In today's fashion, clunky backless slip-on shoes are generally referred to as clogs. Historically, the clog was a shoe defined by its chunky shape, heavy sole and sturdy material. Initially, clogs were worn as protective footwear over shoes by farmers, factory workers and miners in Scandinavia. In the Netherlands clogs gained popularity and were worn in place of shoes and not as overshoes.
Clogs are descendants of the “galoce”, a high wooden shoe worn by peasant women from the Ardenne region to protect their shoes from muddy dirt streets. Records of wooden shoes date back to the Roman Empire.
The original clogs were shoes with heavy, rigid wooden soles. Mainly made of willow or other woods, these sturdy shoes provided both warmth and safety for the working class foot. The durability of these wooden shoes made the clog a favorite style of footwear for the working class.
Although generally associated with Scandinavian countries, wooden shoes were worn throughout continental Europe, the British Isles and Mediterranean areas, including such countries as Italy and Greece. They gained popularity during the Industrial Revolution as a protective shoe for the working class.
In Europe, the war years of the 20th century found governments urging its citizens to adopt wooden shoe usage due to deficiencies in leather supplies. They were largely unsuccessful in their efforts due to the continued perception of wooden shoes as footwear or the working or peasant class.
The wooden shoe did not find popularity in the United States until the 1960's when Dr. Scholl introduced a wood bottom slip-on that was hailed as therapeutic footwear. In the 1970's, clogs became a fashion trend following the lead of the popular singing group Abba which performed wearing platform boots and Swedish clogs with leather uppers and thick (and noisy) wood soles.
While some clogs today retain the look of the 70's clog, the wooden sole now has a skid resistant rubber bottom. Often, clogs are now made of rubber or other synthetic materials that withstand water and heat. The popularity of Crocs, which started as gardening shoes, has exploded and these shoes are now available in a multitude of colors for men, women and children.
Today's clogs are available in a variety of heels heights; some come with optional heel straps. Leather uppers remain popular but rubber clogs have gained popularity among nurses as they can be sterilized in an autoclave or with over the counter cleaning materials. Operating room personnel have long worn clogs citing less foot and back fatigue from long hours of standing. The firm rubber or wooded soles of the clog offer all day support, providing a firm foundation for weak arches and plantar fasciitis. The original mid heel height of many clogs takes pressure of the lower back by helping the individual stand straighter.
For individuals such as nurses or other healthcare professionals, the natural foot shape and wide toes of the clog helps keep feet from feeling constricted and pinched. This helps to take the pressure off of problem foot areas such as bunions and hammertoes. For nurses who do more standing than walking, such as operating room personnel, wood soled clogs are often the preferred option. Nurses who walk miles every day engaging in patient care may prefer the more flexible rubber sole.
Whatever the choice, wood or rubber, clogs have become a major component of the nursing shoes industry. Most clog manufacturers offer their shoes in a variety of colors, including white for the healthcare industry. In addition, several nursing uniform suppliers have expanded their uniform lines to include clog footwear in colors to match their uniform scrubs.
Most clog wearers insist that they wear clogs for the comfort, but the ease of slipping in and out of these shoes is also a major benefit, both for healthcare workers and travellers. With security regulations at airports insisting that travellers remove their shoes at security checkpoints the clog has become popular travel footwear.
Today, clogs have regained their popularity as a durable work shoe and with the addition of improved, more cushioned inner soles they have joined the ranks of the “comfortable shoes” among both nurses and the general population. The long tradition of clogs over the centuries continues as clogs continue to find new uses.