footbed. With over 500 brands trusting Ortholite to please their customers and ease their throbbing ankles, this is a footbed you won’t want to replace.
If you’re searching for an all-around shoe that’ll keep you comfortable for those long shifts in the ER, I cannot think of a better fit. The rubber tread won’t mark up the floor, nor does it squeak on freshly waxed tile. The heavy-duty rubber Merrell utilizes throughout the shoe is sturdy and malleable. I’ve yet to tear the seams thanks to the reinforced stitching. The Merrell Men’s Encore Gust Slip-On Shoe comes highly recommended for new and seasoned surgeons.
While Merrell began in 1981 with one boot and a truckload of ambition, the company has transformed into a leader in comfortable slip-on shoes. That means when they have a good idea, like the Encore, they don’t stop there. They find new and ingenious ways to adapt the shoe for various environments and preferences.
Case in point: Merrell Men’s Encore Bypass Slip-On. Like the Gust in my number one spot, the Bypass shares similarities in the sole while revamping the upper for men and women that need breathability.
The Bypass has two materials. The heel and lip are made from 100% leather. And everything else from the vamp to the toe is a tough and flexible mesh. This means you’ll enjoy solid control in the back of your foot and a soft and light experience from the top of your foot to your toes.
The only downside to the Bypass’s design, and why I lowered it to my number two spot, is that the mesh doesn’t clean as easily as the Gust. While the exterior of the mesh is a leather material, the inside is made of a soft foam. Covering the shoe in disposable booties solves the problem. Still, the mesh adds a layer of maintenance and prevention not found in the Gust.
On the plus side, I love the look of the Bypass. The elastic slits in the side afford some slack. That means they slip on easily. A big plus for those of you with wide feet. And the mesh has the benefit of requiring less working in. The first moment you try these Merrells on will feel the same as the fiftieth.
The Bypass ships with a shock absorbing 2-inch heel. By providing just enough height, your back and shoulders won’t ache. Many 1-ich or lower heeled shoes can strain your back and neck muscles. While a small problem for most workers, surgeons need all the help they can get, and the Bypass provides such support.
I also love the M-Select Grip on the outsole. It’s not as clingy as the Gust. Instead, it provides an even traction in both wet and dry conditions. Should a spill occur during an operation, you can trust your Bypass’s sole to keep you standing and in control.
I recommend the Merrell Men’s Encore Bypass Slip-On for surgeons that love the comfort and longevity of a classic Merrell but need a lighter and more breathable shoe.
I’m sure most surgeons on the hunt for new footwear have run into Calzuro. That’s because they’re one of the top manufacturers of healthcare shoes in the world. These are lightweight clogs with antistatic properties. When professionals think of buying plastic shoes, they think Calzuro.
I admit, I was late to the Calzuro bandwagon. I had tried plastic clogs before, but never knew that the main brand in the niche was a little Italian outfit with a big reach. I remedied that problem just this year. And I admit, there’s a unique feel to Calzuro that other shoe companies cannot replicate.
These are 100% latex free plastic shoes. That means they’re recyclable and sterilizable. Some surgeons, especially those in ER operating rooms, will find the no-fuss plastic extremely easy to clean. You won’t need to wear cloth booties with these. I know of some surgeons that simply dump them in an alcohol bath post-operation and call it a day.
The ergonomic design of the autoclavable clog seems strange, or at least it did to me. But once I put them on, I immediately understood why these shoes are renown. They feel light and comfortable. The 1.5-inch heel reduces back fatigue and adds a little height for long bouts of standing.
As the title suggests, the one-material design allows you to throw these clogs into your hospitals autoclave or pressurized sterilization unit. How many shoes do you know of that you can throw into a pressure cooker to clean them? I only know one. Calzuro.
The main downside to the all-plastic design is breathability. Unlike leather and other shoe materials, plastic may float but it does not breathe. If you plan to wear your surgery shoes for upwards of eight to twelve hours with no relief, I’m warning you now. Your feet will sweat.
I’ve read that some surgeons and other healthcare providers have circumambulated the sweating issue by wearing absorbable socks. Others simply don’t wear socks at all. I don’t recommend the former, however, since the plastic insole can chaff bare skin.
Speaking of insole, the Calzuro Autoclavable Clog ships without one. Some customers have complained that the product desperately needs an insole, but I haven’t found that to be the case. Indeed, the shoe will require breaking in. Your first few weeks with a Calzuro may not be as comfortable as with a Merrell. But once you wear in the plastic, you’ll have a fantastic shoe for years.
