It’s widely known that Birkenstocks are some of the most comfortable shoes you can own. But, what is commonly overlooked is the ‘break in requirements’ of these iconic sandals.
The secret to breaking in Birkenstocks is to do it slowly. Allow your feet time to adjust to the contours of the cork footbed, and for the EVA sole to flex and mold under your feet. Initially, only wear them for an hour or two until they are comfortable enough to wear for extended periods.
In my experience I find it takes around 4 weeks of semi-regular wear to break in a pair of Birkenstocks. Here’s a photo of me in my newest pair of Birkenstock Arizonas, that I’m currently breaking in:
The leather straps need time to soften up. If you can’t wait this long don’t fear! There are many ways that you can speed up this process, 10 of which I have included in this article.
Here are 3 of the ways in video form, if you want a fast answer:
Much like breaking in a horse, you need patience, tenacity, and the willingness to endure a bit of potential pain to become the owner of comfortable Birkenstocks. Let’s get in to how to can break them in quicker…
How To Break In Birkenstocks
You break in Birkenstocks over time. Wearing your brand-new pair of Birkenstocks on a long day trip, thinking you will do the breaking in one go, will cost you dearly. Your feet will not be impressed, and you will be punished with sore, tired feet and potentially blisters (I speak from experience here!).
Those with low bridges or often called “flat feet” will need more time breaking in their shoes since flat feet need more time to adjust to the contours of the footbed and the style of walking Birkenstocks provide, so please keep this in mind.
Following my advice in this article you will be so glad you took the time to break in your Birkenstocks properly. Birkenstocks molded to your foot are the most comfortable shoes around and allow hours of walking pleasure.
Following are ten ways to break in your new Birkenstocks:
1. Take Daily Walks.
If you wish to break in your Birkenstocks in the shortest possible time, you must wear them daily for short periods. Only wear them for an hour or two each day to allow your feet to adapt to the contours of the sandals while allowing time for the footbed to mold to your feet.
Slowly increase the wearing time to the point that you can wear them for extended periods without hurting or discomfort. I like to wear new Birkenstocks around for house for a little while, to break them in a bit before trips out.
As mentioned, if you have low foot arches, you will need more time breaking in your Birkenstocks than people with normal foot arches. Hang in there, the discomfort will disappear, and you will be able to walk long distances in no time.
You may also like: Can Birkenstocks Get Wet? Water Test (PHOTOS)
2. Adjust The Straps
People often forget to adjust the straps, adding additional time to the break-in of the shoes. Instead, adjust the straps as your feet get used to the Birkenstocks. Loosening and tightening the straps will allow for better fitting and helps the straps to become softer, which in turn allows for better fitting.
3. Bend The Birkenstocks
Gently bending the Birkenstocks will aid in softening the footbed. Bend it to one side and then again to the other. Remember to loosen all buckles and straps before bending to reduce the risk of damage. Loosening the straps and buckles allows for proper flexing.
Slightly flex the footbed in both directions regularly until the shoes are worn in. Be careful to not be too aggressive and snap the footbed.
Also bend and mold the leather straps between your fingers to help soften them quicker.
Massage the leather for 5 to 10 minutes at a time to help it soften.
4. Stuff The Birkenstock Straps
If you find the leather straps are not softening quick enough for your liking you can stretch them out a little to break them in.
Simply take a couple of pairs of balled up socks and stuff them underneath the straps. Tighten the straps until the leather feels taught.
Leave them like this when not in your and the socks will do all the work, instead of your poor feet!
You may also like: Are Birkenstocks Comfortable? My Experience (Plus Photos)
5. Wet The Birkenstocks
The verdict is still out on wetting your Birkenstocks to help with the break-in. If you decide to use this method, slightly wet the Birkenstocks with water, put on thick socks, and wear the shoes for a few hours.
The water will not damage the shoes if they are dried quickly and the cork footbed is avoided (focus on the leather straps), and will allow for a slightly faster break-in. Remove the socks once you feel you are reaching your goal, and use the shoes barefoot if you prefer.
6. Heat Up The Birkenstocks
Use a hairdryer and gently heat up the shoes. Put on thick socks and wear them with your Birkenstocks to stretch and mold to your feet. Walk in your sandals while they are warm, and pay careful attention to the straps and avoid heating the cork footbed.
