Investing in publicly traded shoe stocks has been a little bit like walking on hot coals these days. Ouch. Whether it's due to fads fading, the major consumer slowdown, or some combination, shoe stocks are looking a lot less fashionable than they did last year this time.

Let's take a look at three shoe companies that recently reported quarterly results.

Crocs' ugly bite
Crocs (NASDAQ:CROX) has been nothing if not memorable. Many people already expected the second-quarter results were going to be pretty ugly, since it warned a week or two ago. Earnings came in at the very lowest end of guidance, with net income plunging 95.6% to $2.1 million, or $0.03 per share. Revenue decreased a smidge to $222.8 million.

Analysts had slashed their expectations, but apparently not enough, since they expected $0.05 per share. However, it's not all bad news -- Crocs seems to have remedied the terrible inventory overhang that has dogged it; it fell 11% on a year-over-year basis.

I still can't get behind this stock, though. Crocs' gross profit plunged to 41% of sales from 59% of sales. Looking at the income statement data for the first six months of this year compared to last, it's pretty clear what a difference a year makes.

Crocs is currently running at a net loss of $2.4 million, or $0.03 per share -- last year, its net income for the first two quarters was $73.4 million, or $0.88 per share. What a jarring discrepancy. For the entire year, Crocs only expects to break even.

Given what really looks to me like the end of the super-hot Crocs fad, I still say "buyer, beware" on this stock.

Wheels still coming off
Heelys (NASDAQ:HLYS) was arguably ahead of the curve in the fad-then-flameout department; it also released daunting second-quarter results.

When reading the press release, be sure to focus on the year-over-year quarterly comparisons, since Heelys did manage to do better than it did in the first quarter (it broke out both sequential and year-over-year results).

Heelys reported a net loss of $0.4 million, or $0.01 per share, compared to last year's net income of $12.8 million, or $0.45 per share. Revenue got clobbered, dropping 75.5% to $18.2 million. Gross profit dropped to 23% of sales from 35.4% this time last year.

Hit the Deckers
Then there's Deckers (NASDAQ:DECK), whose brands include Teva, UGG boots, and the eco-friendly Simple. Although it missed analysts' expectations, it was able to increase its guidance for 2008, which is pretty impressive these days.

Deckers reported a second-quarter net loss of $3.8 million, or $0.29 per share, as it took a non-cash writedown of Teva trademarks. On the other hand, net sales increased an impressive 72.8% to $91.1 million. Even more amazing, while we're talking about faddish shoes, note that the UGG brand continues to grow -- net sales for the brand surged 130.6% in the quarter.

However, Deckers' inventory did increase by 118%, outpacing its sales growth. Deckers said that investors should remember an increase in UGG inventory (uh-oh) is a result of the UGG business being pre-booked, so the increase is to fulfill the volume of orders currently on the books, but it still seems to me to be an element investors should keep an eye on, since burgeoning inventory can really be a sign of trouble ahead (as it was with Crocs last year).

The search for comfortable shoes
Of the preceding three shoe stocks, I think Deckers makes the best potential long-term investment; however, a stumble might be welcome to bring the stock down in price (even though it has dropped 13% in the last three months). The tough times may bring better bargain opportunities.

Given that Deckers has a history of successfully juggling very disparate but successful brands (for example, UGG has been able to step in now that Teva has flagged, and Simple seems to me to be a good bet for future growth), I'd say Deckers comes with less inherent risk for the long-term investor, given its diversity.

Of course, when it comes to shoe stocks, there may be some reasonably priced stock ideas, but there's probably a major rush to buy in while consumer spending is still this slow. Although I like Skechers (NYSE:SKX) and Timberland (NYSE:TBL), both recently reported less-than-stellar quarters, and recent retail comps held plenty of warning signs. DSW (NYSE:DSW), which is more than half owned by Retail Ventures (NYSE:RVI), is a shoe retail pure play whose comps declined 6.9% in the second quarter, for example.

When economic times get tough, maybe most consumers figure they already have plenty of shoes in their closets and save their money for necessities like bills, food, and gas. In fact, I can see how shoes might seem even more discretionary than regular apparel. I believe investors who are mulling the purchase of some bargain shoe stocks should start by gravitating toward the ones with the best long-term prognoses -- in other words, avoid the companies that rely on one-off products that are probably fads.

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Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool has a disclosure policy.