Crocs: Healthy Shoes or Just Comfy?
Do those eye-catching shoes have a place in good foot care?
Doctors and consumers share their views.
Crocs -- those clog-like shoes in bright colors -- are an up-and-coming trend on the feet of Americans. The shoe might not match everyone's idea of fashion, but fans swear by its comfort. And Croc lovers say they bring health benefits to the two extremities that carry us all the places we go.
Are Crocs really good for our feet? Or is this footwear phenom just a passing fad? WebMD got some feedback from doctors, consumers, and the shoe's creators.
A History of the Croc
Born in 2002, the shoe was initially intended as footwear for boating, with its nonslip tread and waterproof tendencies.
"The product was originally produced in Canada in clog-form," says co-founder Lyndon V. Hanson, III, vice president of Crocs. "We added a strap for utility, and gave it some flair."
Crocs are certified by the U.S. Ergonomics Council and the American Podiatric Medical Association. Hanson says that what Crocs lack in aesthetic value, they make up in therapeutic benefits. The company created what it calls an Rx line of models specifically with healthy feet in mind: Croc Relief, Croc Cloud, and Croc Silver Cloud.
"These shoes were designed specifically to eliminate plantar pain and achy feet," says Hanson. "They also help people with injured feet, bunionsbunions, and diabetesdiabetes. You've got a lot of inner support, heel cups and massaging heel nubs, and arch support. They're ideal for people with foot problems."
Crocs in the Clinic
Some doctors are even recommending them to patients with foot problems.
"These shoes are especially light," says Harold Glickman, DPM, former president of the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). "They have huge room in the toe that affords the front part of the foot lots of room, especially for people with bone deformities like bunions and hammer toe. With the Rx Crocs, they're lined with antibacterial material that will prevent fungal and bacterial infections."
For people with diabetes, Crocs offer added value in the protection they provide. Because people with diabetes have reduced circulation in their feet, Glickman says, they're at higher risk for open sores and wound infection. The spare room and antibacterial properties of Crocs help combat these problems.
"I do not have stock in the company or work for the company, but I recommend them to patients all the time, and I wear them all the time," Glickman tells WebMD. "I wear them when I'm operating for three or four hours at a time and I get the sense I'm standing on water -- no leg pain, no back painback pain, and no arch pain."
When the temperature starts to rise and flip-flops abound, Glickman also recommends trying Crocs instead.
"Crocs offer more protection for your feet than flip-flops," says Glickman. "Flip-flops don't provide a lot of arch support; they're open-toed so you can stub your toe and hurt yourself. Crocs offer more protection and comfort than that."
Crocs have the official seal of approval from the APMA, meaning the shoes have been found to be beneficial in promoting good foot and ankle care. But not all doctors have signed on to the medical value of the shoes.
"They are very light weight and are good for people who have trouble walking," says Bob Baravarian, MD, chief of foot and ankle surgery at Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center. "They are very stable, they don't bend and twist side to side much, and they have a good heel cup and arch contour compared to other shoes."
Baravarian says Crocs have more positive attributes than negative, but they're no substitute for the real deal.
"Because the shoe is considered medical, it gets overused by people who need more support than they can get from the shoe," Baravarian tells WebMD. "It's not as good as an orthotic or a medical type shoe; it's made out to be better than it is."
And it's not made for marathon wear either, adds Baravarian.
"It's a good shoe for going to the beach, kicking around the house, going to the corner market, but they're not made to be worn at Disneyland all day long," says Baravarian.
Some doctors haven't crossed paths yet with Croc fans.
"Boy, I have never heard of the shoes, and haven't had patients who tried them -- that I know of," says Richard Deyo, MD, a professor of medicine and health services at the University of Washington in Seattle. "I guess I'm out of touch with the popular culture!"
And until a clinical trial published in medical journal says so, he probably won't be recommending them to patients.
"I'm a professional skeptic, and that applies here as well," says Deyo. "Unless they have some persuasive randomized trials, I'd regard the therapeutic claims as theoretical."
What Crocs Fans Say
People who wear Crocs are die-hard fans, and stand by -- and in -- the shoes all day long.
"I saw them in a store, and I tried them on, and ended up with a pair that are light pink," says Jamie Jessick, a registered nurse at Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center. "I like that they're really light and comfortable."
For Jessick, who is on her feet for hours at a time, a comfortable pair of shoes is a must-have.
"They're so comfortable that it's like wearing slippers at work," says Jessick, who is part of a small minority that actually finds the shoes attractive.
"I thought they were cute, that's why I bought them, but turns out they're also comfortable," Jessick tells WebMD, adding that her colleagues are catching on, too. "A couple of nurses have tried them on and seem interested in them."
While it seems the jury is still out on these shoes, Crocs have been spotted almost everywhere, from hospitals to hockey rinks, beaches, boats, and even Hollywood.
Published Aug. 14, 2006.
SOURCES: Bob Baravarian, MD, chief of foot and ankle surgery, Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center; director, Foot and Ankle Institute, Santa Monica, Calif. Richard A. Deyo, MD, MPH, professor of medicine and health services, University of Washington Harborview Medical Center, Seattle. Harold Glickman, DPM, former president, American Podiatric Medical Association, Bethesda, Md. Lyndon V. Hanson, III, vice president, Crocs, Boulder, Colo. Jamie Jessick, RN, Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center, California.
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