I live in the United States. When it comes to technology, economics, and trade, the US is considered one of the most powerful countries in the world. The state in which I reside, California, is home to Silicon Valley, the hub of the technological revolution. Living in a country with robust trade and a state which creates the best computer technology in the world, why is it that I cannot find all Birkenstock shoes in a regular width? If I can’t find a local store that carries regular width Birkenstocks, I ought to be able to order a pair online, from a major US retailer, and have them shipped to my doorstep. But, it’s not that easy.
Many of the more feminine and stylish Birkenstocks are only sold in narrow widths within the United States. This issue ignites the feminist in me and makes my blood boil because I know that Birkenstock makes most of these shoes in a regular width too. A simple cross reference to Birkenstock Group’s webpage clearly shows their collection of shoes as well as the sizes and widths in which they are offered.
Why is it that US retailers are only selling the more feminine Birkenstock shoes in narrow width to women? In the US, all the men’s Birkenstocks are offered in regular width. Why not women’s? If Birkenstock makes regular and narrow width shoes for women, shouldn’t retailers offer both in the US marketplace? Who decided that all women in the US have the same width foot? If Birkenstock makes two widths, then leave it up to each woman to decide which width best suits her foot! It seems that the US marketplace is not catering to women with normal to wider width feet, compared to Europe, where Birkenstocks can easily be located in all widths. Are only women in Europe offered the luxury of choosing different widths? Do I need to get on a plane and fly to Germany to purchase my shoes?
I have alluded to this issue about width discrimination in the past. In my blog, “The Magic of the Madrid,” I stated that finding girly Birkenstocks in my size and width was as difficult as pulling a rabbit out of a hat. In my article “How to Break-in Leather Birkenstock Straps,” I talked about how women with wide feet like swanky shoes too and yet all shoes are not created equal when it comes to width. Just a few months ago I attempted to purchase Birkenstock EVAs and learned that Nordstroms (and other US retailers) only carried them in narrow width. In my “Traveling with Birkenstocks” article, I explained how I tracked down a pair of Gizeh’s in a regular width from a German retailer. I would prefer not to purchase shoes from overseas.
Ordering shoes online from retailers outside the US is questionable because one cannot verify if sites are an authorized retailer of Birkenstocks. With the prevalence of counterfeit Birkenstocks on the rise, it can be a crap shoot placing an online order from a site you know nothing about. I like to support local small businesses, but when these stores do not carry regular width Birkenstocks, I am forced to turn to the internet.
Birkenstock shoes have helped remedy many of the aches and pains that I have experienced from wearing ill fitting shoes over the years. When new Birkenstock styles are released, I would like the opportunity to purchase them in my correct size and width. Rather than just be teased with a picture knowing that the shoe is only being sold in narrow width. It’s like these retailers are dangling the picture in front of my face and taunting me by saying “naa naa naa foo foo look at this great Birkenstock that you could have….if only your foot was more slender!”
One of the main reasons that I like to wear Birkenstocks is to prevent my feet from being constricted in a shoe that is too narrow. I have spent far too many years squeezing my wide foot into slender shoes and paying the price of discomfort in my early 40s. I have experienced calluses and pinched toes from shoes that are too narrow. I need to take care of my feet so that I can thrive into old age and I want to do this by wearing regular width Birkenstocks. I am putting my foot down and will no longer take it. I will not buy shoes that are too narrow because I want to prevent permanent damage to my body.
I will not subscribe to “vanity” sizing when it comes to my shoe size and width. My foot is wide and I embrace the fact that I have a “normal” width foot. My beautiful feet hold me upright and allow me to play with my kids and enjoy long walks with my dog. My feet deserve to be treated with respect and with properly fitting shoes because they work hard for me every single day.
We do not live in the Dark Ages or the 1940s or 50s. Women no longer need to stuff their feet into super narrow shoes because someone labeled such shoes as fashionable.
