Comfort is the main calling card for Birkenstocks, and they’re specifically designed for wearing pleasure. That said, first impressions may be disappointing if your new pair feel a little too tight. If you’re reading this article, you’re looking to know whether they will stretch out after some wear.
Birkenstocks do stretch over time. They are crafted from leather, synthetic fabrics, patent leather, canvas, wool felt, or velvet. Each of these materials will stretch a little with wear, as the pressure of your foot is applied. The cork sole can also be softened to make it more flexible and comfortable.
In my experience Birkenstocks tend to stretch out a little after around four weeks of wear. I’m a long term fan of the brand and have owned several pairs.
It’s worth noting that Birkenstocks come in regular and narrow fit, so if you find they feel a little too tight double check you didn’t order the narrow fit by mistake.
Here’s a photo of one of my old pairs, that are nicely stretched:
These have definitely stretched out over time with wear, and don’t feel as tight as they used to (they are several years old now and I don’t wear them often these days, they are pretty beat up and grubby). This isn’t an issue either way, as I can tighten or loosen the straps to suit my preference.
Currently I’m breaking in a new pair of Brikenstocks Arizonas, here’s how they look on me:
I expect as with my other pairs, the straps on these will have softened and stretched out a little at the four week mark and after a few months they’ll be well worn in. I also find the cork footbed stretches very slightly with wear, as I experienced with my older pair (pictured earlier). This helps them feel super comfortable, and formed to my feet.
Check out the current price of my Birkenstocks on their official website birkenstock.com.
Before getting a pair, check out my size guide to help you get your fit right and avoid the hassle of returns: Do Birkenstocks Run Big? Sizing Guide Plus Charts.
Here’s a video of me discussing how Birkenstocks stretch over time, so you can get a good look at how my pairs fit me:
If you need help stretching out your Birkenstocks quicker, read on for some tips. Birks are designed to fit your feet perfectly. It helps to know how to speed up the process so that you can wear your Birkenstocks quickly and easily.
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Your Birkenstocks Will Be Stiff At First, But They’ll Stretch
Just like any other shoe, Birkenstocks will be stiff at first. The upper requires some wearing in, and the cork soles may feel hard and uncomfortable.
The great thing about your Birks is that the uppers will never cut into your feet like shoes often do. That’s because the material Birkenstocks use to make the uppers is soft to the touch and not rigid. The uppers will stretch to your feet’s dimensions, irrespective of the material they’re crafted from. So, you won’t be uncomfortable for long.
You may also like: How To Break In Birkenstocks Fast – 10 Ways (My Experience)
The Birkenstock Range Is Made From Different Fabrics
Although your Birkenstocks will stretch and mold to your feet, they are constructed from various fabrics, each of which has a different stretch potential.
Let’s start by finding out what material the range is crafted from.
- Oiled Leather
- Smooth Leather
- Natural Patent Leather
- Wool felt
Despite the stretch differences between fabrics, there isn’t a substitute for wearing your Birkenstocks for short periods until they start molding to your feet.
Leather Is An Excellent Stretcher
Although leather is one of the toughest materials, leather uppers are the easiest to stretch in the Birkenstock range. There are several effective ways to stretch leather.
- Coat your shoes with leather conditioner, mink oil, or beeswax, and wear them with thick socks. If you don’t have this available, Vaseline is good 2nd best choice. However, it may take longer to get the desired amount of flexibility. Be careful when treating suede shoes, as they may stain. Do a patch test in an inconspicuous place on your shoe to check if they’ll stain.
- In addition to just applying a conditioning treatment, use heat to allow the leather to absorb the treatment quickly. A hairdryer works well, but do not overheat the leather or touch the buckle until it’s cooled down.
- Alternatively, replace your thick socks with newspaper or towels and keep your shoes stuffed. This works best for closed, not open-toed Birkenstocks.
- Use a good old-fashioned leather stretcher to break your shoes in.
- Apply a stretching spray to your shoes.
- Rub a soap bar into the leather insides of your shoe and massage it well until the soapy texture disappears.
Patent Leather Isn’t An Ideal Stretch Material
Although patent leather is glossy and glamorous, it is just leather coated with a plastic film. The plastic film makes patent leather inflexible and consequently difficult to stretch out. Take this into account when buying a Birkenstock with a patent leather upper.
It’s most important to buy patent leather shoes in the correct size. Don’t opt for a fit that’s too narrow; go for immediate comfort. Preferably buy Patent Leather Shoes in person and not online. Always try them on when your feet are hot and tired at the end of the day when they are at their biggest.
It is possible to get a slight stretch in your patent leather Birks but expect them to stretch less than leather. Here are some tips for breaking in your patent leather shoes:
- Use a shoe stretcher to take the edge of the stiffness.
- Walk around in your shoes and in extra-thick socks.
- Try the shoe-freezing trick.
- A short burst of medium heat will give the patent leather a bit of flex. Blast your shoes for 20 seconds at a time to prevent damage to the coating on the leather. Do this while wearing your shoes with thick socks.
Another way to go is to protect your feet and make them shoe friendly by applying moisture to the areas that rub. Use a thick cream, Vaseline, or good foot spray to reduce friction between your feet and the shoe upper.
Birkibuc Feels Like Leather But Doesn’t Stretch Like It
Birkibuc fabric is unique to Birkenstocks and imitates the look and feel of Nubuck leather. Faux leather will stretch quite easily but less than genuine leather.
