The other day I found myself at a difficult crossroad while wearing a new pair of Birkenstocks. I was in Mill Valley at a busy intersection at the bottom of Mt. Tamalapais (Mt. Tam). I had been up this road before in my car over the years. It is an extremely narrow mountain road and parking is close to non existent. Cars whizz up and down this steep thoroughfare on their way to/from a popular trailhead on the mountain.
Years ago driving up this street would have been a tolerable, even an enjoyable endeavor. Driving up a mountain road in the middle of majestic Redwood trees would typically be a relaxing adventure. These days it has become downright frightening due to the recent onslaught of traffic in the town of Mill Valley.
I love Mill Valley. It is a beautiful town situated close to the water and the mountain. You get the best of both worlds here: water sports and mountain sports. Plus, Mill Valley is the most “Berkelely-esque” of all cities in Marin. Many of the older residents that I have met here tend to be very liberal. You are just as likely to see someone walking around town with a pair of Birkenstocks, as you are too see a mountain biker heading to a trail.
Unfortunately, over the last few years the population of Mill Valley has changed drastically because the millennials are moving in. No longer does Mill Valley have the bohemian vibe that it did 10 or 15 years ago. Tech executives are moving out of San Fransisco and heading north to Mill Valley to raise families. As older residents make their celestial discharges from life on earth, their homes are being bought up by the millennials. The new, young residents of this naturing-loving town, typically tear down the existing quaint homes and build sprawling houses.
With all the construction happening in Mill Valley, the traffic over the last couple years has become downright obscene. Once you enter this small town, getting from point A to
point B, can take upwards of 30 minutes. A few weeks ago it took me 45 minutes to get to the freeway and I was less than 4 miles away from the freeway on-ramp. There is traffic everywhere in this town. Parents are shuttling their kids to school and to various activities throughout the day. Plus, there are construction trucks all over the city often blocking narrow roads. One never knows how safe it is to pass alongside a parked construction truck when there is a sheer cliff on the other side of the road.
I took all this history into account as I reached the busy intersection at the bottom of the mountain. I was at a 4 way stop waiting my turn and 2 other cars nearly collided. I was watching other drivers making “Hollywood stops” in the heart of Marin.
As I glanced up the hill, I could see work trucks blocking parts of the road. I knew that I would likely not find parking. Therefore, I pulled over at the bottom of the hill and parked my car.
I had not had a chance to exercise that morning. My boys had woke me up early and I had to rush out of the house to get to work. This was going to be my opportunity to get my exercise for the day. I was going to walk up the hill to my appointment. I checked the directions on my phone. It was 0.75 miles straight up the mountain to my destination.
As I got out of my car, I realized I was wearing a new pair of Birkenstocks that I had been breaking-in for about a week. I had purchased a pair of Navy Blue Patent Arizonas with red soles.
These were some of the fanciest Birkenstocks I owned. They were shiny patent and looked dressy. The red soles provided a beautiful contrast to the navy blue uppers. Wearing these Birks made me smile from the inside out.
When I coordinated my outfit around the shoes that morning, I had no intention of walking a great distance in them. Had I known I would be walking up a steep mountain road, I would have likely opted for a more vintage pair of Birkenstocks. A pair that I was confident that was already fully broken-in.
I threw my purse over my shoulder and took a gander down at my beautiful Arizonas. I started to second guess my decision. By walking up the hill in a fairly new pair of Birkenstocks, I would not be following my own rules about the break-in process.
Would I be able to make it up the hill without hurting my feet or getting a blister? I thought about getting in my car and driving up the mountain. Then I saw a Tesla driver barreling down the hill, forgetting to stop at the 4-way intersection because she was too busy sending a text.
Witnessing that driver zoom through a stop sign solidified my decision to park and walk. I was going to trek up this mountain in a relatively new pair of Birkenstocks Arizonas. A potential blister on my foot was a much safer option than being side swiped off the mountain by an unsafe driver.
I started the walk up the mountain a bit apprehensive that my shoes would cause me discomfort. Surprisingly, with each step up the steep grade, I could feel the shoes were not going to cause me any problems. The footbed had softened nicely over the course of the last week. The Birko-Flor uppers were not creating any hotspots on my feet and the footbed had began to mold to my foot.
By the time I made it up the 0.75 miles to my destination, I was 15 minutes early to my appointment. My Birkenstocks felt so great that I walked another 10 minutes just for exercise. Instead of the Birkenstocks hindering my endeavor, they aided my adventure. They felt so amazing that I wanted to keep on walking and take in the beauty of the Redwood trees.
I think that these Navy Blue Patent Arizonas were comfortable for this walk because of the synthetic uppers and the fact that I had been slowly breaking in the Original Footbed for about one week. The benefit of synthetic uppers is that there is a smooth, fleece-like fabric underneath the straps that is soft against the foot. Birkenstocks with Birko-Flor uppers require a minimal break-in period. If I had worn a new pair of Birkenstocks with leather uppers, I would have experienced discomfort while walking. Personally, I have a more difficult time softening up leather uppers as noted in my blog and video, “How to Break-in Leather Birkenstock Straps”.
After my appointment, I walked back down the hill and got even more exercise in these Birkenstocks. I was astonished at how well these shoes handled the downslope.
At first, I was concerned I might slip while walking down the hill. Then I realized that the most dangerous part of the walk was the oversized SUV’s not seeing me as they raced down the mountain.
The new Birkenstocks that I was so hesitant to wear on this walk turned out to be some of the most comfortable Birks I own. I was able to walk 2+ miles in them with no discomfort. By the time I got to my car, my Birkenstocks had graduated the break-in process. They were now in the category of feeling custom made.
When I have another appointment at the top of Mt Tam, I will once again wear a pair of Birkenstocks. I will park at the bottom of the hill and enjoy the trek up the steep grade. I am now confident that even my dressy Birkenstocks can handle just about any walking adventure.
Birkenstock blogger since 2016.