This is Worth The Hype, where our writers and editors put popular products to the test to see if they are, in fact, worth the hype.
Birkenstocks have a way of eliciting strong emotions from people. I don’t think I’ve ever met a person who was completely neutral when it comes to Birkenstocks. You either love them or you hate them. But for those who have tried out the sandals for themselves, there is no denying that the comfort, craftsmanship, and unfashionable (in a good way) design quickly makes them a favorite for daily footwear.
While Birkenstock, as a company, has been around for nearly 250 years, the cultural legacy of the brand really popped up in the 1970s. Before normcore was a thing, before New Balance’s dad shoe era, before any of that, there was Birkenstock. And the cult status of the brand was really solidified with the explosion of popularity of the Arizona model, which launched in 1974. The ubiquitous style of this two-strap design hit the market and, in a short few years, solidified the brand as a market leader in open-toed footwear.
Over the last few decades, Birkenstock has gained momentum in popularity throughout the decades with no discernible key demographic. There are the 70s, hippie-adjacent families. There are the 90s yuppies. There are the immigrant parents in the Bronx and Mormon influencer moms on TikTok. All equally sing the praises of the classic Arizona shoe. Hell, even Dior and Rick Owens have taken the simple design and put their own high-fashion spin on the silhouette. No matter where you turn, it seems that the cult status of Birkenstock’s sandals is reaching stratospheric level these days.
And for good reason. Few shoes are as comfortable, durable, and versatile as the Arizona.
How Comfortable Are Birkenstocks?
The main reason that people gravitate towards Birkenstocks is for the promise of all-day comfort with every wear. Birkenstocks have a contoured footbed that provides support and cushioning where your foot needs it most. This footbed, made of cork and latex, molds to your feet over time, creating a custom fit that, once totally broken in, allows for longterm wear without strain. This means that not only are Birkenstocks comfortable right out of the box, but they also get more comfortable the longer you wear them. That footprint inside the shoe from extended wear? Yeah, that’s going to happen–but wear it with pride, my friend.
When one accounts for the durability of the shoe, you’re looking at years of use with minimal wear and tear. It’s an investment, meant to last more than a couple seasons and for that, I can happily accept the higher price for a product that will last.
The durability of the shoe comes down to craftsmanship, a tenet of the brand that hasn’t been lost over its 250 year history. Instead of sourcing lower-quality (and cheaper) plastic alternatives, Birkenstocks have maintained a level of quality over the years that isn’t too common or a mainstream product. Germany remains the production site for their sandals, meaning they have a high level of quality control and oversight that may be lost at a far away factory alternative.
Many people (myself included) may not consider Birkenstocks to be the most fashionable shoe around, but that, in itself, makes it fashionable. It’s a bit paradoxical, but stick with me. By eschewing stylish trends and sticking to a simple, effective, classic design, the company isn’t trying to prove its merit in a sea of trends. Instead, the Arizona has remained basically unchanged for five decades and has been styled in a host of ways. I’ve even seen them worn with a tuxedo, which was bold and unexpected, but somehow it worked.
The key to the Arizona’s versatility is that it’s muted enough to go unrecognized but also present enough to be used as the axis in which an outfit is formed. With its distinguished leather straps and slightly bulky base, it’s a shoe that’s made for styling without really putting too much thought in it.
- Contoured latex and cork footbed for all-day, adaptive comfort
- Suede footbed lining
- Adjustable two straps
- Genuine leather straps and detailing