Repeat this process several times to hasten the break-in. It’s best to hold the hairdryer 15cm or so away from the leather, and warm up the straps on a low heat for no more than 10 seconds at a time, for best results.
7. Use Rubbing Alcohol To Soften Birkenstocks
Mindfully using rubbing alcohol to soften problematic areas in Birkenstocks are totally acceptable. Too much alcohol may damage the leather and change the color of your shoes if used in excess.
Spray rubbing alcohol on the problem areas and, once again, put on thick socks to aid the softening and molding process. Wear the Birkenstocks and socks for an hour or two. You should start to notice a difference within five to ten days after repeating the process daily.
8. Choose Birkenstocks With A Softer Footbed
Birkenstock do offer shoes with softer footbeds as part of their range. If you are weary of breaking in Birkenstocks properly or wish to avoid spending an extended time braking in your shoes, consider Birkenstocks with softer footbeds.
Of course, you would still need to break them in a little, but overall the process with be much easier and quicker.
9. Buy The Correct Size
Buying the correct size shoe will go a long way in shortening the break-in process. Use Birkenstock size charts as guidance as to what size and width you need according to your feet’s features. Buying too large or too small may hinder your chances of successfully breaking in your Birkenstocks.
For help with Birkenstock sizing, check out my guide here: Do Birkenstocks Run Big? Sizing Guide Plus Charts.
10. Use Moleskin Padding
To ease the discomfort of sore feet when breaking in your Birks, use moleskin padding or similar products to protect the “hotspots” on your feet i.e. your toes under the leather straps.
The moleskin padding will prevent blisters and soothe blister points on your feet, so you can keep wearing your Birkenstocks when breaking them in. Apply the adhesives to the tender areas on your feet and see how easily they eliminate discomfort.
Do You Need To Break In Birkenstocks?
It helps to break in Birkenstocks to enjoy their comfort. Birkenstocks are orthopedic-inspired shoes, and people with normal to slightly flat feet enjoy their comfort.
Birkenstocks were designed to incorporate the natural walking gait while wearing shoes. In other words, these shoes will enhance natural walking, which is more beneficial to your health once worn in.
Take time to break in your Birkenstocks, and you will enjoy them for many years – I can’t live without mine!
How To Break In Different Styles Of Birkenstocks
All styles of Birkenstocks are broken in the same way by wearing them for short periods. You can extend the wearing time the more comfortable they become. Most importantly, break them in slowly and gradually increase the wear time.
What To Do If The Birkenstocks Footbed Hurts
Unfortunately, Birkenstock footbeds are stiff and need time to mold around your foot. Wearing thick socks when breaking in your shoes will aid in relieving tenderness.
The more you wear the shoes, the quicker your feet will adjust to the contours of the footbed. In addition, the cork and latex blend footbed will become more pliable with wear.
What To Do If The Birkenstocks Toe Post Hurts
If the toe post hurts your foot, it may be that the strap is not adjusted correctly, and your foot slides around in the shoe.
First, establish if the strap is correctly adjusted. If the problem persists, consider wetting the shoes in water for thirty minutes and then wear them, allowing the toe post to soften and mold to the shape of your toes. The toe post is part of the sandal between your big and second toe.
What To Do If The Birkenstocks Strap Hurts Your Foot
There are two reasons for the straps to hurt your feet. First, the straps may be too tight, and you need to loosen them. Secondly, the straps are rigid, and you need to soften them. The following are two ways to remedy the problem.
1. How To Loosen Birkenstock Straps
You may need to loosen the straps if they continue to hurt you. Unbuckle the straps and put the Birkenstock on the floor. Put your foot on the footbed, placing your heel in the cup. Position and close the straps comfortably over the top of your foot.
Leave enough wiggle room for your feet while still fitting snugly. Our left foot differs from the right foot, so adjust each shoe to fit the specific foot.
2. How To Soften Birkenstock Leather Straps
You can use the common household cupboard staple coconut oil to soften Birkenstock leather straps without damaging them, if you don’t have a leather conditioner.
- Coconut oil
- Round cotton swabs
- Paper towels
Do the following to soften the leather straps.
