Best Shoes for 12-Hour Shifts to Stop the Aches and Pains

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Being on your feet for 12+ hours a day can be taxing on well, you’re entire body! From leg pain and fatigue to chronic back pain, the list of possible complications from constantly being on your feet is long. Taking the necessary precautions and ensuring you have the proper footwear plays a major role in how your body is able to respond to the stress of your workday.

So what are the best shoes for a 12-hour shift?

The best shoe for a 12-hour shift has the perfect balance between comfort and support. They allow for your feet and toes to expand naturally, have arch support to prevent flattening your foot, provide shock absorption and remain tight but do not compress your foot. Dansko clogs are a good example.

In this article we’re going to look at why finding the right shoes is so important to your overall health when working long hours on your feet. We’ll first tackle the issues associated with improper footwear. Then we’ll look at some of the best brands on the market to help get you through your shift with as little pain and discomfort as possible.

Why Having the Right Shoe is Important

For our bodies, standing is natural and this position, on its own, causes no problems for you. However, when standing on your feet for long periods of time, you are forcing your feet to hold your body’s entire weight for an extended period… and this can be bad. (source)

Considering shift work often requires us to stand in less-than-optimal positions, our feet take the majority of the strain. This can cause an impact on other parts of your anatomy, as well.

Our bodies are greatly affected by how our work area is set up. They tend to limit the positions our body can achieve while working, while the positions we are forced into are not optimized for comfort. For those without a designated work area, such as nurses and doctors, the constant walking, pushing, and lifting puts our feet in a precarious situation.

Though you wouldn’t know it from the outside, remaining in a standing position requires a great deal of muscle strength.

What’s worse is blood flow is restricted to these strained muscles while standing, causing fatigue and pain to come on quicker. Then, as the pain in your feet comes on your body tries to control that pain by taking the stress off your feet. (source)

Trying to get off your feet without being able to sit down often contorts your body unknowingly to you. This, in turn, causes muscle pain and fatigue to spread.

Before long, the pain radiates up your legs and into your back, neck and shoulders. On top of all of this, chronic problems, such as varicose veins, are greatly increased, as well as chronic back pain and muscle fatigue. (source) This brings us back to why the right shoes are so important.

Characteristics of the Right Shoe for 12-Hour Shifts

Before we look at some of the best shoes in the market, let’s go over some of the characteristics you want in your shoes.

The right shoes will have the perfect balance between comfort and support, as well as maintaining that support for extended periods of time. The perfect shoe will also allow your feet and toes to expand naturally, as most pain in shoes stems from compressing your feet as they expand when standing.  

  • Don’t wear shoes which change the shape of your foot. Shoes with a toe box which comes to a point will cause your toes and foot to contort to an unnatural position. Then, as your feet and toes swell when standing, this contortion is intensified causing pain and numbness.
  • Having arch support is key; without it, you will flatten your foot, which causes extreme pain in your feet and back. Looking into an arch insert, which is custom to your foot dimensions, might be necessary too depending on the shape of your foot. These “over the counter” arch supports I found on Amazon are really popular a worth a try if you’re looking around.
  • If walking or standing on hard floors is part of your job, a shoe with shock absorption is needed. This will lower your chances of developing chronic conditions over time.
  • Your shoes need to remain tight on your foot, but not too tight. You don’t want your foot to be compressed, but it shouldn’t have the ability to move freely in the shoe either.

When buying new shoes, be sure to try them on and walk around in them for several minutes before purchasing. Even then, as you wear them, they may need to be tightened as they stretch.

Best Shoes When Working 12-Hour Shifts

Now we are going to look at what we believe to be the best shoes on the market for those working and standing for 12+ hours every day. We’ve taken the above recommendations into play, as well as personal experience when choosing this list.


We love Snibbs! According to their website, they are a universal work shoe, designed for use by anyone who is on their feet for long periods of time, whether they’re standing in place or in motion.