Keen’s journey to success began in 2003 with their first product, a sandal that protected the wearer’s toes. Until Keen, expert hikers would never dare hike in sandals. Today, hiking sandals are a shoe category that earns millions of consumer dollars a year.
Many of Keen’s shoes revolve around their unique toe design, including my fourth pick, the Utility Men’s PTC Slip-On. This is a work shoe that has devout followers in the healthcare sector. Much of the widespread fame of this Keen product comes from its durable materials.
The PTC Slip-On is made from a 100% leather upper and an elastic gore sole. I found the leather soft yet scratch resistant. It’s also water resistant and very easy to clean. I especially liked the robe-like folded design of the leather. Keen wrapped the leather on an angle, crisscrossing at the quarter point. It’s a unique design that I’ve yet to see replicated.
These shoes are incredibly comfortable. You can work in these shoes for long hours with no aches in your calves or currents of pain creeping up your back. This is thanks to the Keen.Cush insole. Keen fabricates this insole at their facility. They don’t hire out the work. It’s made of recycled Polyurethane, cork, and memory foam. It molds to your feet smartly, adjusting to your movements and unique pressure points of your feet.
Slipping the Keen Utility Men’s PTC on and off doesn’t require a shoehorn or even your thumb. The single elastic webbing on the inside lip of the shoe expands just enough to help those with wider feed. And the deep V design secures your feet without over-tightening.
The grip on these Keens is outstanding, too. The shoes boast oil and slip resistant properties. I love the crosshatch striations inside the diamond grip cut outs. These are one of the best gripping shoes I’ve ever worn.
Keen primarily designed these shoes for service jobs, like bartender and chef. That means they’re easy to keep clean and are ideal for long periods of standing. I recommend the Keen Utility Men’s PTC Slip-On for surgeons worried about slips, trips, and falls.
When Crocs released their Classic Clog in 2002, it turned heads and raised eyebrows. The shoes were different and impossible to categorize. Today, they’ve sold over 600 million pairs and counting. Instead of fitting into a niche, they made their own.
There are plenty of brands that have cadged the original Crocs design, but not fit and comfortably and last as long as the Classics. Yet, many doctors have ignored these best surgeon shoes. I’m here to make a case for them for you right now.
The Classic Clog Comfortable Slip-On Casual Water Shoe by Crocs vaunts one of the most lightweight designs you will find online or in-store. The entire product is made of 100% Croslite, which is a variation of EVA foam. You can find EVA foam in various products. For example, most flip-flops are also made of EVA foam.
Durable yet pliant, Croslite conforms to your feet and is ideal for those with wide or temperamental feet. The original Crocs design is one of the roomiest shoes I’ve ever tested. This means it won’t gall the sides of your feet or cramp your toes.
Crocs designed the outer sole for both grip and comfort, too. I found they’re great for general slips, but not as oil-proof as the products higher on my list. That’s because the plastic sole is harder and less adaptive than the Merrell or Keen shoes.
What these shoe lack in grip they more than make up for with breathability. Working all day in these shoes won’t cause your feet to sweat or itch. The ports on the sides and vamp of the shoe offer continued air flow for those with sweaty feet or in hot working conditions.
The only downside for surgeons is that Crocs Classic Clog will not protect your feet from spills as with fully enclosed toed shoes. You can wear booties to prevent a lot of mishaps. For those worried about needles or other sharp utensils dropping onto your feet, consider another brand.
The heel isn’t as high as the Merrells or the Keens, which means those with weak arches may feel achy after standing for many hours. For the rest of you, I recommend Crocs Classic Clog if you want a lightweight and inexpensive shoe that frees you from the restrictions found in other slip-on products.
Sketchers launched their first product in 1992. Back then, they were a hiking boot company offering the same quality as Timberland or Merrell at a fraction of the cost. Almost 30 years later, and the company sells affordable shoes to worldwide markets, from toddlers to golf professionals.
One of my favorite Sketchers products is their Mcallen Flex Advantage for service industry workers. Like the Keens earlier on my list, they designed these shoes for cooks and other men and women in the food industry. This means the shoe has unique features that aid those not just wielding chef’s knives but scalpels too.
The biggest benefit to this Sketchers shoe is the anti-slip outsole. The shoe passed the ASTM International Mark II slip test. According to the test, these shoes provide traction in moderately oily or wet conditions. This makes them ideal for the operating room.
The uppers feature a mesh fabric exterior and a foam inside. They’re stain resistant but not water resistant. That means they’re easy to clean but your feet will get wet if liquid spills onto the upper.
