Summer means backyard barbecues, swimming pools, ice cream, and Crocs.
Many of the kids in my neighborhood wear uniforms to school. During the summer, they wear a uniform of a different sort – shorts, T-shirts and Crocs.
Crocs are flexible foam shoes often sold in bright colors. The plastic clogs are riddled with air holes. Wearers praise these quirky kicks for their comfort and convenience. Crocs slip on and off quickly, clean up easily and don’t absorb foot odor.
Another equally vocal contingent despises the shoes for their fashion. A Facebook group called, “I don’t care how comfortable Crocs are, you look like a dumbass” has 1.5 million members.
“They are the most visually insulting footwear of all time,” writes one Facebook fan.
My two- and three-year-old sons don’t have Facebook pages. They don’t have much fashion sense either (just like the old man). In fact, Bubba and Peter’s idea of red-carpet fashion is Star Wars pajamas and Spider-Man underwear.
My boys love Crocs because most of their friends have them. And while my youngest sometimes struggles to use a fork, even he can take his Crocs on and off by himself. Their feet don’t sweat in Crocs. And, the shoes are perfect for playing in puddles or in the sandbox.
For all of these same reasons, I love Crocs too – to hell with fashion.
Yet, I questioned the safety of these shoes. They aren’t sturdy. Perhaps parents of Croc-wearing tots are setting their children up for a lifetime of foot problems. Imagine a whole generation of flat-footed adults cursing their parents for outfitting them in foam resin clogs.
Marlene Reid said not to worry. She’s a spokeswoman for the American Podiatric Medical Association and practices podiatry in suburban Chicago. She also believes Crocs are relatively safe, particularly when compared to other summer footwear.
“Crocs have certain components that we (podiatrists) look for in every shoe,” Reid said.
Crocs feature a contoured arch and a heel cup. There’s also ample room in the toe area, making the often-ridiculed shoe a viable option for folks with bunions and hammer toes. Finally, Crocs have flexible soles that bend as kids walk, Reid said.
It’s worth noting that some parents opt for off-branded Crocs, or Crock-offs. These shoes are fine too, as long as they have the same characteristics listed here, Reid said.
Of course, Crocs are not athletic shoes. So don’t send Junior to soccer practice wearing his slip-ons, but they’re much better than flip-flops and other flat-bottomed, stiff-soled summer shoes. In fact, the shoemaker even sells a medical version of Crocs that features a deeper heel cup and other custom features, Reid said.
With that in mind, the boys and drove 100 miles to our nearest outlet mall. There’s a Crocs store there. The walls are lined with Crocs in more colors than you will find at Sherwin Williams.
Bubba picked out a pair of royal blue Crocs. Peter opted for bright red. If you are going to wear ugly shoes, might as well flaunt it.
Image credit: Andrew Storm
Howard Ludwig is a former business writer who traded his reporter’s notebook for a diaper bag, becoming a stay-at-home dad.