I have long confessed my hate of Birkenstocks, until I started seeing them styled in this decade, and was seduced. I never thought I’d EVER, EVER cave and buy some. But I did.
In How I Ended Up Ordering Birkenstocks, I explained exactly how this freak of sartorial nature came to be. I also mentioned that I still probably wouldn’t go for the Birkenstock classic Arizona style, and then I did. And I also picked up a pair of black Arizonas for my hubby. Yup. Twinsies…
I’m not ashamed to admit it: As reluctant as I was the first time around, I bought the re-emergence of Birkenstocks, hook, line, and sinker. And since then, I’ve learned a little about Birk sizing and styles, so I thought I’d share these tips for the three of you in the free world who didn’t cave to the trend. Yet.
Tips for Buying and Wearing Birkenstocks
1. Birkenstocks fit true-to-size.
Simply consult the sizing charts. I wear a U.S. women’s 9.5, so I ordered my Gizehs and Arizonas in a 40. They’re an absolute perfect fit.
Again, for the width, sizing is true. If you take a narrow in most of your other shoes, order a Narrow. If not, you’re a Regular, like most:
2. Birkenstocks DO take some time to break in.
I started off with the Gizeh style, which is a thong-style sandal with the normal Birkenstock cork footbed. I did a lot of research before actually ordering, and I’m glad I did. From reading reviews, I knew they probably wouldn’t be comfortable out-of-the-box, and they weren’t.
It takes a several wearings for your foot to adjust to the thong and for the cork footbed to mold to your foot. But that’s the appeal of Birkenstocks…they DO eventually mold to your foot, and then it’s like they are part of your foot!
If you plan on taking your new Birks with you on vacation, be sure you wear them daily at home for several weeks to break them in.
3. If your Birkenstocks KILL you the first time you try to walk in them, tighten the strap.
The first time I tried to walk in my Gizehs, I was thinking, Oh no. These have to go back! Then I tightened the strap that goes across the top of my foot a little, and it was a little better. Walked around some more, still not right. I finally tightened the strap as tight as it would go, and that worked.
Depending on the height of your arch and the way you walk, you may have to tighten only a notch, or to max capacity. I’ve read that the thong of the Gizehs are uncomfortable for some, and the ridge under the toes can be uncomfortable in both the Gizehs and Arizonas (with the normal cork footbed). Don’t worry! THEY WILL FEEL GREAT ONE DAY! But you have to commit to the break-in period. It’s worth it, I promise.
4. If you plan to wear Birks while touring on your vacay or doing a lot of walking, order the Arizona Soft Footbed style.
After buying my Gizehs, I came to the conclusion that while the cork footbed is comfortable for errand-running, etc., it is too hard for doing a LOT of walking, and the thong between the toes can cause callouses. As such, if you need ultimate comfort, buy the Arizona Soft Footbed. I tend to wear my Gizehs at home (I never go barefoot), and my Arizonas for shopping and the occasional IKEA excursion.
The Soft Footbed style has a comfy layer of padding over the cork, so you get all that great arch support plus some padding. And there is nothing between your toes to potentially irritate you. Unfotunately, the Soft Footbed styles don’t come in quite the same array of colors, and they are more expensive, but your tootsies will thank you later.
5. Birkenstocks come in leather, suede, nubuck, Birko-Flor™, and Birkibuc™.
Obviously, the leather, suede and nubuck are all animal hide-based materials; Birko-Flor and Birkibuc are synthetic materials.
The Birko-Flor is mostly smooth and shiny; all the fun, more fashion-y (white and black patent, etc.) Birks are Birko-Flor. Birkibuc is made to look like nubuck, so if you’re looking for a vegan alternative with a leather look (girls and guys), that’s the way to go. I’ve read that the Birko-Flor and Birkibuc materials are almost as comfy as the leather, but since they don’t stretch, the break-in period could be a wee bit longer.
Are you wearer of Birks? What was your from-box-to-life experience?