WASHINGTON - At rail stations and shopping malls around the world, reports are popping up of people, particularly young children, getting their toes caught in escalators. The one common theme seems to be the clunky soft-soled clogs known by the name of the most popular brand, Crocs.
One of the nation's largest subway systems - the Washington Metro - has even posted ads warning riders about wearing such shoes on its moving stairways. The ads feature a photo of a crocodile, though they don't mention Crocs by name.
Rory McDermott, 4, got a Croc-clad foot caught in an escalator last month at a mall in Northern Virginia. His mother managed to yank him free, but the nail on his big toe was almost completely ripped off, causing heavy bleeding.
At first, Rory's mother had no idea what caused the boy's foot to get caught. It was only later, when someone at the hospital remarked on Rory's shoes, that she began to suspect the Crocs and did an Internet search. "I came home and typed in 'Croc' and 'escalator,' and all these stories came up," said Jodi McDermott, of Vienna, Va.
According to reports appearing across the United States and as far away as Singapore and Japan, entrapments occur because of two of the biggest selling points of shoes like Crocs: their flexibility and grip. Some report the shoes get caught in the "teeth" at the bottom or top of the escalator, or in the crack between the steps and the side of the escalator.
Niwot, Colo.-based Crocs Inc. said it is aware of "very few" problems relating to accidents involving the shoes, which are made of a soft, synthetic resin. "Thankfully, escalator accidents like the one in Virginia are rare," the company said in a statement.
In Japan, the government warned consumers last week it has received 39 reports of sandals - mostly Crocs or similar products - getting stuck in escalators from late August through early September. Most of the reports appear to have involved small children, some as young as 2 years old.
One US retailer, Mattel subsidiary American Girl, has posted signs in three locations directing customers wearing Crocs or flip-flop sandals to use elevators instead of escalators.