It is 2016 and these days anything goes. Comfort is king (or queen). Thanks to the internet, a window of opportunity has opened up for women to find wide width shoes. And gosh darn it, I want to be able to find stylish Birkenstocks in a regular width on the continent in which I live.
Nordstroms, Zappos, and other authorized Birkenstock retailers are offering a greater selection of Birkenstocks with more feminine uppers, but only in narrow widths. I have contacted a couple of these retailers asking about getting a certain Birkenstock they are currently selling in a regular width. The answer that I receive is often a canned response that “Birkenstocks sell out quickly”. This answer does not suffice because I know that the shoe was never offered in a regular width by their store.
Fortunately, BirkenstockUSA offers more of its styles in narrow and regular width. Although BirkenstockUSA does not offer ALL their shoes in both widths. I love the look of the Monterey in exquisite leather, but the women’s sizes are only offered in narrow. A quick cross check to Birkenstock Group tells me this model is also manufactured in a regular width as well. Why not offer both widths of this limited edition Birkenstock?
I follow Birkenstock on Instagram and from their feed I hear rumors that Birkenstock will be updating their online shoe shop this autumn. I am keeping my fingers crossed that by “updating”, this also means offering all the styles in narrow AND regular width in the United States.
I am not the only woman in the United States that requires a regular width Birkenstock. All you have to do is to read some of the comments on the Birkenstock Instagram feed or check out the reviews on Zappos. Women want and need regular width Birkenstocks. Please make them readily available to us from authorized retailers.
Customer Reviews from Zappos:
There are a number of Birkenstocks that I would have purchased had they been offered in a regular width. Companies are missing out on sales (and losing customers) by excluding women with normal to wide width feet. If any one of these authorized Birkenstock retailers offered all their Birks in regular width, I would buy all my shoes from them. Such a retailer would not be making one sale, they would be gaining a customer for life.
I Love Birkenstocks and I wish that regular width Birkenstocks were easier to locate in the United States.
I have gotten countless emails from individuals asking me how to properly adjust the straps of their Birkenstock Arizonas. People tell me that the top of their feet hurt from the Arizona straps and they want to know what to do to remedy the discomfort.
My first suggestion is that they read my blog about “How to Break-in Your Birkenstocks”. Many people have simply not properly broken-in their Birkenstocks. The break-in process can take 2-3 weeks. This process may seem time consuming, but if you commit to it, you will be rewarded because your shoes will conform to your feet. They will become so comfortable that you will be able to walk miles in them and forget that you even have them on. But, this custom made feel does not happen overnight.
Until one has fully broken-in one’s Birkenstocks, one is likely going to feel some discomfort from the straps. That’s why I recommend only wearing new Birkenstocks for short periods during the initial break-in period. Once you begin to feel any type of discomfort from your new Birkenstocks TAKE THEM OFF. Do this over the course of 2-3 weeks or until you no longer experience soreness.
If you follow this process and continue to feel discomfort, then you need to loosen the straps. To properly adjust the straps around your feet follow these steps:
When I first started wearing Arizonas after 15 years of a Birk-less life, I noticed that the top of my feet were sore at the end of the day. I realized that I fastened the straps too tightly and that my shoes were not completely broken-in. I needed to allow more time to break-in the straps. After I loosened up the straps, it made the break-in process easier and my feet had the freedom to move with each step I took.
Below is a video showing how loose I keep the straps of my Arizonas:
As you can see in the video, I prefer the strap over my toes to be tighter than the strap closet to my ankle. In terms of spacing, I typically allow for 1 finger space of wiggle room on the toe strap and up to 2 around the ankle strap. I want to re-iterate the importance of making sure that your feet are able to move freely while walking. You do not want your feet to be constricted by the straps because doing so would defeat the purpose of wearing Birkenstock shoes.
