Fall is here and I am looking for a pair of closed toe walking shoes. I have a love/hate relationship with my "appropriate" athletic shoes and with the Birkenstock insoles that I sometimes place in those shoes. I am not a fan of wearing socks with ‘stocks, so I need to find a shoe that is totally enclosed. I have been known to wear my Bostons for walking in the cooler seasons. However, when I power walk, the Bostons slip around because there is no heel strap. Since I am such a fan of Birkenstock sandals, I thought I would give Birkenstock Shoes a chance.
Birkenstock has quite a few enclosed shoes in their current collection. Since many of these shoes are not carried in stores nearby, I have to purchase them online. From what I glean from the pictures online, they are not quite Gina Mama’s style. There is no way that I could possibly look attractive in any of the Birkenstock shoes. They lack style, are big and clunky, and they are as plain as plain can be.
Now, I realize that many non Birkenstock wearers feel the same way about Birkenstock sandals. But, coming from me, the creator of the “I Love Birkenstocks” blog, it says a lot. I absolutely adore Birkenstock sandals, but their attempt at sport shoes are simply an eye sore. Arran, Manitoba, Cincinnati, and Barrie — I am talking about you!!
I have had overwhelming requests to write a blog about Birkenstock Shoes. I have resisted for over a year to write a blog on this topic. Partly because I don’t own any Birkenstock Shoes and partly because I don’t want to write a negative blog. I like to keep my blogs positive. At first, I thought my blog would be about not even wanting to try them on because of how they look. But such a blog would not be fair to my readers.
It was time to think outside of the Birkenstock box. I was able to change my way of thinking about Birkenstock Shoes only after I wrote my blog “Bespoke Birkenstocks”. Instead of looking at the plain white Birkenstock shoes as a monstrosity, I looked at them as a blank canvas. I figured, if they were comfy, then I would customize my kicks. It worked for my Arizonas and it would do wonders for any Birkenstock Shoe.
My first encounter with Birkenstock Shoes was in August 2016. I tried the Arran in white. Those shoes were painfully stiff. The heel area of these Arrans were hard, like a rock. No flexibility whatsoever. I am well aware that Birkenstocks need to be broken-in, but my feet should not be throbbing before I even take a step.
When I toured Birkenstock USA last year, I was informed that the next generation of Arran shoes (the Arran II) would have a softer, more pliable heel area. I gave the Arran II a chance and the leather was definitely softer and it had a thinner and more flexible heel. However, the shoes still did not fit! 38 Regular was too small, and the 39 Regular was too long. In the 39s, the arch support was in the wrong spot for my foot. I did feel like the width was wider on the Arran II vs the original Arran. Perhaps this was because the leather was more supple and flexible than the previous version.
Since the Arrans did not work out for me, I ordered the Maintoba, Cincinnati, and Barrie. I almost did not try on the Manitoba when it arrived because they looked like old school nursing uniform shoes. I respect all you nurses out there. Believe me, I do. I know some amazing nurses. Thank you for doing the work that you do. And thank goodness nurses in 2017 wear much more stylish shoes to work, including closed toe Birks!
I had the same problem with the Manitoba as with the Arran. My normal size shoe did not fit and the next size up was too narrow and too long. The one thing that I did like about the Manitoba was the sole. It was a soft, cushy EVA sole that had a lot of give, like an athletic shoe. It would be good for walking — IF it fit.
The Cincinnati was similar to the Manitoba expect that it has mesh on the sides vs an all leather shoe. The navy blue Cincinnati was the most “normal” looking Birkenstock Shoe that I tried. If it fit, I would have customized it with Angelus Leather paint and wore them for my daily walks in the Fall and Winter.
The final shoe, the Barrie, was the best looking of the bunch. The Barrie was great because it was a slip-on and reminiscent of Vans. You all know that I am a California girl and Vans scream California. I was excited to try the Barrie.
Birkenstock USA kindly gave me a pair of Barries after my tour. They were my normal size. However, they proved too narrow for my foot and I gave them to my dear friend. We wear the same size Birkenstock, yet she has a narrow foot. They fit her perfectly and she loves them. I am envious that they fit her because they are cute shoes.