I like the look of the Skechers‘s Mcallen Flex Advantage. If they seem comfortable from the photo, that’s because they are. They remind me of a house slipper, but with a thick heel and memory foam insole. I also find the gores on the sides of the shoe helpful for slipping them on and off.
My main gripe with the shoe is that the soft synthetic mesh upper absorbs smells easier than other product on my list. Even after washing them with detergent I found the smell to linger. Also, if you work with powdery white substances, like talc, expect them to cake into the mesh fabric.
If you’re rough with the backstay and heel when you slide them on, you can also eventually cause it to fold inward. Once you’ve done that, the material may dig into your heel. You can easily remedy this flaw by holding the backstay as you slide the shoes on.
Overall, this is an affordable and comfortable anti-slip work shoe. They feel fantastic, even after ten or twelve hours of constant standing.
The owners of Dansko, Mandy Cabot and Peter Kjellerup, were originally horse trainers. Their initial inspiration for Dansko was the ideal barn shoe. They loved clogs, particularly those from Europe. Tired of traveling across the Atlantic to buy them, they began making the clogs themselves.
The Dansko clog is one of the top health professional shoes, right up there with the Calzuro. I’m sure many of you were waiting for this brand to appear on this list. If you’ve been wondering if a shoe this expensive is worth the cost, the answer is an emphatic yes.
Everything I love about Dansko Clogs comes down to craftmanship. These are a true 100% leather shoe with a thick rubber sole. Like my number one work shoe, Merrell’s Encore, the Dansko boasts a 2-inch heel. This provides exceptional comfort and stability for surgeons with long shifts.
They may not seem comfortable, with their boxy shape and clunky toe. But once you slip on your first Dansko, you’ll see why the CEOs of the company were so enamored with the clog. The contoured leather sole provides long-lasting comfort for your feet. I also love the extra padding on the instep. The top of your foot won’t rub after long bouts of walking.
The reason I had to drop them to the bottom of my list is because they’re tricky to clean. Of course, you can wear disposable booties to delay the need to clean them. Regardless, eventually you must take a cloth and shoe polish to them. And that’s the point, to maintain these shoes properly takes more effort than most of the products on my list.
Also, they aren’t as visually appealing as a Merrell or Keen. They truly mimic the traditional clog, which was designed for comfort and not style.
But if you can manage these two minor problems, you’ll be rewarded with one of the best shoes for surgeons. I highly recommend the Dansko Men’s Professional Oiled Leather Clog for surgeons that must stand for hours. It’s also ideal for health professionals with back problems.
Why Do Surgeons Need a Special Shoe?
There’re many jobs people do that require special footwear. Some of them seem more obvious than others. Construction workers, for example, require steel plates and toes. Surgeons also need specific shoes for their job. Here’s why.
To Protect Their Feet
This one is the most obvious and most crucial points. While there’re no nails or exposed electrical in an operating room, there’s plenty of hazards a surgeon must protect their feet from. Scalpels and needles, for example, can fall off a tray or slip from a hand and cut into a toe. If the patient has infected blood, this can lead to serious complications. That’s why surgeon shoes must be closed toe and thick enough to withstand nicks and pricks.
To Provide Back Support
A surgeon stands for upwards of twelve hours a shift. That’s a lot of strain on their feet and thusly their back. Your feet directly support your spine. A bad arch in your shoes can lead to backaches and bad knees. Surgeons can’t wear any old shoe because many are only comfortable for a few hours at a time.
To Only Be Worn in the OR
Surgeons only wear their operating shoes in the operating room. Often, they’ll have dedicated shoes for walking their rounds or other tasks in the hospital and another pair of shoes dedicated to surgeries. This makes their surgery shoes fit certain specifications that most people don’t consider. They must clean easily because of the potential for hazardous fluids to spill onto them. They also must disinfect with little effort.
To Withstand Years of Wear
I know of surgeons that wear their surgery shoes for upwards of a decade. That means you need a shoe that will last long after the warranty expires. Many shoes that surgeons recommend cost more than the discount products you’d rather buy. For these shoes, the last thing you should consider is the price.
To Avoid Slips and Trips
Shoes worn in the operating room must have above average grip. I find this especially true for new surgeons. The tales of professional scalpel slingers in cowboy boots are true but left to those with plenty of experience. I recommend special shoes with a soft tread meant for laminate and tile floor. Avoid thick soles of hard plastic material.
