Birkenstock makes amazing shoes. You have to find your correct size and width to ensure that the shoes have a custom made feel. If you have a size that is too big or too small the benefits of the shoe will be negated. If you have a wide foot and are trying to squeeze it into a narrow footbed the arch support will feel lumpy because it is in the wrong spot. On the flip side, if you have a narrow foot and get a regular footbed you will feel like the shoes are flopping around with each step.
I highly recommend that you find a local retailer that carries the Birkenstock brand and get properly fitted before you purchase your first pair. If you are not in an area that carries this brand then be sure to purchase your shoes from an authorized Birkenstock dealer. There is a lot of counterfeit Birkenstock merchandise online (I will talk about this in another blog post). Consider purchasing directly through BirkenstockUSA.com or Zappos.com (free return shipping from Zappos).
In regards to sizing, Birkenstock shoes come in European sizes.
BirkenstockUSA.com has a Size Conversion Chart to help you find your European size.
For reference, I typically wear a size 8/8.5 wide in my running shoes (Saucony) and a size 8 in boots. If I followed the BirkenstockUSA conversion chart, I would wear a size 39. However, after getting fitted, I learned that my foot fits best in a size 38 in Birkenstock sandals and a size 39 in Birkenstock boots.
Now comes the tricky part: width. People get confused with the widths that Birkenstock offers. Birkenstock makes shoes in narrow and regular widths. Narrow width Birkenstocks are really not what Americans consider “narrow”. A narrow Birkenstock fits people with a narrow or medium width foot. A regular width Birkenstock accommodates a regular or a wide width foot. The beauty of Birkenstocks is that they can be adjusted with the straps. One can easily add extra holes (either to loosen or tighten) on a strap with a leather punch. You just need to make certain that the arch support of the footbed is in proper alignment with your arch.
I recently purchased a new pair of Birkenstock sandals from BirkenstockUSA and they came in a newly re-designed shoebox. On the inside panel of the box was a guide to help one determine one’s size and width. If the side of your foot falls outside the blue line it is recommended that you purchase your shoes in a regular width.
To determine if the shoe is a narrow width or a regular width you need to look at the footbed. To the left of the shoe size is an imprint of a foot. If the shoe is narrow the foot icon is solid. If the shoe is regular width the foot icon is shown as outlined.
A narrow width foot icon would look like this:
The regular width foot icon looks like this:
Once you nail down your shoe size and width you have to decide whether you prefer the original footbed or the soft footbed. Deciding between an original and soft footbed is an entirely different blog post topic.
The beauty of the Birkenstock brand is that you can customize the fit of your shoe without having to pay for custom made shoes. Another reason why I Love Birkenstocks!