I was a little suspicious they would be ugly when looking at them online, however, in person, they are actually great-looking, light, easy-to-clean, comfortable shoes with plenty of room width-wise. You can tell they have been designed by an expert who actually works long shifts on their feet as they tick every box (most) shift workers need.

The front/top of the shoe is water-resistant and the sole is slip-resistant. This gives me peace of mind when working near liquids. If you do encounter a spill, your feet will stay dry. For work in the hospitals ED, ideally I’d go for a black pair such as these as blood and vomit have a way of showing up on my shoes almost weekly.

I have a pink and white pair at the moment and I’ve even worn them with jeans!

I couldn’t recommend these shoes more. They have an abundance of colors and varieties to choose from. Here is a pic of mine. I am a womens 41 / US 9 and I got the US size 10 and they fit nicely.

Check out the Snibbs website here. They also have two types of compression socks too which are worth a look here.

Dansko Clogs

These shoes, or shall we say clogs, are very popular among the healthcare profession. They are both durable and lightweight, plus offer the highest level of support in both the arch and heel areas of your feet. As we mentioned earlier, these are approved by the American Podiatric Medical Association because of their construction and support.

These clogs also feature an elevated platform, allowing for less strain on the Achilles tendon. Flat shoes, or shoes without much of a platform at all, cause your foot to be in a position that isn’t natural, putting strain on the Achilles tendon which connects your heel bone to your calf. Strain over long periods of time can produce a painful condition known as Achilles Tendinitis. (source)

An added feature of these Dansko Clogs is the antimicrobial lining which prevents the buildup of the bacteria which produces the odor so many of us are familiar with. However, not only does this help eliminate foot odor, but it also helps to prevent foot fungus and athlete’s foot.

They are available in a huge range of different colors too.
Click here to see more.

Brooks Ghost 14 (Newer Version of the Ghost 13)

Brooks is known for making great sportswear with an emphasis on stability, support and durability. While these aren’t necessarily made for standing in the same position all day, they are great for those who are on their feet for their entire shift, whether that consists of walking, running or standing.

The cushion in the Ghost series of sneakers is plush, almost cloudlike. And, while that plushness often quickly goes away in other shoes, these Brooks Ghost sneakers are made to last. Plus, they have the tying structure to allow for a more customized fit for your foot’s shape and size, which itself minimizes the amount of stress put on your foot’s muscles.

The sole of these shoes is amazing, as well, and made specifically for being on hard services, such as warehouse floors or hospital hallways. The newest version of shoes in the series have had design options expanded, thus allowing you more variety in selecting a shoe that fits your style.

Nurse Mates Dove Slip-on (Specifically the Align Series)

Nurse Mates has been making shoes geared towards the healthcare industry since 1961; they have surely done the work and research to make a great wearable. The Align series, while not the only great shoe they make, ranks in the highest spots for comfortability and durability among those who are constantly on their feet, whether standing or walking.

The Align series features a 1.5-inch heel height made of Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate (EVA) which gives the appearance of rubber but is durable while providing a great cushion. The upper portion is made of leather, allowing it to remain comfortable and easy to clean.

Many styles feature adjustable stretch laces. While these don’t have to be tied like a regular sneaker, they do provide an added benefit of keeping the shoe snug while allowing for flexibility in movement and swelling.

These also come in black. Check them out here

Related post: Tactful Tips for Pregnant and Postpartum Night Shift Nurses

Hoka One Bondi 7

These sneakers are designed for those with an active lifestyle, both at work and away. These shoes are the best fit for those looking to use the same shoe when standing all day and running. What many find, though, is that these shoes are great for those on the go constantly at work; the fact they are designed for running makes them perfect for nurses and retail workers, among other professions.

While Hoka isn’t a brand many are familiar with, they do make a great shoe. The Bondi 7 line has memory foam ankle cradles with an EVA midsole, providing strong support while remaining flexible and comfortable. The curve to the heel also makes it perfect for a smooth walk / run stride, easily transitional from walk to run.

