A new boat shoe that bucks tradition - Soundings Online

A new boat shoe that bucks tradition

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Crocs are clog-like shoes made of a closed-cell resin that resists odors and won’t absorb water

Crocs are clog-like shoes made of a closed-cell resin that resists odors and won’t absorb water

Is nothing sacred? The traditional boat shoe has a challenger, one that won’t start to stink or leave you with aching calves.

They are Crocs. Scott Seamans, their creator, says the shoe’s design — along with the materials he uses — suits pleasure boaters’ podiatric needs better than the traditional flat-soled leather moccasins that have been the standard nautical footwear for generations.

“We wanted to develop a comfortable boat shoe that won’t smell, has a good grip, and won’t track stones onto the boat,” says Seamans, a 51-year-old boater and industrial designer from Niwot, Colo.

Designed to look like a clog with air holes, the Croc is made of a proprietary closed-cell resin that is resistant to odor-causing microbes, and softens with the body’s heat so it molds to the shape of the foot. A heel strap can be worn in place or stowed forward so the Croc wears like a slip-on clog. Seamans says the shoes clean easily and don’t soak up seawater or dry and crack when left out in the sun. That, along with the shoe’s design with arch and heel support — he says they actually are good walking shoes — have won it accolades from U.S. Ergonomics, the equivalent of the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for people-friendly design.

Seamans, who has designed and manufactured light-diffusion devices for professional photographers and developed molding technology, comes by his knowledge of boat shoes honestly. He grew up racing on his dad’s sailboat out of the Newport Beach (Calif.) Yacht Club, captained boats for a time in the late 1970s and early ’80s, and owned a Swan 38 named Dolcinea. He loves to fish and skippered a 65-foot sportfisherman from San Diego to Newfoundland, fishing all the way.

His current boat, a custom gaff-rigged aluminum schooner named Hannibal, carries a 6-foot-long Croc and the company’s crocodile-head logo on its sails. Hannibal was a very visible sales vehicle at last fall’s Annapolis, Md., and Newport, R.I., boat shows, where Seamans — Crocs founder and chief technology officer — took prospective dealers out sailing. “I let them test out the shoes on the boat,” he says. “All I have to do is toss them a pair, and they get it right away.”

Seamans’ sales team — wearing Crocs, of course — has been running Peaches, a Miami-based 35-foot Contender, up and down the Intracoastal Waterway, stopping at bars and restaurants.

“The Croc is a product that incites comment,” Seamans says. “People ask, ‘What kind of shoe is that? Do you like it?’ ” Before long, he says they are trying on a pair of Crocs.

As one who has worn his share of traditional boat shoes, Seamans says his main complaint against them is their “siped” soles with zigzags cut into them for traction. The cuts trap tiny stones and can scratch decks. Crocs have such a high coefficient of friction that they don’t need a siped sole, he says. “[They] hold very well even on wet Awlgrip,” he says.

Available in different styles and a multitude of colors, Crocs seem a natural for young wearers, but will older boaters give up their favorite pair of old boat shoes for them? Seamans says yes.

“Older people just love the comfort,” he says. And Crocs bring fun and color to boating footwear. No one will mistake them for stodgy.

Crocs range from $29.99 to $49.99, and are available at shoe retailers or direct from the company Web site, www.crocs.com.