Conscious Footwear: Birkenstock

Birkenstock's comfort is mythical but not at all fictional. They've been around since the 18th century and now they've been spotted on the feet of cool kids. But what exactly are Birkenstocks?

'Cork. Leather. A buckle or two. A simple idea that has made feet happy for over 200 years.' - Birkenstock USA

The Birkenstock story began in 1774 when Johann Birkenstock registered as a shoemaker in Germany. A few generations down the line, Konrad Birkenstock, master shoemaker with two shoe specialty stores in Frankfurt began making fussbett (or footbed) insoles in 1896. Birkenstock's heritage stemmed from the development of their contoured footbed shoes for orthopedic health with each generation improving on the design. Konrad travelled throughout Germany holding seminars and lectures for other shoemakers and guilds to explain his ideas on custom footwear that supported orthopedic health. In 1964 Birkenstock began making sandals. Birkenstocks made it to the United States in 1966 when California resident Margot Fraser took a trip to her homeland and encountered the uniquely comfortable sandals. She established Birkenstock USA and began importing the sandals from Germany to her home in Northern California to sell at local health food stores. The brand grew a steady following. You might be wondering, what makes this shoe so marvelous? Here's the breakdown:

Show us what you're made of, Birkenstock.

The Birkenstock footbed is made of different parts that work together to create the devastatingly comfortable sandal you never knew you needed. Let's start with the raised toe bar - it encourages the natural gripping motion of your feet that helps tone leg muscles. Next, the contoured footbed with four raised arches ensures even weight distribution and healthy posture. The deep heel cup cradles the heel with natural cushioning directly under the heel bone. And finally, the firm resillience of the cork/latex base makes the entire thing a shoe dream come true. 

Comfort is rarely equated with fashion, but there are exceptions to every rule. Birkenstock sandals are designed with the solid intention of comfortable, healthy feet. The sandal has its place in counterculture from 60s hippies to 90s grunge. With its recent revival on the runway, several top designers have created their own avante-garde versions of the recognizable Birkenstock silhouette with fur, flowers and rhinestones. However, Birkenstocks have beckoned to the world of fashion before. In 1990 photographer Corinne Day photographed a teenaged Kate Moss in her pre-supermodel days wearing Birkenstocks for British music magazine The Face. The bleak photos countered the obvious over-glossed glamour of the 80s and the fashion mold was broken with Birkenstocks. 

1990: Kate Moss is photographed wearing Birkenstocks for British magazine The Face.


Dismiss your preconceptions of this shoe, pop on a pair and take part in the Birkenstock fashion renaissance. Comfortable, wearable trends are a luxury to be enjoyed. Now, how to wear them and still look hot? Get inspired with our How to Wear: Birkenstock Sandals post. To happy feet!