Birkenstock has been a famous German shoe brand since 1774. Although it has gone through numerous ownerships (most recently, L Cattorton bought the group in 2021), the traditional style and mission of the company have been unchanged. Mainly focused on ‘healthy’ footwear for the customer, many people have wondered if it is also an environmentally healthy, vegan shoe.
Birkenstock is an impressive animal and environmentally-friendly shoe compared to its competitors. Although not all their shoes are completely free of animal products, Birkenstock launched a line of vegan styles in 2017, including popular models like Gizeh, Boston, and Arizona.
Take a look at the price of the Birkenstock vegan range here.
Besides the fact that Birkenstocks were environmentally friendly, to begin with, their relatively new vegan line ensures that they are one of the most animal-friendly shoes on the market. However, what’s the difference between their standard and vegan shoes? And, what makes the brand more environmentally friendly than its competitors?
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Are All Birkenstock Shoes Vegan And Animal Friendly?
The original design of the classic Birkenstock sandal was focused on creating a standard sole format that was more complimentary to the shape of one’s foot than a flat-shaped sole. The design was invented to follow the natural flow of a person’s foot to provide the healthiest and most effective solution for comfortable walking.
However, the sandal soon became a famous icon in American culture due to its connection with free-spirited groups who valued nature and health above all else. The design soon became synonymous with hippies and health enthusiasts that advocated sustainable and harmless living.
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Birkenstock was aware of this association since the 90s and embraced the connection early on. As the association between environmentally concerned customers and the sandals grew, Birkenstock focused its marketing and manufacturing strategies on being more environmentally and animal friendly.
It’s worth noting that Birkenstock was mostly just a symbol of environmental and animal friendliness, as the most popular design at that time were mainly leather. Still, to this day, most Birkenstock shoes contain leather, but the vegan trend was started in 2017 to cater to the preferences and convictions of the new generation.
Consequently, Birkenstock is becoming more animal friendly as the demand grows for vegan shoes, but a large portion of their manufacturing still consists of animal products.
However, Birkenstock has received a Libby award for being the most animal-friendly shoe company from PETA and continues to develop new designs with alternative and ‘healthier’ materials.
What Are Vegan Birkenstocks Made Of?
Birkenstock sandals consist of various parts resulting in different vegan materials being used to effectively create the best alternatives compared to the original. The most significant alternative was developed by Birkenstock themselves, called “Birko-Flor”.
My own pair of Birkenstock Arizonas are made with the Birko-Flor alternative, and they are very comfortable.
Birko-Flor is a unique material that can be described as synthetic leather. It mainly consists of either Polyurethane or PVC and is used for the upper of the sandals. The sole consists of EVA (Ethlyne-vinyl acetate), a copolymer commonly used in bags and packaging. In addition, the footbed is made mainly of cork.
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The standard or original design uses similar materials to the vegan brand, with the vital exception being the leather upper. The lining of the footbed is also suede which provides added comfort to compliment the natural foot design, whereas the vegan brand has a microfiber.
In short, the standard design consists of natural leather for the insole and oiled leather for the upper, whereas the vegan brand uses microfiber and Birko-Flor, respectively.
Which Birkenstock Shoes Are Vegan?
Many of the standard designs are also available in vegan as the Birko-Flor material is easily manipulated to complete the format of the popular designs, and the majority of the sole is made of the same materials. As a result, the following designs are also available in vegan:
- The Arizona has Birkenstock’s traditional and most recognizable design with two straps creating the upper with an air space between them.
- The Sydney follows the same pattern as the Arizona, but the straps are leaner and thinner.
- Florida Fresh is similar to the standard design, but the upper straps are thinner to accommodate the alteration of the third top strap. The added strap covers a larger area of the foot, making it more stable and avoiding unnecessary flapping on the heel.
- The Mayari has a thick middle strap and a thin bottom strap that loops around the big toe. The design comes in sizes and styles suited for both men and women.
- The Gizeh has a minimalist t-shape design with a toe divider and a stud for added style.
- The Madrid has a simpler design, with the toe strap being the only upper on the sandal. The style is reminiscent of the classical sandal and is also one of their most popular designs.
It’s worth noting that the sandal straps are all adjustable, making them accessible to most owners who have differentiating bridge lengths and heights. In addition, the Birko-Flor material can be dyed in a multitude of colors, making it possible to satisfy most customers’ preferences.
Will All Birkenstock Shoes Be Vegan In The Future?
Vegan leather is becoming an important trend in fashion since it avoids animal cruelty and is less destructive to the environment; moreover, the vegan leather market is speculated to reach over 80 billion dollars in 2025.
With all the hype surrounding vegan leather, one cannot help but wonder if it will completely replace leather and become the more viable option; after all, the majority of the vegan leather market consists of shoes, much more so than handbags and clothes.
Unfortunately, many customers are concerned that vegan leather is less durable than genuine leather. Considering the fact that the trend is still growing, this is not an unjustified query.
As with any discovery or invention, it will need to surpass all the trail and tribulations before becoming the preferred choice the majority of people will come to rely on, much like leather has done for the past centuries.
Although vegan leather is an effective alternative and can be a cheaper solution as well as an environmentally conscious one, it still has a long way to go to replace traditional leather completely.
On the other hand, Birkenstock has designed and invented its very own material as a substitute for leather, and it won’t be unusual to see many more vegan designs from Birkenstock as they are setting the standard for healthy and environmentally conscious living.
We can assume that the current vegan trend will bleed into the other styles causing safer and healthier alterations due to the fact that the company is now in the spotlight where environmental friendliness is concerned. Still, only time will tell whether environmental ideals and consumer demand coincide.
Birkenstock started a vegan line in 2017 that manufactures the same popular sandals with animal and environmentally-friendly materials. Although the company is not entirely vegan, as they still distribute a vast amount of leather sandals, they are setting the trend globally in vegan leather distribution for shoes.
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Lorna is a footwear geek and the founder of Wearably Weird. She created a YouTube channel in 2021 for fellow footwear fanatics, dedicated to detail-rich footwear reviews and info. She has a fashion media qualification (awarded in 2011).