Things: Birkenstock sandals

Encountering the custom shoe makers in Hoi An on a recent trip, I decided to have my trusty Birkenstock sandals repaired and resoled.

Again.

I’ve had this pair of Birkenstock leather sandals for a long time — at least 10 years — but probably longer. During that time I’ve had them resoled four times, which is one of the reasons I’ve had them so long. Another, is they’re made of top-quality materials, and made in Germany. Still, after 237 years!

Birkenstock are renowned for making top-quality, feet-friendly sandals and shoes. My mum always said it pays to spend on good shoes because your feet need to carry you all your life. And It’s probably true. Birkenstocks are not a bargain basement shoe. One thing’s for sure though, when you divide the cost of a pair of Birkenstock sandals by the 10 years they’ll last you, they’re a financial — and health — bargain.

Another thing I consider a feature is the subdued branding on the shoe itself. It has a small, non-painted de-bossing (impression) of the Birkenstock logo on the bottom corner of the leather strap, where the leather meets the cork midsole. And it’s on the inside side of your foot! It also has a tiny ‘Birkenstock’ on each buckle but it’s so small I never see it, so I forget it;s there. I dislike logos on clothing and shoes generally, so this approach to humble branding appeals to me very much.

Despite the lifespan of these sandals, I’ll be replacing them this year. After the resoling in Vietnam with an inferior, generic sole instead of an official Birkestock one, they are outright dangerous to wear in the wet KL streets. They slip and slide as if walking on soapy sheet metal. Balls.

I know what you’re thinking: Why don’t you just resole them with the proper soles? It’s something I could definitely do, especially since the repair and resoling cost me US$5, but there are a couple other parts that are well worn:

  • The leather under one of the toes has finally worn through to the cork beneath
  • The leather at both heels has expanded after too many soakings and has begun to warp a little. Luckily, this hasn’t impacted the comfort level, or else I’d’ve replaced them a while ago (and they might not make it onto my Things list)
  • The leather straps have stretched over time and by getting wet. I’ve already created new holes to counter this previously

The combination of these things, and the need for an immediate resoling, means I’ll be purchasing a new pair. They still have the same style, colour, and leather in stock as they did when I received my pair all those years ago (style: Arizona, colour: habana, material: waxy leather; [see about half-way down this page]) which I see as a testament to great design and great production. I’ll literally be slipping into a new pair of the old shoes. I have faith they’ll last me another 10 years.