The Complete Guide to Birkenstock Sandals: All Styles, Explained
Reviled and venerated, Birkenstock has made its mark, not only in the footwear industry, but in the fashion industry as a whole. From literally inventing the insole to partnering with legendary designers, the brand has come a long way since its first steps. And for a brand older than the United States, you’d expect a lot of impact.
We dive deep into the German brand, its history, importance and products.
Birkenstock’s roots date back to 1774 in Langen-Bergheim, Germany. There, founder Jean-Adam Birkenstock worked as a shoemaker and was listed in church records as “subject and shoemaker”.
The next step in the company’s history would not come for a few generations when, in 1896, Konrad Birkenstock began manufacturing and selling soft insoles. Soon after, at the turn of the 20th century, the sole as we know it today really began to take shape when he introduced the first contoured arch support.
These innovations paved the way for Birkenstock’s success and necessitated the opening of a new factory in Friedburg. Eventually, the shoes also caught on with medical professionals, and Carl Birkenstock’s training courses were even taught by doctors.
In the 1930s, Birkenstock coined the term “footbed” to describe their anatomically shaped insoles. The name wasn’t just clever marketing, though. The insole has been precisely designed to adapt to the anatomical shape of the foot, ensuring stability and comfort. It featured a deep, concave heel cup to maintain the wearer’s natural cushioning at the heel bone; a longitudinal arch support and a transverse arch support which help with proper alignment and stability; raised toe bars that give feet more traction; and generous toe room for added comfort.
The insole is constructed in four parts. The main part of the sole is its core. It’s made from a cork and latex blend that’s both flexible and shock absorbent. The insole core is then sandwiched between two layers of natural jute fabric which stabilizes the core while allowing it to flex. The last layer is the suede lining. It is soft to the touch and absorbs moisture well, providing significant odor control.
The company still makes the bulk of its footwear with premium leathers, suedes and nubuck in its German factories. Meanwhile, a number of new styles are being produced to the same high standards in Portugal. Today, the company has grown far beyond its famous staples, offering innovative new products and applying the Birkenstock touch to tried-and-true designs.
Since arriving in the United States in 1966, Birkenstock has only grown its following, first finding popularity with the hippie crowd. Although his shoes were popular with free spirits, they would also be considered an ugly shoe by the fashion elite. As fashion cycles would have it, however, Birkenstock’s infamous shoe eventually grew on its critics, paving the way for other divisive shoes like Crocs and was fully entrenched in culture as a shoe of base in all style camps.
It is the part of the shoe on which the foot rests. Birkenstock is famous for coining the term and creating an ergonomic shoe. It consists of a cork and latex core, between two layers of jute and a suede lining.
Birkenstock has two different soles that it uses for its line of shoes. The soft sole features all four layers of the original sole with an additional layer of foam padding just below the suede lining.
The midsole is made from natural cork which provides the wearer with support and comfort, molding to the feet of the wearer.
In addition to insole options, Birkenstock also makes seasonal shoes with a warm sheepskin lining, made from sheep’s wool.
Short for “Ethylene Vinyl Acetate”, it is a lightweight, moldable, and water-resistant type of plastic. Birkenstock make a range of their classic shoes out of EVA, making them ideal for the beach or the pool.
This collection is Birkenstock’s trademark step into the luxury space. Here, Birkenstock collaborates with designers like Rick Owens, Valentino and Stüssy to release limited-edition products.
Among Birkenstock’s most famous shoes, the Boston features a clog-style design with a closed-toe design and a single adjustable strap. It’s part of Birkenstock’s Essentials shoe range and comes in regular and narrow widths, with original, soft insoles, and a range of evergreen and seasonal upper materials.
Boston flip skin
In all fairness, the Boston Shearling is way more practical than the Arizona Shearling. Because the Boston is a closed-toe sandal, your feet are already protected from the elements. Shearling simply offers warmth and a bit of padding to your step.
Boston Super Grip
Are you a sandal enthusiast who worries about slipping when it’s wet outside? Wear the Boston Super Grip, which is just the usual Boston but with better traction.
