If Crocs could kill

Are the brightly colored clogs really a menace to society?

Published September 18, 2007 3:20PM (EDT)

When I saw this headline in the Independent, "Are Crocs a Health Risk?" I'll admit it -- I believed the story was about crocodiles. "Well, yes, I guess," I thought to myself, "provided that you swim up next to one. But why is that in the paper?"

This is probably a good indicator of how important fashion is to my life -- because as anyone who is mildly aware of such things can tell you, Crocs are those fun-colored clogs beloved by gardeners, medical staff and, increasingly, the fashionable elite.

Who knew they could kill us? According to the Independent, as Crocs' popularity has grown, so has the enthusiasm of the clogs' critics. Some claim that Crocs do everything from providing insufficient foot support to getting caught in escalators. (A blog, Crocs Accidents, is "dedicated to warn[ing] parents of the possible dangers of rubber clogs to children.") Others say they build up so much static electricity in the soles that when worn by medical personnel, they can knock out lifesaving equipment with their charges.

A Crocs spokeswoman is quoted as saying: "'We are so popular now and get a lot of attention, so it's kind of logical that these kind of claims are made. But these things happen with all shoes, not only Crocs."

I mean, really. Insufficient support? Compared with high heels and flip-flops? And I can't really see how a Croc would be more likely to get caught in an escalator than, say, shoes with laces. As for the static, there have been no incidents reported in the U.K. of Crocs taking out medical equipment. So what's the motivation here?

As someone who went on a rampage a few years ago against Uggs ("Ugg is for Ugly" garnered the angriest reader response), I can understand how footwear can get under people's skin. I mean, after seeing my 150th Cal undergrad walking around Berkeley in a miniskirt and Arctic boots, it was hard not to make obnoxious comments. ("Say, anyone feel like going ice fishing?") But for all my hatred of Uggs, I can't really imagine that they caused much medical distress. Heatstroke, maybe, but nothing involving escalators.

I think that provided that Crocs are not actually knocking out defibrillators, we should let self-regulation take care of any problem. Sure, there are going to be people prancing around this winter in Croc Mammoths, a fur-lined version that sounds like a cross between a Croc and an Ugg. But fashion is fickle, and besides, there are situations where a perforated shoe really isn't all that great. As a foot surgeon quoted by the Independent explained, wearing the right shoes in surgery is important because "the last thing you want is to have a pregnant woman saying, 'My water's broken,' and you tell her, 'Yes, I know, it's just gone through the holes in my Crocs." Touché.

By Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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