What’s the best shoe for the busy physician?

By John Murphy, MDLinx
Published October 18, 2019

Key Takeaways

No physician would disagree that the shoes they choose are very important to them. Seriously. We surveyed hundreds of doctors and all of them agreed (29%) or strongly agreed (70%) that physicians’ choice of footwear is very important. (OK, 1% were undecided—but still, no one disagreed!)

Most physicians don’t carry around a whole lot of tools or equipment. Maybe a stethoscope, a pen, or a phone. But shoes? They’re an absolute necessity. A doctor’s appearance—and comfort—relies heavily on their footwear. A doctor’s shoes must go through muck and mud, through thick and thin, through good and bad. A good pair of shoes must carry them through miles of hallways and stairs, through exam rooms, operating rooms, emergency rooms, and even board rooms.

On the other hand (or is it the other foot?), wearing an uncomfortable shoe can ruin a doctor’s day.

That’s why MDLinx decided to ask physicians specifically about their footwear. For this survey, we received 255 responses from doctors (172 men, 81 women, 2 undisclosed) from all across the United States, including primary care physicians and specialists of all types.

Here’s what we found.

If the shoe fits…

First, it must again be stressed: 99% of doctors say their choice of shoe is important or very important. How often do you get that kind of agreement among physicians?

That said, let’s get down to brass tacks: What type of shoe do doctors prefer to wear on the job? Here’s what they usually wear:

  • 40% wear casual shoes/loafers
  • 29% wear dress shoes/heels
  • 20% wear sneakers
  • 11% wear Crocs/clogs


Women and men are generally in agreement in their footwear choices, including casual shoes/loafers (41% vs 40%) and Crocs/clogs (11% vs 11%). But they differ slightly among other types of shoes, with a few more women than men opting for dress shoes/heels (31% vs 28%), and somewhat more men than women choosing sneakers (21% vs 17%).

Favorite footwear types differ distinctly among age groups, though. Among all age groups, more younger doctors (44%) choose to wear dress shoes than any age group of older doctors. At the same time, 72% of doctors older than age 65 say that casual shoes/loafers are their footwear of choice. Not surprisingly, then, this venerable generation wears Crocs/clogs the least (3%). The age group that wears Crocs/clogs more than any other group are doctors aged 46-54 years, at a rate of 14%. This same age group also wears sneakers more often (23%) than doctors of other ages.

Off your duff

Doctors place great importance on their shoes because they use them so often. Many doctors spend nearly the whole day on their feet, either walking or standing. In fact, 51% of our respondents report that they spend most of the day moving, while 37% report sitting/standing during their day, followed by 9% who stand all day, and 3% who are sedentary.

Perhaps surprisingly, doctors who spend most of the day moving tend to choose casual shoes/loafers (36%) or dress shoes/heels (31%) rather than sneakers (21%) or Crocs/clogs (11%). Somewhat similarly, those who stand often wear casual shoes/loafers (43%) rather than sneakers (26%), dress shoes/heels (17%), or Crocs/clogs (13%).

Feel like a heel

Even doctors have foot problems. The most common problem among this group is flat feet, affecting about 15%. Other foot problems include plantar fasciitis (affecting 13%), pain (11%), and bunions (7%). On the upside, about 60% of doctors say they have no medical problems affecting their feet.

When comfort shoes are performance shoes

What qualities do doctors look for in a shoe? Generally speaking, they prefer performance over appearance—and cost is the least concern. Here are the top qualities doctors look for, ranked in order of preference. (Respondents could choose more than one option.)

  1. Comfort (93%)
  2. Support (58%)
  3. Cushioning (56%)
  4. Appearance (53%)
  5. Durability (36%)
  6. Slip resistance (29%)
  7. Breathability (27%)
  8. Cost (22%)

Brand recognition

We’d love to be able to tell you exactly which shoe is the best one for doctors to wear. But, just as no one size fits all, no one shoe is the perfect one for all doctors. Different shoes offer different benefits to different wearers. But we do have the next best thing. Here are doctors’ 12 favorite shoe brands, ranked in order of preference.

  1. Clarks
  2. Dansko
  3. Skechers
  4. ECCO
  5. Merrell
  6. Rockport
  7. Cole Haan
  8. Nike
  9. Brooks
  10. Crocs
  11. New Balance
  12. ASICS

Other favorite brands are Johnston & Murphy, Allen Edmonds, Børn, Dockers, Mephisto, Nunn Bush, Sandro, SAS, and Sperry.

This survey received no sponsorship of any kind.

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