Different types of leather straps take various amounts of time to break-in. Nubuck and suede are the easiest to break-in, while rigid leather straps take more time to mold to the shape of your foot. I experienced the most discomfort on the top of my feet while
breaking-in my gold Arizonas. The straps were super stiff right of out of the box and caused me great distress because they were digging into my skin. It became so problematic that I tried several different techniques to help manipulate the break-in process. The steps I took to soften the straps are illustrated in this video:
To get the custom made feeling that Birkenstocks are known for, one needs to slowly break-in new Birkenstocks. This process takes time and does not happen overnight. Do not give up! Once your feet make an impression on the footbed, you know the footbed is broken-in. At this point, the leather straps should have softened up well enough so that you no longer experience any discomfort on the top of your feet. I promise that if you commit to this process, your Birkenstocks will be the most comfortable shoes you have ever worn.
I Love Birkenstocks and I'm confident that you will too.
I have one pair of Birkenstock Madrids in Brown Magic Galaxy with an original footbed. They go with just about everything and are really comfortable. I love these Madrids and yet, I rarely wear them.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Madrid model, it is a single strap Birkenstock. The strap covers only the top portion of your foot.
The Madrid was the first Birkenstock sandal ever made. According to the Birkenstock Group, “in 1963 Karl Birkenstock launches the Madrid model, the first fitness sandal with a deep and flexible footbed, thereby laying the foundation for today's comfort footwear market”.
I have always admired the Birkenstock Madrid. It is a classic slide sandal. I have noticed more women wearing the Madrid over the last few years. This model of Birkenstock has a fantastic range of style. The Madrid can be worn for dressy occasions or worn causally like a flip flop.
When the Magic Galaxy uppers were unveiled a few months ago, I knew I had to add it to my collection. Finding this shoe in my size and width was as difficult as pulling a rabbit out of a hat. Why? This particular Madrid was only being offered in narrow width in the US. The only Madrid I could find in a regular width, on this continent, was in black. While black might be a good neutral color for some people, I associate neutral color Birkenstocks with the 1990s. Back in the day, Birkenstocks were only sold in brown, black, or grey. If I am going to spend my hard earned money on a luxury item, it has to be unique.
I did not want to be excluded from owning an elegant pair of Madrids in Magic Galaxy because of my wide feet. I went to great lengths to acquire this specific shoe in my size and I ordered it internationally. It seems that the US marketplace is not catering to women with normal to wider feet, compared to Europe, where Birkenstocks can easily be located in all widths.
Upon arrival, I was concerned that the regular width Madrid might still be too narrow. Out of the box, it appeared much sleeker compared to other models, like the Gizeh or the Arizona. However, when I slipped my foot into the Madrid, the footbed felt perfect. To compare, I put a Madrid on one foot and a Gizeh on the other. The footbeds felt the same. I was delighted. The one-strap sandal created an illusion of being more narrow. I am no fashion expert, but I assume this is because there was less material versus two or three strap model Birkenstocks. For a woman with a wide width foot, this was a welcomed illusion.
Before ever trying a Madrid, I had an assumption that it would be hard to keep on my foot because of the single strap. Sometimes assumptions are good, and other times they can cloud our judgment. In the case of the Madrid, my assumption was 100% wrong because my foot stayed put on the footbed while I walked. I still don’t know how a single adjustable strap can keep a shoe on one’s foot so securely. It must be the particular way that the strap is shaped and placed around the foot. It’s like magic.
For some odd reason, I felt like I could only wear the Madirds on warm days. Why? Maybe because so much of my foot is exposed with only a single strap. Perhaps the reason why I was not wearing these shoes so frequently was due to the fact that warm days in the Bay Area are a rare occurrence. When the temperature warmed up the other afternoon, I rolled up my jeans and slipped on the Madrids. I wore them around the house doing my dreaded Monday chores. Wearing these cute, sparkly shoes while cleaning the house made my chores much more tolerable.
That same day, when it was time to pick up the kids from summer camp, the fog started to blow in. I rolled down my jeans and thought about putting on a different pair of Birkenstocks. Instead, I slipped my feet back into the Madrids. It was at that very moment when I realized that they could be worn with jeans too! My assumption that Madrids could only be worn on warm days vanished as quickly as David Copperfield made the Statue of Liberty disappear.
