Shoes?! Socks?! Tights?! OH MY!

Updated | Published
by Jacqueline.Damm Jacqueline.Damm

Specializes in Med/Surg, Onc., Palliative/Hospice, CPU. Has 3 years experience.

Let’s just say that there is nothing worse than wearing ill-fitting shoes while you’re doing your nurse work (wherever you may be), and your lower back is SCREAMING! Or the food that you ate in the meager time you had for lunch just isn’t sticking to your sides… Not to mention having hours before you can go home and properly tend to that need. How do we balance (literally and figuratively) on our feet as well as our gut in order that we can fulfill a demanding day on the job?

Shoes?! Socks?! Tights?! OH MY!

I drove around relentlessly for days, walking in and out of shoe stores trying on every pair of Zapatos (shoes in Spanish...seemed fitting) that I could get my hands on. Yes, I was absolutely being selfish in the fact that I needed COLOR in my life (well, on my feet) in order to purchase some shoes for work. My hilariously hot pink Nike Vormeos were actually beginning to cause me leg PAIN. Uncool shoes. Uncool. I couldn't bear to have a lack of color on my feet since my wardrobe 3/7 days of the week was white or navy blue.

Across the board, I had an idea of my shoe size. Before we get into what I did (seriously, just did), let's talk about the journey of nurse feet! Nurses shoes over the years have ranged from hard shoes with heels, leather loafers, and now the very interesting realm of professional shoes specially made for health care workers. Amazing right? For me, NO. I have an issue with TOO many options. It is a blessing in disguise. Sometimes I want someone to throw shoes at me and say "WEAR THEM!" and then I do. With no other decision making what-so-ever! But... We can't do that. It's our body, our feet, our alignment and our body mechanics that are at risk. Unemployment due to injury isn't particularly in anyone's books as a plan, so we might as well take the leap and see what's appropriate for us. Right?

I've tried anything from Danksos to Vibram (AKA crazy toe shoes, but I was just left in pain with shin splints, lower back aches, tension headaches, etc). Since this little lady hasn't cracked the big 3-0, I felt that these symptoms were pretty unacceptable for a fairly active woman. SO! I went back to basics.

I headed to a special shoe store that assessed my gait. Did I over-pronate? Did I swing my legs in any strange ways that needed correcting? Was I a total git that needed to see a chiropractor and learn how to properly walk? Let's just say that all of these things were actually a bit true! I ended up finding a neutral walking shoe that saved my scoliosis and horrible back pain. I could sleep without gasping because I wasn't hurting ALL over after a long day on my feet at the hospital. Silly thing was, it was pretty simple. The process that is.

The next order of business was my LEGS. So pooped after the end of the day (yes I said poop--nurse humor)! My body wasn't particularly tired, but holy smokes my legs were d-e-a-d. I would often just SIT in my car after a shift and consider sleeping there, and not driving home. Poor legs... Right? Well, I honestly believe that perfusion was an issue. Gravity is an angry force sometimes. It does unruly things to our bodies in old age, and not to mention makes blood pump against resistance (while standing excessively). The answer? Compression socks. You know.. The super "cute" ones that the nurses with the starched caps once wore. I'm kidding. They really are pretty cute these days. Plain colors and patterns abound, which is awesome because my legs don't want to fall off anymore. (Seeing as this would be a terrible dilemma). Buy multiple pairs! As many as you have scrubs for the week. Done!

Since finding the appropriate shoes, I bought special orthotic inserts that have extra bounce in the heel. It takes some of the pressure off as well as help distribute weight evenly. The compression socks (I think I've chosen 14-20 mmHg) keep my legs from aching. I even pay attention when I walk. Am I rolling off my foot wrong? Am I using awful body mechanics that make me look like a circus act when I'm reaching for things? Oddly enough everyone, as silly as it sounds, these are really important things for us. We can truly hurt ourselves. I've had friends who did get hurt at work (from poor body care/mechanics). They retired early. It's a thing. Don't think it can't happen to you. We are all vulnerable.

To reel this all in, I bought two pairs of shoes on Amazon. Once I knew what to look for I could snatch up some amazing deals and steals. But to be honest, if there's one thing I don't scoff at is spending money on things that truly HELP me and my body do its day-to-day work. If you calculate it, it's priceless being healthy and safe.

