Birkenstocks are classic German shoes that always stay on trend, and investing in these ultra-comfortable, durable feet-huggers is a good idea if you need some high quality summer sandals.
As Birkenstocks are only made in European sizes, it creates some confusion regarding their sizing for those of us in the rest of the world, especially if you’re ordering them online. One of the main concerns for first time shoppers is do Birkenstocks run big?
Birkenstocks are true to size and don’t run big, but they may feel like they do because they’re intended to have some movement space. Also, comparing European sizes to UK and US sizes isn’t a direct conversion, and it may leave you with a shoe that doesn’t fit right.
To help with this I have included size conversion charts further into this article for you.
In this guide I have also included my own personal experience with Birkenstock sizing, with photos and a video, and screenshots of my sizing conversation with the Birkenstock team themselves.
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In my experience I find Birkenstocks run true to size (for reference I am a UK women’s size 6 which is a US women’s 8, and a European size 39).
Here’s how mine look on me:
I contacted the Birkenstocks customer support team to get their official stance on how Birkenstocks should fit you, and here’s what they said:
Dear Ms. Hennessy,
Thank you for contacting Birkenstock.com
In reference to your request, we kindly inform you that there should be a space of approx. 10 mm between the toes and the footbed edge and there should be a space of approx. 5 mm between the heel and the footbed edge.
Here’s a screenshot of the email too:
You can read their sizing advice your yourself on Birkenstock.com, if you like.
Following the advice from the Birkenstock customer service team I measured the distance between my longest toe and the front of the Birkenstock footbed:
Sure enough the distance was around 10mm (12mm to be exact), which was reassuring. Then I measured the distance between my heel and the back of the footbed:
I found the distance was around 5mm, as expected. After following the measurement guide outlined by the customer service team I felt confident my Birkenstocks are the correct size. If you are planning on shopping for Birkenstocks in a store, it’s worth asking an attendant to help you measure.
In terms of how mine feel when worn, there is plenty of room in the footbed and I’m able to tighten the two sandal straps to my liking. My feet don’t slide out of them when I walk. They definitely fit me true to size!
Here’s a video of me wearing mine so you can get a good look at how they fit me:
If you are shopping online I recommend checking your size against the conversion charts later in this article, to help you get the sizing right first time.
Check out the current price of my Birkenstocks here.
Preventing Birkenstocks From Running Big Or Small
Nothing is worse than a shoe that doesn’t fit you – ask Cinderella’s stepsisters, and they’ll tell you all about it! Birkenstocks are also on the pricey side, so wearing a pair that runs big or small will not cut it. You’ll need to understand how their sizing works to find your ideal-sized Birkenstock pair.
Birkenstock is a German brand, which entails that all their shoes’ design and manufacturing processes take place in Europe, which subsequently means that all the sizes are European continental sizes. Unfortunately, EU sizes don’t translate well into UK and US sizes because the scale is entirely different – more on that later.
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Birkenstocks are designed to be true to size, and they are, but you need to figure out what your EU size is. These classy shoes also have different widths available for those who have petite or wider feet, and if your Birkenstock shoes feel too roomy or tight, you might need to have a look at the width sizing.
Although Birkenstock shoes true to size, all designs leave a small amount of room for your feet to breathe and move. Even if you prefer a tight-fitting shoe, it would be best to stick with your proper size so that you don’t harm your feet.
Why Birkenstocks Might Run Big Or Small
Birkenstocks fit snugly under your feet with their special soles, even though a true size leaves some space for your foot to move when you walk. You may mistake the bit of extra room for them running too large. Other common reasons that may cause your Birkenstocks to run big are purchasing the incorrect shoe size, the feeling of the width, the straps, and the style of the model you go for.
You’ll need to follow the sizing guide in this article to find the perfect fit for you. Birkenstock makes its shoes in two widths – regular and narrow. You should consider how wide your feet are because they will feel unpleasant with the wrong width fitting.
