Crocs are everywhere, from malls to parks to schools across America. With funky color choices like Camouflage, Haze, and Glam, Crocs are probably your child's favorite footwear. But the Crocs shoe craze has hit a bump in the road, as parents -- and schools -- wonder if the loose-fitting style of these cool kicks can actually pose a danger.
There have also been worldwide media reports about Croc-wearing kids getting their toes caught in escalators in malls, airports, and other transportation systems, including Washington, D.C.'s Metro stations. The subway system recently posted a warning to riders about wearing shoes like Crocs on the escalators, although it did not name them specifically, according to CNN.com.
Experts gave WebMD advice on kids' Crocs, including the benefits of Crocs during summer, the risks of Crocs during the school year, and when a full-coverage shoe, like a sneaker, might be a more sensible -- and safer -- choice.
Crocs Shoes in the Summer
Crocs, which were created in 2002 as footwear for boating with non-slip tread and waterproof tendencies, have morphed into a foot phenomenon for all ages. It's clear that for kids in particular, these shoes offer a hip alternative to sneakers, and when the warm weather rolls around, a better option than bare feet.
"Crocs shoes do provide protection, compared to going barefoot, or wearing flip-flops or sandals," says Donna M. Alfieri, DPM, associate professor at the N.Y. College of Podiatric Medicine. "They offer some arch support and cushion, the holes in the shoe allow air in and keep the feet from sweating, and the antimicrobial properties of Crocs could help prevent infections in kids' feet." Kids' crocs come in so many different styles and colors, kids everywhere are wearing the shoes that fit their feet and their personality.
"In addition to the support and protection kids get from Crocs, the great thing is they want to wear them," says Hal Ornstein, DPM, chairman of the American Academy of Podiatric Practice Management.
Ornstein, who sells a special therapeutic line of adult Crocs, called Crocs Rx, through his private practice, says that his own children wear Crocs and love them.
"My kids wear Crocs all summer long," says Ornstein. "Instead of having to tell them to tie the laces on their sneakers and worrying about them tripping over untied shoes, Crocs are convenient and they like them -- they're cool."
Fashion aside, when the days start to get shorter and the backpacks come out, some experts say it's time to rethink your kids' Crocs in favor of some tried but true choices.
The manufacturer of Crocs was contacted for comment, but didn't respond.
Crocs at School
Crocs shoes were created for boating in warm weather, and maybe that's for a reason.
"I generally like Crocs for kids for their convenience factor in the summer," says Russell G. Volpe, DPM, a professor of orthopaedics and pediatrics at N.Y. College of Podiatric Medicine. "They make a great beach and pool shoe -- easy on and easy off."
But school is another matter, explains Volpe, with too many physical activities that make kids' Crocs a risky choice.
"I start to have concerns when a child is doing any sort of moderate physical activity," Volpe tells WebMD. "Crocs provide little support and they can easily slip off during recess, gym, or any other activity beyond walking."
Alfieri also is concerned about the risks from wearing Crocs from the morning bell to when school lets out in the afternoon. "Crocs are not the kind of shoe that should be worn all day long," she says. "This is when they cause a danger because they can fall off as kids engage in the activities of the school day."
The Thomson Elementary School principal in Andover, Mass., agrees, having enacted a Crocs ban, along with a ban on flip-flops and sandals, on school premises for both playground safety reasons as well as a precaution in case of a fire emergency.
Short of a Crocs ban at your child's school, parents and kids need to be smart about when Crocs can be worn safely and when sneakers are required, experts say.
"Other than allowing kids to wear Crocs as they walk to and from class, they should be replaced with sneakers," says Volpe.
Another school-year Crocs problem is weather. Unless you live in a climate where it's warm year-round, your kid's Crocs should hibernate for the winter and be replaced with something waterproof and warm.
"Whether it's rain or snow, when Crocs get wet they're terrible," says Volpe. "During the school year, this is something parents need to keep in mind. As soon you hit the poor weather, if your child is wearing Crocs he might as well be shoeless."
Crocs Shoes Alternatives
Kids love Crocs -- that much is obvious. Sit on a bench near a park and more than half of the kids that pass by will likely be sporting a pair. For kids who avoid shoes in the summer or consistently forget to tie the laces on their sneakers, Crocs are finally a shoe that fits.
"Other trends have really affected shoe-wearing in children in a negative way," says Ornstein. "So Crocs, which kids like to wear, have been a breath of fresh air."
Worn at the beach or the pool, or for walking short distances, Crocs are a good choice. Still, kids and parents need to remember the other shoes in their closets.
"You need to switch around the shoes your kids wear to make sure they're getting the right support, and based on the activity they're doing," says Alfieri. "Shoes aren't a one-kind-fits-all sort of thing."
What about kids who are too active for Crocs, sandals, or flip-flops? The obvious choice for busy kids is sneakers.
"Any sneaker-type shoe, even one with Velcro if the child is too young to lace, is going to give your child good support and foot protection," says Volpe. "The trick is to make sure your child uses the laces. Otherwise, he's not going to get much value from it."
Kids' Crocs Checklist
Not sure when your child should be wearing a Croc, or when a sneaker or boot might be better? Here's a Crocs checklist to keep both feet going in the right direction:
Activity OK for Crocs?
Gym Class No
Walking to and from class Yes
Going to the beach Yes
Going to the pool Yes
After-school sports No
Walking on a cold winter day No