I wish I’d known how to break in Birkenstocks before I got my first pair. Getting new Birkenstocks for the first time was an exciting moment for me as I’d heard how comfortable and how great they were for posture.
I suffer from chronic back pain, so it is important to me that my footwear is comfortable, I spent ages trying on various colours and styles of Birks, and I eventually settled on a pair of Arizona Birkibucks in mocha.
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I was so excited to unbox my first pair of Birkenstocks and couldn’t wait to put them on.
However, much to my horror, my brand new Birkenstocks hurt my feet, right across the toe bar, and as if that wasn’t enough, I found the footbed hard and uncomfortable.
I felt defeated and disillusioned. In a desperate attempt to make them more comfortable, I loosened the adjustable straps, but it just made my new sandals too loose, and they kept falling off my feet when I walked.
I was so disappointed that I put them in the back of the wardrobe with the rest of my least favourite shoes and there they sat for two years.
After spending years breaking in Doc Martens, I wondered if I could do the same with my Birkenstocks, so I tried the same method and it worked!
So in this post, I’m going to show you how to break in Birkenstocks fast, so you can drag yours out of hibernation and start wearing them!
What are Birkenstocks?
Birkenstocks originated in Germany in 1774. They are sandals which consist of either leather, nubuck or non-leather uppers, with a unique contoured footbed made from latex and cork. The cork footbed reacts to the shape of your foot over time. Birkenstocks also have shock-absorbing soles.
Why break in Birkenstocks?
Why do I need to break in Birkenstocks? This is a question I’m asked quite often, and the answer is: you need to give your Birkenstock soft footbed break-in time and allow them time to mould to your feet. At first, it will feel as if the soles are rigid and that they will never feel comfortable, but believe me, they will eventually mould to your feet and become the most comfortable shoes you’ve ever worn. Trust me, the discomfort you feel at first will be worth it, I promise!
How should Birkenstocks fit?
The contours of the Birkenstock soft footbed should correspond to your foot arch, and the toe bar should fit comfortably beneath your toes.
The straps should be snug but not too tight, and you should be able to wiggle one finger between the straps and your foot.
Your foot should not be too far forward, and there should be no gap at the back of the shoe and your heel.
You can find out more about how to fit your Birks in the Birkenstock fit guide here.
Are Birkenstocks comfortable?
Are Birkenstocks good for walking long distances? This is a question I get asked a lot, and the answer is yes, once you have broken in the leather straps and the soft footbed on your Birkenstocks they are the most comfortable shoes you can have on your feet.
I wear mine all day long during the summer months and find them the most comfortable sandals to walk any distance in. I travel in mine and also wear them around the house instead of slippers.
Podiatrist opinion on Birkenstocks
Are Birkenstocks bad for your feet? And are Birkenstocks good for flat feet? These are questions that get asked quite a lot in my Facebook group which you can join here!
Many podiatrists recommend Birkenstocks as they have a raised foot arch and a soft footbed, making them comfortable for people with or without flat feet.
Over time, the cork footbed will mould to the wearer’s feet, and the imprint of their foot will be on the footbed, the sandal will start to feel like an extension of the foot, and the wearer will hardly know they are wearing shoes at all.
Some podiatrists recommend Birkenstocks to help improve posture.
How long does it take to break in Birkenstocks?
Breaking in Birkenstocks is super simple and not time-consuming at all. If you follow the steps below, you should be able to have your Birkenstocks fully broken in within a week.
There is not a short cut to breaking in your new Birks so be prepared to put in the work to reap the rewards in a weeks time!
How long do Birkenstocks last?
Birkenstocks should last you many years as long as you look after them properly and use the Birkenstock the care set.
If you use this Birkenstock care set regularly it will keep your Birks looking like new! Included in the kit is a cork sealer for your footbed, a cleaner and refresher, water and stain repeller and a handy applicator brush.
Almost every component of the footwear can be repaired or replaced, making them a fantastic investment and giving you years of wear, and they are worth every penny. A replacement footbed, for instance, can cost anywhere between £10 and £50 depending on your style.
How to break in Birkenstocks
Knowing how to break in Birkenstocks properly will prevent you from suffering from blisters or rubbing and will make them much more comfortable.
- Get the correct size and fit
Make sure you buy the correct size and width for your feet. If you are in any doubt about fitting, ask the assistant to help you. They will undo all the straps and adjust them to the right width.
You can purchase your Birkenstocks in a wide or narrow fit to suit your feet. You can also use the size calculator here!
- Wear them indoors for a few days.
Wear your new Birkenstocks indoors for a few days until you have broken them in, and wear them for a little bit at a time to give your feet a rest.
- Wear your Birks with a thick pair of socks.
The first few times you wear you Birkenstocks, wear them with a thick pair of socks like these, made by Birkenstock, don’t worry about how you look for now, you’re not going outside in them just yet!
