About two years ago, I published the blog, “Spotting Fake Birkenstocks”. Since then, Birkenstock has made changes to the labeling on their footbeds. This blog will identify these changes as well as highlight some new tips to help you avoid purchasing counterfeit Birkenstocks.
Counterfeit Birkenstocks are big business. There are some hard to spot knock-offs being sold online. In fact, Sandy, from Sandy's Birkenstock Boutique in Australia, knowingly purchased a pair of knock-off Gizehs that looked very similar to the real deal. She did this intentionally to help educate her customers on the differences between genuine vs counterfeit Birkenstocks. Sandy was kind enough to grant me permission to share her photos with my readers. You will see her photos shared throughout this blog.
How To Avoid Purchasing Counterfeit Birkenstocks
1. For those of you in the United States, my number one rule of thumb to avoid buying knock-off Birkenstocks is to purchase your shoes from an authorized Birkenstock retailer. Birkenstock USA has a store locator tool to help you find an authorized dealer. If you live in the United States or Europe, do not purchase Birkenstocks through Amazon! I repeat. Do not purchase Birkenstocks through Amazon. Why not? Read this.
2. Authentic Birkenstocks will be shipped to you in a Birkenstock box. There are currently two versions of Birkenstock boxes.
The older version looks like this:
The newer version looks like this:
There is a series of Birkenstock Kids models where the box is white and blue.
Also, some of the limited edition Birkenstocks come in a black box. Recently, I ordered the Big Buckle Madrids and they arrived in a very fancy black box with white lettering. Sadly, I had to send them back because they were labeled as regular width online but arrived in narrows.
The image below, from Sandy, compares the sticker on an authentic Birkenstock box vs that found on a counterfeit box. In regards to the sticker on the box, Sandy writes "this is our favorite for comparing the real deal with the knock-offs. Here's a list of what's wrong with this picture:
- The product code for the genuine Birkenstock Gizeh Silver is 043851. It has been that way for YEARS. Sorry fake label, totally wrong.
- A 41 is a ladies size 10 (L10). You already fluffed it up on the footbed imprint saying L10.5. And now on the box label you're telling us it's L8-8.5 - ha! Nope.
- The fake label has the German words "Nubukleder" and "Weichbettung" meaning "Nubuck Leather" and "Soft Footbed" respectively. Wrong again. These are the classic footbed, not soft. And it's a Birko Flor upper, nothing nubuck OR leather about it.
- The fake label on the bottom also mentions that this upper is "Patent" - lol! Nope. Again.
- Real Birkenstock labels always note the color of the product. Some very very old labels (from memory) might have worked on product code alone omitting a mention of the color from the label, but not for many many MANY years.
It's literally as if someone has picked their favorite words and numbers off an assortment of real Birkenstock labels and they've mish-mashed them together on this tragedy of a knock-off.
Note: Genuine Birkenstock labels have indeed been varied over the years, so the layout and formatting will sometimes be different between releases. In this comparison we picked on the most obvious issues. If you ever want a second opinion on your label, we'd be delighted to put our expert-Birkenstock-detective-spectacles to the test!"
Remember, each Birkenstock box has a sticker with the picture of the actual shoe. It clearly lists the style, color, material, size, and width of the shoe that you purchased. If there is no sticker or if the details do not match, send them back! If your shoes show up in an unmarked box, or no box at all...send them back!!
If your gut tells you the shoes, that you just purchased, are not authentic Birkenstocks, send them back!!! You will never get over the feeling of not being confident in your decision. The small difference in price is not worth your questioning the authenticity of your shoes.
Logo on the Footbed
3. Here’s where things get a little tricky for the untrained eye. The Birkenstock logo is imprinted on the footbed of each shoe. Older Birkenstock shoes with Original Footbeds are imprinted with yellow, whereas newer shoes with Original Footbeds are imprinted in black. The imprint of the soft footbed Birkenstocks remain blue. More on this later.
If you take a closer look at the Original Footbeds, you might also notice that the size and the footprint have switched positions.
Although there has been no change of the blue color on the imprint of Soft Footbed Birkenstocks, the positioning of some items have been switched around. Similar to the Original Footbed, the foot symbol indicating the width of the shoe and the size have swapped positions. On older versions of the Soft Footbed Birks, the “Made in Germany” imprint was located just above the Birkenstock logo and the “Soft Footbed” logo was underneath the Birkenstock name.
On the newer models of Soft Footbed Birks, the “Made in Germany” is placed under the Birkenstock logo and the “Soft Footbed” is imprinted inside a small rectangle on the heel of the shoe.
On both the Original and Soft Footbed Birkenstocks, the leather icon on the older footbed reads “Brand Sole Leder”, whereas the new footbed has a logo without words.