This insight was spellbinding. My mind raced with ideas of various outfits that I could pair with the Madrids. It’s like a magician holding a deck of 52 cards out to an audience member. Which card would the audience member choose? Which outfit would I pair with the Madrids? I was filled with excitement as I had so many choices. No longer were my Madrids only shoes that I could wear on a hot day, I could also wear them on cool days. Jeans and Madrids looked awesome together.
I liked that the Madrids were supportive and comfortable while I walked around town. Even though Birkenstock marketed the Madrid in the 1960s as a fitness sandal, I probably would not chose the Madrids for walking long distances. Only because it takes more effort for my toes to grip the shoe without a second strap for added support.
One unique thing about the Madrids is the sound they make while you walk. You get the “flip flop” sound like you might hear when walking in beach-type thongs. Other two and three strap Birkenstock models do not make a “flip flop” noise as you walk.
The Madrids are less expensive compared to other Birkenstock models, they are available in a multitude of colors, and the uppers can be found in leather or synthetic materials. I have only seen this model sold in the Original Footbed. I am curious if any of my readers have come across this shoe in a soft footbed.
With a rainbow of colors from which to choose, I will most definitely be purchasing another pair of colorful Birkenstock Madrids in the future. Even though I won’t be wearing these for walking long distances, I will wear them just about any other time. Don’t let the flip flop style of this shoe deceive you. Even with just one strap, the Madrids provide just as much arch support as other Birkenstocks and they magically stay on your feet as you walk.
I Love Birkenstocks and I Love the Birkenstock Madrid.
If you have ever worn Birkenstock sandals you know what it means to have a Birkenstock tan line. After spending time in the sun, Birkenstocks can leave odd strap marks on the tops of your feet. The type of tan line you create is determined by the model of Birkenstocks you wear. People who don’t wear Birkenstocks often laugh about the odd tan lines created by Birkenstock sandals. I am here to tell you that Birkenstock tan lines are no laughing matter.
Our feet are exposed to the sun for long periods of time when we wear Birkenstocks outdoors. It’s not obvious, but even on cloudy or overcast days we are exposed to harmful UV rays. According to the American Scientist Magazine, UV rays are most harmful on cloudy days. The American Scientist states that in terms of harmful UV rays, “the U.S. National Weather Service and Environmental Protection Agency…figure 89 percent transmission for scattered clouds, 73 percent transmission for broken clouds and 32 percent transmission for overcast conditions.” People tend to remember to use sunscreen on warm hot days, but the worst burns often happen on cloudy days, when we least expect a sunburn. It is just as important to apply sunscreen to your feet whenever you sport your Birkenstocks, as it is to wear sunscreen on your face everyday.
My “Birkenstock Buddy” and I were talking about Birkenstock tan lines the other day. She mentioned how the top of her feet had gotten sunburnt after spending just a few hours outdoors while wearing her Birks. That morning she had applied a homeopathic oil to her feet in an effort to ease discomfort caused by Guillian Barre Syndrome (GBS). She left the house in her Balis and came home a few hours later with the tops of her feet burned. Her feet, which are already hypersensitive due to GBS, had become even more painful. She realized the homeopathic remedy likely exacerbated the sunburn. In hind sight, she wishes that she applied a layer of sunscreen to her feet, on top of the homeopathic oil, to protect her skin from the sun.
Putting sunscreen on your feet may seem like an odd thing to do, but it is essential to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. I am prone to freckles and at a young age a dermatologist stressed to me the importance of applying sunscreen to my skin every single day. I have applied sunscreen on my face daily since I was 15 years old, but I have not used sunscreen on my feet on a regular basis. The only time I remember to put sunscreen on my feet is when I take a tropical vacation.
