I’m very serious about my comfort shoes.
So much so that I’ve gotten a bit of a reputation for writing various
blurbs, write-ups, let’s be honest… “dissertations” for The Mom Edit on a range of comfortable shoes.
I mean…one SHOULD be serious when you’re talking about the possibility of miserable achy feet that have been mistreated all day in squeezy torturous TERRIBLE shoes versus the possibility (picture it!) of grateful feet that have been supported and loved and cared for all day in a shoe that meets your personal requirements for comfort. Right?
**If you’re in a hurry, skip ahead to my Birkenstock Cheat Sheet here.**
So yes…I do have strong opinions (that I’m not afraid to share) about the shoes that meet my own personal requirements for comfort, as well as the shoes that don’t. Strong opinions about whether it’s worth paying the big bucks to keep feet happy (sometimes yes, sometimes no) and strong opinions about specific comfort shoe brands I count on year after year (spoiler: Birkenstock is a BIG one) to deliver that perfect combination of comfort AND style.
Which Birkenstock Sandal Is For You?
Birkenstock is one of those favorite comfort shoe brands I rely on that is worth talking about over and over…and totally worth the splurge (as long as you find your personal fave). Some feet (like mine) adore the Madrids, while others are more comfortable in the classic Arizonas with two straps or the Gizeh flip-flops …finding JUST the right comfort shoe that makes your feet happy (and fits with your personal style) is a tricky endeavor sometimes.
To assist with this trickiness of finding a favorite comfortable summer sandal, I’ve taken a look at 8 pairs of Birkenstocks for spring and summer. Per usual, I give you my pros, cons, sizing info, and selfies of each. This year I’m really excited about adding into the mix two pairs of Papillio by Birkenstocks (amazing contoured and supportive Birkenstock footbed on a higher wedge platform — PERFECT as a versatile travel shoe).
Additionally, after going over the pros and cons of these specific sandals, I talk about trying to figure out Birkenstock’s confusing width system (it’s WAY more confusing than it should be), as well as share my personal experience with breaking in Birks.
It’s a lot of info, I know, but I’m a HUGE fan of Birkenstocks and comfortable happy feet. And as I warned you…I’m a serious comfort shoe gal. I know there are those of you out there (maybe secretly) that are serious comfort fans, and, like me, want to do the research before committing yourselves to a new pair. So let’s get started!
The Best Birkenstock Sandals: A Cheat-Sheet
- The Prettiest Pick For Summer: The Madrid Big Buckle
- Can’t Keep One-Strap Slides On Your Feet?: The Arizona Big Buckle
- The Supportive Vintage-y Wedge (Perfect For Travel): The Soley
- A Minimalist Comfy Wedge (Perfect For Everyday): The Glenda
- The Crowd Fave Flip-Flop: The Gizeh Big Buckle
- Like An Earthier Style? : The Franca
- Water-Friendly Favs: The EVA Honolulu or Arizona
- The Birks I Absolutely HATE: The Braided Gizeh
Pros: Comfortable; walkable; adjustable straps; look pretty with EVERYTHING (dresses, denim, pants, shorts…the list goes on); available in narrow/medium (A-B width) and regular/wide (C-D width); most “non-Birk looking” Birks I own (for those of you not sold on typical Birk styles); great color options (I own and wear regularly the black, cognac/gold, and now these sandcastle beige ones above); the cognac Madrids have been my favorite and most worn, but the sandcastle/gold combo is SO pretty in person!
Cons: People either love or hate the Madrids; some people’s feet slip out while they’re walking (if this is you, try adjusting the strap or go with the Arizonas in the same gorgeous colorways and big buckle options); some people find the leather and/or buckle uncomfortable (see my notes at the bottom of the post about my breaking in experience with these Birkenstocks); some folks also have issues with the width (see sizing info below).
Sizing: Size down. I wear a 7 in most sandal brands, a 7.5 in most boots, and I size down to a 37 in the Birkenstock Madrid sandals. I have a wide-ish foot (I don’t typically need wide sizing, but very narrow styles don’t fit my foot), and the narrow/medium (A-B width) in this Birk fits me well. Note: Some retailers describe the width as “medium”, but they’re actually referencing the A-B narrow/medium width that I’m wearing. Zappos describes their selection as “narrow”, but it’s the narrow/medium A-B that fits me. If you need wider sizing, go to Birkenstock’s site and select C-D width.
