Birkenstock Review: Why You Should Consider These Iconic Sandals

Controversial but well-loved sandals.

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Birkenstock sandals are surprisingly controversial. First, there’s the appearance. Some people, myself included, love the leather straps and norm-core aesthetic of these shoes. But others think they’re a dated style worn by washed-up hippies.

Then there’s the fit. While some people love the specially designed anatomical sole that forces feet into a natural position, others can’t stand the way it pushes and pokes at their feet.

But, which group is right? That’s what we’ll aim to find out in this Birkenstock review.

An Instantly Recognizable Design

Birkenstock buckle
The Brdwlk

Whether you like the look of Birkenstocks or not, one thing is clear: the design is instantly recognizable. This is a feat that not many shoes achieve, so it’s one worth celebrating.

But is the design any good? Well, I definitely think so. The leather is the stand-out part of the shoe. In my opinion, it takes Birkenstocks up a notch when compared to other sandals made with canvas or plastic. They just look smarter and I think they go better with jeans and chinos compared to plastic or rubber sandals.

You also get plenty of options. The images in this Birkenstock review are of the Arizona design in dark navy. This is a pretty minimalist, pared-back sandal. But you can get the shoes in a multitude of colors and styles.

The other main design elements are the cork footbed and the large buckles. These are the two pieces that I think give the shoe its hippy or norm-core reputation. But I also think they add character to the shoes. And the cork also gives the shoes their comfort.

Big Levels of Comfort, Once You’re Used to Them

Birkenstock with blue jeans
The Brdwlk

There are two reasons why Birkenstocks are insanely comfortable: the leather straps and the cork sole. The leather is soft from the moment you first put the shoes on. And it only gets more comfortable as you break them in.

The cork sole is slightly more dividing. It has a quite aggressive anatomical design that attempts to force your foot into a proper position. This can be quite a shock if you’re used wearing canvas shoes, dress shoes, or non-supportive sneakers. You’ll definitely notice the way the shoe pokes into your foot upon first wearing it.

When I first wore these shoes, this was nothing more than an interesting sensation on my foot. Although some other Birkenstock reviews suggest that for some people the effect can be quite jarring and even uncomfortable.

But, there’s no denying that once you get used to the feeling, you end up with a very comfortable pair of footwear.

The buckles are also adjustable, this lets you tighten or loosen the sandals to meet your needs. I wear mine in one of the middle holes and have no issues, especially once the leather has molded to my feet.

Very Durable Sandals

Birkenstock Sole
Minimal wear on the sole despite months of use.

Birkenstocks were originally made as fitness sandals. They’re designed to be worn for walking and, because of this, they can definitely take a beating. Where I live is hot in summer and I wear my Birkenstocks a lot between May and October. It’s only after the second year of wear that I start to think about getting a new pair.

And as with most shoes, it’s the sole that starts to go first. In Birkenstocks, it’s the cork that begins to break down at the front and the heel. At the time I got rid of my first pair, the leather was still in great condition, and it was actually quite a shame that there was no way to simply swap out the sole. Although, this is by no means a problem unique to Birkenstocks.

As an aside, the above durability relates to my experiences with the Arizona model. I have also owned a pair of plastic Birkenstock Eva sandals. These are marketed as sandals for the pool and they definitely don’t have the same durability as the regular leather and cork shoes in my experience. In fact, the toe area of the shoes started to break after just a couple of months of wear.

Stick to the leather models if you think you’ll be doing a lot of walking.

How Do Birkenstock’s Fit

In my experience Birkenstocks fit larger than average. For example, I buy Birkenstocks a size smaller than I buy Vans Old Skool and Nike Daybreak Type. When I buy this size my toes aren’t near the edge of the sole but they still fit snugly around my foot.

Of course, your experience may differ. You can find out more about how the shoes fit at the official Birkenstock fit guide.

Birkenstock Review in Summary

I love my Birkenstocks. I have had three pairs over the years and their comfort, durability, and style mean I’m always satisfied. You can buy them in plenty of colors and designs, which means there is something for most people.

These might not be for you if you simply don’t like the leather and cork style. The sole and arch-support can take some getting used to, but in most cases, I think people will find a day or two of slight discomfort worth it.

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Duncan Elder

Duncan is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Boardwalk. He's a menswear writer who has spent the last 15 years developing his own sense of style, which lies at the cross-section of mid-noughties indie and Uniqlo-inspired minimalism.

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