Buyer's Guide

Birkenstock Buyer’s Guide: Everything You Need to Know

Classic, comfortable and fashionable, Birkenstock creates timeless sandals that have fused functionality and fashion to become an essential shoe in every man and woman’s spring/summer wardrobe. Despite its global appeal, the Birkenstock can still be something of an enigma if you’re new to the brand and its designs.

We’ve joined forces with our expert footwear buying team to answer all the questions you need to know about Birkenstock, whether you’re a first-time buyer or a seasoned Birks aficionado…

woman holding birkenstock sandal


First Up: Where does the name Birkenstock come from? What does Birkenstock mean in German?

Birkenstock is the family name of the brand’s founder Johann Adam Birkenstock. Herr Birkenstock was first registered as a shoemaker in the German village of Neustadt, just outside Bonn, in the 18th century and Johann’s grandson, Konrad, was one of the world’s first shoemakers to experiment with insoles actually moulded to the shape of the foot rather than the traditional flat footbed.


Are all Birkenstock unisex?

Most Birkenstock sandals are unisex, however, certain styles are designed with women’s styling and gait in mind.

For example, the classic Arizona is designed in unisex sizes. Styles such as the Gizeh and Madrid however are women’s sandals that do have substitute styles for men (e.g. the Ramses is a toe-post sandal styled for both men and women).

It is worth noting that although they are unisex, Birkenstock sandals come in two widths—M and N—which can help differentiate between the different shapes of men’s and women’s feet!

What does M and N mean in Birkenstock sizes?

Birkenstock sandals are available in two width sizes, M meaning medium and N meaning narrow. A M sandal fits as a regular, wider fit while a N sandal offers a slimmer fit for more petite feet.

Here at AllSole, all our N or narrow width sandals are marked as ‘Slim Fit’ in the title. Our M or regular fit Birkenstock are identified as ‘men’s’ sandals due to their wider fit being generally better suited for the shape of men’s feet. If you are a female seeking a wider ‘M’ fit, please choose from our men’s styles (which are in reality unisex!).

How do Birkenstock fit? Are they true to size?

Birkenstocks are designed to be roomy; when you first try on your sandals they might feel big. Most people are fine with a regular fitting, but if your foot moves side to side when you walk and adjusting the strap does not help, you may be better suited to a narrow fit.

To check the width of a pair you already own, you can tell the fit by inspecting the footbed where there is a small image of a foot. If the foot is filled in, the shoe is a narrow fitting; if the foot is just an outline, it’s a regular fit. Also, all stock codes for narrow fittings end with 3.


What is a size X in Birkenstock?

Birkenstock sandals are made in Europe with European sizing, so use the conversion charts below to determine your size in Birkenstock sandals.


European 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42
UK 2-2.5 3-3..5 4-4.5 5-5.5 6-6.5 7-7.5 8-8.5 9-9.5
mm 225 230 240 245 250 260 265 270



European 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47
UK 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
MM 260 265 270 280 285 290 300 305



European 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34
UK 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 1 2 3
mm 150 160 165 170 180 185 190 200 205 210 220

Just what exactly is Birko Flor and Birkibuc?

Birko Flor® and Birkibuc are synthetic, durable, easy-to-clean developed by Birkenstock as alternatives to leather.

Birko Flor is made from soft acrylic and polyamide felt fibres with a durable, smooth, leather-like finish.

Birkibuc looks and feels more similar to nubuck leather with a slight nap on the surface.


How do I clean my Birkenstocks?

Cleaning the Footbed: Birkenstock produces a special footbed cleaner for its cork footbeds which should only be necessary for tough cleaning jobs. It is also worth bearing in mind that their cork footbeds come with a light coating of cork sealant which prevents them from drying out. When the cork no longer looks shiny, you should apply a thin coat of cork sealant to the footbed.

Cleaning the Uppers: Before wearing your new shoes, we recommend applying a water and stain protector to all suede, nubuk and leather uppers as well as after each clean. A good-quality suede cleaner should be used to remove stubborn areas. You can also keep your suede uppers looking fresh with a suede brush. Clean and revive nubuck leather with a nubuck block. For cleaning smooth leather, simply use a soft dry cloth. Wipe Birko Flor, Birkibuc and other synthetic uppers clean with a damp cloth.

Can you get Birkenstocks wet?

Many people think that Birkenstocks sandals will be ruined if you get them wet. Fear not! If you do manage to get your sandals wet, we would recommend that you allow them to dry slowly and preferably naturally, away from direct heat.



Are Birkenstock really good for your feet?

In short, yes. Unlike most sandal designs the Birkenstock footbed is contoured to match the shape of a healthy foot. While it might initially feel ‘different’, Birkenstocks are designed to support the natural shape of the foot. The toe grips should be in the right place for your feet and some wearers find the arch support can feel prominent initially.

How do you break in Birkenstock footbeds?

When you first try on your Birkenstock sandals, take the time to walk around indoors and get used to them. You should break them in gradually. Your feet should fit completely inside the footbeds, with 1/8 to 1/4 inch of extra length for walking. The width should fit closely to prevent your foot from slipping side to side.


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2021-03-25 17:10:16By Ciara Martin

Ciara Martin

Ciara Martin

Writer and expert