At rail stations and shopping malls around the world, there have been reports 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. Most adults, including parents of small children, are unaware of the risks that escalators pose for small children.

One of the nation’s largest subway systems – the Washington Metro – has posted ads warning riders about wearing Crocs on its moving stairways. The ads feature a photo of a crocodile, though they don’t mention Crocs by name.

In one case, a four-year-old wearing Crocs caught his foot in an escalator 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, the child’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 his shoes, that she began to suspect the Crocs and did an Internet search. When she went to the Internet, she typed in ‘Croc’ and ‘escalator,’ and numerous stories came up about the risks.

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.

The reports of serious injuries have all involved young children. Crocs are commonly worn by children as young as 2 years of age. Niwot, Colorado-based Crocs Inc. does not keep records of the reasons for customer-service calls, but the company says it’s aware of “very few” problems relating to accidents involving the shoes.

In Japan, the government warned consumers recently that 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 two years old.

In Singapore, a 2-year-old girl wearing rubber clogs – it’s unclear what brand – had her big toe completely ripped off in an escalator accident last year. And in this country, at the Atlanta airport, a 3-year-old boy wearing Crocs suffered a deep gash across the top of his toes in June. That was one of seven shoe entrapments at that airport since May 1st, and all but two of them involved Crocs.

It was reported that one U.S. retailer that caters to children, American Girl, which is a Mattel subsidiary has posted signs in three locations directing customers wearing Crocs or flip-flop sandals to use elevators instead of escalators.

During the past two years, “shoe entrapments” in the Washington subway have gone from being relatively rare to happening four or five times a week in the summer, although apparently none has caused serious injuries.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, escalator accidents caused more than 10,000 injuries last year. But the agency has few records of specific shoe problems. Only two shoe entrapments have been reported to the Commission by consumers since the beginning of 2006. Agency spokesman Ed Kang urged people who have had problems to report them on the commission’s Web site. Although Crocs officials claimed they were working with the Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation on public education initiatives, the group’s executive director, Barbara Allen, says that’s not true.

Ms. Allen said a Crocs official called her in September 2006 about possible cooperation, even suggesting the company might put a tag in its shoes with the foundation’s Web address. But since that first contact, apparently Crocs has not called, and, according to Ms. Allen, nobody from the company will return her calls.

Escalator safety experts say the best way to prevent shoe entrapments is to face the direction the stairs are moving, keep feet away from the sides and step over the teeth at the end.


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