The vegan Birkenstocks have green lettering on their footbeds.
The lettering on exquisite and limited edition Birkenstocks is typically silver or gold. If we take a peek at image from Complete Birkenstock again, you will notice the silver and gold lettering.
A fake shoe might misspell a word imprinted on the footbed, use the wrong color lettering, or not include the logo "Birkenstock" at all. I highly recommend that you carefully check the color of the lettering, the spelling and the placement of all the words on the footbed, with the above pictures, to avoid purchasing knock-offs.
4. The majority of Birkenstock soles are made of EVA material. The exception is those made with Sports soles. Soles of Birkenstock sandals come in various colors these days. No matter the color (brown, black, white, red, navy, green, pink, purple, etc) the soles should look like these:
The sole of the shoe should have areas with the word “Birk" on the design. Knock-off Birkenstock sandals may look similar to the above photographs but have the “Birk” imprint absent from the sole or printed in the wrong size. Sandy's picture illustrates the difference between a genuine vs a fake Birkenstock sole. Per Sandy, "the "Birk" pattern of the sole is definitely the right shape, but the genuine Birkenstocks have a much finer/smaller size to each patterned segment."
Birkenstock sandals with Sport Soles are different than those made with the traditional EVA material. Sport Sole Birkenstocks look like this:
Birkenstock boots and shoes have different bottoms compared to the sandals.
Here is a photo of the sole of my Stowe Boots, please note other boots may have different soles.
Birkenstock shoes like the Arran and Barrie should look similar to this:
Here is a pictures of the soles of the Cincinnati and Manitoba models:
Logo on inner side of shoe
5. The Birkenstock logo should also be imprinted on the inner side of each shoe. If you rub your finger across the logo, you can feel the imprint.
However, on some of the uppers like, Magic Galaxy, the Birkenstock logo is not embedded on the upper. It is printed on the Birko Flor upper and looks like this.
A select few Birkenstocks may not even have the Birkenstock symbol on the inside of each shoe. My mirror rose gold Mayaris and my Yaras do not have the Birkenstock label and I know they are authentic because I purchased them directly through an authorized retailer. Please note, fake Yaras have entered the Poshmark marketplace and have Birkenstock painted on the shoe. Such fakes are obvious to the trained eye.
6. Let’s talk about the weight of Birkenstocks. Authentic Birkenstocks are much lighter than they appear. Fake Birkenstocks are heavy and weigh more than authentic Birks.
7. The footbed of Birkenstocks made with cork should be sturdy. They should bend only a little bit. If you can bend the shoe from toe to heel, then it is a counterfeit. This rule, of course, does not apply to Birkenstock EVA sandals.
8. The uppers of Birkenstocks should be thick and sturdy. Leather Birkenstocks are made from top grain leather. Birko-Flor shoes have thick uppers with a nice fleece lining on the underside. Fake Birkenstocks have thin leather/pleather and plasticy uppers without a fleece underside or a very cheap version of the fleece (see #20). Often you can see where the knock-off Birks have been glued to the fake footbeds or you may see the lining on the footbed is peeling away. .
9. If you find clumps of glue where the uppers attach to the footbed, the shoes are likely not authentic. There should be no glue anywhere.
10. Check the buckles and buttons. The name “Birkenstock” should be shown on each buckle and button. On the smaller buckles you might just see “Birk” or “Birken”. To further clarify, Sandy explains "The Birkenstock brand has a wide range of buckles for its sandals, including "BIRK", "BIRKEN" and "BIRKENSTOCK". This is a size 41 Birkenstock Gizeh comparison, and accordingly should have the largest "BIRKENSTOCK" buckle instead of the medium "BIRKEN" one...Birkenstock uses different sized buckles for different strap thicknesses etc. The buckles scale up with the size of the shoe. Makes sense! And naturally, a Gizeh as it gets larger in size, will have a slightly thicker set of straps. We have checked all our stock and can confirm the following for Birkenstock Gizeh regular width models:
Sizes 35-40: "BIRKEN" buckle with two staples
Sizes 41 and above: "BIRKENSTOCK" buckle with four staples."
In addition, Sandy advises that fake buckles tend to be "too shiny".
11. Birkenstocks rarely go on sale. If you find Birkenstocks deeply discounted, they are likely not authentic Birks. If the sale sounds too good to be true, it likely is. Again, for those in the U.S., verify that the site from which you purchase is an authorized retailer. See Step #1.
I should note, that legitimate Birkenstock retailers do discount some Birkenstocks, a few times a year. For example, I found some great bargains at Birkenstock Express at their end of season sale on select Birkenstocks.
