The strange ways of the Web launched the shoe, which has been sold by the company since 2015, into Internet fame this week, though no one is sure why. The shoe is out of stock on the Crocs website.
That didn’t stop bipeds from slamming the shoe as, in the words of one Twitter user, the latest addition to “so many sad things going on in the world right now.”
But industry analysts agree the rise of its critics could actually be good for Crocs — an opportunity, even, to remind shoppers that the company is about more than the clog, and that there is such a thing as a comfortable high heel.
“I honestly think the timing is just right,” said Alexis DeSalva, senior research analyst for retail and e-commerce at Mintel. “Casual shoes and a priority on comfort in general have definitely grown a lot over the last few years. It’s never been more acceptable to prioritize comfort in your footwear than now.”
Bipeds might be surprised to know that Crocs' designs venture well beyond the clog. Embellished wedges, slingback flats, T-strap sandals and slip-on loafers make up only a handful of options for women, with dozens more on sale for men, boys and girls.
The company surged in popularity in the early 2000s, but sales plummeted during the recession. The company had a loss of $185.1 million in 2008 and laid off 2,000 employees.
Yet Crocs has found its footing again in recent years, thanks in part to a $200 million investment by the Blackstone Group in 2013 and a fresh embrace from celebrity endorsements and high-fashion runways. The brand shuttered hundreds of underperforming stores and refocused on the classic clog, which Crocs Chief Marketing Officer Terence Reilly described to The Washington Post in 2017 as “our hero.”
DeSalva said shoppers increasingly opt for casual and comfortable footwear, especially since it has become more acceptable to dress down at the office or special events. Crocs promoted the comfort of its styles for years, and now, brands across the spectrum are finally catching up, she said.
The sudden attention on Crocs offers the perfect window to tap into the reality that “women are understanding that comfort and casual can be applied to their heels as well,” DeSalva said.
“I know the bottom line is that Crocs is literally being mentioned across all media channels,” DeSalva said, “and I think that that’s something that maybe hasn’t happened for them in awhile.”
Beth Goldstein, fashion footwear and accessories analyst at the NPD Group, said the timing could also bode well for Crocs as “ugly” footwear catches on. Goldstein used Crocs and Uggs — widely known for their signature boot — as examples of brands that often shoulder the less-than-glamorous reputation as the makers of distinctly odd-looking shoes.
But now, Crocs can broaden shoppers' perceptions of what makes a Croc a Croc.
"They should embrace it. They should have fun with it,” she said. “Brands struggle with this perception that they’re one thing.”
Goldstein added that consumers' focus on the clog alone “doesn’t give the rest of [the brand] enough credit.”
Steven Marotta, senior vice president for equity research at C.L. King & Associates, said that as the foam high heel makes the rounds online, it’s the mantra of “bad press is better than no press” that could boost Crocs' brand awareness and draw attention to its variety of styles. Because the company’s heels make up a small fraction of its inventory, Crocs as a whole won’t take a major hit.
“I don’t think it’s going to hurt Crocs' feelings at all, given the fact that this is not in the core wheelhouse and it does get people talking about the brand,” he said.
Marotta’s advice to Crocs: Stand back and “secretly hope the meme gets bigger.”