Crocs vs. ‘Stocks: Which is the superior travel shoe?

17 April 2023

Until a few weeks ago, I had never met a pair of Crocs I liked. I wanted to hate them because of how ridiculous they looked. I saw people wearing them and speculated that their feet probably smelled as awful as they looked in those shoes.

“Aren’t they sweaty in there?” I asked a co-worker incredulously as she extolled the virtues of the cloglike footwear in one of TPG’s internal employee chats. She assured me that sweat wasn’t an issue, especially if you wore them with socks. (Ew, but OK.)

As a staunch fan of Birkenstocks, I made the lofty claim that there’s no way Crocs could trump them when it comes to travel footwear. After all, Birks go with just about anything and don’t give the impression that the wearer needs tulips and stroopwafels to complete the look.

So, after a challenge was issued for me to give Crocs a chance, I decided to pit the two types of shoes against one another and report back with my findings.

Here, in a Crocs vs. Birkenstocks head-to-head, I’ll compare my trusty Arizona soft-footbed Birkenstocks in oiled nubuck leather to my not-so-shiny new classic Crocs in black with multicolored tie-dye across several categories to see which is truly the better shoe to bring on my next trip: Crocs or Birkenstocks.

Comfort and construction: Birkenstocks

ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

I don’t care what anyone says: Crocs do make my feet sweat.

The shoes have holes in the top, and the backs are open, but evidently that’s not enough to maintain sufficient airflow. On the flip side, Crocs have better shock absorbency than Birkenstocks, but Birks mold to your feet to create a more custom fit, meaning they’re sturdier and provide better arch support.

This one goes to Birkenstocks.

Cost: Tie

Crocs might seem like the clear winner here, as their classic style is significantly more affordable than Birks’ classic cork-soled Arizonas, running only about 25%-50% of what Birks cost. I paid full price for my Birkenstocks when I bought them in 2021; they set me back $135. When I bought my Crocs a year later, I paid $37 on sale. (The pair I have normally retails for $59.99.)

However, Birkenstock’s rubberlike ethylene vinyl acetate models sell for $49.95, putting them on par with Crocs’ classic clogs, resulting in a tie.

Versatility: Crocs

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Because of the heel strap, I find that Crocs are great for low-impact sports like biking and even mild hiking. (I recently wore them for the duration of a 16-mile ride in French Polynesia and an hourlong hike along a sandy path in the Galapagos, and I have no complaints.)

Although you can find Birks in EVA models with heel straps, I still say Crocs take the cake here because they have more shock absorbency, making them extra comfortable while you’re staying active.

Variety: Tie

While Crocs are available in more colors than ‘Stocks, as well as a variety of styles — thong flip-flops, Mary Janes, platform clogs, faux-fur-lined clogs and slip-on two-strap styles that actually resemble Birks, to name a few — they’re all made of the same proprietary resin material, which is neither plastic nor rubber.

Birkenstocks have fewer color selections, but the brand still has a wide range of styles — classic Birks, Birks with heel straps and even more active varieties with Velcro. Materials range from cork soles with leather uppers to EVA, offering choices for shoppers who prefer vegan-friendly options.

There’s a ton of choice with either brand; that’s why I’m dubbing this a tie.

Water resistance: Tie

ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

In sport mode — when the strap is flipped down to wrap around the heel of the foot — Crocs make a great water shoe that won’t suction to your feet like standard water socks. However, Birks come in EVA varieties with heel straps that keep them in place when you’re swimming or wading, so I rule this category a tie.

A word to the wise: Birkenstock styles with cork footbeds — like the Arizona, which is my favorite — smell repugnant if they get wet, so be judicious with when and how you wear them if there’s a chance they’ll come in contact with significant moisture.

Style: Birkenstocks

ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

This is a totally subjective category, but I’m giving this one to Birks. To me, they look less like clown shoes, and they pair better with different types of outfits, whereas Crocs strike me as more casual. (I don’t like the way the latter look with dresses, for example.)

Which of the two travel shoes you find more stylish will obviously depend on your personal preferences and likely also your age group, given how trendy Crocs seem to be with Gen Z at the moment.

Weight: Tie

When it comes to packing light, neither shoe is particularly compressible. However, weight is an important consideration if you have to strap them to your personal item for a flight or to a backpack for a hike.

Whether Crocs are lighter than Birkenstocks depends on the size and model of Birks you’ve got. An adult-size pair of Crocs weighs roughly 14 ounces, while my ‘Stock cork-bedded Arizonas weigh about 1.2 pounds (19.2 ounces). Birks’ EVA style of shoe is rumored to weigh about 8 ounces per pair.

This one is just too close to call, so I’m ruling it a tie.

TSA-friendliness: Tie

ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

One of the first times I wore my Birkenstocks to the airport, I found myself setting off the metal detector in the line for TSA PreCheck. I quickly learned that, although they’re comfy on flights, Birks with metal buckles sometimes have to come off, which is frustrating and defeats some of the purpose of having PreCheck in the first place.

Although Crocs don’t contain metal elements and, therefore, can be worn without issue during PreCheck screening, I’m calling this a tie also, thanks to Birkenstock’s EVA models, which feature plastic buckles and level the playing field.

Bottom line

ASHLEY KOSCIOLEK/THE POINTS GUY

Are Crocs better than Birkenstocks? For me, not exactly. I continue to wear my Birks more often because they’re more comfortable, they offer more support, and I think they look a bit nicer and match more of my outfits.

However, with regard to my original stance on Crocs, I will admit that I haven’t been this wrong about a type of footwear since Uggs made their way onto the scene in the early 2000s. (Yes, I hated them at first, and yes, I’m now the proud owner of several pairs. They’re comfortable, OK?)

When I set out to do this comparison, I wasn’t expecting to like Crocs as much as I did. I was fully prepared for my Birkenstocks to easily take the W. I won’t say that I’m going to go out and buy more Crocs or anything, but I’m glad I’ve added a pair to my travel wardrobe.

For your next trip, make sure to weigh the pros and cons of any travel shoe you’re considering, from dressy to casual, functional to frou-frou. I’m proof that when you go into selecting the best travel shoes for you with an open mind, you might be surprised by what you find yourself wearing on your feet.

Looking for additional travel footwear ideas? We’ve got you covered:

TPG staff members share their must-have travel shoes
Why Crocs are the best adventure travel shoe on the market
The best travel shoes for your next trip
The best travel shoes for kids

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