Birkenstock - The Ugly Sandals -  Pioneer of Orthopedic Shoes

Birkenstock - The Ugly Sandals - Pioneer of Orthopedic Shoes

When we talk about orthopedic shoes, we cannot bypass the famous Birkenstock. Even if you don’t know what is Birkenstock, you must have seen the sandals and shoes below.

Many of you will probably say, ‘ah, those ugly sandals!’ Yes, as one of the pioneers of the ‘ugly cool shoes’, Birkenstock became such a popular fashion item now, as if orthopedic footwear-as-fashion-statement were a novel concept. Probably not many people know that the company, the Birkenstock footwear, has been around since 1774.

The Birkenstock is a German shoe manufactory. The company sells Birkenstocks sandals and other shoes notable for their contoured cork and rubber footbeds (soles), which conform somewhat to the shape of their wearers' feet.

Birkenstock business started as an insole maker for other shoe companies. The company invented the contoured footbed, his master shoemaker Konrad Birkenstock introducing the concept in the 1930s for anatomically shaped insoles with incredible support. Over 15 years Konrad Birkenstock gives seminars and lectures to the other masters and guilds to explain his ideas for a (graphic) custom shoe and to get license contracts for the production of his footbed shoes.

1896 - Master cobbler Konrad Birkenstock begins manufacturing and selling flexible footbed insoles.

During the first World War, Konrad Birkenstock Sen. is hired by the hospital Frankfurt-Friedrichsheim's rehabilitation ward to manufacture custom orthopedic footwear for wounded soldiers. He also started the famous Birkenstock classes. More than 5,000 specialists are trained during the weeklong seminars in the following years. Leading doctors support and recommend the BIRKENSTOCK® system. (Referenced from

1947 The book Podiatric System BIRKENSTOCK® is published. With 112 pages, 55 pictures, 14,000 copies, it becomes the most widely read and published textbook on podiatry in its time. (Referenced from

1966, Margot Frasers introduces Birkenstocks to the American market and Birkenstock becomes a global brand. In the 1960s and 70s, you couldn't call yourself a proper hippie without owning a pair of Birkenstock shoes.

The company has expanded rapidly, Birkenstock family have since launched several shoe lines/brands TATAMI, Papillio, Footprints, Birki and Betula.

Many reviews said they found Birkenstock sandals are so comfortable, that they can wear them right out of the box with no discomfort whatsoever. However, you may need to spend some time to get used to their arch support system, they recommend flexing the footbed a few times before trying them on, and limiting your wear time to a few hours in the beginning.

The footbed of Birkenstock is made of jute, latex, and cork. The curved footbeds provide arch support and stability. Their thick soles and wide footbeds will cushion your feet. Their famous cork soles are made from cork oak trees, without any trees being cut or destroyed in the process. The material they use is all eco-friendly even before we had the concept of ‘green material’.

Many other brands and shoes got inspired by Birkenstock and produce various copies with the same concept. Recall we talked about NAOT last week, the brand aimed at Israeli version of ‘Birkenstock’.




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