Lastly my dear friends. Eat. Well. Actually. EAT GREAT. Stop the shenanigans already. I can say this because in the last year and some change I've put on a significant amount of weight compared to my norm (give or take 15 pounds). It feels so rough on my joints, my gut (insides), and my overall wellness. I wasn't sleeping/resting as well and not to mention a severe lack of energy that was almost depressing me to the point that getting out of bed sounded totally and utterly crap-tastic. Not the best feeling. I was reaching for pizza, doughnuts, excessive caffeine. Funny thing is when you have zero energy, you don't want to work out. What happened next you ask? I stopped working out, packed on some more weight, and then lost muscle tone. Our body goes full-circle friends. No movement = pain. End of story. My body felt like it was dug into a deep hole and I just wanted to sleep down there. Sleep in the mud. Blegh. Not good.

SO! To get out of the grump... More like slump (though I was horribly grumpy too) I stopped reaching for the doughnuts, added greens to EVERY meal (yes, including breakfast). And cut back immensely, I know you're already thinking of it, on alcohol. Tough day at work, get a glass of wine.. Turns to two. Now you can't sleep because your body has to flush all that stuff out. Now, I'm Italian. I LOVE my wine. But seriously people, think about it. Be kind to your body. You're stuck with it until the end of your days. Put the GOOD stuff into your Boca (Spanish again)! If you can't pronounce the ingredients, it's probably not a good call. PREPARE your food, stop eating in the cafeteria (if you can help it). I swear by, "a little chocolate at bay keeps the crazies away". So have your indulgences, in stride. Get my drift?

Remember, when it comes to work, work in order that you may "play". I work so that I CAN LIVE. This is what life is about for me. Experiences, people, travel, food, drink, fun, outdoor activities and the list goes on. If you don't care for those angry feet, legs and hungry tummy (hunger for REAL food people!) then you will run into a slew of issues. Learn from my mistakes, and maybe some that you've made already. It's never too late to change things up!


Jacquie enjoys writing for a career she is passionate about. Please feel free to share and comment as you see fit!

21 Articles   51 Posts

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

5 Comment(s)


Specializes in ortho, hospice volunteer, psych,. Has 20 years experience. 2,452 Posts

You mean I have to wear shoes and socks?! Sigh

I wore the old fashioned tie up the side ones. They were either Clinics or NurseMates. I forget which.They were ugly but they were comfortable and had wonderful support

I wore socks and walking shoe-type sneakers when I worked psych.

calivianya, BSN, RN

Specializes in ICU. 2,418 Posts

My feet and back love Danskos. The downside is once you get used to wearing them, anything else is horribly uncomfortable. Can't wear tennis shoes without leg, foot, and back pain now. Oh well. At least I can wipe my patent leather shoes clean when they get drenched in some unnamed fluid.

Compression socks are indeed a must - I love Sockwell socks the most. They come in great prints and they are actually thick. I can't stand those ones that are so thin they are like compression hose - putting them on would drive me nuts and they do nothing to keep me warm at work. I freeze to death constantly, even gowned up in a contact room, so every little bit of warmth helps.



Specializes in Med/Surg, Onc., Palliative/Hospice, CPU. Has 3 years experience. 21 Articles; 51 Posts

I haven't even heard of Sockwell! Thank you for the input. I hope this article leads people to lend their advice on the issue that so many nurses face! It's a big issue that warrants a decent amount of attention. Our bodies are all we have. Thanks for the read.

Chaya, ASN, RN

Specializes in Rehab, Med Surg, Home Care. Has 15 years experience. 932 Posts

Yep, it's been a journey for me too. Started out fresh on the floor with a paycheck by investing in Real Nurse Shoes. Which resulted in agony at the end of each shift. Not just my feet hurting but shooting pain in my knees, hips, and lower back as well. Huh? Didn't I just invest in the best, official professional footwear?

Turned out a good pair of sports/ walking sneakers worked out a lot better. (Sketchers worked for me but I found everyone I worked with had a favorite brand.) Much improvement but still hurting after 8-12 hours so tried orthotic inserts. Ready made ones didn'the cut it so I splurged on a custom pair from a podiatrist. This eliminated the back, knee and hip pain and minimized the foot pain to tolerable soreness after a long day. Pricy but my 2 pairs of orthotics have lasted years with a couple of slight adjustments over time.

Lastly, I have come to use moderate compression stockings with cotton based, absorbant socks over them. I swear by this combo and feel it has saved my joints and probably kept me from injury.



Specializes in Med-Surg, OB, ICU, Public Health Nursing. Has 40 years experience. 247 Posts

Orthotics were a life saver. Custom are very expensive and worth it. However, you can now purchase "average" orthotic for a reasonable price. In my days of the little white cap, yes I wore it as required, the white leather lace up oxfords were the best shoes ever. Can't find them anymore, too ugly.