Before Internet virality, there were simply word-of-mouth fads. There were Pogs, yo-yos and Pokémon cards; now there's The Old Guard, whipped coffee and TikTok dance moves. None of it is built to last, but sometimes a fad or a viral sensation shows some durability and becomes a trend. That seems to be happening with Crocs, the spongy, holey, shoes-slash-sandals that are somehow popular with the kids again nearly two decades after their inception.
I was 11 when Crocs first showed up on the rack at our local sports equipment store. I'll admit that, even at that age, I aligned with the shoe's critics; they seemed ugly and floppy, and besides, Teva sandals were already my open-air footwear of choice. But I bought some anyway — a red pair, two or three sizes too big, all that was left in stock — because my best friend had a pair and claimed they were "the best." Because fads.
I rarely wore those Crocs and gave them away before that summer waned into fall. But Crocs came back to me nearly a decade later when the packing list for a months-long wilderness course called for a pair of shoes to wear at camp. I brought an old pair of running sneakers, which served the purpose just fine. But one of my instructors packed some hole-free Crocs as his camp shoe, and when he proclaimed them "the best," I jealously agreed.
His reasoning, after all, was difficult to debate: Crocs are ideal for camping because they're lightweight, waterproof against the wet ground, and you can clip them to the outside of a backpack or unceremoniously shove them down into the last remaining space available inside. After a long day, it's nice to get out of your wet, dirty, sweaty hiking boots and into a roomy pair of shoes or sandals, and Crocs serve that purpose beautifully.
For some hikers who are more hardcore than I am, even Crocs are too heavy to carry on the trail. But the funky kicks have proven more than once that weird-looking shoes made of foam have their place in society. I've known cooks, teachers and retail workers who all swear by Crocs as the ultimate footwear for their professions.
Perhaps the biggest tribute to Crocs’ enduring relevance is that we now have Crocs alternatives. The running shoe company Hoka One One makes the edgier Hopara, and the same hikers who scoff that Crocs are too heavy might recommend Vivobarefoot's Primus Trail FG, which weighs half as much. Hell, even Kanye's Yeezy brand has plans to sell its own version next year.
These days, I'm partial to Merrell's Hydro Moc. They call to mind Crocs' perforated form but include a heel structure and come in trippy marbled colors. Not that it matters, but I think they look more like crocodiles, too.