Two months ago I knew it was time to make daily sunscreen application to my feet a habit because my dad had been diagnosed with a melanoma inside his ear. If a melanoma can develop on the inside portion of one's ear, I assume a skin cancer could also develop on one’s feet, especially when that individual wears sandals on a regular basis. I now apply sunscreen to my feet on the days I wear Birkenstock sandals. You might be asking, “What kind of sunscreen do you use on your feet, Gina Mama?” I use a broad spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays.
According to Kaiser Permanente, ”Sunlight contains two types of potentially harmful rays — ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. UVB rays are the primary cause of sunburn and skin cancer. UVA rays penetrate deeply into the skin and cause wrinkles and also increase skin cancer risk. You need to use your sunscreen every day, all year round, even when it's cloudy, to protect your skin.” Thus, it is important to use a broad spectrum sunscreen all year round when you are wearing Birkenstock sandals.
There are many different levels of Sun Protection Factor (SPF) available to the consumer. Kaiser Permanente explains that the SPF rating is a measurement of how well a sunscreen will protect your skin from Ultra Violet rays. Kaiser Permanente states “An SPF of 30 is sufficient…While you may be tempted to purchase a sunscreen with a higher SPF, keep in mind that those with a higher SPF are often more expensive, so people make the mistake of using less. Instead, opt for a less expensive sunscreen with sufficient SPF and reapply every two hours.” I tend to carry sunscreen in my bag and reapply every few hours when I am outdoors.
In addition to various SPF ratings, there are many different types of sunscreens available. Sunscreen can be found in cream, oil, spray, stick, or gel forms. There are sunscreens for adults, children, babies, and those with sensitive skin. Whichever sunscreen meets your needs, make sure you opt for one that is waterproof. Waterproof sunscreen is less likely to wear off when you become sweaty or wet.
Kaiser Permanente recommends applying sunscreen generously to your skin, early and often. I suggest you be kind to yourself and follow these recommendations. You can protect yourself from harmful UV rays and avoid embarrassing Birkenstock tan lines.
The other day I found myself at a difficult crossroad while wearing a new pair of Birkenstocks. I was in Mill Valley at a busy intersection at the bottom of Mt. Tamalapais (Mt. Tam). I had been up this road before in my car over the years. It is an extremely narrow mountain road and parking is close to non existent. Cars whizz up and down this steep thoroughfare on their way to/from a popular trailhead on the mountain.
Years ago driving up this street would have been a tolerable, even an enjoyable endeavor. Driving up a mountain road in the middle of majestic Redwood trees would typically be a relaxing adventure. These days it has become downright frightening due to the recent onslaught of traffic in the town of Mill Valley.
I love Mill Valley. It is a beautiful town situated close to the water and the mountain. You get the best of both worlds here: water sports and mountain sports. Plus, Mill Valley is the most “Berkelely-esque” of all cities in Marin. Many of the older residents that I have met here tend to be very liberal. You are just as likely to see someone walking around town with a pair of Birkenstocks, as you are too see a mountain biker heading to a trail.
Unfortunately, over the last few years the population of Mill Valley has changed drastically because the millennials are moving in. No longer does Mill Valley have the bohemian vibe that it did 10 or 15 years ago. Tech executives are moving out of San Fransisco and heading north to Mill Valley to raise families. As older residents make their celestial discharges from life on earth, their homes are being bought up by the millennials. The new, young residents of this naturing-loving town, typically tear down the existing quaint homes and build sprawling houses.
With all the construction happening in Mill Valley, the traffic over the last couple years has become downright obscene. Once you enter this small town, getting from point A to
point B, can take upwards of 30 minutes. A few weeks ago it took me 45 minutes to get to the freeway and I was less than 4 miles away from the freeway on-ramp. There is traffic everywhere in this town. Parents are shuttling their kids to school and to various activities throughout the day. Plus, there are construction trucks all over the city often blocking narrow roads. One never knows how safe it is to pass alongside a parked construction truck when there is a sheer cliff on the other side of the road.
