Ellsworth's Andrew Tiemann after crossing the finish line of this year's Boston Marathon in April wearing Crocs for footwear.    Credit: Contributed

Few people familiar with Crocs lack an opinion about the unique footwear.

The slip-on plastic clogs became a fashion statement for both style and ugliness during the early 2000s and have persevered in the casual footwear market nearly two decades after their introduction.

Comfort is a primary selling point for Crocs, whether it’s the holes in the toe box to alleviate sweating feet or the shoe’s soft, shock-absorbing base.

Andrew Tiemann, a 62-year-old operating room nurse at Maine Coast Memorial Hospital in Ellsworth, has maxed out on that comfort in a unique way.

He runs long-distance races in Crocs, including the most recent Boston Marathon.

“I had some Crocs that were my daylight and going-to-work shoes, and I had read some stories in Runners World or a similar magazine about someone who ran in Crocs, so I thought I should be able to do it,” he said.

“I tried it, it worked and I discovered that wearing Crocs with socks with a little cushioning worked well. I just needed shoes that were comfortable and soft.”

Tiemann, a member of the Crow Athletics running club, does not have to worry about his Crocs becoming untied.

“They’ve got a slip-on strap that can be folded over so it’s over the front part of your foot or folded back so it’s behind your Achilles tendon,” he said. “The shoes I wear are so comfortable fitting that they don’t move around so I don’t get blisters.”

Tiemann began running eight years ago and started marathoning after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

“I had a neighbor who had been running Boston, but I had no interest in marathons until the bombing and suddenly I needed to run a marathon,” he said. “Then I needed to qualify for Boston.”

Tiemann made his 26.2-mile debut in 2013 at the inaugural Bay of Fundy International Marathon in Lubec — wearing traditional running shoes and finishing in 3:56:54 — and ran Boston for the first time two years later. He has gone on to run Boston each of the past five years and in all seven editions of the Bay of Fundy race.

Tiemann — who now has “26 of 27” career marathons to his credit — has completed his four most recent marathons in Crocs, beginning at the 2018 Bay of Fundy marathon where he finished in 3:57:39.

“I wanted to make sure I could do it and know that they were going to withstand more than just putting them on to go to work or ‘I’m mowing the grass in the yard’ kind of rigors,” he said. “I did a 10-mile run here and a 5-mile run there and a couple of half marathons just tooling around the neighborhood, and they worked for me.”

That decision was a case of Croc comfort, too.

“Crocs are 5½ ounces apiece, or 11 ounces for a pair, and that compares very favorably with the more expensive, made-for-running running shoes,” he said. “You want running shoes to be as light as possible and as cushioned as possible.”

There also was convenience and cost to consider. Tiemann bought his running Crocs for about $31, much less expensive than typical running shoes. And when they get dirty, he just throws them in the washing machine.

“They don’t require any special care,” he said.

Tiemann does not always run in Crocs. He does nearly all of his training in regular running shoes, saying that putting in his average of 200 miles a month in heavier shoes should make his legs faster when he wears the lighter Crocs at races.

He also has other standards for sticking to traditional running footwear, some related to weather and course conditions.

“I won’t use them on a dirt road or trail because the little rocks would be annoying at best,” he said. “And if it’s going to be a short race — 10K, 5K or shorter — I wouldn’t because the running style would be different than for a half marathon or full marathon.”

Tiemann has gone on to run last year’s Mount Desert Island Marathon and this year’s Boston and Bay of Fundy runs in Crocs, as well as the Key West Half-Marathon in January when he placed 48th in a field of 925 finishers and won his age division with a 7:35 per mile pace good for a finishing time of 1 hour, 39 minutes and 10.4 seconds,

Tiemann finished the Boston Marathon in April in 3:30:47, barely a minute over his personal best for the race of 3:29:28 in 2015.

“I think if I had applied myself I could have shaved five or six minutes off that,” he said, “but my goal was to just go out there, cruise and be part of the spectacle.”

Tiemann drew little attention from the other 30,000 Boston runners for his footwear choice.

“A few people saw it but mostly I was just one of the cast of thousands,” he said. “As it turns out, when I finished a lady came up and gave me a hug and thanked me for being such a steady person in front of her, and it turns out she was using me to pace her own marathon.

“She said I was easy to see because of my jersey and the fact I had Crocs on.”

Tiemann is likely to run at least two more marathons this year, with possibilities including the Chicago Marathon and the MDI Marathon. He plans to continue using the same Crocs that have gotten him this far.

“I’m never going to set a world record for anything. I’m not even going to set state records, probably not even county records,” he said. “But in the big picture I run fast enough to do OK in my age group, 60-64 or 60-69, depending on how big the race.

“For how I use them, these Crocs last very nicely. So far they’ve got four marathons in them, along with a half-marathon and some general puttering about when I feel like wearing them.”

Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...