Birkenstock shoe styles also play a role in shoes running big. If you’re buying sandals, the straps must be secured to shape your foot properly. Birkenstock’s closed styles, like clogs and other non-sandal designs, might also feel like they run small or be too tight for your liking.
Here’s a checklist of the reasons your Birkenstocks could run big or small:
- You’re not used to how they are supposed to fit your feet.
- They are the incorrect size because of the wrong EU to UK/US conversion.
- You chose the wrong width.
- The closed-shoe style fits tighter than sandal styles and must be broken in.
- Feminine designs are narrower in the front.
Birkenstock Widths Explained
Birkenstock makes the effort to cater shoes for all varieties of feet. They measure their shoe widths in M for medium and N for narrow. Medium width is better known as regular and works for most people, both men and women. Birkenstocks’ slim size is for smaller and straight-lined feet. According to many shoe stores, around 80% of women opt for narrow widths for a more petite look.
When buying a pair online, you should be wary of how the store describes the width, as M can be described as medium, regular, or wide, while N could be called regular, narrow, or slim fit. You can also tell whether the size is normal or narrow by the foot symbol on the curve where your heel would sit. If the symbol is shaded in, the shoe is a narrow fit.
Not all Birkenstock styles are made equal, as some are not unisex. Some designs like Gizeh, Mayari, Madrid, and other feminine designs have slimmer front parts that would cause a narrow-width option to be too small. Keep an eye out for the shoe’s design, and research it if you’re purchasing a pair online.
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Choosing Your Birkenstock Width
Most Birkenstock shoes are designed to be unisex, so the fittings are universal. Still, if you’re a woman, you might be better off with a narrow fit, depending on the style, as the slimmer fit is more feminine and petite. Narrow sizes also work well for people with a straight foot shape that doesn’t widen at the front. If the shoe has a feminine design already, the narrow fit will most likely be unnecessary.
Your heels should have a little less than a quarter-inch spacing from the inner edge and should never touch the outer edges of sandals. People with wider feet most definitely need the regular M fit. Almost all men also stick to this width without any issues.
The widths you should choose:
- C and D widths in women should choose regular
- D and E widths in men should also choose regular
- A in women and B in men must choose narrow
How Birkenstocks Are Supposed To Fit
Birkenstocks are designed to hug your foot in all the right places, offering proper support and ultimate luxury. This brand is famous for how its shoes tailor to your feet, which is one of many reasons to wear them, but how are they supposed to fit?
Birkenstocks don’t run big unless they’re the wrong size or fit. However, they have a certain looseness you’ll need to take with a pinch of salt. The heel cup embraces your heel, and the toe support aids your toes during motion. Your foot should rest comfortably in the shoe and have some freedom to wiggle.
For sandals, no part of your foot should touch the outer edges. To test if they fit correctly, you should put them on, loosen any straps, and even out your body weight as you would stand naturally. Your heel should be 0.2 inches from the footbed edge, and your toes need a 0.4-inch space before the front. The toe support should sit evenly under your toes.
Sandal straps should also have some moving room, which is another reason some people think Birkenstocks run big. Front straps need a 0.20-inch gap from touching your foot, and the upper ones should leave 04 inches. If you want to make the straps tighter, feel free, but Birkenstocks are not intended to fit flush to your skin.
Why A Proper Fitting Birkenstock Is Important
A lot of design engineering went into Birkenstock’s shoe recipe, and it would make sense to trust that they know what they’re doing. After all, they have been around since 1774! The sizing is supposed to facilitate your movement. If the shoe is too tight, it might cut off necessary blood flow.
The correct Birk size also means that the arc support does its job properly, provides proper stability, and assists motion as it should. As much as Birkenstock would love to see their product do as planned, they shouldn’t mind a size that’s a little tighter if that’s what makes you happy. The same applies if you want some extra room in their closed-shoe styles.
Tips for up and downsizing:
- Make sure your toes can wiggle.
- Keep in mind that you must take the shoes walking to break them in.
