Crocs, those quirky-looking but ubiquitous colourful shoes, are becoming all but extinct at some Canadian hospitals.
A popular version of the rubber-like clogs features open heels and holes across the top and around the toes, prompting safety concerns about staff accidentally jabbing their feet with falling needles or splashing them with body fluids.
But some nurses argue that their messy work makes Crocs the perfect footwear on the job.
"They say, well, blood will drip through the holes. But blood will drip through your running shoes, too, if you ask me," said Karen Hatton, an emergency room nurse in Sudbury.
Unlike leather running shoes, however, Crocs are easy to clean.
"You just throw them in the washer with a little bit of bleach, and they're perfect," Ms. Hatton said.
For nurses who work 12-hour shifts, the lightweight shoes are easy on the feet, like walking on "little pillows," she said.
At Sudbury Regional Hospital, they haven't banned Crocs specifically. However, Ms. Hatton said several e-mails have gone out reminding staff about the hospital's footwear policy - shoes must have covered toes and closed heels.
The policy was already in place when Crocs became popular, so the hospital didn't need to change anything, said spokesman Sean Barrette, who admits to wearing the popular shoes.
"I love my Crocs. I just don't wear them to work," Mr. Barrette said.
The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority had been considering whether to ban Crocs or their knockoffs at its six hospitals, but announced this week that the footwear has passed the grade.
Spokeswoman Heidi Graham said clinical engineers have completed a review and determined the shoes do not pose safety threats.
Not everyone agrees.
Staff at 14 Vancouver-area health care centres received a memo earlier this year reminding them that Crocs and other slip-ons don't comply with footwear policies.
"We're not anti-Crocs, we're just anti-injury," said Viviana Zanocco, spokeswoman for Vancouver Coastal Health.
Similarly, Crocs are essentially banned for staff at the William Osler Health Centre's three sites in the Toronto area.
"It's basically just enforcing our existing policy, banning garden-type shoes and clogs," spokeswoman Dawn Dunn said.
However, researchers at Winnipeg's health authority may have debunked suggestions from a Swedish hospital that static electricity generated by the plastic shoes knocks out medical equipment.
"[We]discovered the amount of static that was produced by these shoes was comparable with that produced by other footwear and wasn't interfering with machinery," Ms. Graham said.
No one from the Colorado-based manufacturer of Crocs could be reached for comment Tuesday.
At the Ottawa Hospital, many nurses will soon have to watch their feet. A revamped footwear policy that specifies shoes must have a "solid covering fabric" goes into effect Sept. 1.
"It formalizes the guidelines we had before," said spokesman Thomas Hayes, although he noted a certain style within the Crocs brand fits the new footwear bill.
The Ontario Hospital Association, a voluntary organization of 158 facilities, recently issued a memo saying hospital footwear should have closed toes and heels.
"We're not a scientific body or standards association, but what we do is pass [along]the information and concerns that some hospitals were expressing about these shoes," spokesman Chris McPherson said.
A Halifax hospital for women and children, the IWK Health Centre, currently allows staff to wear Crocs, but a spokeswoman said they're monitoring the situation.