It’s been 20 years since Crocs debuted at a Florida boat show. Ever since, the shoes’ squishy, marshmallow-esque form has graced small-town streets and Balenciaga runways alike, inciting equal parts adoration and vitriol—but rarely indifference. They’re an enduring Y2K classic! Their ubiquity is obvious, but one aspect of our collective Crocs fixation remains a mystery: Why are people so obsessed with trying to eat them?
I can’t remember where I first heard that you could eat Crocs. Maybe a childhood friend? It’s an urban legend that feels like part of the innate, Jungian collective unconscious. I’ve watched it circulate at playgrounds, frat parties, and on the internet for over a decade, and the easy response of, “No, please don’t eat your clogs,” still hasn’t stopped generations of people from gnawing them like they’re the spawns of Struwwelpeter and Werner Herzog, the enigmatic filmmaker and one-time shoe eater.
One of the earliest online traces about eating Crocs is a 2006 Straight Dope message board post from a user named @Bobotheoptimist, who alleged that they emailed a Crocs representative about the shoes’ edibility and shared the company’s purported response. It was a simple albeit pot-stirring reply, as it acknowledged the possibility that Crocs could have some nourishing material. “Although Crocs are non-toxic, there is little, if any, nutritional value in the material we use,” the rep replied, explaining, “[The edibility] is a rumor, said to have started with a camp counselor who boiled a Croc, and cut it into pieces, substituting the actual shoe with candy before he fed it to the camp children.”
“It was super chewy and hard to get down, kind of like eating a really tough piece of Styrofoam.” —Ian Burke
There must have been something in the air because 2006 was also the year my former co-worker Ian Burke, then age 11, ate a portion of a Croc. “To my knowledge, Crocs are the only shoe that's safe to eat,” Burke told me. He, too, had grown up with an almost intuitive sense that Crocs could be wilderness survival food, so when that one kid with armpit hair in his friend group said they should all eat one, he didn’t think twice. “I ripped off the strap since I still needed to be able to wear [the rest of the shoes] home that night, and we cut it down the middle and ate it. It was super chewy and hard to get down, kind of like eating a really tough piece of Styrofoam.”
How did he feel afterward?
By far, the most in-depth account about eating a Croc is a 2016 article by Gunnar Lundberg, who documented his experience for his St. Louis Park, Minnesota high school’s newspaper. “I was trying to get my article quota in for the semester, and I hadn’t written for their ‘Diversions’ category yet,” he told me by Zoom from Scotland, where he’s currently in graduate school. Lundberg skewered and weighed down his Croc in a pot, boiled it for 90 minutes, and consumed “two normal, steak-sized bites” with a sriracha dipping sauce. “I didn’t have any noticeable digestive discomfort,” he said. “I could feel it linger in my throat, but then it was never to be seen or heard from again. Unless it’s still in me.”
All of these Croc tales struck me as typical kid behavior. More concerning, then, was the recent mounting online Crocs-eating discourse from real live adults. In February 2020, Kendall Jenner bit into a Croc during a game of “Food or Not Food” on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. This Redditor ate one after they lost a bet, while the Instagram meme account @beancrocdaily uses the shoes’ famously perforated tops as a glory hole for canned beans. On YouTube, TikTok, and footwear blogs such as Legendary Diary, Wear Duke, and Pedi Delight, countless people have explored the topic of Crocs-munching.
In the hopes of finding an answer to whether you could (if not should) really eat a Croc, let’s start with what they’re actually made of. Around the time of the company’s founding, its mystery material’s manufacturing rights were purchased from a company called Foam Creations and renamed “Croslite.” According to a 2006 patent, Croslite was partially made out of EVA foam, which is widely accepted as harmless for use in, say, yoga mats, but has been known to contain traces of the carcinogen formamide. So, obviously not something to chow down on.
But that was another era. As part of company efforts to hit net zero by 2030, Crocs changed their Croslite recipe in 2021. According to a report from the Securities and Exchange Commission, today’s Croslite is made using Dow Chemical’s ECOLIBRIUM technology, with a new, bio-based material that sounds very sustainable and very Tron. In short, newly produced Croslite is made out of 98 percent renewable feedstock, a lead- and phthalate-free product that’s typically made from a plant-based material, such as straw.
The new recipe sounds vaguely more edible-seeming, so I asked Melissa Layton, Crocs’ Director of Global Communications, just hypothetically, if that meant I could eat my squeaky clompers and be fine. “We have a very straightforward stance on this topic,” she said, “Regardless of the material makeup, for no reason do we recommend eating Crocs shoes. They are for wearing purposes only and/or to be personalized with Jibbitz charms as a form of self-expression.” (Jibbitz are baubles the brand’s in-house accessory, designed to be poked through, and flaunted upon, the bill holes of a Croc.)
“Regardless of the material makeup, for no reason do we recommend eating Crocs shoes. They are for wearing purposes only and/or to be personalized with Jibbitz charms as a form of self-expression.” —Melissa Layton
Still, let’s say I did take a bite. Might there be any nutritional value, even in a life-or-death situation? “Just because something isn’t toxic doesn’t mean it's edible,” said Abbey Sharp, a registered dietician. “It's very likely that our bodies would not be able to digest and absorb the substance because we lack the specific enzymes needed [to do so].” She predicted digestive havoc: constipation, diarrhea, and potential risk of bowel and intestinal blockages. “Even if your body could digest some pieces of the shoe, there is a negligible amount of nutrition in Croslite,” she concluded. “If you’re stranded in the woods, you're better off using those Crocs as a weapon to catch something you can actually eat.”
I was bummed but not surprised that a nutritionist didn’t want me to eat a feedstock byproduct. Besides, this quest was as much about peeling back the footwear’s layers of EVA foam as it was the personalities of those who were down to digest their fugly shoe. Why do they do it? Do the Crocs-eaters of the world have a taste for self-flagellation that goes beyond adolescent tomfoolery? Maybe. But I think at the heart of the Crocs-hungry consumer is a blend of curiosity and gumption.
After all of this Croc talk, I gave my own pink platform Croc a lick for posterity. Almost instinctively, I went in for a bite. It was harder than I expected, but it was also raw and unboiled, so I slapped it against the wall like a fresh fish until I realized I needed to take a step back. Hours of Crocs research tenderized the shoe in my mind, but reality (this shoe tastes like a tire) would be a harder swallow. I didn’t swallow a piece, in the end, but that’s OK. Maybe it’s not always about eating a Croc, but just mustering the courage to have a taste.
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