The two-strap open-toe design is a signature of the Birkenstock line. Most common in Birkenstock’s “Birkibuc” synthetic nubuck material, the design was first introduced in 1973 and has remained unchanged ever since.
These are the same as the other Arizonas but in Birko-Flor nubuck, a PVC material designed to look like leather.
Arizona Vegan Canvas
Instead of alternative leather, this vegan Arizona uses canvas for its straps. It creates a different look and feel, but they are the same sandals.
It’s the same Arizona you know and love – not vegan, by the way – with a soft, warm sheepskin lining.
New for a few years, the Arizona Essential is a rubberized version of the classic sandal. It’s also cheaper, which creates fewer barriers to entry for some people.
A thong-style sandal, the Gizeh features an adjustable strap and an open-toe design.
The Milano features a trio of adjustable straps. Like the Arizona, two straps extend over the top of the foot while an additional third strap wraps around the achilles.
The Madrid is Birkenstock’s oldest model and was first released as a gym sandal. It features a single strap design on its suede-lined cork insole.
This riff on the Giza combines the thong-style upper with the adjustable strap found on the Boston.
The London is very similar to the Boston, with an adjustable strap across the top of the shoe and a low profile design. However, the London also features a quarter and a heel.
The Lugano features a unique cross cut laced upper with a single adjustable buckle.
This modern version of the sandal features a closed upper with a hook-and-loop closure as well as an open toe in the front.
The Como is a thong style sandal like the iconic Gizeh design. However, the Como has an integrated strap that tapers into the insole, giving it a sleeker look.
Taking cues from hiking sandal styles, the Atacama features a rugged outsole intended for outdoor activities. It’s rendered in Birko-Flor material for the upper and is secured with two hook-and-loop straps.
Another design element of the outdoor-focused Birkenstock range, the Tatacoa resembles the Milano with its double straps and heel strap. However, the sturdy outsole, hook-and-loop straps and clip buckle make it ready for heavy wear.
The strap sandal features two thin straps and an additional toe loop.
Intended for professional use, the Super-Birki is a clog-style shoe consisting of a waterproof, slip-resistant, oil- and grease-resistant PU upper and sole. It also has a removable insole.
Like the Super-Birki, the Profi-Birki is designed to be worn at work. The main difference here is that the Profi-Birki has a higher back support, making it more of a slip-on than a clog.
Birki Air antistatic
The Birki Air Antistatic offers better breathability than its work-friendly counterparts, but comes with multiple vent eyelets for airflow.
Much like the Super-Birki, the A 630 is a clog style work shoe with water resistant and slip resistant features. The upper, however, is designed with a smooth texture rather than a pebble texture and comes with a suede lining.
The A 640, like the Profi-Birki and the A630, features a smooth PU upper with suede lining and a higher rear reinforcement.
A lace-up oxford-style shoe, the Gary features an unlined suede upper with a collapsible heel and cork footbed.
The Oswego is a slip-on style sneaker with a canvas and suede upper and elastic detail. It features suede lining, removable footbed and rubber soles.
The Callan is a casual slip-on shoe made with suede, synthetic microfibers and an EVA sole.
The Montana is a one-of-a-kind shoe featuring a leather upper secured with two rivets, laces and no seams.
Taking inspiration from classic Tyrolean-style shoes like the famous Paraboot Michael, the Pasadena features a moccasin-style toe cap and two-eyelet lace-up construction.
This style of skate shoe features a leather upper with a rubber sole and side stitching.
This is the Birkenstock version of the Chelsea boot. It features elastic side panels with a leather upper and lug soles.
The Marton takes inspiration from traditional work boots with its moc-toe stitching and rugged leather upper. Its exposed cork midsole makes it a unique Birkenstock.
The Milton draws inspiration from classic desert boot designs with a suede upper, plain toe and two-eyelet lace-up detailing.
Built like a house slipper, the Zermatt is a clog style shoe with a comfortable wool felt upper, warm sheepskin lining and latex sole.