- Loosen the leather straps, fold them to the side, and start rolling the leather strap toward the inside of the shoe. This motion will help soften the leather strap.
- The sides of the leather strap may contain rough edges. Use sandpaper to lightly sand down the rough edges. It should take little to no time to sand down the hard spots.
- Apply coconut oil to the inside of the straps using the cotton pads. Half a teaspoon of coconut oil should be enough to further soften the straps.
- Use a paper towel to remove excess oil. Coconut oil will easily penetrate the leather straps. Repeat the process to soften all the straps.
How Long Do I Need To Break In Birkenstocks?
Breaking in Birkenstocks is a timeous process lasting between three to four weeks in my experience. If you put in the necessary commitment and hard work, you will be rewarded with the most comfortable shoes you could ever imagine.
Ways To Speed Up Birkenstock Break-In
There is no surefire way to speed up the break-in period of Birkenstocks, only suggestions. Commitment, time, and grit will see you through. Start slowly. Wear your shoes for thirty to forty-five minutes each day for the first three days to allow your feet and body to gradually adjust to the straps, support, and buckles. The footbed needs time to gradually soften and mold to the contours of your feet.
Do Birkenstocks Get More Comfortable Over Time?
New Birkenstocks are hard and uncomfortable at first. However, breaking them in allows the shoes to mold to your feet and become more flexible. Your body also adjusts to the comfort the shoes provide, and the shoes adapt to your walking style.
With the proper break-in and use, Birkenstocks get comfortable to the point that you may forget that you are wearing shoes.
Why Are New Birkenstocks So Uncomfortable
Birkenstock footbeds are produced from jute, suede, natural latex, and natural cork derived from sustainable sources. Due to the gentle production used to fuse these materials together, they retain their natural qualities. In essence, this means that given time and use, the footbed will conform to the contours of your feet.
Each pair of Birkenstocks, therefore, will “customize” itself around your foot, making them extremely comfortable even if they reach you all “stock standard.”
Are Birkenstocks Worth The Effort Of Breaking Them In?
Yes, they are! Birkenstocks were created to mimic your feet walking on sand. These handmade shoes were engineered to support the human foot by supporting all three arches on the bottom of the foot. The natural products used to create the footbed act upon your body’s heat and weight, molding the shoe to fit the shape of your foot perfectly.
Birkenstocks are good for your feet, and are great quality shoes. They are worth all the money, time, and effort in my personal opinion!
How To Curb Hurting Feet From Breaking In Birkenstocks
Birkenstocks are not flexible. They are hard. They may hurt your feet, you may get blisters, and struggle with other issues until they are broken in.
You may suffer from sore legs, calves, aching feet, and hotspots where straps or toe posts rub your feet, but with perseverance, these challenges, too, shall pass.
Following are ways to curb sore feet when you break in your new Birkenstocks.
- Take off the shoes when you experience any pain or the slight tingling of a potential blister.
- Apply fabric tape, band-aid, or moles skin to hotspots to prevent blisters.
- Wear the shoes for shorter periods. Overdoing it will only ruin the experience.
- Wearing socks prevents hot spots and helps to stretch the shoes.
- If needed, add extra holes to straps to accommodate your foot size.
- Fasten or loosen the straps to eliminate hotspots. The straps should fit snuggly yet comfortably over the top of the foot.
- If you experience hot spots on the top of your foot, use sandpaper to sand down the problematic areas on the straps.
- Use a household hammer to slightly hammer down challenging areas on the footbed and toe post. However, do not hammer too hard, as it may damage the shoe’s integrity.
Do Podiatrists Support Birkenstocks?
Podiatrist, Dr. Asim Sayed, admits to wearing Birkenstocks. However, he confidently prescribes them for patients with flat feet or arch pain since the shoes provide longitudinal arch support. Dr. Sayed believes that these shoes can benefit anyone unless you have a severe ailment requiring specialist treatment.
To add the cherry on top, Birkenstocks provide excellent shock absorption and reduce moisture, making them even more worthwhile.
Birkenstocks are comfortable once you put your mind to breaking them in. So how do you break in Birkenstocks? One step at a time, my friend, one step at a time.
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).