How Shoe Brands Are Competing in a Shrinking Nursing Market

COVID-19 has accelerated an already-growing labor shortage in the health care market. For footwear brands, that translates to shrinking consumer demand for their products and more competition for market share.

Here, brand executives share their strategies for ensuring their shoes remain top of mind with nurses — including philanthropic outreach and savvy marketing and product development.

Christina Goebel
VP of marketing & e-commerce, Vionic

“Seeing that nurses were being run off their feet during the first wave of COVID, we donated our Vionic Pro styles and orthotic inserts to hospitals in hotspots around the country. In 2021, we reached out to consumers to ‘Nominate a Nurse’ they knew to win Vionic shoes. This time, recipients were given various styles from our walking-focused Active collection. In both initiatives, nurses who weren’t already familiar with Vionic learned about our Vio-Motion footbed technology designed into every shoe and orthotic we make and the Three Zone comfort stability, cushioning and support it delivers.”

Kitty Bolinger
VP of sales, Dansko

“Dansko has a legacy of serving the health care market from the discovery of the Professional clog decades ago. We’ve recently added the Kane, a molded EVA clog that’s lightweight, has an amazing footbed and is competitively priced. I’m also excited about the new Pace walking sneaker, which has all-day support and stability in an athletic silhouette. We’ve continued our conversation with health care professionals since the pandemic began through the donation of over $1 million worth of footwear and [used] social media and internal efforts to learn more about the needs of nursing school students.”

Dansko Kane clog
Dansko’s Kane clog in blue
CREDIT: Courtesy of Dansko

Larry Dula
Sales director, Laforst Footwear

“Six months ago, I [decided] we needed to address the long hours frontline nurses were putting in with the creation of Extreme Comfort. The shoes feature a woven upper that hugs the foot for enhanced fit and is treated to repel soil and stains. They also incorporate a higher midsole to better absorb shock and provide the proper heel inclination for walking. Inside, there’s an extended arch for enhanced support, while the outsole is slip-resistant. The debut Heartbeat style, available in colors to coordinate with today’s scrubs, carries the EKG symbol logo. Retailing from $79 to $89, they deliver in November.”

B. Scott Cates
President of sales, Alegria

“We started diversifying our product pre-COVID with $89.95 product that can reach a younger, entry-level medical professional. In the last year, it’s paid off more than anything we’ve done. While we still have our core business and it’s been stable, we’re seeing an uptick in lower-priced product. While we won’t focus on $89.95 shoes, they’ll catch consumers that can’t afford our [core] $139.95 footwear. Going forward, we will be adding new product at both price points. The medical world brought us to the dance and we won’t forget that market segment.”

Matt Dieckhaus
VP of sales & marketing, Latitudes

“At the start of COVID we continued our investment in product development with the launch of Møshn, comfortable shoes for those on the move. Our shoe and scrub retailers bought it heavily for fall ’21 and spring ’22, while our Klogs business remained strong. We’re also using social media to support these heroes. Our ‘Nominate Your Shift’ campaign donated Klogs to 10 shifts across the U.S., adding up to hundreds of shoes, and our ‘Calling All Heroes’ campaign gave six winners a $500 shopping spree on Klogs.com. Presently, we’ve partnered with our community hospital, BJC Sullivan, donating five shoes weekly to peer-nominated staff dealing directly with COVID.”

Latitude Moshn sneaker
A patterned style from Latitude’s Moshn sneaker collection.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Latitudes

Avi Ben-Zikry
President, Spring Footwear

“Under our Spring Step Professional collection, we’ve expanded our vegan-friendly styles. They have an opening price point of $79.95 geared toward younger men and women graduating from nursing school. We’re also expanding our trunk shows with retailers through our national sales team. Stores can advertise and market the line with the help of our co-op dollars. Our reps present a full array of styles, while we also help retailers sell through their inventory. And the Professional series comes in fun colors and prints. It’s something we take pride in since now, more than ever, shoes have to be joyful.”

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