When I tried the Barrie last week, I did not even bother with the 38s because I knew that they would not fit. I ordered the 39 Regulars and, yet again, they were too long. The width was more acceptable on the 39s because of the elastic on the sides of the shoe. Yet, there was no way that I could wear the 39s comfortably because the shoe slipped up and down when I walked. The sole of the Barries are like the Arran, they are more firm like a sandal vs the Cincinnati and Manitobas that are more squishy.
If I had to use one word to describe my experience with Birkenstock Shoes, it would be: disappointing!! I had high hopes for finding a pair of Birkenstock sneakers that I could customize with Angelus leather paint. I wanted to find a new “go to” walking shoe for the Fall and Winter.
Unfortunately, once Birkenstock encloses their footbeds, their regular width Birkenstocks are no longer wide enough for my foot. I think Birkenstock Shoes might work for those of you with more narrow feet. But, for someone like myself that requires a wide width shoe, they are much too narrow. After trying 4 styles of Birkenstock Shoes, I gave up on the rest of the collection. I had no desire to try on other styles like the Iona, Islay, Lismore, Jenks, or Bartlett. What's the point? They are likely too narrow and I would have to waste time returning them.
Birkenstock Shoes come with a heafty price tag and there are just too many discomforts that prevent me from keeping a pair. If I could find a pair that felt slightly comfy when I tried them on, then I would be willing to break them in. In all honestly, I do not feel like they are worth my time or money. Instead of buying a pair of ill fitting Birkenstock Shoes, I plan to re-establish my relationship with my Birkenstock insoles in my “appropriate” athletic shoes.
The entire purpose of Birkenstock sandals is to allow your feet to sit in their natural position. This is not what I experience with Birkenstock Shoes. Once I slip my feet into a pair of Birkenstock shoes, I feel like they are constricted to the point of my feet feeling claustrophobic. I Love Birkenstocks….and I have yet to find a Birkenstock enclosed shoe to rave about.
What has your experience been like with Birkenstock Shoes? Should I keep trying until I find a pair that works? Message me your thoughts.
NOTE: To read my blog on Birkenstock Stowe Boots, click here.
Labor Day weekend in the Bay Area was blistering. I am not talking about the type of blisters like you might get while you break-in Birkenstocks. I am talking about blistering heat. Something we rarely see in the Bay Area. In fact, temperatures in the Bay Area were record breaking.
It was so frickin' hot that we could not do anything. Heat warnings were in effect and the air quality was crappy from fires in Oregon and Central California. The temperature in our house reached 93 degrees. We don’t have Air Conditioning (A/C) because we simply don’t need it. Living around here, we have free A/C and we call it fog. However, over Labor Day weekend, the fog vanished and was a distant memory. We had to brave the heat. Bay Area natives, like myself, tend to be wimps when it comes to excessive heat. Without A/C, it was so stifling that we spent most of the weekend in our yard, under the umbrella, watching the kids play in the kiddie pool.
After two days of doing absolutely nothing but playing in water with the kids, I decided I needed to do something productive. I could feel my inner artist trying to break out and I decided to bust out a pair of Birkenstocks and start creating. I had purchased some Angelus leather paint a couple weeks ago and have been toying with the idea of using it to Bespoke a pair of Birkenstocks. Now was as good as time as any. I could watch the kids play in the pool and paint my Birks in 100+ degree heat.
I have been wanting a pair of Birkenstock Arizonas in metallic copper for a few years now. In the past, the Arizonas were only sold in the US in narrow width. Just recently US retailers began selling these particular Birks in regular width, but with white soles. However, after my experience with my gold metallic Birkenstocks peeling, I told myself that I would never again purchase another pair of shiny metallic Birks. And I meant it.
But that did not mean that I could not create my own pair. After experimenting with dyeing leather Birkenstocks, I began researching other techniques for designing Bespoke Birkenstocks. There seems to be an entire underground revolution for customizing kicks. I figured that I could utilize the products that these artists were using on my leather Birks.
The product that many of the artists were using was Angelus leather paint. When I went to Angelus’ webpage, I found that they had an entire section devoted to pearlescent and metallic paint. Angelus carried a pearlescent rose gold leather paint that looked incredibly similar to the metallic copper Birks that I have been drooling over for years.