I took all this history into account as I reached the busy intersection at the bottom of the mountain. I was at a 4 way stop waiting my turn and 2 other cars nearly collided. I was watching other drivers making “Hollywood stops” in the heart of Marin.
As I glanced up the hill, I could see work trucks blocking parts of the road. I knew that I would likely not find parking. Therefore, I pulled over at the bottom of the hill and parked my car.
I had not had a chance to exercise that morning. My boys had woke me up early and I had to rush out of the house to get to work. This was going to be my opportunity to get my exercise for the day. I was going to walk up the hill to my appointment. I checked the directions on my phone. It was 0.75 miles straight up the mountain to my destination.
As I got out of my car, I realized I was wearing a new pair of Birkenstocks that I had been breaking-in for about a week. I had purchased a pair of Navy Blue Patent Arizonas with red soles.
These were some of the fanciest Birkenstocks I owned. They were shiny patent and looked dressy. The red soles provided a beautiful contrast to the navy blue uppers. Wearing these Birks made me smile from the inside out.
When I coordinated my outfit around the shoes that morning, I had no intention of walking a great distance in them. Had I known I would be walking up a steep mountain road, I would have likely opted for a more vintage pair of Birkenstocks. A pair that I was confident that was already fully broken-in.
I threw my purse over my shoulder and took a gander down at my beautiful Arizonas. I started to second guess my decision. By walking up the hill in a fairly new pair of Birkenstocks, I would not be following my own rules about the break-in process.
Would I be able to make it up the hill without hurting my feet or getting a blister? I thought about getting in my car and driving up the mountain. Then I saw a Tesla driver barreling down the hill, forgetting to stop at the 4-way intersection because she was too busy sending a text.
Witnessing that driver zoom through a stop sign solidified my decision to park and walk. I was going to trek up this mountain in a relatively new pair of Birkenstocks Arizonas. A potential blister on my foot was a much safer option than being side swiped off the mountain by an unsafe driver.
I started the walk up the mountain a bit apprehensive that my shoes would cause me discomfort. Surprisingly, with each step up the steep grade, I could feel the shoes were not going to cause me any problems. The footbed had softened nicely over the course of the last week. The Birko-Flor uppers were not creating any hotspots on my feet and the footbed had began to mold to my foot.
By the time I made it up the 0.75 miles to my destination, I was 15 minutes early to my appointment. My Birkenstocks felt so great that I walked another 10 minutes just for exercise. Instead of the Birkenstocks hindering my endeavor, they aided my adventure. They felt so amazing that I wanted to keep on walking and take in the beauty of the Redwood trees.
I think that these Navy Blue Patent Arizonas were comfortable for this walk because of the synthetic uppers and the fact that I had been slowly breaking in the Original Footbed for about one week. The benefit of synthetic uppers is that there is a smooth, fleece-like fabric underneath the straps that is soft against the foot. Birkenstocks with Birko-Flor uppers require a minimal break-in period. If I had worn a new pair of Birkenstocks with leather uppers, I would have experienced discomfort while walking. Personally, I have a more difficult time softening up leather uppers as noted in my blog and video, “How to Break-in Leather Birkenstock Straps”.
After my appointment, I walked back down the hill and got even more exercise in these Birkenstocks. I was astonished at how well these shoes handled the downslope.
At first, I was concerned I might slip while walking down the hill. Then I realized that the most dangerous part of the walk was the oversized SUV’s not seeing me as they raced down the mountain.
The new Birkenstocks that I was so hesitant to wear on this walk turned out to be some of the most comfortable Birks I own. I was able to walk 2+ miles in them with no discomfort. By the time I got to my car, my Birkenstocks had graduated the break-in process. They were now in the category of feeling custom made.
When I have another appointment at the top of Mt Tam, I will once again wear a pair of Birkenstocks. I will park at the bottom of the hill and enjoy the trek up the steep grade. I am now confident that even my dressy Birkenstocks can handle just about any walking adventure.