Since their conception back in 2002, Crocs have been a hot topic, for better or for worse. Those who love them can’t stop wearing them and those who hate them are consistently vocal about their disdain. And now that these divisive shoes are back—thanks to pandemic comfy dressing and Gen Z—the populous is once again at odds. So, we decided to call in the big guns, and tapped Dr. Vanessa Barrow, DPM, a Texas-based podiatrist—and shoe afficionado herself—to weigh in on this ever-polarizing, eternally controversial shoe. Here’s what she had to say.
Are Crocs even good shoes from an ergonomic standpoint?
Setting aside differing tastes, we asked Dr. Barrow about the functionality of Crocs. Are they even a good shoe ergonomically? The verdict: It’s complicated, and it ultimately just depends on what you’re doing. “I always talk to my patients about wearing the right shoe for the right function,” Dr. Barrow tells us.
Crocs are made from closed-cell resin, a proprietary material that makes them waterproof, lightweight, non-marking and easy to wash. It also gives them that cushiony and comfortable feel that fans love. Anyone who’s ever owned a pair—or resentfully stood by as their loved ones wore them day in and day out—can certainly attest to the fact that these bad boys are durable AF.
Still, as with any shoe really, you have to take into consideration your activities for the day before you choose to wear them. “Crocs are not for everything,” says Dr. Barrow. “If you’re going to go to Disney World, where you’re walking around and be on your feet all day, then no, Crocs are not right for what you’re doing. But if you’re going for a quick trip to the grocery store or [running other errands] then yes, absolutely.”
While their renowned wide fit is beloved because it gives your little piggies so much room, Crocs can also cause some problems. If you have foot conditions like hyperhidrosis, you’re an elderly person or you know your feet generally need more arch or heel support, then you’re better off sitting out the Croc wave. “If you’re someone with sweaty feet, these are not the shoes for you,” Dr. Barrow emphasizes. “Your feet will sweat and because [they’re made of] a nonporous material, that sweat is just sitting there and not wicking away.”
Are there any other downsides to wearing Crocs?
Potentially, but mostly in the long-term. According to Dr. Barrow, religious Croc-wearing can actually wreak some serious havoc on your feet. “What people don’t realize is that they’re a huge fall risk,” she explains. “These are wide, loose shoes that are not secure to your foot and if you’re elderly or you walk fast, you can trip and fall.”
Long-term wear of Crocs may also cause other serious foot conditions. “You’re not thinking about it, but when you’re wearing a shoe that wide, you’re gripping with your toes, and when you grip with your toes to keep a shoe on, you can get tendonitis, plantar fasciitis and hammertoes in the long-term,” Dr. Barrow notes. But that’s not all. “Because it’s a big shoe, your feet tend to slide forward a little bit. If you’re constantly hitting the nail, that can lead to nail trauma such as ingrown nails and the nail lifting up.”
While lovers of Crocs revel in the fact that the shoe is waterproof, the downside to that is the fact that they’re not moisture-wicking. Unless you wash them often, all your sweat just festers in there and when you’re a devoted Crocs wearer, this can lead to serious conditions such as nail fungus and athlete’s foot, in the long-term.
Are there any upsides to Crocs?
Absolutely. No matter how you feel about the shoes, you can’t deny the fact that they’re so damn comfortable. If you need a shoe with some cushion or shock absorption, then Crocs are absolutely the right match for you. “As we mature, we lose fat in our feet because our collagen starts wearing thin,” Dr. Barrow tells us. “So Crocs will feel good for people who need that extra cushion.” Peeps with feet that swell—pregnant women, diabetic patients, for example—may find Crocs to be a godsend because they’re so roomy.
And while the wide-fit design may be a turn-off for some, the fact that you can simply slide in them is a big selling point. For people who can’t bend down or have other mobility issues, Crocs are just convenient.
Lastly, if you’re still working from home and simply need to revamp your house slipper game, Dr. Barrow says Crocs are A-OK to wear, since you’re not doing any heavy-duty walking. She does urge you to be extra mindful if you walk fast or have tots in the house as, again, their wide fit may send you tumbling.
What are some alternatives to Crocs?
So you want the comfort of crocs but need something with a bit more heel and arch support? Dr. Barrow says there are a few options out there that aren’t as risky. “If you’re looking for something with shock absorption, any shoes with memory foam are something to consider because it cradles [the foot],” she advises. “If you’re looking for something lightweight, sneakers like Hokas or carbon plated running shoes are extremely lightweight and they’re supportive at the same time.”
The bottom line
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, there is nothing wrong with wearing Crocs, just as long as you do so sparingly and with caution. You can certainly add as many color variations and pairs to your closet, but make sure these aren’t your go-to shoes for any long-distance walking or fast-paced activity, comfy as they may be.