Running In Off Road Crocs™
I’ve been a Crocs™ owner for many years; they’ve been my go to post race footwear of choice. There is just something about the ample toe room and massaging, beaded, foot bed that is just so relaxing. While some disparage the looks of the clog, writing them off as gardening shoes, I for one actually like the relatively simple design. I’ll admit that while I loved wearing my Crocs leisurely after a race or around the house I never once thought seriously about hiking or running in them.
The first I’d ever heard about somebody actually running regularly in Crocs™ was from an ultrarunning friend of mine. She knew of a fellow ultrarunner who, as a last resort, tried running in Crocs™ because she suffered from a non-functioning Achilles tendon in her left leg. Long story short when she runs her heel slams down very hard and no shoe was capable of getting her past 10 miles. With Crocs™ she’s now returned to the sport she loves and has amassed quite a respectable running resume over the past four years.
In addition I’ve personally witnessed firsthand over the last two years a marathon runner, Alexander Pachev, race the Rocket City Marathon in my home town in a pair of Crocs™. Alexander not only raced in Crocs™ he raced very fast! A brief inspection of his running log shows that he’s run several marathons in the 2:35-2:45 range in Crocs™!
I became even more curious so I just did some general Google searches about people running in Crocs™. From what I learned, turns out that there are many people who do so with mixed results. So I thought what the heck? I’m in the middle of my brief ultrarunning off season so why not give running in Crocs™ a try for myself?
What follows is a report on my own experiences—Read on!
First to put some hard numbers on what I tested. I ran in the Crocs™ Off Road Clog. Except mine is an ugly olive drab with bright orange straps! According to my own rough measurements I came up with the following vital statistics:
- Weight: ~150 g (~5.29 oz) for Men’s 8.
- Stack Heights:
- Forefoot: ~12.7 mm (0.5 in)
- Heel: ~20.6 mm (0.81 in)
- Net Drop: ~7.9 mm (0.31 in)
So as can be seen, these Crocs are extremely lightweight but does have significant heel-to-toe drop yet the stack heights are well within the realm of shoes reviewed on this site that are considered minimalist or in the broader category of reduced or transitional shoes. The Classic version of Crocs™ is significantly thinner so it would be noticeably lighter though I’d expect the net drop to be roughly the same.
I knew from past use that my pair of Crocs™ would be difficult to run with as they were since there is so much volume in the clog and I typically wore the adjustable heel strap very loose. So, as I usually run in a pair of arch support insoles in my running shoes I placed a pair of Montrail Enduro-Soles in my Crocs™ to help fill up some of the volume. I next donned a pair of socks, slipped the clogs on and adjusted the Velcro heel-strap until I felt like my feet were fairly secure in the clogs. By fairly secure I don’t mean jammed tight with my toes smashed into the ends of the clog; I’ve run enough miles in a pair of huaraches so I know the importance of not going too tight with the fit. Interestingly I found online some other creative ways to deal with the Crocs™ that don’t have adjustable heel straps.
What follows is a summary of my experiences after about 14 miles of running in my Crocs™ on pavement, cement and wet and dry trails.
So what was it like? I’d describe overall “feel” of running in Crocs™ to be like a mix between a Hoka One One and a Luna huarache sandal both of which I have experience running many miles in. Yes a battle of extremes!
They felt Hoka-like because the foam is extremely soft and cushy while at the same time being very stable because of the wide footprint. Like the Hoka, ground feel was greatly reduced and I could barely feel any of the smaller rocks and trail debris I was stepping on. But for those interested in a plush ride Crocs™ certainly don’t disappoint!
Simultaneously they felt huarache-like because of the huge amount of toe room and the heel strap allows your foot to move more naturally within the clog but still keeps you in contact with the shoe throughout the ground phase of my stride. The clogs were fairly flexible; however, like huaraches they were not quite as good on off-camber terrain as I did have some foot rolling and movement inside the clog in some situations.
However, as most of my running routes were reasonably level with lots of straights I often forgot that I was running in a clog that was not specifically designed to be run in! In my experience the sign of a comfortable shoe is one that you don’t constantly notice!
While my overall experience of running in Crocs™ was favorable there were some things I didn’t like about running in them. The biggest issue that would potentially cause issues down the road is that while in most cases I didn’t experience much foot movement inside the clog, I’d on occasion feel my toes impacting the end or inside top of the toe box; especially on downhills.
After a couple runs I could definitely feel some of my toes took a bit of a beating; unchecked I think this abuse could lead to blisters or loss of toe nails! Ouch! In my case my toes next to my big toes are significantly longer so I’m more sensitive to toe box issues. I think the main culprit here is that this clog has nearly 8mm of heel-to-toe drop! With a lower drop clog I’d imagine my toe impact issues would be significantly less. In addition, being used to zero or low heel-to-toe drop shoes I found it somewhat of a challenge to easily run with a solid, full foot strike in these clogs. Another thing I didn’t like about running in Crocs™ was that the metatarsal flex point felt a bit strange. I think this has something to do with the fact that I was using a full length arch support in the clog and that the entire clog is one solid piece of foam and so everything seems to flex and stretch as it bends. Hard to describe what’s going on but the faster I tried to run the more this bend-flex-stretch effect was pronounced; when I just slowed down and shuffled along the phenomenon wasn’t as noticeable.
As a relatively inexpensive way to experiment with reduced shoe running Crocs have a lot going for them: lightweight, huge amount of toe room and relatively low stack heights compared to traditional running shoes. The downsides include: difficulty in establishing a secure fit, 8mm of heel-to-toe drop makes it a challenge to maintain a full foot running form and the metatarsal flexing behavior is a bit odd.
In conclusion while I’ve had a lot of fun running in these clogs and will continue to do so I think I’ll restrict my Crocs™ running to single digit mileage on easy or recovery training days. Your mileage may vary.