Pros: Comfortable; walkable; adjustable straps; my top pick for a Birkenstock slide if the Madrids don’t work for your feet; same big buckle styling that I LOVE but with two straps for added security; fabulous selection of colorways (including the sandcastle with gold hardware that I’m wearing in the Madrids).
Cons: A bit heavier looking than the more delicate Madrids; although I LOVE the way the glossy colors look (especially the black with gold hardware), they are a little stiffer initially and rub a bit more when breaking in (that said…I just ordered the black Madrids in glossy black, so obviously I haven’t been deterred THAT much).
Sizing: Size down. I wear a 7 in most sandal brands, a 7.5 in most boots, and I size down to a 37 in the Birkenstock Arizonas. I have a wide-ish foot (I don’t typically need wide sizing, but very narrow styles don’t fit my foot), and the narrow/medium (A-B width) in the Birkenstock Arizonas fits me well. Note: Many retailers describe the width as “medium”, but they’re referencing the A-B width that Birkenstock calls “narrow/medium”. If you need wide sizing, Zappos carries both “narrow/medium A-B” and “wide regular/wide C-D” sizing.
Pros: SUPER comfortable; very supportive contoured footbed with nice arch support; top and bottom strap both adjustable; ankle strap for added security; lovely vintage-y vibe with simple buckles; these are going to take a prominent place in my forever-closet due to the versatility; looking forward to the Soley being a new go-to travel shoe to wear for dressy-ish or all-day walking (they’re THAT comfortable); the Soleys are the Birkenstock I got MOST excited about in this year’s try-ons and testing.
Cons: Not modern or trendy; the leather is typical Birkenstock leather (not buttery soft like some sandal brands); not as many color options as I would like, no wide sizing available.
Sizing: Size down (like the other Birks above). I wear a 7 in most sandal brands, a 7.5 in most boots, and I sized down to a 37 in these. I have not found this particular Birkenstock in wide sizing. Nordstrom, Zappos, and Birkenstock all carry the same “narrow/medium A-B” widths.
Pros: SUPER comfortable; SUPER supportive footbed; ankle strap for added security; minimalist styling without the prominent buckle hardware of the Soleys; versatile; great option as a travel or everyday shoe that could be worn easily with dresses or casual with jeans/pants/shorts for everyday exploring (they’re THAT comfortable).
Cons: Not trendy or very modern in style (could even be considered “boring”); color options/hardware aren’t very exciting; leather is typical Birkenstock leather (not as buttery soft as some comfort sandals); no wide sizing.
Sizing: Size down (like the other Birks above). I wear a 7 in most sandal brands, a 7.5 in most boots, and I sized down to a 37 in these. I have not found this particular Birkenstock in wide sizing. Nordstrom, Zappos, Anthro, Bloomies, and Birkenstock all carry the same “narrow/medium A-B” widths.
Pros: The classic Birkenstock flip-flop, but now available with a modern big-buckle design and new colors and materials; comfortable; walkable; adjustable strap; available in medium and wide sizing (you may have to click around at the retailers above to find your size); HUGE range of colors; style can be dressed up a bit (especially with the slightly shimmery/glossy colors); look great with summer dresses; can be worn with jeans, pants, and shorts too; a HUGE crowd favorite (tons of readers love these and years of good reviews).
Cons: This particular mud green I’m wearing feels too heavy for my summer wardrobe (lots of other colors available, though); although the between-the-toe thingy is WAY more comfortable on these Gizehs than the Braided Gizehs (it’s a nice smooth plastic that slides easily between your toes), Gizehs aren’t my personal favorite; my feet still like the classic FitFlop Lulus better for comfort.
Sizing: Size down and pay attention to width on this one. I wear the narrow/medium A-B width in most Birkenstocks, but in the Gizehs I’m wearing a regular/wide C-D. I have a wide-ish foot but typically do not take “wide” sizing. Wearing a 37 (typically I wear a 7 or 7.5).
Pros: Immediately comfortable with some nice give in the straps; because the straps on the Francas are thinner than my typical Madrids and Arizonas they instantly felt softer and more flexible; all three straps are adjustable to create a perfect fit; although I’ve always loved Birkenstock’s standard footbed I’m definitely not complaining about the softer footbed on these Francas (a bit more cushion, but doesn’t sacrifice the support I’ve come to love in Birkenstock footbed).
Cons: I personally don’t love the style as much as the Madrids, Arizonas, and Gizehs; the Francas have more of the traditional earthy Birk look that doesn’t fit as well with my go-to summer/spring outfits.