Where you need to be extra vigilant is when you find an online retailer that has a universal discount across the board. In other words, if a site is selling all their Birkenstocks, even the core range models, at the exact same super low price, they are likely knock-offs.
12. All authentic Birkenstocks have numbers embedded on the footbed. These numbers do not mean anything to the consumer, just to the manufacturer. The numbers may or may not match. Essentially, these numbers indicate whether or not you received an exact pair of footbeds that were manufactured at the same time. In other words, were the right and left side made at the exact time? If these numbers match, then yes. Again, they do NOT have to match. It is just fun to know whether or not you received a perfect match. Most knock-off Birkenstocks do not have these numbers, however, I did spot them on the fakes shown in Sandy's pictures.
Sometimes the batch numbers are not completely visible on new Birkenstocks, but they are there if you look hard and feel for the indentation. Sandy explains that "this is definitely more an issue on Soft Footbeds where it just doesn't imprint because of the squish of the footbed."
13. On real leather Birkenstocks, if you peek underneath the top straps on the outer most side, you will see a number embedded. As with the footbeds, the numbers may or may not match. These numbers indicate whether or not you received a pair of uppers made at the same time. To reiterate, you will only find these on real leather straps, not on Birko Flor or Birkibuc uppers.
14. The image below from Sandy also shows something that I had not noticed. The sizing is off on these fake footbeds! Sandy explains, "These footbeds would fool even the most seasoned Birkenstock wearers. The fonts are right. The color (black or yellow) is right, the footprint symbol is right. Even the little batch number (33 7Y upper picture, 77 A5 bottom picture) imprinted in the suede of footbed underneath the yellow or black writing is spot on! But wait a minute!!! A Birkenstock size Euro 41 equates to a ladies 10 (L10) or a mens 8 (M8). The fake footbed says L10.5. Epic fail again!"
15. On some Birkenstocks, you may even spot a serial number underneath the top most buckle. This is how Birkenstock tracks which country their shoes end up. I believe they use this technique on the kid Birkenstocks, but occasionally you can find them on adult shoes as well. Of all my Birkenstocks, I believe I have only found serial numbers on a few pairs.
16. Knock-off Birkenstocks tend to have a strong chemical odor. All non vegan authentic Birkenstocks should have a rich, leathery smell, from the suede lining on the footbed. The vegan Birkenstocks that I have tried smelled a little funny, but nowhere near as toxic smelling like a fake pair.
Under the uppers
17. The underside of fake Birkenstocks are not soft and supple like a genuine sandal. Sandy explains that "The underside of the Birko Flor upper on the genuine Birkenstock Gizeh Silver is a grey color that matches the depth and tone of the topside of the straps. On the fake sandal the underside is white and oddly fluffing after only moments of handling. We also see five holes instead of four! The strap is also a bit skinny and long in this example."
18. The sole of genuine Birkenstocks tend to concave upwards, ever so slightly, whereas the soles of knock-off Birkenstocks are completely flat. Sandy's image below clearly shows this difference.
19. The color of a genuine Birkenstock uppers often have a rich depth of color. Fake Birkenstocks uppers tend to have colors that are flat and dull. This picture from Sandy clearly shows the difference.
20. Manufacturing imperfections are easily identified on fake Birkenstocks. Sandy's picture below shows these imperfections. Sandy notes, "near-microscopic manufacturing imperfections can be found if you look closely enough at any Birkenstock product, the fake Birkenstocks on the right actually show little notch marks on the material which is likely were it was cut and separated during manufacture. You will never see this on a real Birkenstock sandal."
Made in Germany
21. All Birkenstock sandals are made in Germany. Many Birkenstock shoes and boots are made in Portugal. NONE ARE MADE IN CHINA!!!! Let me repeat that, no Birkenstock shoe is made in China. If you see that they are made in China they are 100% counterfeit!!! If you find a pair on eBay shipping from China, they are undoubtably counterfeit.
Bottom line, if your Birkenstocks do not match up to the authentic images pictured above, OR, if your gut tells you that the Birkenstocks are knock-offs, send them back!! Save yourself the headache and avoid spending your hard earned money on counterfeit Birkenstocks. If you live in the United States, simply purchase your Birkenstocks through an authorized retailer. Even though the knock-off Birkenstocks can appear to be very similar to genuine Birkenstocks, fake Birks will never EVER provide you the comfort, quality, or longevity of an authentic Birkenstock.
For more information regarding “Spotting Fake Birkenstocks,” please refer to my original blog post here.
If you would like to connect with Sandy at Sandy's Birkenstock Boutique, you can find her on Facebook or view her Birkenstock listings on eBay.
Thank you again, Sandy, for collaborating with me on this blog post.
Still have questions?
Please read Spotting Fake/Knock-Off/Counterfeit Birkenstocks (Part 3)