A few weeks ago, I purchased a pair of $15 thrashed Birkenstocks on Poshmark with which I could experiment. I wanted to test Angelus’ leather paint on something that I had no attachment with before trying it on a pair of Birks that I cared about. The paint successfully adhered to the leather. No fading, no smudging, and no cracking. It was time to Bespoke my Birkenstocks!
Some of you might be wondering why I would bother with such a process. If you have not figured it out yet, I am a tad bit obsessed with Birkenstocks and have an inner artistic side. Why not utilize the artist in me and create a pair of Birkenstocks that I wanted? Plus, there was not much else I could do during the heat wave.
Since I could not purchase the color of Birkenstock Arizonas in my width, with brown soles, that would not scratch and peel, in the US, I was going to make them myself. I think Angelus’ Instgram account summarizes it best, “Create what you can’t have”. My customized Birkenstocks would include everything that I ever dreamed of:
I watched several YouTube Videos and followed the directions on the Angelus webpage to create a game plan for painting my Birkenstocks. I chose the lightest color of oiled leather uppers that I could find in my size. I went with the Tobacco color because they had the buckles that I wanted, along with the proper color soles.
Here is a list of items needed to Bespoke Birkenstocks:
2. Well ventilated work area
4. Painter’s tape or Masking Tape
5. Angelus Leather Preparer & Deglazer and a rag
6. Paint Brushes. One large, one small.
7. Angelus Flat White Coat
8. Angelus Leather Paint any color you choose
9. Be safe! Use gloves, a safety mask and goggles
Steps to Bespoke Birkenstocks:
1. Make sure that the leather uppers are clean
2. Use painter’s tape and/or masking tape to cover the entire footbed and sole
3. Apply Angelus Leather Preparer & Deglazer to a rag and start wiping. Per Angelus’
webpage, this step is essential because the deglazer will remove the factory finish,
thereby leaving a clean surface on which the Angelus Paint can adhere.
4. Allow the uppers to dry
5. Apply a primary coat of flat white paint to the leather before using the
Angelus leather paint of your choice. I tested an inconspicuous area under the
buckle to determine if I would apply a white base coat vs applying the rose gold
color directly to the leather. Below is a picture showing the difference:
Painting the rose gold directly onto the tobacco colored leather created a gold
effect. Painting the rose gold onto the flat white base coat created the color shown
in the bottle. This was exactly the color I wanted.
6. Use a wide brush and paint on a thin layer of your desired color. Use long, gentle
strokes when applying the paint. You will need to use a small brush to get the areas
around the buckles.
7. Allow each coat of paint to dry 5-10 minutes before painting on another coat. Apply
as many coats needed to get the color that you desire. It took me 4 coats to get the
exact rose gold color that I wanted.
About halfway through the painting project, my youngest kid decided to spray me with the garden hose. He also sprayed the Birkenstocks that I was painting in the process. I freaked a little because I thought that there would be water spots left on the paint and leather. Surprisingly, the water rolled off the uppers and no stains were left.
Angelus leather paint is top notch in terms on quality. The paint went on smooth and even. There was no evidence of brush strokes either. The paint dried within minutes, allowing me to apply multiple layers in a short amount of time. I completed the process in less than one hour. Using the leather paint was more time efficient and a heck of a lot less messy compared to dyeing leather. I set the shoes aside to dry for several hours indoors. By dinnertime, I was proudly wearing my pearlescent rose gold Birkenstocks.
After completing this project, I realized that one could do this on any color leather Birkenstock, provided one uses a white base coat. To be successful, one may need to paint multiple layers of the flat white paint onto darker leathers before applying one's desired color. Do you have an old pair of leather Birkenstocks in your closet that you have not been wearing? Why not pull them out and use Aneglus leather paint to give them a facelift? You can completely overhaul your old leather Birkenstocks, in any color that you desire, all for the price of $3.00.
I most certainly will be painting another pair of Birkenstocks in the future. I just hope it won’t be during another heatwave. There are so many color options available from Angelus that I cannot decide what color to choose. What color should I paint my next pair of Birkenstocks? What color would you select? Send me an email and let me know your thoughts.
NOTE: For other tips on how to color change your Birkenstocks, click here and here.