How to break in a pair of Birkenstocks

After trodding all over London last week, I came back and immediately ordered a pair of Birkenstocks for my next European adventure in August. I figured that since the aching back and hurt feet symptoms are actually real during pregnancy, I might as well get some sandals that actually offer support.

In terms of support, it doesn’t get much more orthopedic than Birks. My only problem was that my vision of Birks consisted entirely of granola-eating-drum-circling-dreadlock-sporting-live-in-a-tent hippies. However, after seeing half of Londoners in Birks that are actually semi-cute I decided to take the plunge and get myself a pair of the “less ugly going for more of the maybe-it’s-so-ugly-it’s-cute-kind-of-like-pugs” Birks.

birksSpecifically, these.

I saw these all over London worn by not tourists, mind you, and thus by breaking-in adventure began.

I am here to tell you exactly how to break in your Birkenstocks with maximum success.

Step 1: Open box. Look at Birkenstocks inquisitively and wonder if they really are ugly-but-cute-like-a-pug or just ugly.

Step 2: Put Birks on feet and agonize over fit. Wait for husband to get home, have him analyze and assure you that they literally couldn’t look more perfectly fit to my foot if they were made for me. (Tip: order a size below. I’m a 7.5-8ish, leaning toward 7, and got the size that is a 7-7.5, or a 38 in those “European” sizes.)

Step 3: The next day when you go to walk your husband to work with your dog, wear the Birkenstocks on the 2.2-mile (total) adventure. This will ensure that even if you begin to wonder if maybe shorter bouts of breaking in might have been better-advised, there will be no escape.

Step 4: At mile mark 1 on said walk (aka, halfway), really begin questioning your logic here, since you already knew that Birkenstocks are notorious for needing to be broken in.

Step 5: Remember the review on that claimed they “didn’t need breaking in like other Birkenstocks!” Despite no other review claiming this, remember that if it’s on the Internet it must be true, and if this person took the time to write a review, then clearly they must have the same feet as you.

Step 6: Vow to find the person who wrote that review and question if they know what breaking in actually means.

Step 7: Arrive back at home with a slight blister from a 2-mile walk in un-broken-in Birkenstocks, perplexed at what the hell you were thinking.

Step 8: Know that even though breaking these damn shoes is a terrible ordeal now, they actually will feel amazing and worth the exorbitant cost, because the support that is sucking your life force out of your feet now will be the best thing ever when my feet and the sandals finally come to terms with each other.

Step 9: Pack for a 5-day trip to Florida. Leave out Birks to wear through the airports. Because clearly, what your feet at this point need the next day is to walk through the terminals of Atlanta’s airport.

Step 10: At 4:30am when waking up to rush to the airport, definitely do not think twice about slipping those little Birks on your feet the next morning. You haven’t had coffee yet, so feeling to your extremities will dull your senses anyway.

Step 11: Arrive into Atlanta and trod through the never-ending terminals wondering if these damn things ever truly DO break in, and when is it? And seriously, are they ugly-cute or just ugly?

Step 12: Question all life decisions to this point. Commence existential crisis.

Step 13: Get a croissant. Because you’re still pregnant, after all. And even if you weren’t, you deserve one.

Step 14: Avoid the bathroom mirror at all costs. Not only does pregnancy seem to eat some of the makeup you dumped on your face at 4:45AM, but your shoes seem to be eating the rest of it, somehow. Do not compare yourself to a gremlin for fear of insulting gremlins everywhere.

Step 15: Arrive at your destination, which also happens to be your mother’s house in Florida. Mutter incoherently about the mistake these damn sandals were and what the hell were you thinking buying such a luxury item due to your vanity and stubbornness in never wearing tennis shoes in tourist places “like a typical American”. Go eat some grapes. And then a cookie because clearly grapes were never going to satisfy that craving you’re having for a cookie. Because, again, pregnancy. We need to be honest with ourselves here.

Step 16: Tell the Birks that we just need a “little break” for a little bit and you’re going to be going back to your Rainbow flip flops for a little while. Assure the sandals that it has much more to do with the fact that you’re going to be around pools and sand and they are far too high-brow for such activities.

Step 17: Wonder if you always talked to your shoes, or if this is a result of three years of working from home and too little human interaction.

Step 18: Assure your mom’s dog that this definitely isn’t due to a lack of interaction, and you’ve probably always talked to inanimate objects.

Step 19: Eat another cookie.

Step 20: Come back to the Birkenstocks. Look at them. Remember the amount of money you paid for a pair of flat sandals and put them back on your feet.

