Birkenstocks are well-known shoes. They’re quite recognizable in both name and style, but the real question is… Are Birkenstocks good for your feet?
It’s extremely important to wear supportive, cushioned, and comfortable shoes, not only when you’re doing something active. Birkenstocks are often touted as one of the most comfortable shoes to wear when running errands, visiting friends, or relaxing at home.
Let’s look at the features of Birkenstocks and whether or not they’re good for your feet.
What Makes a Birkenstock a Birkenstock?
It’s not just the name and their almost instantly recognizable design! Birkenstocks are orthopedic shoes that use excellent supportive features to offer stability and comfort to their wearers.
They’ve been doing it for a while as well. According to the company’s website, the first Birkenstock products were insoles manufactured and sold by a single cobbler, Konrad Birkenstock, back in 1896.
What Material Are Birkenstocks Made Of?
Birkenstock uppers are made from either genuine leather, synthetic material, or textile. Depending on the intended finish of the sandal or shoe, different sandals could be more suited to different materials.
Leather finishes could include:
- Natural leather
- Oiled leather
Textile fabrics may include:
Birkenstock has its own synthetic fabrics for shoe-making, including:
- Birko-Flor, a soft, durable material
- Birko-Flor in a patent finish, in bold and bright colors
- BIRKIBUC, a nubuck leather replica
The footbed is the most famous part of Birkenstocks, which makes them so comfortable and supportive. Every material that goes into the footbed makes it extra supportive and is also sustainable and eco-friendly.
It’s constructed in four distinct layers:
- One (bottom): This layer is made of jute, which is a soft natural fiber.
- Two: Cork and latex, highly shock-absorbing and natural.
- Three: Jute surrounding the footbed increases flexibility & regulating moisture.
- Four (top): Suede, absorbing moisture and feeling soft against the skin.
Birkenstocks’ “Soft Footbed” products also contain a fifth layer, a foam insert for extra padding and comfort.
Are Birkenstocks Good for Your Feet? Yes and No
Being orthopedic shoes, Birkenstocks are generally considered to be good for most people’s feet. However, that doesn’t make them ideal for everyone.
Although they are designed to alleviate pain, correct misalignment, and provide a healthy environment for the feet, some people may find that Birkenstocks don’t work for them for a variety of reasons.
That being said, the shoes do have a number of advantages that the majority of people will find to be good for their feet. You will need to try them to find out if they work for you.
One of the things Birkenstocks’ footbeds are known for is their exceptional arch support. Not only is there support on the medial side of the footbed, but there’s also a raised supportive section in the transverse arch—that is, the arch underneath the metatarsals.
The cork and latex construction of the footbed makes the arch support firm enough to not flatten under the weight of the foot. However, there is also some give to it, which reduces foot fatigue and absorbs shock.
Deep Heel Cup
The deep heel cup in a pair of Birkenstocks can be seen from a mile away. It provides a natural, comfortable space that fits your heel well, gently holding it in place without feeling overly restrictive.
This subtle positioning ensures that the arch support remains in the optimal place, allowing your feet to be continuously aligned in their correct position.
In turn, this simple system helps the lower body’s kinetic chain realign, relieving pain in the feet, ankles, knees, hips, and even the back.
Also, considering these shoes are limited in their adjustability for tightness, the deep heel cup helps to keep your foot in the right place even if there is some up and down movement as you walk.
Wide Toe Box
A spacious toe box allows for plenty of space for the toes to rest naturally. When your toes are splayed in their natural position, you can balance better as your weight is more evenly distributed.
This leads to improved posture and reduces muscle fatigue in the forefoot, especially when walking in these shoes for extended periods.
Raised Toe Bar
A raised toe bar is a great feature in a sandal. It offers the toes something to grip, which helps maintain their flex, stimulates circulation to avoid numb toes, and helps you to keep your balance while walking.
Having a zero drop platform means that the heel and the forefoot sit at exactly the same height above the ground.
While most athletic shoes have a large difference between the forefoot and the heel—up to 12 mm in some cases—Birkenstocks have zero drop platform, similar to dress shoes.
While dress shoes provide no support, the zero drop platform of a Birkenstock coupled with their support and cushioning is a healthy combination, keeping your feet well-aligned.
Fit Almost Any Feet
Birkenstock shoes come in narrow/medium and wide widths to fit almost all feet, although they tend to be on the more spacious side.
The ability to choose between the regular footbed and the soft footbed also means choosing what’s more appropriate for your feet.
Their classic footbed is also available in multiple different shoe styles, so you can reap the benefits of the support while enjoying a shoe that you like.
The Birkenstock footbed is super comfortable, but it’s firm enough to provide a massaging effect as you walk. This helps stimulate circulation, improve the blood flow in your feet, keep them warm, and reduce pain.
Can Help With Foot Problems
The Birkenstock footbed is orthopedically-designed to align the foot’s bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. This goes a long way towards improving foot health and may actually reduce or even eliminate foot problems in some cases.
The design of the sandals—wide toe box, spacious footbed, soft upper—also reduces the chance of chafing, so they can relieve or eliminate foot issues like blisters, calluses, ingrown toenails, and even bunions.
It’s worth noting that Birkenstocks sandals are designed with a built-in footbed, but they also sell closed shoes with a removable orthopedic insole. This offers very similar support to their classic footbed but can be removed and replaced if necessary.
Stiff Soles Limit Your Foot Mobility
The soles on Birkenstock shoes are fairly thick, which limits the amount of flex they have. This could restrict the movement in the foot, which may increase foot fatigue if you’re wearing them for a long time.
Takes Time to Break In
Birkenstocks are known for taking time to break in. As the shoes are orthopedically-designed to provide strong support in multiple places, your feet may not know what’s hit them at first!
You should expect a few weeks at least to break in your Birkenstocks. Remember, you may need to wear them for only a short period at first, increasing that time every day so that they can mold to your foot shape.
Once they have contoured to your exact arch shape and are offering the ideal support for your feet, you’ll find that you can wear them for long periods and they provide excellent support and comfort.
Don’t give up in those first few days of breaking your Birkenstocks in! Once you’ve broken them in, you won’t find a more comfortable pair of shoes.
Some People May Be Allergic to Latex
Some people are allergic to latex, which is a primary ingredient in the Birkenstocks’ footbed. While the cork and latex mix doesn’t come into contact with the skin, thanks to the suede top cover, if you have a severe latex allergy, you may want to avoid trying these shoes on just in case. You might have better luck with a Birkenstock alternative.