I am now the proud owner of my very first pair of CUSTOM MADE BIRKENSTOCKS!! As you may recall, Michelangelo, at Custom Made Birkenstocks, has customized Birkenstocks for me in the past. I wrote about that collaboration in the blog, My First Pair of Custom Birkenstocks. So, how is this most recent custom pair different than the Ferrari Red Arizonas that Michelangelo made me in 2019? The Ferrari Red Arizonas were created with hand cut leather uppers and made with standard Birkenstock footbeds. My new pair have CUSTOM footbeds, meaning that the footbeds were handcrafted to match the shape of my feet. Whaaaaaaaaaat? Custom footbeds???? Yup, you read that correct....custom footbeds!! Custom footbeds are a real and they are frickin' awesome!!!!!!!!!
About two weeks before the pandemic had Californians sheltering in place, I had the good fortune of meeting Michelangelo for dinner in Novato, CA. He was on a business trip to California to meet with the good folks at Birkenstock USA. Michelangelo set aside some time on his trip to meet with me and it was during this encounter that we came up with the idea to make Gina Mama custom footbeds.
Ok, I lied. It wasn't "our" idea, it was totally his idea. Before I even had a chance to say hello and shake his hand, he was walking up to meet me with a foam box to take an impression of my feet. Below is a picture of Michelangelo holding the impression of my feet.
The process of making the impression was quite simple, albeit a little messy. When I looked down at the impression of my feet, I was shocked by how wide my foot appeared. No wonder I cannot wear narrow width Birkenstocks for a entire day, just look at this:
After our meeting in February 2020, he took the foam box back to his office and made a cast of my feet from the impressions. Then Michelangelo would prepare custom Birkenstock cork footbeds.
From my Instagram posts, Michelangelo had noticed that I wear my Birkenstocks a little big. The reason that I do this is because I prefer where the arch support hits my foot in a size 38 vs a size 37. I have tried size 37s, and while the length is ideal, I simply cannot tolerate the arch in the wrong spot (for me).
Knowing this, Michelangelo sent me two pairs of footbeds to "try on" for size. One was the same length as a size 38 footbed and the other was a tad bit shorter. He asked me to take a picture standing on each pair, to determine which would work better for my custom Arizonas. I selected the one with less length and he agreed!! They felt incredible.
With custom footbeds, the arch will always be in the proper spot, since the footbed is made from an impression of your own foot. This meant that Michelangelo could shave off a little length of my custom footbeds to give me a better fit. In other words, it is like having a size 38 in a regular width footbed, paired with the length of a size 37 footbed. How awesome is that?
I don't have an image of my foot in a size 37 regular Birkenstock to illustrate the difference. But, the image below shows my foot on the custom footbed versus a size 38 narrow Birkenstock. While I prefer the length in a size 38 narrow, my foot is just too damn wide to wear a narrow all day (remember the image above of the foam box -- very W I D E). That's why I opt for 38 regulars. I can live with a little extra length on the footbed because it allows my tootsies to breathe.
While my two pairs of custom footbeds were making their way back to Illinois, Michelangelo was already getting started on hand cutting the leather that I selected for this project. I asked for matching suede top liners and selected rose gold buckles for this custom pair. Here are some images of his work:
In just a few short weeks, I had my very own pair of CUSTOM MADE BIRKENSTOCKS!! The box arrived the day before my birthday. I waited a day to open them and it was soooooo hard to wait. But patience is a virtue. Quarantined birthdays suck and the only thing that can make a lockdown birthday better is a brand new pair of Birkenstocks!
I love my custom pair of Birkenstocks. They never required a break-in period since the footbed is already formed to the shape of my foot. Plus, the straps do not give me hot spots because the width fits perfectly. My custom footbeds do not have a toe bar or ridge around the toe and heel areas. It took a little time to get use to the missing toe bar. And the "missing" ridge on the footbed is purely an aesthetic difference that I quickly looked past.
I am so pleased with my custom pair of Birkenstocks, that I am already coming up with ideas for my next pair. Remember Michelangelo sent me two custom footbeds to try on?? Well, I would not want that second pair to go to waste! I have some ideas, they might be a little wild, and he might have to rein me back in, but I guarantee that I will be ordering my next pair before this damn pandemic ends.
Are you interested in a custom pair of Birkenstocks? If so, I highly recommend Michelangelo at Custom Made Birkenstocks. He will guide you through the process like the true professional that he is and he will toss in a few jokes for a little laughter too!! Give him a call at (708) 453-4900 and tell him Gina Mama sent you. Below is his contact information from his webpage:
If you could customize a pair of Birkenstocks, what would you choose? Send me an email and let me know. I would love to hear from you.
TIP: Michelangelo can also repair and resole your Birkenstocks. To learn about his services, read my other blogs (in no particular order):
Birkenstock Recrafts By Michelangelo
White Sole Birkenstocks
My First Pair of Custom Birkenstocks
Shearling Lined Birkenstocks: Part 2
Vintage Birkenstocks Recrafted
Magical Red Glitterlites