Your best bet is to use a leather stretching spray. Spray the leather stretcher evenly over your shoes, and then use a stretching tool to stretch them out. If you don’t have a leather stretcher, stuff your shoes with newspaper or rags and allow the spray to do its magic. Freezing and thawing your Birkbuc shoes is a good plan too.
Synthetic Shoes Lend Themselves To A Good Stretch
The Birkenstock range uses synthetic materials to make shoes; these include Birko-Flor, Microfiber, Vegan Leather, and fabric.
Synthetic material can be stretched. Chances are you won’t be able to stretch a synthetic shoe upper by more than half a shoe size, but that is enough to give your foot space to breathe and feel comfortable.
The best techniques to stretch synthetics are:
- Wear thick socks with them.
- Put your shoes on and blow dry them with a hairdryer, ensuring you heat every part of the shoe. Pay attention to areas where your foot feels particularly squashed.
- Try the frost and defrost trick.
EVA Has Superflex Ability
EVA is an Ethylene Vinyl Acetate that feels like a combination of rubber and foam. It’s extremely flexible and won’t need much stretching to feel comfortable. If you need to stretch your EVA Birkenstocks out a little, put sock-clad feet into your EVAs and walk around. If that doesn’t work, stretch them by freezing water inside them.
Wool Felt Doesn’t Need A Stretch
Wool felt is typically used to make slippers. Birkenstock Wool Felt shoes have a shearling lining that protects your feet and makes for soft, comfortable wearing. There’s no need to stretch your Wool felt Birks, but they will stretch a little over time.
Canvas Doesn’t Have The Greatest Stretch
Canvas is tightly and thickly woven cotton with little give. Breaking in your shoes will require some effort, but there are ways to widen canvas Birkis. Your canvas Birkenstocks will require more effort to stretch.
- Place your shoes over a boiling pot, let the steam loosen up the canvas, and make it a bit more pliable. Wear your shoes with socks straight after you’ve steamed them to continue stretching the canvas fibers.
- Microwave your canvas shoes for 30 seconds. Refrain from attempting this with buckled Birkenstocks because metal and microwaves are a bad combination.
- Heat up your shoes with a hair dryer, preferably while you are wearing them with very thick socks. Blast heat on your shoes for 20 – 30 seconds at a time. Don’t hold the hairdryer too close to your shoes to prevent you from burning.
Velvet Has A Luxurious Textile With A Stretch
Velvet shoes don’t just look gorgeous; they feel gorgeous too. Birkenstock velvet shoes feel soft on your feet, and you’ll be surprised at how comfortable they are from the start.
Try the rolled oat method if you need to stretch your velvet Birks. Mix oats with some water and put the mixture into sealable plastic bags. Put the oat bags into your shoes. The oats will swell overnight and give your shoes a gentle stretch.
Cork Soles Provide A Stretchy Challenge
The real challenge lies in the soles. The molded sole takes some time because of its shape and contours. You’ll need to break these in. Don’t be tempted to give up on your shoes because they feel hard and strange at first. Keep at it until your feet feel good and relaxed in your Birks. You won’t regret it.
The good news is that cork is flexible enough to relax; even if it stretches out, it bounces back to its original shape. Hence, there’s no concern about the soles disfiguring.
As a side note, ensure that you buy the correct size. All the stretching in the world won’t alter the size of the cork footbed. Suppose the footbed doesn’t fit correctly, the molding will catch your feet in all the wrong places, and your shoes or sandals will always be uncomfortable.
Make Cork Malleable
Although cork doesn’t stretch per se, it can be softened to take on the shape of your foot. Wearing your shoes is the best way to make the soles comfortable, but if you need some extra help to start, there are ways to speed things up:
- Hammer your soles with a soft rubber mallet. As extreme as this sounds, pounding your Birkenstock’s soles in all the uncomfortable places works wonders to soften up the cork. It would be best if you did this gently so that you don’t damage the sole. Take care not to hammer the uppers. This is an easy solution for sandals, but you must precisely execute this in closed shoes.
- Bend soles into shape. Using your fingers, bend the front of your Birkenstocks up and down to give the cork a good stretch. It’s unlikely that the width of your shoe will change, but the stiffness will soon disappear.
- Twist your Birks gently from side to side to give the cork a good workout. This will loosen things up. You will damage the Birkenstock footbed if you get rough with it.
Will It Take Long To Stretch My Birkenstocks?
It takes about two weeks to get your shoes comfortable and street-ready, provided you wear them for at least 20 minutes daily.
How Do I Know Which Size Shoe To Choose?
The Birkenstock online site has a detailed shoe sizing chart that measures length and width and matches this to sizes.
Do Birkenstocks Stretch Out Of Shape?
No, they don’t. The materials Birkenstocks are made from lend themselves to taking your foot’s shape. If your leather sandals feel loose, tighten the buckle a notch or two.
Is It Safe To Stretch My Birkenstocks By Dunking Them In Water?
Aside from Birkenstocks made from EVA, the range isn’t waterproof. Although wearing your shoes after a quick dunk in water won’t ruin them, it isn’t advisable.
Birkenstocks stretch, but different fabrics for the range have varying stretch potential. Leather shoes stretch well, but patent leather doesn’t. Synthetic fabrics stretch quite easily, but canvas has minimal stretch capacity. There is no need to stretch Wool felt or shoes made from EVA. Cork soles don’t stretch, but they can be softened up to make them more comfortable and less stiff.
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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).