Crocs and Escalators a Dangerous Combo

Ten-year-old Chloe Johnson of Kansas City was afraid of sharks -- something that she made well known to her parents during a 2005 vacation to Florida.

But it was only on the way back from the vacation, in Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport, that she received an unexpected bite -- from an escalator.

"She was not goofing around at all, but she must have been standing in a way that brought her left Croc shoe into contact with the side of the escalator," recalls Chloe's father, Neil Johnson.

"I started hearing her squeal, and my immediate reaction was, 'Oh goodness, what now?'" he said.

But the pain Chloe experienced was all too real. The shoe had been bitten and twisted by the escalator mechanism, wrenching her foot along with it.

By the time she had limped off of the top of the escalator, helped by her parents, blood from her seriously injured toe began seeping out from the shoe.

"Her left big toe was mutilated like you wouldn't believe," Johnson said. "I sat on the floor and held her foot somewhat elevated, with blood running down my forearms."

Fortunately Chloe recovered fully. "It's a little disfigured, but she played soccer all through last year," Johnson said. But in recent months, a growing number of reports have joined those of Johnson's family as more children worldwide are experiencing foot and toe injuries from wearing the popular shoes on escalators.

According to foreign media reports, there have been dozens of reports in Asia as well of the shoes getting jammed and twisted in escalators, often resulting in serious foot and toe injuries in children.

On Sept. 7, Japanese government officials warned of the dangers associated with the shoes getting stuck in escalators. The officials cited 39 reports of such incidents in recent weeks, and most involved small children as young as 2.

And some stores and other areas where escalators are present are taking notice, posting warnings for those wearing the shoes to avoid the moving stairways entirely.

Thus far, however, reports of such injuries made to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission have been spare. A spokesperson for the Colorado-based company, Tia Mattson, said the reports highlight "really just a few isolated incidents."

But some doctors say the shoes may be an accident waiting to happen for young wearers.

"There seems to be some potential for injury there," said Russell Volpe, professor of Orthopaedics and Pediatrics at the N.Y. College of Podiatric Medicine in New York City, who adds that he has nonetheless not yet seen any patients with these complaints.

"As we are starting to hear with this Croc story, we may hear more about traumatic foot injuries. They do expose the foot to risk."

Others note that the problem may have less to do with shoes and more to do with escalators themselves.

"I don't know if it's a shoe problem or it's an escalator problem," said Donna Alfieri, associate professor of Primary Podiatric Medical Sciences and director of Clinical Research at the N.Y. College of Podiatric Medicine. "In general, I think you have to be careful when you get on and off the escalator anyway because people do have injuries if they're not careful with where they place their footing."

A Growing Trend

Crocs began marketing its first model in November 2002 -- a single-piece, chunky rubber slipper that gained instant popularity for the informal comfort it offers.

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