Summer is soon to be upon us and that means breaking in new Birkenstocks which, if you've ever had to do it before, can be extremely un-fun. Now of course Birks are not the only summer shoes that need to broken in (curse you ballet flats) but breaking them in is a sort of unique experience. Birkenstocks' footbeds are made with a cool combination of materials (cork, latex, and jute to be exact) that take the heat and moisture naturally produced by your feet and cause the shoes to literally mold to you and give you amazing support. But not right away. Things this magical take time, and I decided to find out exactly how much.
I talked to Matt Hundley from Birkenstock to try to get come tips on how to make my breaking in experience as seamless as possible. I was really looking for some secret genius hack that would make my new sandals perfectly broken in right away but unfortunately that doesn't exist. Hundley reminded me that every person and every foot is different so the experience will be different. Sizes, widths, arch heights, style of sandal, gait of user — all of these can affect the time and difficulty of breaking in Birks making it entirely unique from person to person. There is one real tip though: Break them in little by little at first. Hundley said that for your first few wearings plan shorter trips and save the active environments for when the shoes are a bit more broken in. So I decided to do just that to see how long it would take to get my new white Birkenstocks molded perfectly to my feet.
Phase 1: Order Shoes
This may seem like an easy step but honestly there are so many types of Birkenstocks it can be overwhelming. My first pair of Birks were the black Mayari style, which are strappier, so I wanted something different. These are the white Arizona style.
Phase 2: Fit Them To Your Feet
Birkenstocks have adjustable straps so the first step is figuring out how tight you need it to be. I have pretty wide feet and high arches so I ended up on only the second hole.
Phase 3: Ease Into Wearing Them
Here I am day one, so fresh and so clean. I knew that I needed to take the little-by-little method seriously because I had a moderately traumatic experience last summer breaking in my first pair. I wore the sandals once for an easy day and all was well. The second time I wore them, however, was a long day of walking through Central Park, shopping, etc. which ended in me having open blisters all over my feet and legitimate scabs for over a week. I still have the marks on my feet to prove it...
Phase 4: Slight Irritation
The first three days I wore them for a few hours each day with walks that ranged from 30 to 60 minutes. The only things that were really bothering me were the front strap rubbing against my big toe and the front ridge in the sole, which you can see above. The irritation lasted a day or two and was extremely manageable.
Phase 5: Basically Broken In
Look! You can see my toe print!! This is after seven days of wearing them for normal work days (walking to and from the subway, and perhaps out to grab lunch) and they feel totally fine. They're not hurting me in any way and my feet feel very supported, which is really the glory of Birkenstocks. Also you can see the material puckering a bit on the sides, which is just a result of the way I walk I guess.
Phase 6: ???
For all intents and purposes, my shoes were broken in after about a week of sporadic wearings. I'm hesitant to say they're fully broken in because my ~1 year old pair of Birks are sooo broken in it literally feels like they were constructed around my feet. But I think that's just kind of the M.O. of Birkenstocks; they continue to get comfier and comfier the longer you have them.
So how long does it take to break in Birkenstocks? Around a week for them to be perfectly comfortable, but you'll get to look forward to the relationship between you and your sandals growing more and more harmonious with each wear.