Birkenstocks have a well-earned reputation for durability, but are they really worth their price tag? How much is marketing hype and how much is real value?
My wife and I “hummed and hawed” over Birks for quite a while. Several months past before we pulled the trigger and bought one of their best sellers- the Birkenstock Arizonas. Now after a year of ownership I feel I can give a better response to the question at hand.
So, Are Birkenstocks worth it?
Yes, Birkenstocks are worth it, but I still feel they are overhyped. In terms of durability, Birks are given more credit than is due. While they are quite durable, don’t expect them to last twice as long as other quality competitors. In terms of comfort, Birkenstocks definitely do exceed expectations.
If you ask my wife if the Birkenstocks were worth it, she would give a resounding “Yes.” She’s worn them every single day for a year(we now live in the tropics) and she loves them. In her perspective, the main strength of Birkenstocks are their comfort, durability, and fashion versatility- in that order
How Long Do Birkenstocks Last?
Generally speaking, if you plan on wearing your Birk sandals periodically then you can expect a pair of Birkenstocks to last several years. If you wear them daily you should expect about 2 years.
After a year of daily wear, my wife Erin’s Birkenstock Arizonas are showing medium tread-wear and some cracking/flaking of the cork sole near the heel. I’d consider her an extreme user: She wears them every single day, all day for work and play. We also live in a harsh tropical climate. Under these conditions, I think she will get two years out of her Birkenstocks before they start looking pretty raggedy.
Of course, there are plenty of variables that will affect the life of your Birks such as: climate, care/cleaning, an abnormal gate(pronation etc), and (hate to say it) being over-weight.
What Makes Birkenstocks Worth It to Some Folks?
Similar to Crocs, Birkenstock have an absolutely massive die-hard fanbase. Whenever you see that so many people are willing to pay a premium for a pair of sandals, you’ve got to ask, “Why?”
There are two distinct sub-categories of Birkenstocks fans.
- The Utilitarians– these folks buy Birks because of how practical they are.
For example, at least half of my ex-pat colleagues here in Africa wear Birkenstocks. When I ask them, “why?” Their answers inevitably revolve around practicality:
- Easy to slip on and kick off at the door
- Cool in hot weather
- Versatile with most casual wear
2. The Fashionistas- Birks are definitely a summer fashion statement and they also carry a certain prestige. The Arizona and Giseh lines, in particular, are available in a dizzying number of colors and materials to suit your unique style. Brand names matter in fashion. Folks are willing to pay more for Birkenstocks because knock-offs just make them look like cheapskates.
7 Important Things To Know Before You Buy Birkenstocks Sandals
1. Know the Color Code!
When shopping for Birkenstock sandals it’s very helpful to know that the logo in the footbed are color-coded according to key features. While their sandals come in all kinds of styles and materials, all of their cork-soled sandals fall into three basic categories:
Silver or Gold print are reserved for limited-edition sandals.
2. Ensure There is Room To Tighten the Strap after the Break-in Period.
It’s probably a combination of footbed compression and the strap stretching during the break-in period. Either way, when you try on your new Birks just make sure the adjustment strap(model dependant) has an extra notch available in case you need to tighten it a little bit more after the break-in period.
My wife pointed out that it is particularly the case if you have leather straps.
The biggest selling point of Birkenstocks is their super-comfy Birkoflor footbed that permanently forms to the unique contours of your own foot. However, Birkenstocks actually come with at least three sub-types of footbeds that you can identify by color of the printing in the footbed.
3. Wide or Narrow Footbed? Size it Right
If you have particularly wide feet, make sure you at least try on a pair in a local shoe store before ordering online. Some folks with extra-wide feet may find Birks uncomfortable.
The footbed of Birkenstocks is deep. This means that the edges slope upward forming a rather sharp rim. You DO NOT want to buy a pair of Birks that is too narrow for your foot otherwise the edges of your foot will rub quite badly on the rim of the footbed.
Birkenstock only offers two footbed widths: Regular or Narrow. To verify which width you have, look for the following symbols printed on the foot bed of your Birks. Notice: The regular width sandal has the outlined footprint while narrow width sandals have the silhouetted footprint.
4. Buy Cork Sealant for Dry Climates
With time, cork can dry out and crumble. Even though the cork sole on Birkenstocks comes pre-sealed it’s a good idea to pick up a cleaning kit with cork sealant particularly if you live in a dry climate or use your sandals hard.
5. Birkenstocks Don’t like Water
Birks are great for everyday casual stuff but try not to get them wet often. It’s not that they will fall apart but prolonged exposure to moisture or submersion will eventually compromise the integrity of the sealant materials. Since the footbed of most Birks are somewhat absorbant, don’t dry out as quickly either.
6. Avoid Counterfeits
Shamelessly re-branded copies of Birkenstocks abound, and there are plenty of straight up counterfeits of Birkenstocks floating around too.
Here are some tips for how to spot counterfeit Birkenstocks:
- Any seller offering to ship Birks in from outside North America are unathorized sellers.
- If the price seems to good to be true…it’s probably the case.
- Large buckles have the “Birkenstock” logo, smaller ones have “Birk” or “Birken.”
- The footbed of real Birks are quite defined. They should be deep and have clearly defined longitdunal and lateral arch support
- The footbed should have the logo “Birkenstock” with “Made in Germany” below it. The shoe size and foot symbol must be on the left side of the Logo.
- Real Birks are generally lighter compared to counterfeits
- “Birkenstock” logo should appear on the inner side-strap
- The tread on Birkenstocks have an hourglass pattern
7. Birkenstocks Have a Break-in Period
A common complaint is that the first few weeks of wearing Birks can be uncomfortable for some as the sole slowly molds to the contours of your own foot. For example, my wife experienced some mild discomfort over about two weeks of periodically wearing her new Birks. After that thing settled down.
Keep this in mind when you buy a pair of Birks. It will take a little time but your Birks will soon form to your foot and become very comfortable.
Birkenstock Top Picks
The iconic Arizonas are, by far, the most popular Birkenstocks ever. These slip-on two-strap sandals have been sold by the millions. Of course, the Arizonas are also the most copied cork sandal on earth.
You can usually pick up a basic pair of Arizonas for well under $100 on Amazon. You’ll be hard-pressed to find another item on Amazon with so many high customer ratings. You can expect to pay more if you want different colors variants or materials.
The Gizeh is Birkenstock’s popular flipflop-sandal crossover. The toe post, helps secure the sandal from accidentally slipping off- like when you rent a scooter on your next Euro vacation.
The Gizehs are available in a too many variants than I can count on Amazon. They are similarly priced to the Arizonas.
You can check out the latest options and prices here on Amazon.
The dressier looking lady’s Mayari sandasl are another extremely popular model with tons of rave reviews. The sandal features two adjustable buckels and a wrap-around style toe. The Mayari is available with many color options, foot bed, and upper strap materials.
You can check the latest price here(on Amazon)
Birkenstocks are very practical and durable casual wear. They hold up well for day-to-day activity, but If you want them to last leave them at home when you go to the beach, pool, or other rugged locations. Clean them and reseal the cork regularly and you’ll enjoy them for years.
Buyers’ remorse is a rarity among Birkenstock owners. While they are on the expensive side for cork-soled sandals, most folks have a certain pride of ownership in their Birks. Their own feet congratulate them every time they slide their toes into those familiar well-worn grooves.