Step 21: Grumble to yourself. The healing process is not complete. You need more time, okay?!

Step 22: Take the sandals out again. Put them on feet. Realize that, oh, this is what the hype is all about. You get it now. It’s all clear!

Step 23: Wonder if the shoes are singing or if it’s actually angels from above. Oh, no, I just hadn’t turned off my Pandora radio. No wonder the angels sounded eerily like Matchbox 20.

Step 24: Wear Birkenstocks incessantly. Applaud yourself for such a genius move in planning on how to avoid wearing tennis shoes “like an American” while walking through Belgium and Luxembourg at 32 weeks pregnant.

Step 25: Realize that no matter what you do, you’re still pregnant and back pain is just a way of life. There is no magic bag of beans for the side effects of growing a human. Though, for the price, the Birks could at least vacuum a few times a week to earn their keep.

38 thoughts on “How to break in a pair of Birkenstocks

  1. I’ve been wearing this exact pair for weeks and feel like I’m walking on golf balls still. Help! How long between steps 1-25?

  2. Pingback: This and That | Doin' the Grown-Up

    • Alas, it is. I tried to think of it as the straps actually giving me extra super special hugs, but they just loved me a *little* too much. I don’t know if it’s that the straps wear your feet down or your feet wear the straps down, but they do eventually come into a symbiotic relationship.

    • Apparently you lightly sand the edges of the leather straps and apply coconut oil to the UNDER SIDE OF THE STRAP only. This loosens up the leather and keeps it soft. There’s a video on this at and on youtube. I think I typed in coconut oil on birkenstocks or something like that on youtube

  3. Super helpful, thanks! Wore mine on a super long walk yesterday, and now I’m on a plane to Europe with them packed in my bag. Wore sneakers all day today because my feet were so sore. I’ll keep working on them =]

  4. Oh, how I endured much of the same discomfort and questioning of logic in purchasing my first pair. However, I can say at long last my feet and Birks have come to an understanding. What seemed to help speed the process along is wearing newly purchased Birks exclusively within the house for a while. Particularly when I get out the shower and have dried/applied lotion to my feet. I’m thinking the oils in the lotion alongside my damp(ish) feet help to soften the materials faster 🙂

    Wishing you happy feet and travels!

  5. This is my first time reading/seeing this blog but its amazing!!! You are just SO fun to read! I am in the process of debating and researching about birkenstocks..I want them because they look cute and they look so comfortable but at the same time I have NO patience. They are darn expensive too! Here they are 110$ for the Arizona (without taxes) and I am a student. I think ill go out and buy them tho, thanks 🙂

    • Thank you for stopping by!! I was exactly in the same debate as you, and the only thing that put my mind at ease is that they really do last for years, once you break them in. I’m still on that same pair and they’re going strong, years later. Next time I’m definitely going to try that other reader’s tip about wearing them while inside and then also applying lotion to my feet, especially after the shower, to get those oils into the leather to soften it up. Good luck in school!!

  6. This is my first time ever seeing this blog, but I just got a new pair of Birks last month and wore them while setting up my brother’s graduation party yesterday… The soles are broken in but I have a killer blister from the straps rubbing the side of my foot.

    • Killer!! You’re an angel, not only for helping with your brother’s grad party, but for doing it in un-broken-in Birks. If I ask your preferred Band-Aid brand is it considered insider trading?

    • I can’t quite remember, but I think about 2 weeks in I felt some reprieve, and then maybe after a month I just remember feeling like they were heavenly. Years later and they’re still going strong!!

  7. Hilarious post! Did you find the toe ridge painful in the beginning? My Gizehs are fine in general, but the toe ridge just seems weird and like it would hurt my toes after awhile.

  8. It’s the arches for me… they actually leave a red mark down the inside of my arch… it’s starting to get more comfortable after just 1 day

    • I forgot how awful the arches are, and I have crazy high arches in my feet. My husband said that they feel like huge cement balls under his feet for a long time until all of a sudden they mold to his feet and became perfect. Glad they’re getting better!

  9. Actually, you should only be wearing your new pair of Birkenstocks 2 hours per day for 5 days a week. I would never recommend going a size larger than the actual foot size, due to the fact that the shoe must fit perfectly to the foot. If not not sized properly the shoe could cause foot problems, rather than correcting them. Most people do not know of this information so I would definitely recommend telling a friend, also make note that sizing of the shoe is key and to get sized by a shoe specialist before considering purchasing any Birkenstock style.

