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What makes a Birkenstock a Birkenstock?
Outstanding Design - Comfort - Variety - Value
Lots of features set Birkenstocks apart from other shoes. But it really comes down to one simple fact: Birkenstocks were designed specifically to accommodate the human foot. In fact, a Birkenstock is shaped like a healthy footprint. A foot in a Birkenstock is free to function the way a foot was meant to function. That's the key to keeping feet healthy and comfortable. The famous contoured footbed was designed to recreate the experience of walking barefoot on a gently yielding surface. It's no wonder feet are happier in Birkenstocks.
Classic Footbed Construction:
The footbed is shaped like a healthy footprint to guide your foot into its most natural walking position.
The cork footbed is encased in jute. The bottom layer adds strength and makes the shoe easy to resole. The top layer wicks moisture away from your feet.
Raised toe bar encourages the natural gripping motion of your feet, exercising your legs and improving circulation.
When it comes to comfort, feet don't need cushioning, they need support -- backs are the same way. That's why doctors recommend a firm mattress. Our footbed's firm, resilient cork/latex surface gives your feet the support they need to walk farther without fatigue.
Soft, supple suede lines the footbed to keep your feet comfortable and dry.
Deep heel cup cradles and stabilizes your heel and keeps the heel's natural padding directly under the heel bone so it can absorb shock, as nature intended.
The footbed's curves mirror the arch structure of your feet, ensuring proper support and even weight distribution.
Birkenstock offers a variety of footbeds. We group them into what we call "levels" to better describe and compare the differences in arch support.
Classic Soft Footbed - Level 2 support (moderate)
Though the regular classic footbed works well for most, some people prefer to have a little softer footbed whether by a medical condition like being diabetic or personal preference. To accommodate that need Birkenstock has a produced an alternate version of the classic footbed which has a layer of foam between the cork and the suede liner.
Classic Footbed - Level 3 support (pronounced)
As you can see from the footbed cutaway, the base is a coarse layer of jute for strength and durability. A finer layer of jute is on top. Sandwiched between the layers of jute is a mixture of granulated cork and latex, atop the finer layer of jute is a suede liner for a comfortable feel. The footbed is molded in to the shape of an ideal healthy footprint.
High Arch Footbed - Level 4 support (aggressive)
The classic high arch footbed has the most pronounced support. For some it is painfully excessive, for others it is a godsend. It alldepends on the particular characteristics of your foot. It tends to work well for people who have flexible feet, high insteps, and/or have problems with plantar fasciitis. With 20% more cork, it is a beefier footbed and controls your foot more.
Birkenstock footwear is assembled from the finest materials available. This means that each pair will provide maximum wear and comfort for years to come.
PICTURE OF CORK FOOTBED
All shoes denoted simply as "leather" have this classic smooth finish.
| Waxy, Oiled
A waxy or oiled finish applied to buffed leather results in a fashionably distressed look.
This soft, thick, napped leather from select hides is exceptionally comfortable.
Leather is buffed until it's soft and velvety.
| Smooth Birko-Flor
Wipes clean with a damp cloth. Notable for the way it takes to intricate textures and patterns.
A synthetic version of nubuck. Made from soft felt fibers, it has a very convincing texture.
BIRKENSTOCK SIZING AND FIT HEADER
We want you to be happy with your purchase and enjoy years of wear and comfort with every pair. Here are some tips for determining your Birkenstock size:
If you own a pair, its size and width are stamped on the footbed. The width is indicated by the footprint next to the EU size. An outlined footprint indicates a regular width and a solid footprint indicates a narrow width.
Church records show that Johann Adam Birkenstock was a shoemaker in 1774. For over 200 years making footwear has been a tradition in the Birkenstock family. By the turn of the previous century the Birkenstock family was in the business of making specialized footbed insoles to be used inside factory-made shoes which lacked support. With the orthopedic knowledge they had gained from making footbed insoles, Birkenstock began training thousands of shoemakers across Germany in the 1930’s. In 1947 Carl Birkenstock published a best-selling textbook on podiatry and his concept of a “natural gait”. Karl Birkenstock, Carl’s son, joined the family business in 1954 and eventually combined leather straps to a modified version of the Birkenstock footbed insoles to create the now famous Birkenstock sandal. After the introduction of the sandals, the company has grown by leaps and bounds. Partly due to German tax laws and partly to accommodate the ambitions of Karl’s three sons, there are now companies within the Birkenstock family of brands. The family of brands includes Papillio, Birki’s, and Birkenstock all with their own heritage and knowledge of foot health.
