Why Crocs are the best adventure travel shoe on the market
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“Wait, you’re going to wear those?” an out-of-town friend asked me at the trailhead as we prepared for our hike.
“You’ll see,” I replied. “I feel like you might regret not wearing a pair yourself.”
The back-and-forth banter about my footwear of choice — Crocs — for a hike up a steep and rocky trail near my home in New Hampshire’s White Mountains was not new. I understood the skepticism. Most other hikers at the trailhead were lacing up their heavy-duty leather Vasque hiking boots or Salomon trail running shoes. It seemed foolish that I was opting for footwear that amounted to not much more than cleverly shaped blocks of foam with holes in them.
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I wasn’t always a Crocs fan
Before relocating to a small mountain town in New Hampshire, I spent 10 years living in Philadelphia. While I never was on top of the trendiest clothing and footwear styles, I made sure that what I was wearing was, at the very least, socially acceptable. Crocs never fit that mold.
When I was introduced to them during my college years, I immediately wrote them off. “The great thing about Crocs is that not only can you use them as shoes, but they also make great personal flotation devices in the event you fall out of a boat,” I would joke whenever they were brought up.
But the days of writing them off ended once I settled in New Hampshire and began putting more value on practicality and functionality than on fashion and impressing others.
As I got into the world of rock climbing, I watched as climbers around me would seamlessly slip from their Crocs into their climbing shoes, and then back into their Crocs after they finished their climb.
“I’ve hiked Mount Washington in Crocs,” said Quddus Snyder, a former university professor who is now often found hanging around New Hampshire’s popular climbing destinations with his favorite pair of grey Crocs. “And I didn’t even use the adventure strap when I got to the steep section. Like I always say, ‘If you can’t Croc it, fok it.’”
The appeal of Crocs
The lightweight foam shoes, dotted on the upper half with ventilation holes and on the footbed with small, traction-providing raised dots, seemed to be mainstream in the climbing community. And Crocs and socks seemed to go hand-in-hand. (According to the Croc enthusiasts, wearing them without socks can be a little sweaty on a warm day.) Socks or no socks, I was the odd man out.
Modeled after a boating clog made by Quebec-based Foam Creations, Inc., the first Crocs clog, named “The Beach,” made its debut in 2002 at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. The three friends who came up with the idea to improve upon the Foam Creations design — Scott Seamans, Lyndon Hanson and George Broedbecker Jr. — all shared a love of sailing. They were impressed by Foam Creation’s closed-cell resin technology, called Croslite, which provided excellent grip on a boat’s deck.
When “The Beach” made its first public appearance at the boat show, it was a hit not just among boaters, but also restaurant workers and hospital employees. Not only did the shoes have a slip-resistant sole and resist odor, but they also conformed to each individual’s feet, provided support and comfort unrivaled by a basic pair of sneakers and were easy to clean.
Since then, the shoe’s popularity has skyrocketed with help from celebrities like Justin Bieber and Post Malone, seemingly because of a cultural shift towards prioritizing comfort and practicality.
For me, the shoe is more than a trend. My Crocs and I have become inseparable since I purchased my first pair in 2016, replacing the Adidas Samba sneakers I used to wear daily. When traveling, leaving my Crocs at home doesn’t even seem like an option. I know they’re going to be the proper tool for any job thrown my way, from sitting on a 12-hour flight to heading to the beach to enjoying cocktails at a high-end restaurant (OK, whether the last one is actually sartorially acceptable is still up for debate). On more casual outings I wear them as slip-ons, but I don’t hesitate to use the “adventure” strap on the back, which locks the heel in place, for more active excursions.
I’ve even successfully converted a number of never-Crocers (a term coined by me) to Croc enthusiasts, including my partner. When I purchased her first pair for her birthday in 2018, her facial expression didn’t hide the offense she had taken to the gift.
“Um, I don’t think I’m going to wear those,” she said in an apologetic tone.
But less than a week after I returned them she was at the Croc outlet with a change of heart.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated the rising popularity of the shoe, which spans a variety of age groups and demographics who are realizing the value of comfort and versatility.
“I started wearing them during the pandemic because we had just bought a house and I was home a lot more,” said Matt Macekura, 34, of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. “I was able to easily go from sitting on the couch to doing yard work to climbing a ladder, as long as I had the strap on tight.”
Macekura isn’t alone. According to the company’s third-quarter earnings for 2021, revenue is up 73% from a year earlier, exceeding expectations by $16 million.
With a recent surge in Crocs’ popularity — and increasing appreciation of their versatility and comfort — it’s likely that you might see a few more pairs on flights in the coming weeks, months and years. Before you slip them on and hop on a flight, however, do yourself (and your seatmate) a favor and wear socks.
Featured photo by Cate Gillon/Getty Images.
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