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.
NOTE: For other tips on how to break-in your Birkenstocks, please read this blog.