Even though Birkenstocks are already some of the most comfortable shoes on the market, the first few weeks of wear can require patience. The orthopedic cork footbeds of these shoes are designed to gently mold to your feet as time passes, providing optimal heel, toe and arch support as they begin conforming better to each foot’s unique shape. This makes them uber-comfortable in the long run. However, it can take a little time for your new Birkenstocks to mold to your foot shape. To stay comfortable from the outset, it’s important to break them in.
First and foremost, make sure you've got the correct size. Incorrect sizing will throw off your Birkenstocks’ footbed-shaping formula and make your shoes uncomfortable. When you go to purchase a pair of Birks, you may notice they’re not listed with U.S. sizing conventions. Birkenstock recommends adding 31 to your shoe size if you wear what are typically considered women’s shoes and 33 to your shoe size if you wear what are typically considered men’s sizes. This gives you the European size number, which Birkenstocks are often listed with when you need to make a selection.
Once you have the right size, you can bend and bow the shoes a little to loosen up the cork footbeds and make them more flexible. Start by wearing them for a half hour. After one day, upgrade to an hour of wear. Continue to add a half hour or so each day that you wear the shoes until your Birkenstocks feel just right. This can take a couple of weeks, so consistency is key. If you have sensitive feet and you're concerned about getting blisters as your Birkenstocks shape, feel free to wear them with socks to limit irritation or rubbing.
If you take good care of them, Birkenstocks can last for years. With that said, you want to make sure you don't overexpose them to the elements. Birkenstocks have natural cork soles so they can shape to your feet, and cork is a renewable material — it’s actually a type of tissue that comes from a certain oak tree. That means it’s comfortable, but it’s also an organic material that can begin to break down after long-term moisture exposure or overexposure to sunlight. Multiple trips through the rain can cause the cork in the footbeds to become misshapen, even after it’s conformed to your feet. If you want to keep your Birks in good shape, make sure you avoid frequent wet treks and that you keep them out of direct sunlight to prevent dry rot.