- The toe support needs to rest correctly between your toes.
- You can always tighten and loosen your straps.
- Birks work best if they fit as intended.
Birkenstock Sizing Charts
Birkenstock gives good advice on matching your UK or US size to their EU run-of-the-mill, that you can read about here, along with their official size charts.
Here are the Birkenstocks EU to US size conversion charts:
|Men’s Foot Length In Inches
|Women’s Foot Length In Inches
|9 – 9.5
|10 – 10.5
|11 – 11.5
|12 – 12.5
The best way to find your size and use a conversion chart is to measure your foot at home.
Here’s how to go about this:
- Step onto a piece of paper and mark the point at your longest toe and the back of your heel with a pencil.
- Step off the paper and use a tape measure or a ruler to measure the distance between the two marks.
- Write down your foot length in inches and use the above charts to find your size conversion.
Remember that if you don’t match up and are between two sizes, round up or down to the nearest one. You can also input your measurements ON Birkenstock’s website to get an accurate idea of your Birkenstock EU size.
The Problem With EU Sizing Guide
Birkenstock and other European brands EU sizes because it lowers production costs. It’s cheaper because EU sizes are unisex and don’t differentiate between men and women. EU sizes compared to the US and UK sizes have entirely different measurement scales, which makes comparison tricky.
If you compare women’s sizes 4 through to 13, you have ten sizes, but on the EU scale, you get 12 different sizes. Comparing men’s sizes 3 to 13, you get 13 EU sizes that don’t match up exactly. What happens if you use the add 31 or 33 methods and end up between two EU sizes? You should choose the bigger size to ensure that the Birks don’t sit too tight.
The other dilemma is that not all European shoe brands make their sizes the same, like how a single clothing store’s size large pants won’t fit the same as another one. Your Birkenstock size won’t always be the same as your typical EU size, so you must calculate correctly before purchasing. It would be best to measure your foot to perfect your Birkenstock sizing.
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Breaking In Your Birks
Like all shoes, you will need to break in your Birkenstocks to get used to how they fit and make them pliable and comfortable. Before you wear them the first time, you should bend them a few times by holding the toe and flexing the rest of the shoe up and down a few times. Bending the shoe will improve comfort from the beginning.
You should limit the hours you spend wearing the shoes for the first few times so that you can get used to how they fit and support your feet. It will also help you get used to the straps and buckles. It will take five to six times before your Birks fully break in.
If part of your Birkenstocks causes too much pressure on your feet, you can use a regular hammer to knock onto the spots to soften the cork. The hammer won’t damage the shoes, but keep the hitting pressure to medium strength, as a hard hit is unnecessary. You can knock the pressure points four to five times.
How Different Birkenstock Styles Fit
All Birkenstock shoe styles have the famous foot contour, but there are a few differences between their sandals, clogs, and boots. As different as the fit may feel, you should stick to your single Birkenstock EU size, no matter the style.
Birkenstock Sandal Fit
Birkenstocks sandals are the most popular of them all and are true to size, even if they feel like they run big. The roominess allows you to pair them with socks in the winter. There should always be wiggle room and spacing between the edges of your feet and the footbed edges. The footbed edges do curl slightly over time, and you’ll be thankful for the spacing.
Birkenstock Clog Fit
Birkenstock clogs are true to size, but they do tend to be wider than other styles to keep true to aiding movement. Going for a narrow fit is a common occurrence with clogs, but please be sure to check the measurements of your feet before purchasing online!
Birkenstock Boot Fit
Birkenstock boots are not the brand’s best style; some customers face comfort and sizing issues. It is normal to want to upsize in this style. Their Stow boots are the most comfortable and worthwhile.
Birkenstocks may feel like they run big because of the spacing intended to aid walking movement. You may struggle to find your size because of the EU sizing, which is another reason they might come up too large. You may also require a narrow fit.
It’s best to measure your feet and make a few comparisons before purchasing a pair – especially online.
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).