Though many shy away from the price, these shoes are proven to hold up even under the most severe circumstances.

Again this shoe comes in many different colors and styles which you can check out here.

Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3

To pick just one Salomon series shoe as the best is near impossible, but the S/Lab Ultra 3 is sure to be near the top. Though designed as a running shoe, it’s built to be comfortable and durable through any terrain, which makes for a great shoe to have when standing on your feet for a 12-hour shift.

They are designed to not only be versatile but durable; able to be used consecutive days in a row and still retain their cushion and support.

What many love about the Ultra series form Salomon is the lace-lock feature. This gives you the peace of mind in knowing your shoe isn’t changing shape, even after being on your feet all day. As we’ve discussed before, a loose shoe equals hurting feet; you won’t have that with the S/Lab Ultra 3.

Sketchers Sure Track Trickel

Not only are these shoes excellent for standing all day, they’re also affordable. In fact, they might be some of the most affordable, but comfortable, shoes on the list. These shoes feature Sketcher’s “FlexSole” midsole, designed to absorb shock, making them perfect for hard surfaces, while also being flexible and lightweight.

The heal on the Sure Track Trickel is 1-inch high, giving it the perfect height to avoid any strain on your foot’s tendons. And, though it is a lace-up sneaker, the relaxed fit of the Sure Track gives plenty of room for your toes to expand as you stand for longer periods of time. The leather construction of the upper portion makes them super comfortable, as well as the memory foam cushion around the ankle.

The shoe is breathable, too, meaning your foot stays cool while allowing the odor-causing bacteria a place to go. When you add on the non-slip rubber outsole, this shoe is perfect for any working conditions.

Asics Gel-Nimbus Lite 2

Asics has been the go-to shoe for many shift workers offering several different series of sneakers that are great for standing on your feet all day. One of the best of these is the Gel-Nimbus Lite 2.

The AHAR rubber outsole is built to provide durability and support for some of the hardest surfaces you would have to walk on and is also abrasion-resistant, which means it is suitable for many working conditions. The patented Flytefoam technology, made from recycled and sustainable materials, provides a lightweight, but cushioned, midsole.

The technology behind these shoes is second to none, as Asics has designed this shoe to provide the most natural gait while helping those with under-pronation and high arches. This means the Gel-Nimbus Lite 2 puts less pressure on your smaller toes and the outside of your foot when pushing off.

Nike Tanjun

This shoes definitely take after their namesake, which means “simplicity” in Japanese. Though simple, the Nike Tanjun doesn’t skimp when it comes for comfortability and durability. The foam midsole and outsole make these shoes perfect for standing in all day, especially when they absorb much of the shock from your steps. Plus, the foam makes these shows lightweight and super flexible; you’ll won’t be able to even tell you have a shoe on.

The design of these shoes is great, too. The heel has just the right amount of height to it to prevent added strain on your tendons, plus the contour of the soles prevent your arch from collapsing. When you add these characteristics together with the durable material, they make for a great, low-cost shoe to stand in all day.

In summary, we hope you now better understand the importance of protecting your feet when standing for 12-hour shifts, whilst having some options for new “tyres” when looking for an upgrade.

Some of the shoes on our list may be a little pricier than what you normally pay. While price doesn’t always mean quality, as some of the shoes on our list can attest to, the shoes we’ve mentioned are well worth the investment.

With spending a little more on your body now, you can save yourself from a world of pain (and medical bills) in the long run.

If you work 12-hour shifts and need a bit more help, take a look at these posts;



Disclosure: This page may contain affiliate links, meaning we receive a commission if you decide to make a purchase through our links, but this is at no additional cost to you. Please read our disclosure and privacy statement for more info.

Daniel Smith

Managing a global sales team I've experienced the challenges of working at all hours of the day and night. Being a shift worker I know how tough it can be balancing everyday life when you feel like you haven't slept in weeks! Providing advice and tips on how to manage your schedule, whilst still staying healthy is where I can help.

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