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.
Birkenstock blogger since 2016.