I have intentionally not written a blog in months. There are many reasons behind the silence. Pandemic life has been very chaotic and stressful. I have not bought a new pair of Birkenstocks since September 2020. And frankly, I have not had anything nice to say, so I have decided not to say anything at all.
I initially created my blog to share my love about Birkenstocks sandals. I felt like I needed to stay focused and only blog about all things Birks. But, I recently realized three things. First, Birkenstock is not listening to its long-time fans who are begging for more regular width Birks with their new releases. Second, since Birkenstock just sold most of their stake to a private equity firm, I don’t have high hopes for what is on the horizon for regular width devotees. Finally, I am the creator of this blog and I can write about anything I want. Thus, since I have nothing nice to say about all the ridiculous narrow width Birkenstocks being released, I thought I would write about something that I do have nice things to say about…..Duckfeet.
'DuckfeetUSA has a decent selection of shoes, boots, and sandals for people who require wide width shoes. While I have not tried Duckfeet sandals or shoes, I have tried one style of their boots and I have completely fallen in love with the Arhus boot. The Duckfeet Arhus are the most well-made and comfortable boots that this Birkenstock devotee has ever owned.
Over the years, I have completely given up on Birkenstock shoes and boots because they never fit me right. My regular size 38 were too small and the next size up, were too big. I always ended up with blisters on my heels when I wore them. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. And it really upset me because I wanted them to work…so bad.
I noticed that once Birkenstock encloses its regular width footbed, it immediately becomes narrow. For me, going up a size causes two problems, it is still too narrow AND is way too long. Believe me, I tried everything to make Birkenstock shoes and Birkenstock boots work and I finally gave up. In fact, I have sold all the enclosed Birkenstock shoes and boots that I have ever owned.
As one of Birkenstock's top fans, I was saddened by how much I disliked their shoes and boots. Come Fall and Winter, this Birkenstock sandal lover reached for her Dr. Martens and Frye boots. But, since the onset of the pandemic and stay-at-home orders were in full effect in California, my Docs and Frye boots seemed overly dressy for my work from home routine. My Birkenstock Boston shearlings were great, until my kids stole them to wear during remote learning. I found UGGs to be too floppy and completely unsupportive. Wearing insoles with UGGs just doesn’t work for me either. So, when another Birkenstock friend recommended that I try a pair of Duckfeet Arhus, I decided to give them a shot.
The Arhus was exactly the type of boot that I was looking for in the mist of California pandemic living. It was wide, well made, and warm. Duckfeet Arhus are an investment type boot. While I don’t live in snow country, I do live in the Bay Area where it is cold all the stinking time, except for a handful of days in October. And during non-pandemic life, we do travel to Lake Tahoe for snow time fun with the kids. For these reasons, I felt like I could justify the expense, only after Duckfeet dangled a 20% off coupon in my face on Black Friday. (I don’t recall ever seeing a Birkenstock coupon on Black Friday or any other Holiday for that matter….just sayin’….)
Even with the Black Friday coupon from DuckfeetUSA, the boots were still pretty pricey. Therefore, I sold off a few pair of gently loved Birkenstocks to pay for them. I tried sizes 38 and 39 in the Arhus. I seem to be in between sizes with this boot. After consulting DuckfeetUSA customer service directly, I decided that due to the shearling, I had to size up for comfort. Sizing up afforded me some space in the boot and I was able to insert a Birkenstock insole in the Arhus. The Birkenstock blue insole worked beautifully in my boots because Duckfeet are made with a neutral footbed, meaning there is no arch support.
With the neutral sole of the Duckfeet footbed, one can use any type of insole that they desire, or no insole at all. I personally found that the Duckfeet Arhus paired well with the Birkenstock blue insoles and created the absolute perfect Fall/Winter boot for me. I bought the Arhus in November 2020 and have worn them for THREE straight months. EVERY! SINGLE! DAY! And I have never, ever, ever worn the same pair of Birkenstocks for three months in a row.
When I found a pair of Arhus “returns”, for a fraction of the cost of a brand new pair, I jumped at the chance to add another color to my rotation. This time, I only had to sell one pair of Birkenstocks to pay for them.