Sizing: Similar to the Gizehs, pay attention to the width on this one and size down. I wear the narrow/medium A-B width in most Birkenstocks, but in the Gizehs and the Francas I’m wearing a regular/wide C-D. I have a wide-ish foot, but typically do not take “wide” sizing. Wearing a 37 (typically I wear a 7 or 7.5).
Pros: I’ve worn and loved this exact flip-flop for years when I’m around water; very comfortable; I’m typically a FitFlop fan for my flip-flops, but actually prefer the Birkenstock Honolulu to the equivalent water-friendly style from FitFlop. If you’re not a flip-flop fan, I also like the EVA Arizonas that have an awesome selection of colorways in the EVA water-friendly material (you can see how adorable they look on Laura here).
Cons: The Honolulus are hard to find in stock and are available in very limited colors- Boo!; I love the comfort of the Arizona EVA’s as an alternative, but I’m hoping they bring the Honolulu’s back in the bronze and gold soon!
Sizing: Size down (like the other Birkenstock styles above).
Pros: Beautiful braided design; LOVE the cognac color; same comfortable footbed as my other Birks.
Cons: UGH! Horrifically uncomfortable for my feet! I couldn’t get these off fast enough; they have a completely different between-the-toe thingy than the big-buckle Gizehs — very rough, stiff, and painful; if you love this style and are used to between-the-toe thingies and breaking them in go for it, but no, no, no for MY feet.
Sizing: Like the other Gizehs, I’m wearing a 37 C-D regular/wide sizing (despite wearing A-B narrow/medium sizing in other Birks).
Birkenstock Sizing & Width Info
I mention the sizing/width above with each Birkenstock I tried, but I still find it confusing.
First of all, all of the Birkenstocks I’ve tried run big. I typically wear a 7 in sandals, and a 7.5 in boots, but I wear a European size 37 in Birkenstocks (which Birkenstock says on their sizing chart translates into a size 6-6.5 in US sizing), so my recommendation is to size down.
Birkenstocks width options are not as easy-to-understand as I would like for them to be. They have two width options that confusingly go by several names. The first option is A-B width and is called narrow or medium sizing. On Zappos, they call this “narrow”, at Nordstrom they call this width “B”, at Saks and Athro they don’t even name the width (but the A-B is typically the default that they carry). Another way to differentiate the widths is by looking at the footbed of the sandal. C-D (regular/wide) sizing has an open (not colored in) image and A-B (narrow/medium) sizing has a solid foot image (colored in) as shown below.
If you’re having trouble finding the right width Birkenstock for your foot, I suggest checking out Birkenstock’s sizing information page here.
Tips For Breaking In Birkenstocks
Some of you have asked about breaking in Birkenstocks. Some Birks require break-in periods for me, some don’t. I think it depends on the style of the Birk, your foot shape, how frequently you’ve already been wearing sandals, and the sizing of the shoe.
The bottom of my feet never have a hard time with Birkenstock’s supportive contoured footbed, but the harder leather straps do need to be broken in sometimes. The first pair of Birkenstock Madrids I bought years and years ago gave me blisters for the first week along the top leather strap. Note…they were a size too big for me. I loved them so much, though, that I wore them through the blisters, and after several times wearing them out and about with bandaids (maybe a week?) they were fine and continued to get more and more broken in and the leather softened with each wear.
The next summer I bought the size smaller (the correct size for my foot) in the same Madrid style, and they gave me zero blisters and were instantly comfortable.
This year I have yet ANOTHER color of the Madrids (the Sandcastle) and they’ve given me no blisters, but I do notice the leather is getting softer and softer and more comfortable with each wear.
Absolutely, the more you wear your Birkenstocks, the more comfortable they get. You’ll see pretty quickly, the indentations and markings of your individual foot and toe shape on the footbed and feel the leather soften. Birkenstock’s website suggests wearing new Birkenstocks for 30-minute increments to let the leather soften, flex, and mold to your foot, before committing to wearing them out and about all day long. I don’t always need to do this, but everyone’s tolerance to pressure and various materials is totally different, and finding what YOUR feet like is very important.
Feel free to chime in on any of your Birkenstock favorites, tricks for breaking in specific styles of Birkenstocks, and what your thoughts are on the newer glossy material being used in some of the styles. Per usual, I could chat comfort shoes with you guys all.day.long.