- Day 1
Wear your Birkenstocks with thick hiking socks like these for approximately 5 minutes, if you feel any pain take them off immediately.
Wander around the house in them as you would a pair of slippers.
Try doing this a few times a day for 5 minutes at a time.
Make sure you break your Birks in when you are active, there’s no point trying to break them in when you are sitting in front of the tv with you feet up!
Be sure to bend, stretch and move about as much as you can while you’ve got the buffer of the thick socks to absorb any sore patches.
- Day 2
Wear your Birks and socks for a little bit longer on the second day.
Repeat the same steps as above but wear them for approx half an hour, roughly three times a day or more if you can.
This will help to stretch out the leather and soften the footbed.
Remember to give your feet a rest in between each wear.
- Day 3
Try wearing your Birkenstocks for a few hours at a time with a little rest in between.
Your Birks should be starting to feel much more comfortable now.
Remember to keep active, the more you move, the quicker you can get these bad boys broken in!
- Day 4
Wear your Birks without socks for about 10 -15 minutes a day, three times a day.
Look out for any areas that rub; if you get an area which rubs you can either go back to using socks until it is better or cover the area with moleskin or a plaster.
Often people find that the most uncomfortable place is the toe bar, if this is the case for you, revert back to wearing socks until it feels more comfortable.
However, steps 4-6 should have helped to soften the toe bed already.
- Day 5
Try wearing your Birkenstocks for a few hours at a time, until you feel that they are comfortable.
If you feel any discomfort at this stage take them off and give your feet a rest; it’s not worth causing yourself any blisters as this stage.
You can always try again later on in the day.
If they are still painful, revert back to wearing the socks.
- Day 6
You might want to go for a short walk outside to make sure your Birkenstock comfort is increasing.
Once you can see your footprint in the footbed of your Birkenstocks, you should find that they are fully broken in.
Gradually increase the time that you wear your Birks outside until you are fully confident that they are comfortable.
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Where to get Birkenstocks.
Be careful of cheap imitations, when buying Birkenstocks for the first time, always go directly through the Birkenstock website or via a reputable, approved stockist.
What to do if your Birkenstock toe bar hurts
If you feel your toe bar is still uncomfortable, you should continue to wear your thick socks until the toe bar goes soft and is more comfortable underfoot.
Some people like to hit the toe bar with a hammer to help soften it, but care must be taken not to damage the footbed of the sandal.
If you do decide to use the hammer method, wrap the sandal in a tea towel first to give the footbed some protection.
Please also remember that the toe bar should be moulding to the sole of your foot, hitting it with a hammer will not help this process and may even hinder the breaking in process and the unique comfort you get from the footbed.
How to soften Birkenstock leather
Sometimes you might find that your Birkenstock leather straps need a little help to soften up. To help soften the leather, you should apply a balsam to the straps or leather upper. I like to use Doc Martens Wonder Balsam to make the leather more pliable and buttery soft.
Apply a liberal amount of the balm to the leather upper and allow it to soak in overnight, then in the morning remove the excess with a very soft dusting cloth.
How to break in Birkenstocks with water.
Some people prefer to soak their Birkenstocks in water then put thick socks on and walk around for a few hours to allow the leather to stretch. This is not a method I would personally advise as it may cause unnecessary damage to your sandals.
Frequently asked questions
I think Birkenstocks are worth every penny once you’ve broken them in.
They can be used for distance walking, the beach, in the house, in the garden, for casual drinks, in fact, you can wear them just about anywhere!
Almost every component of the footwear can be repaired or replaced, making them a fantastic investment for years to come.
Birkenstocks are not the prettiest of footwear and have been described as being so ugly that they are cool.
Knowing how to wear Birkenstocks sandals is simple, pair them with just about anything in your wardrobe.
Breaking in used Birkenstocks is not something I would recommend, this is because the previous owner’s foot will have moulded to the footbed and you will find it almost impossible to create a unique footprint of your own.
If you are looking for used Birkenstocks, go for ones that the previous owner has only worn once or twice before selling this will allow you to be the first person to break them in.
Take advantage of the fact that someone else gave up before breaking in their Birks!
Knowing how to break in Birkenstock clogs is pretty simple.
Just follow the same steps as you would to break in Birkenstock sandals as above, and you will soon find that the clogs become softer and more pliable the more you wear them.
Use a damp cloth with a small amount of dish soap to clean the footbed.
If your Birks are really whiffy, create a thick paste of bicarbonate of soda and water and apply the paste to the footbed, allow to sit for about 15 minutes then wipe away.
Once your Birkenstocks are clean and smell fresh you can keep them clean with the Birkenstock care set, get it here.
Now you’ve learnt how to make Birkenstocks more comfortable, read how to break in Doc Martens in this post!