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

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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.

Birkenstock

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!

Birkenstock Sizing

Wanting to invest in a pair of Birkenstocks for yourself but wondering about sizing, take a look at our Q&A to clear up some of the most asked questions.

What does M and N mean in Birkenstock sizes?

Birkenstock sandals are available in two width sizes, M meaning medium and N meaning narrow. An M sandal fits like a regular, so if you have a wider foot opt for an M. An 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!).

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.

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.

Do Birkenstocks run big or small?

Most styles run true to size, the Gizeh and Mayari styles tend to run narrower than the others so you may be a regular in these sizes if you are usually narrow. Remember you want a little bit of room to allow your foot to move. The footbed is supposed to fit your foot but not be tight. Most people are a regular fitting, only if your foot moves side to side when you walk and adjusting the strap does not help that is when you would opt for a narrow fit. 

How do Birkenstock fit?

The sandals are supposed to hold your foot in place and stop any sliding. The moulded footbed and strap should support your foot as if you were wearing a sealed shoe. To make sure they fit you correctly stand up in the sandals with the straps undone. Make sure your toes are not overlapping or rubbing and then fasten the straps of the sandals up accordingly.

Birkenstock

Birkenstock Size Guide

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

Women

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

 

Men

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

 

Kids

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. In comparison to leather, it is still water-resistant but doesn’t scratch or fade and does not require a break-in period.

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

Birkenstock

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.

Birkenstock

 

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 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?

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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Ciara Martin

Ciara Martin

Writer and expert