To Reduce Discomfort and Limit Blisters
I think the right shoes for you are the ones you think will eliminate the potential for discomfort. Surgeons require deep and precise concentration. You can’t be worried about your bunions while mid-way through open heart surgery. So special surgery shoes should be the most comfortable shoes you own. That means a soft insole that fits your foot type. Any random pair of shoes will not provide these key features.
What to Consider While Choosing the Best Shoes for Surgeons
Every shoe on my list is ideal for someone. While you may luck out and discover a shoe that fits you perfectly on your first attempt, I recommend reading over my list of considerations prior to purchasing.
The Comfort Level
This one is the most important and hardest to measure with an online review. I do my best to convey the comfort level of the shoes above, but comfort often originates from customer preference.
I like a soft insole and rubber or leather shoe because they wash easily and conform to your foot. If you know you’d rather a canvas shoe or something less soft, then please do what suits you.
Quality of Materials
One of the key ingredients in a surgeon’s shoe, for me, is the quality of materials. Surgeons may not drop heavy tools on their feet, but they need a shoe that lasts for years and remains reliable.
Plus, with the amount of liquids and sharp objects in their vicinity, you need a shoe that you can trust to withstand the elements of the operating room.
Arch and Back Support
Almost all surgeries involve some standing, and many involve long bouts of standing. Bad arch support spiders up into your back, neck, and shoulders.
This means that shoes that do not reduce the tension and pressure from standing can eventually affect your performance on the operating table. You must test a pair of surgery shoes for at least a week before knowing if they’ll provide adequate support.
Grip and Non-Slip
Sometimes shoe companies advertise a non-slip grip, or they just advertise that their outer sole has tread. Either way, you want shoes that plant you in place and won’t turn into ice skates the moment there’s a spill or a recent polish.
I filled my list with brands that install excellent tread. Remember that the level of tread you need depends on your foot type and the way you walk and stand. Some shoes have a flat tread that covers the whole sole. Others focus the tread on the heel and balls of your foot. So try a few types before choosing.
Washability a Must
I won’t get into the level of gore that can splatter on the floors, walls, and ceilings of an operating room. Let’s just say a bad day in the operating room can make you rethink your career, life, and the brevity of human experience.
That being said, your surgery shoes must be washable. You don’t want to bring the blood and bile from your bullet wound into the OR of your 2 PM severed limb. I believe a rubber or cured leather shoe cleans up well and disinfects easily.
Style Still Matters
While your surgery shoes stay in the OR change room, that doesn’t mean you can’t buy a pair of shoes that reflect your style and preferences.
You need to feel comfortable both on the outside and the inside. That way, you’ll perform better. My relationship with my favorite shoes goes beyond the simple satisfaction of painless performance. I also like to think my shoes put me in the job’s mindset.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do surgeons wear Crocs?
Yes, surgeons wear Crocs. In fact, Crocs are one of the most popular shoes for the hospital ward. That’s because they’re made of durable rubber, are comfortable to wear, and clean easily.
There are no strict guidelines that state you must wear Crocs. I’m not even sure there’s a suggestion in most Hospital manuals. But the popularity of Crocs has been steadily increasing since their inception in 2002.
Why do surgeons wear gumboots?
True gumboots are fashioned out of rubber, not PVC or another plastic polymer. They’re indispensable to many professions, from cow farmers to oil roughnecks.
And yes, surgeons wear gumboots, too. That’s because the boots are comfortable, washable, and durable. Some surgeons hate the feeling of rubber chaffing their calf. So before you buy gumboots, try them on in store.
Can surgeons wear regular shoes?
If by regular shoes you mean your basic closed-toe shoe or boot, then yes! There’re infamous stories of female surgeons wearing high heels to the cutting room, or cowboy boots.
Some doctors don’t care if their shoes are water or blood proof, either. They’ll just throw a set of shoe covers over their favorite operating room duds. The point is, wear what you feel will keep you focused and relaxed.
There are just ask many types of surgeon shoes as there are types of surgeons. And while my list does not exhaust the choices teeming the online shoe shops, I believe I collected some of the most comfortable and long-lasting shoes on the market.
Whatever you buy, don’t forget to read over my tips and FAQ to narrow down your options even further. I’ve tested each product on my list and know that you’ll find an ideal pick.
If you’ve read over my considerations and find yourself stuck between a few favorites, then I have one last recommendation.
My best overall pick for the best shoes for surgery must be Merrell Men’s Encore Gust Slip-Ons. They boast a clean leather upper and are incredibly comfortable. I’ve worn mine for years now and they still feel and grip like the first day I purchased them.