(Elizabeth Groening/Emerald)

After an awkward first date at Vero Espresso, all I wanted was to get back home as quickly as possible. The coffee shop is within a mere 15-minute walking distance from my apartment complex. Plus, I’m a naturally fast-paced walker, so I figured I’d be lying on my bed and FaceTiming with my mom in no time.

I was sadly mistaken. As I trudged down High Street, my toes and the tops of my feet went numb. The only part I could feel were my heels, which started trickling blood through my Band-Aids and into my thick socks. I fought back tears with each slowing step, feeling as though a nail was being twisted into the backs of my feet. This was far from my first time enduring the excruciating pain of my Dr. Martens, hence the premature Band-Aids. But when I finally made it to my room, yanked off the boots and saw the several layers of skin they’d ripped off, I knew it had to be the last.

This traumatic incident took place over a year after I’d excitedly invested $150 on a pair of the “smooth leather lace up boots,” as described on the Dr. Martens website. Back then, I’d justified the price, thinking I’d wear them 24/7. For years, I’d watched it-girls like Rihanna and Hailey Bieber effortlessly pair Docs with everything from overalls to ripped jeans. All I wanted was to look the slightest bit as cool as them.

Prior to my purchase, I was aware of the difficulties that Docs can evoke. I’d spent time researching which styles were the most wearable and reading articles like, “How to Break in Your Doc Martens: 11 Steps.” I was determined to conquer the challenging break-in period, but no WikiHow article could’ve prepared me for the pain.

During my year as a hopeful and oftentimes regretful owner of Docs, I spent at least $150 on different kinds of bandages, medications and socks, desperately trying to figure out a way to protect myself from the severe blisters they recurrently left on my heels. A month after that tough walk home, not only are my feet still in recovery — calling for Neosporin and Band-Aids on a daily basis — but my mental health needs healing as well.

My Docs are a lot like my ex-boyfriend. I love them. I always will, but they’ve also brought me a lot of pain and I have to leave them in the past. As I listed the boots — which ironically, also much like my ex, are seemingly unscathed — for sale on Depop, I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d ever find shoes (and a man) that are both cute and kind to me.

Unexpectedly, my faith in footwear was renewed by Justin Bieber’s collaboration with Crocs. I’d spent years thinking the foam clogs were hideous, but the $70 pair on Bieber’s feet were a sight for my sore eyes (and heels). The colorful, lightweight clogs appeared to be the exact opposite of the heavy black leather boots that entrapped my feet for so long.

Since buying a couple of pairs of Crocs, I not only walk around feeling confident, but am also comfortable. It feels like I’m walking on clouds. The air holes — many filled with adorable Jibbitz charms — allow my feet to breathe and make me happy. It’s like a party on my toes.

As I get older, I care more about the health of my feet than I do about what people think. I’ll happily sacrifice looking cool if “cool” means wearing boots that leave my feet hanging on by threads. No wonder nurses and doctors — who stand up all day — constitute ⅛ of Croc’s total profit. The clogs are waterproof, customizable and so soft that you forget you’re wearing them.

I’m not the only one jumping on the clog bandwagon. GQ style writer Cam Wolf details how the pandemic has led society to reorient what we consider to be stylish footwear. Wolf argues that more people are copping Crocs because they’re “undeniably comfortable as hell.” Nearly every time I wear mine, I get compliments! On top of being cute and cushy, they’re affordable. You can buy three pairs of the $50 Classic Clogs for the price of a single pair of Docs.

Never again will I waste time or money on shoes to look “cool.” Life is hard enough. No matter what I’m wearing or where I’m going, I can trust my Crocs to get me there pain-free. I’ll never be as trendy as Rihanna — who must have feet of steel — but at least I know that even if I go on another bad date, I’ll get home quickly and in comfort.

Opinion Columnist

Elizabeth Groening is an opinion columnist and a journalism graduate student at the University of Oregon. She specializes in lifestyle, covering everything from fashion trends to K-pop. Check out more of her work at elizabethgroening.com.