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Birkenstock Buyer’s Guide

Classic, comfortable and fashionable, Birkenstockcreates 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, 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

What are the most popular Birkenstock styles?

Birkenstock Sandals

#1 Birkenstock Arizona Sandals 

Classic two-strap sandals known for their contoured cork footbeds and adjustable buckles. They provide excellent arch support and are versatile for casual wear.


#2 Birkenstock Madrid Sandals 

Single-strap slide sandals offering a minimalist design. They feature a moulded cork footbed and a simple buckle closure for a secure fit. Madrid sandals are sleek and comfortable for everyday wear.

#3 Birkenstock Gizeh Sandals 

Thong-style sandals with a single toe loop for added stability. They have the signature Birkenstock cork footbed and adjustable buckle strap for a customised fit. Gizeh sandals combine style with comfort, making them suitable for various occasions.

#4 Birkenstock Papillio Sandals 

Known for their vibrant patterns and colours, Papillio sandals offer the same comfort features as other Birkenstock styles but with a unique aesthetic.

#5 Birkenstock Uji Sandals 

Strappy sandals with a modern design, featuring criss-crossing straps and a secure buckle closure. They incorporate the renowned Birkenstock footbed for superior comfort and support, making them suitable for both casual and semi-formal occasions.

Birkenstock Shoes

#1 Birkenstock Boston Mules 

Closed-toe mules with a distinctive upper and an adjustable strap for a secure fit. Boston mules feature the classic Birkenstock footbed and offer the convenience of slip-on styling with the added coverage of a mule.

#2 Birkenstock Gripwalk Chelsea Boots 

Chelsea-style boots featuring a rugged outsole with superior grip for traction on various surfaces. They combine the timeless Chelsea boot silhouette with Birkenstock's comfort technology, making them ideal for all-day wear.

Birkenstock Trainers

#1 Birkenstock Bend Low Trainers 

Athletic-inspired trainers with a low-profile design, perfect for everyday wear or light exercise. They feature a cushioned footbed and supportive construction for comfort, along with a versatile style that complements casual outfits.

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.

What Birkenstock styles are vegan?

If the Birkenstock logo is Green on the footbed of the sandal you know that the style is vegan.

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 Gizehand Madrid however are women’s sandals that do have substitute styles for men.

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!


Birkenstock Size Guide

Birkenstock sandals are made in Europe with European sizing. Use the conversion charts below in our Birkenstock buyer's guide to determine your size. It's advised that you purchase them in the manufactured EU continental size that way you will be more accurate the first time around.


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

What does M and N mean in Birkenstock sizes?

Birkenstock sandals are available in two width sizes, M meaning medium and N meaning narrow. The M sandal fits like a regular, so if you have wider feet opt for an M. An N sandal offers a slimmer fit for more petite feet.

All our N or narrow-width sandals are marked as ‘Slim Fit’ in the title. The M or regular fit are identified as men's sandals due to the wider fit better suiting the shape of their foot. If you are a female seeking a wider fit, you can also opt for 'M' as they are in reality unisex.

Are Birkenstock true to size?

Birkenstocks are designed to be roomy. They are designed to hold your foot but also give it room, so you don't usually need to downsize. Measure the length of your foot by standing on a flat surface measure the distance from the back of your heel to the tip of your longest toe. Add 10mm to your foot length to allow your foot room to move.

In order to optimize the great support of your Birkenstocks, we recommend sizing so that your heel sits flush in the heel cup and your toes do not touch the front lip. This type of fit will allow the arches of the footbed and the toe bar (the little bump that sits under your toes) to have a better chance of fitting you properly. Of course, Birkenstock fit and support can also be greatly affected by how snugly you fit the straps.

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.

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 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 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.

What is the Birkenstock Footbed made from?

The Birkenstock footbed is made of resilient cork/latex and is shaped to create a healthy walking environment for your feet. Additionally, the cork/latex blend is pliable and reacts to natural body warmth. Therefore, over time, the footbed yields to your individual foot. Many long-term Birkenstock wearers find that the longer you wear them, the more comfortable they become.

Here is how Birkenstock describes each part of the footbed:

1 - More Toe Room Allows toes to move naturally, which promotes better balance and correct foot alignment

2 - Raised Toe Bar Encourages natural gripping motion of your feet

3 - Contoured Footbed Four arches ensure even weight distribution and proper posture

4 - Deep Heel Cup Cradles the heel and keeps natural cushioning right under the heel bone

5 - Shock Absorbing Sole Flexible, durable and lightweight

6 - Jute Fibers Two layers – one wicks away moisture, the other adds strength

7 - Cork Footbed Firm, resilient cork/latex base for maximum support

8 - Footbed Liner Soft suede keeps your feet comfortable and dry

Original Footbed vs Soft Footbed

You can buy Birkenstocks with a soft footbed as well but they are stocked in fewer retailers. Looking at the original footbed vs the soft footbed the reviews were that some people thought the soft footbed was easier to break in however others stated they didn't think it had as much arch support. The definition of the soft footbed with Birkenstock is, 'a foam layer is inserted between the cork layer and the suede liner of the classic Birkenstock footbed. This layer features an extremely high degree of rebound capacity which permits long-lasting cushioning.'


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. It is still a water-resistant fabric similar to leather but it doesn't scratch or fade. It also doesn't require a break-in period.
  • Birkibuc looks and feels more similar to nubuck leather with a slight nap on the surface.


Can you get Birkenstocks wet?

Many people think that Birkenstock 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?

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 the prominent arch and distinctive features will help to support and hold your foot as if you were wearing a closed shoe.

Birkenstock Leather

The oiled leather they use is thick and designed to mould to your feet to make them feel custom-designed to your foot. The ordinary Amalfi leather used by Birkenstock has stretch abilities, again adapting to each individual foot. The Nubuck leather has a softly brushed outer surface making it soft and easy to break in.

Birk Flor 

Birk Flor has a fleece lining making them super soft on your feet meaning you won't suffer from any blisters wearing them in. One thing to note, unlike leather, Birk Flor does not get better with age.

How do you break in Birkenstock footbeds?

Take the time to walk around indoors and let your feet mould to the footbed. You should be wearing them for frequent short periods of time. If you are wearing them frequently give yourself about 2 - 3 weeks for them to adjust to your foot.

Your feet should fit completely inside the footbeds, with 1/8 to 1/4 inches of extra length for walking. The width should fit closely to prevent your foot from slipping side to side. If you have bought the Arizona sandals you can undo the sandal straps and look at your foot from above making sure they fit properly. When trying the Bostons you can place your foot over the top to check your heel sits in the cup.

If you are struggling with them rubbing your feet, a good tip is to initially start wearing them around the house or out about in socks. Remember if you are going on holiday don't pack your box fresh Birkenstocks, everyone needs a grace period to wear them in.


Hannah Needham
Hannah Needham Writer and expert

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