The Best Shoes for the Operating Room


If there is one rotation that breeds anxiety in medical students it is the surgery rotation. Maybe it is the reputation, maybe it is the hours, maybe it is that you will be in this new and strange place known as the operating room. Regardless, I’ve fielded many “how should I prepare for my surgical rotation” questions. Although it should be near the bottom of the list, one question that seems to pop-up often is “what are the best shoes for the operating room?”

In reality you can get away with wearing anything on your feet as long as they are unsoiled. Some ORs also have rules regarding ventilation holes so you might want to check that out. It may seem silly to buy a specialized pair of shoes for one rotation but if you add in Ob/gyn that is at least 12 weeks of your life  (plus any electives) that you will be in these dogs. Let’s take a look at the options. The pics all link out to Amazon if you want to check out pricing/further reviews.


new balanceA perennial favorite, there certainly ain’t nothing wrong with a comfortable pair of running/walking shoes. They are versatile, breathable and if you get the right pair, comfortable.  I find that these are great for rotations when I am running around a lot. However, for standing for a long time they leave something to be desired. I am sure if I tried enough styles I could probably come up with something that worked. However, there are better options out there. You also should consider the permeability factor. Shit (sometimes literally) can get nasty in the OR. The thought of that slowly seeping through the leather top sole of my sneakers and feeling my socks become increasingly moist is not something I look forward to.



These aren’t as popular as some of the other options but they are my personal favorite. I could literally stand in these all day long without becoming uncomfortable. These are composed of a hard rubber outer sole containing the cork foot bed* that has made Birkenstock so famous.They are comfortable to walk around the hospital in too and are easy to slip in and out of. The one major issue they have is ventilation. My feet get hotter than two rats in a wool sock when I wear these things. By the end of the day there is often a noticeable dew on the inside. By the end of a 24 hour shift… let’s not go there. Suffice it to say with all that sweating going on they can get rather stinky. When they get real bad I would liken it to the smell of a diabetic foot wound. It IS NOT pleasant and Mrs. Survivor DO has instructed that these are to be left at the hospital or in the garage.


dansko By far the most popular shoe in the hospital. There must be a reason right? They are liked by nurses, medicine attendings and surgeons alike. These things come in a variety of styles and I think Mrs. Survivor DO has one of each. She swears by them and has encouraged my to try a pair as well. I have resisted until this point because they are so friggen queer-looking. However, with the leather upper they are more breathable and the hard sole gives them excellent arch support. I think it may be time for me to break down and try a pair. It would be nice to be able to take off my shoes without clearing out the entire room!

The Jungle Moc

jungle mocWith a name like Jungle Moc these must be impressive shoes. My first thought was yes, impressively ugly. However, I kept seeing them around the hospital! I did a little research and they receive rave reviews from their supporters. For a shoe, which is very user dependent, to have 4.6/5.0 stars on Amazon is quite impressive. They come in a variety of colors from a grey suede to tan leather and come in any size imaginable including kids. In talking with my colleagues they say that they are breathable, easy to stand in and feel like slippers on your feet. All great things when looking for the best shoe for the operating room! These are high on my list for my next pair of shoes.


calzuro operating room

I see a lot of these around the operating room mostly by the old school surgeons. Reportedly these clogs will last for 10 or more years even with steady use. People I have talked to say they are super comfortable for standing in the OR and not bad to mosey around the hospital in. The are available with or without ventilation holes so you will have to weigh which you prefer; the foot rot phenomenon I experienced with the Birkis or the possible seepage of bodily fluid while you innocently retract in the OR . I am thinking about trying these once the stench of my Birkis becomes intolerable. I’ll probably go with the vented version for the above reason.

Cowboy Boots

cowboy boots in the operating room

I’ve seen a number of surgical, mostly trauma, attendings wearing these and I gotta say, I’d love to give it a shot. They are pretty badass and by all accounts comfortable. If you think about it, it makes sense. There are thousands of people who do much more manly work than we do that wear these every day. Additionally, they are slip on and breathable. But, and it’s a big but, there are certain things you shouldn’t do as a medical student and probably not until you are at least a senior resident. I feel like wearing cowboy boots in the OR is probably one of them! Maybe it would go over better in the Southwest but for now I think I will resist the urge to avoid becoming the resident known as “the one that wears the cowboy boots”.

There are obviously a lot more options than this. Socks are just as important to consider ( For the record I suggest Smartwool). What end up being the best shoes for the operating room for you comes down to a manner of personal preference but the options above are a great place to start. I will continue to vigilantly work my way through the list!

What do you wear on your feet in the hospital?

*this is replaceable by the way.


The Best Shoes for the Operating Room — 21 Comments

  1. Any advice for someone with flat feet? I find myself tiring much quicker from standing than others and am wondering whether a change in footwear would help or maybe investing in foot soles

    • Had to consult Mrs. Survivor DO on this one as her feet are flatter than a board. She wears Dansko’s and has never had a problem with them, even when she did her surgery rotations. She does recommend trying on many different pairs because they are hand made so each will be slightly different. Keep in mind they should be a little loose. If these don’t work she wears Keens too. However, your best bet might be to have a pair of custom orthotics made, in reality we should probably all be slipping these into our shoes but they are especially important for those with feet outside the “norm”.

  2. Bromhydrosis is pretty name for stinky wet feet. The average person’s feet sweat a pint per day. If there is no evaporation bacteria degrade the keratin or shoe leather which explains the garbage odor. The same antiperspirant for underarm use works on the bottom of the feet too. If this does not work use very dilute formaldehyde. Caution: Do not dry too much or the skin will crack.

  3. Re: Flat feet pain Over- the- counter orthotic devices work well for most people. My personal favorite is Tri Hawk in Birki clogs.

  4. Thanks for the information Dr. Bates! I have tried using antiperspirant, it works to some effect but I still get the sweats. Seems like which socks I’m wearing makes the biggest difference to me.

  5. If you’re worried about body fluids seeping into your shoes, wear trauma boots over them. Wore them during OB and they saved my shoes more than once. If you’re going to wear trauma boots, then you should opt for non-slip-on shoes, since slip-ons come off extremely easily when you take off the boots, and if the boots are messy, you want no part of that.

    • Put a chest tube in today and had about 300 mL of blood come out onto my legs and the floor (mostly because of bad technique on my part!). I sure was glad I was wearing my trauma boots!!

  6. ” I have resisted until this point because they are so friggen queer-looking.”
    are you kidding me? queer looking? its 2013 and that is so not politically correct unless you are gay. then you are allowed to say it.

    • Why gay people make everything about them… Your obviously gay that’s why your offended…. Get over it some people will never except you some people will luv you to death… Don’t make everything a battle shit just live for you fuc da world. Fight for things worth fighting not something so petty…. Shhhhssshhhh da worse they did was legalize that shit…..

  7. Calzuros with ventilation all the way! In 15 years of full time OR as and anesthesiologist I had two pairs of them. I wore support hose instead of socks. Every now and then I would take the shoes to the scrub sink and scrub the heck out of them. The ventilation holes keep your feet cool and you can feel the air flow as you walk.

  8. Did you teally say queer looking on a site where professionals that take oaths, yada, yada look for YOUR advice? And I am hetero…

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