Is it time to give Crocs the boot?

YOU either love or hate Crocs - there's no in-between. Suffolk's gone crazy over these shoes but this week a British hospital trust banned theatre nurses from wearing them, suggesting they might be dangerous.

By Tracey Sparling

YOU either love or hate Crocs - there's no in-between. Suffolk's gone crazy over these shoes but this week a British hospital trust banned theatre nurses from wearing them, suggesting they might be dangerous. Features editor TRACEY SPARLING asks is it time to give Crocs the boot?

EVERYWHERE I looked this summer, they were there.

Bright blocks of colour stomping the streets of Suffolk, some adorned with plastic 'jibbitz'.


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What on earth am I talking about, you may ask?

In case you haven't noticed - and you must have been wearing a blindfold not to have - Crocs are the plastic shoes which now have a cult following, and autumn is set to bring a new generation of models to our streets.

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With their loud colours, peppered with holes like Swiss cheese, these chunky shoes look clownish, and critics say ugly.

Of course I risk getting lynched for saying such a thing, as adults and children alike love them.

People point at other peoples' feet and take note of the colour. Wearers seem to feel an instant connection with other wearers, creating an unofficial 'Crocs club' on the street. There's even a website called www.crocFans.com - and another called www.ihatecrocs.com.

Celebrities Nicole Appleton, Vernon Kay and Davina McCall are all fans - even President Bush was spotted wearing a black pair - with socks! My colleague spotted a whole family walking through Ipswich town centre, wearing Crocs in various colours and sizes with socks.

Crocs also won Footwear Brand of the Year at the Drapers Footwear Awards this year.

But has the time come for the bubble to burst, after Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust alleged this week that Crocs might pose a health and safety risk?

Under the hospitals' dress code, shoes should be black, low-heeled, soft-soled and supportive. Theatre staff had been told to stop wearing the most popular variety of Crocs - with holes in the top and sides - because of risk of injury from falling scalpels and needles, or the risk of catching an infection from blood dropping through the holes. The Trust is currently reviewing its uniform policy.

In April, a hospital in Sweden banned the shoes after three incidents in which static electricity from staff who happened to be wearing them was discharged into medical equipment, causing it to malfunction. However, the Sheffield spokesman said that no similar incidents had sparked concern in the UK.

A spokeswoman for Crocs shoes said the allegations that the rubber shoes generated static electricity were unfounded but they were investigating.

She said: "We know of no reason that Crocs would be any more susceptible to static electricity than other shoes, such as sneakers and other types of footwear worn by medical professionals.

She added that hospitals in Sweden recently reversed their decision to ban Crocs from their wards.

At Ipswich Hospital, you won't see Crocs worn by nurses on the wards because they have a strict uniform policy like Sheffield's. But in a handful of clinical areas where ''scrubs' are worn, such as theatres and investigative areas, Crocs are worn, mainly because they are very easy to clean.

A spokeswoman said today: “A very small proportion of staff can wear clog-like shoes. We will be looking at the latest evidence to see if this policy needs to be reviewed regarding Crocs. It's about common sense and standards, and it's a question of maintaining the professional image of the NHS and the hospital trust.”

Today as autumn closes in, the question remains, what's next for Crocs fans?

There are a host of new styles to try, not least the Mammoth version for women and children which has a furry insert to keep your feet warm, and the rain out. For men and children there is the new rugged Axle with a leather upper and industrial laces.

So are they really as comfy as they are cracked up to be?

It wasn't hard to find a pair to try, with some Ipswich shoe shops selling them for about £30, and several

town centre stalls offering imitations for about £10.

I couldn't resist trying a pair on, in Sole Trader in Tavern Street.

The first thing you notice is how ultra light they feel, weighing in at just six ounces.

Then the slightly pimply sole which massages the soles of your feet strikes you as feeling nice.

Surprisingly, the plastic doesn't dig in and you start to understand the comfort as well as the practicalities of these shoes.

I admit it, I'm going to buy a pair but in the new, more slender flip flop variety called Athens, for my hols in Greece. Rest assured I will never wear them for work.

But I still think the Mammoth version is just wrong!

N

What do you think of Crocs? Write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

Why I love my Crocs

At first former Star columnist Mavis Bensley calls Crocs 'outsize,' and 'unglamorous.' But then she takes another breath and it becomes clear she was converted long ago.

The 72-year-old from Ipswich said: “They have been called ugly, hideous, goofy clown shoes, and I have even heard them described as being made of the same material as Hannibal Lecter's mask. I prefer to describe them as 'light, comfortable go-anywhere shoes.

“I plan to buy more in America this year so I will have half a dozen pairs by the end of the year! I bought my first pair in 2004, for $30 in Denver, USA. I bought a blue pair in New Zealand called 'Downunders' and a red pair in Singapore which were made in China. I put them in the washing machine!

“If I was told I could only ever buy one pair of shoes again, I would buy Crocs.

“The fashion will no doubt fade in time, but I bet in 20-30 years' time when someone holds a '2000s'-themed party, some of the partygoers will be wearing Crocs, so Croc-on Ipswich!”

TO make her crocs unique, Katie Pyle from Gainsborough Drive, Manningtree decorates her Crocs with 'jibbitz'.

These are the detachable badges which come in all shapes and sizes and Katie sports jibbitz including a Tinkerbell fairy, sunflower, a crab, rabbit and cat's paw.

Axa employee Katie, 37, bought her first pink pair of Crocs after seeing them in gossip magazines and now also has an orange pair, and a yellow pair to match her bright yellow sports car.

“I can be totally coordinated!” she laughed.

“They feel really soft and spongy. You'd think they'd feel cold at this time of year because of the holes in the sides, but they're actually quite warm. I probably won't wear them all winter but I will for shopping and things like that, because it doesn't matter if they get rained on.

“They are also really good when you go camping because you can wear them in the shower!”

STAR reader Pauline Catchpole from Falmouth Close, Kesgrave thinks Crocs are the most comfortable shoes she's ever owned.

The 61-year-old loves them so much, that she penned a unique description of the shoes:

“Crocs

Roomy

Outstanding

Cleanable

Superb”

She said: “I have got purple, yellow and orange ones. When I first started wearing them people looked as if to say 'what's she got on her feet?'”

She laughed: “My husband still doesn't like going out with me when I'm wearing yellow shoes, blue jeans and a pink top but I like to be different.

“I've had a few operations on my feet so Crocs feel like heaven. I can hop skip and jump in them - I go everywhere in them apart from bed! I soak them in the bath to clean them, I suppose it's the modern equivalent of the rubber duck!”

Fastfacts

Crocs

They were created when three Americans dreamed up the perfect boating shoe on a Caribbean sailing trip from Mexico to Miami, in May 2002.

The name "Crocs" was chosen because crocodiles are tough and strong animals with no natural predators. Crocodiles are equally good in land and water and live for a very long time, so were a good analogy for the shoes.

When the first batch of 1,000 were taken to the Fort Lauderdale boat show, every pair was sold.

Crocs are available in 17 different colours.

They are made in China a resin which resists bacteria and odour. The plastic moulds to your feet when exposed to body heat.

They are designed with built in arch support, circulation nubs, and a heel cup to support and protect the heel. They are ventilated to cool your feet and let water and sand escape.

Heather Cawardine from Crocs' UK office said unfortunately there are no official figures of how many crocs are sold in the UK.

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