Sustainability – the story of cork, latex, and jute
We love Birkenstock because of the foot health and comfort which the brand provides. We also appreciate the fact that it is made in Germany under stringent ecological constraints using natural sustainable and renewable materials. Germany leads the world in developing solar energy. Concern for the environment is paramount. Labor standards are very high in Germany.
Cork has impressive characteristics: it is lightweight, heat and cold insulating, has antibacterial properties, absorbs moisture, breathes and has high degree of elasticity. Cork adapts to your foot with every step. Cork is the perfect material for the footbed.
Cork is made from the bark of the oak tree once it becomes five centimeters thick or greater. It then gradually grows back and can be harvested once again every nine years. The cork is boiled and cut into thin strips from which wine bottle corks are punched. The leftover material is then ground several times and sieved to a select grain size. Birkenstock uses only the highest quality cork.
Latex is the bonding material used to hold the cork, jute, and suede liner together. Latex is obtained by perforating the bark of the caoutchouc tree. The rubber milk is collected as it oozes out of the tree. The process is gently done so as not to damage the tree so the process can be repeated.
Jute is a textile plant material which is roasted, peeled, combed, cleaned, and then spun into fabric. The jute adds strength and flexibility to the footbed and enhances the moisture absorption and breathability of the footbed.
At the Birkenstock factory, operators stand along both sides of a conveyer belt. At the end of the conveyer belt is a giant mixing bowl in which latex and cork are mixed. Smaller bowls of the freshly mixed oatmeal-like concoction of cork and latex are placed on the conveyer. As one of the bowls reaches an operator, she lifts it off the belt and places a precut sheet of coarse jute at the case of the Classic footbed mold. She then spatulas the cork and latex mixture into the mold. Atop this mixture she carefully places a fine layer of jute and the precut suede liner which already has the Birkenstock logo with size and width information printed on the liner as well as a serial number to make sure that the suede liners are matched sets. The tops of the molds are then closed, secured and baked for a while. While they bake, the process is repeated in several other molds. When the baking time is up the operator will then pop the footbeds out of the molds and send them down the conveyer where they are then transferred into curing rooms. They are further heated for about a day, until they are properly cured. Excess jute and suede liner are then hand-trimmed by another operator with the mechanical knives like a router. Along every step of the way, the work is checked for quality. In all the years we have been selling Birkenstock, very few defects have made it through to our store. Their quality control is quite impressive.
Fashion and Fit
Since the Birkenstock sandal was developed with centuries of solid orthopedic knowledge, it has its own distinct fashion look, different than other brands. Birkenstock doesn’t try to hide the shape of the foot. It tries to be the shape of the foot. Fashion shoes which hide the shape of the foot do so at the cost of comfort and health.
Bunions, in-grown toenails, lower back pain and other maladies can be caused by poorly designed footwear. Pointed-toe shoes with higher heels may certainly look cute, but there is a physical cost associated with that cuteness.
In order to acknowledge the basic facts of our biology Birkenstock has designed their sandals to be zero-lasted, meaning the heel is at the same level as the ball of the foot. The notion of the need for an elevated heel comes from medieval times when streets were mud. Only the rich could afford to have cobblers make their shoes with higher heels to keep their trousers out of the mud. Since we all like to look like we are of the higher social classes, fashion dictates that we should wear higher heels. Traditions die hard, physiologically speaking; our heel was evolved to carry most of our weight as we walk. To artificially insert elevation under your heel transfers the weight to your forefoot which was not designed to carry the load. Foot pain develops from that improper load bearing. Your skeleton also has to reconfigure itself to adapt to the elevated heel. To have your skeleton out of alignment causes various muscles to compensate for those changes, frequently causing lower back pain.
Birkenstock will have a more relaxed fit when compared to Fashion shoes which tend to run too narrow and pointy. Most Birkenstock products are available in a choice of two widths. Your foot should fit within the raised perimeter, not overlapping the sides. You should also have a little space in the heel and toe. This will prevent your toes from banging into the front perimeter as the sandal bends and your foot grips and flexes. It will also prevent your heel from applying too much pressure on the heel cup.