By Vanessa McMains, Chicago Tribune
CHICAGO — Jessica Rosenberg has noticed one of this summer’s hottest trends right in her family pool in Santa Clara, Calif.: kids wearing their Crocs while swimming.
“My kids have been wearing their Crocs in the pool for two summers now,” said Rosenberg, 33, the mother of two children, ages 2 and 4.
But because Crocs are worn everywhere — public bathrooms, playgrounds, home, sidewalks — some poolgoers are wondering if the Croc-wearers are tracking extra germs into the water.
“As for the sanitary issue, I doubt putting Crocs in a chlorinated pool is any less healthy than letting a child whose feet are black with grime from walking around in flip-flops get into the same pool,” said Rosenberg. “But, then again, we swim in a private backyard pool.”
Experts say the street-shoe aspect of Crocs makes them problematic.
“I don’t think it is hygienic to wear street shoes into the water that should be clean,” said Elizabeth Scott, co-director of the Center for Hygiene and Health in Home and Community at Simmons College in Boston.
Parents looking out for their children are often faced with conflicting concerns, though. Wearing shoes in the water can protect kids’ feet from rocks, shells, concrete scrapes and other elements — and the already-popular and waterproof Crocs serve that purpose well. Does that outweigh the tracking in and out of germs that might be happening?
“The more germs you throw into the pool, the harder to keep the pool clean,” Scott said.
Many public pools have rules that ban street shoes from being worn in the water. Crocs are quickly replacing water shoes as the footwear of choice for kids in private pools and places that allow shoes, however.
Furthermore, kids like to wear their Crocs in the water because they float. Crocs can change a kid’s buoyancy like anti-gravity boots and double as a pool toy — think of the Fun Noodle craze with the floating tubes.
“The shoes are ideal because they become weightless in the water and no one burns their feet on hot cement when getting out,” said Rosenberg. “As an added bonus, the shoes come out squeaky clean.”
Official Crocs are made of a patented antimicrobial material called Croslite. Many of the other Croc-like shoes are made from different materials, some that rival the comfort of Crocs — such as Holey’s made from SmartCel memory foam — but do not claim to prevent bacteria from growing on them. Other knock-offs, while cheap and slip-resistant, are made of rubber and have no extra antibacterial properties.
Even though Crocs are antimicrobial, the company recommends that wearers occasionally disinfect their shoes with a simple solution of 10 percent bleach, which can be made by adding 1 cup of bleach to 9 cups of water.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends always showering before and after going swimming and if you will be wearing Crocs or other kinds of shoes, then shower with them too. This prevents the transfer of germs from the environment into pools and prevents any bacteria that could be lurking in pools or beaches to be carried home.