As Spring approaches, I know that I will be able to wear the Arhus for awhile longer since it will remain cold in the Bay Area. However, eventually I need to pack away the shearling lined DuckFeet until next Fall. Before doing so, I am thinking about selling off even more of my Birkenstocks to make room for a non-shearling lined pair of Duckfeet boots. You know, something to get me through the chilly early days of Spring.....since I refuse to wear socks with my Birkenstocks. At the moment, I am eyeing these Duckfeet Roskilde boots…..
You might be thinking that I am disloyal wearing a different brand other than Birkenstock. And maybe even crazy for selling off some of my Birkenstock collection. But, to be honest, I really only need a handful of my Birkenstocks to last me a lifetime. For now, I am letting go of all my Birko-Flor and every single pair of narrow width Birkenstocks that I felt forced to purchase because the particular sandal was not released in a regular width.
Which Birkenstocks stay and which Birks go? Well, that’s a topic for an entirely different blog post. Just the fact that Gina Mama is selling off some of her Birkenstocks to pay for a different brand speaks volumes about the absolute comfort, craftsmanship, and the warmth of Duckfeet boots. More importantly, it highlights my level of dissatisfaction with the Birkenstock brand…and I know I am not the only one who feels this way. I highly recommend that you give Duckfeet a chance. They are way easier to break in than Birkenstocks. I promise!!
I have intentionally not blogged in months. The pandemic has changed everything and I have not found the time, nor had the motivation, to write about Birkenstocks. To be honest, writing a blog about shoes, when millions of people are out of work and small businesses are suffering, feels completely insensitive. So, I have offered only radio silence….until today.
Today’s blog will be short and sweet. In fact, because it is Halloween, I am offering you a real treat. I am going to share with you my top three favorite small businesses in the U.S. What I ask from you in return, is to support your favorite small business and maybe check out mine.
My top three favorite small businesses in the US are (in alphabetical order):
1. Birkenstock Attitudes
If you are not in El Paso, the best way to reach Paul or Mona at Birkenstock Attitudes is to send them a Direct Message (DM) via their Instagram page. I have written about Birkenstock Attitudes and their stellar customer service in this blog.
2. Custom Made Birkenstocks
Call Michelangelo, (708) 453-4900, at Custom Made Birkenstocks, he can help you create a custom pair of Birkenstocks, repair your Birks, sell you a pair of Birkenstocks and do a million other amazing things. I have written a number of blogs about Michelangelo’s handy work, this is my most recent post.
I am reluctant to share this gem of a small business with you because I want to keep it my little secret. Competition is fierce on a Harveys release day and so much fun when you score a new bag. Harveys seatbelt bags last a lifetime and they are made in California. I love these bags so much that I wrote a blog about this small business last year. Check it out here.
With many areas shutting down again, please reach out to a small business and help support them during these very uncertain times.
What are your top three favorite small businesses? Send me a message, I would love to learn about places that I can help support.
Happy Halloween & Stay Safe.
And don’t forget to GO VOTE!!!!!!!!!!!!
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
For the last 10 days, I have been sheltering in place in the Bay Area. I know that many of you are doing the same thing around the world. The last three days the entire State of California has been on lockdown. Life has changed drastically in the blink of an eye.
Between securing food and paper goods (aka toilet paper) for my family, home schooling my children, and disinfecting my house from top to bottom, I have been watching an unending stream of real time news.
I wish to thank each and every person who has reached out to me via email or social media to make sure that my family is safe. I have gotten messages from all over the world. I am so grateful for my Birkenstock friends and wish you and your family safety during this pandemic.
Thanks to my blog, I have had the good fortune of meeting wonderful people all over the world. One of the most wonderful people that I have met is Sandy, the owner of Sandy's Birkenstock Boutique, in Australia. While we have yet to meet in person, since we live a world apart, we stay connected via social media. Much like me, Sandy is hunkering down in her home and keeping her family safe.
Since she had a little extra time on her hands, I asked Sandy to do something that I rarely do. I requested that Sandy write a guest blog. She and I have been communicating for months about a special project that she has been working on. There is no better person to share this with you then Sandy herself! Sandy is not only an expert on all things Birkenstock, she is a talented writer.
It is time to take a short break from the constant stream of horrific news and read something light-hearted and fun.
Below is Sandy's article. Enjoy.