  10. I bought a pair of Arizona soft Birkenstocks today. I was not aware you had to break them in. They were so comfortable in the store and in my apartment, but going down the 4 flights of stairs in my building was hard on my feet. I loosened the strap on the left foot. Walked 3/4 mile to my health club and then had a scrape on the front of my ankle where the straps normally wouldn’t touch. The swimming helped a lot, but on the way home I thought they don’t give me enough support. So now I will wear them around the apartment for a few days before I wear them outside again. I think they break your feet in rather than breaking in the shoes. Summer is almost over, but there is next year to wear them. Thanks for your post.

    • Ha! I love that – breaking in your feet. Good luck on the breaking in and I hope the ankle doesn’t become a problem. You might get some wear out of them with some apartment breaking in before fall comes!

  11. Just bought my first pair of Birks. My plantar fasciitis is starting to border on chronic, and I find that only my ugliest tennies or these UnderArmor flipflops made of pegasus feathers will do, but it’s getting to be fall and I have to wear something to work. I saw one lonely pair of Boston clogs, conveniently exactly my size, in the Macys last week, and was impressed with the arch support, but didn’t buy them (even though they were 30% off on clearance) because they do indeed look like hobbit shoes. Well, I couldn’t stop thinking about them and finally went back for them. Now I feel like I need to start knitting socks, because that’s what you wear with them right? Handmade socks?
    Anyways, I wore them around all weekend, including to a convention on Monday, without realizing that they do indeed need some breaking in. My feet are ok though, and my one painful arch still hurts, but in a good way? Like a good stretch? But my legs feel like every day is leg day. Did you get that? It’s like I’m working different muscles than I normally do for walking.
    I find the idea mildly hilarious that I need special shoes to keep my feet foot-shaped. Love the concept that these are the pugs of shoedom, stealing that, thanks.

    • Just an update: It is now 8 months since I left the comment above, and I now own two pairs of Birks and literally do not wear any other shoes. Like, I need to get rid of a closet full of shoes now. I have clogs and sandals, and all I need is a pair of boots to make it year-round (although I did mostly wear the clogs through the winter, with – you guessed it – handmade socks). My heel pain is completely gone, I don’t get as much lower back pain when I walk long distances, and I sound like a crazy person when I talk about my shoes now. I’m so glad I didn’t give up, and your blog was part of that! Thanks!

  12. Such a funny post! Question: did your Birks still fit after pregnancy? I’m 26 weeks pregnant and considering my first pair. Just wondering if it’s worth it…..

    • So mine did! Though my foot size didn’t really change. I think it might have changed more after this second pregnancy and I can’t tell if it’s because the shoes are now so old or if it’s because of the extra weight gain with numero dos that I need a new pair. I think if your foot size isn’t really changing you can go for it, especially with a late summer pregnancy, you’ll want a good pair of supportive sandals! Good luck!! Let me know what you think!

  13. My favorite pair of mayari Birks died last week. I had them resolved twice over the last 7 years but the leather toe piece came out. I replaced them immediately with the exact same style and color. As I put them on my feet I thought to myself, “I forgot how awful these are to break in.” So I found your site looking for some tips, enjoyed your entertaining writing. I made the mistake of wearing for 7 hours today even though my toes started hurting after 5 hours.

  14. I know this is an older blog post but since I am knocked up currently and just bought my first pair of Birks ever – well one thing led to another and here I am. I laughed my way through reading it though. So, what I am basically getting here is the break in period is evil and awful and is also exacerbated by the fact that when one is pregnant, it’s magnified just that much more. 😉 I think I’ll keep mine and keep working at “breaking them in”. Although, I’m sure to go through the “steps” you outlined too.

    • GOOD LUCK! (To be clear on both the pregnancy and the breaking in period. Mostly the former though your poor feet are concerned only with the latter.) Cookies help. With everything. 🙂

  15. I am admittedly late to this trend as well as to this blog post (love your writing style!), but figured I’d ask anyway. I just bought my first pair of Birkenstock Madrids and have been breaking them in very slowly, mostly indoors and a few times outside. The arch is fine for me, it is the toe bar, under my big toe that continues to feel strange. I feel like it hits on the toe as opposed to under it and my toe naturally turns a bit inward. The imprint that is forming seems to cover the area that would normally be separating the big toe and the middle toe as opposed to being to the side of it. That said, all the other toes feel fine and grab the toe bar normally. Will this resolve the more I break them in? I’ve read some blogs that say that you can use a hammer to break the cork down where it doesn’t fit properly, but couldn’t find any videos for how to go about it. Just wondering if I should just give it some more breaking them in. Or go buy a hammer.

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