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This is a review I originally wrote for Epinions.
I suffer from overheating feet during the summer and I was looking for a set of flip flop/sandals that I could wear when not working to try and keep my feet cool and reduce the chances of athletes foot.
I tried different rubber type flip flops, but settled on the Birkenstocks.
The main reason I chose them was because of their high quality construction and cork footplate.
I have them now for about 2 years and they are still going strong. The over straps are made of leather and are quite soft. Certainly I have never had any problem with them rubbing or chaffing. There is 5 hole adjustability in the two straps so you can tailor them to suit your feet and be as tight or loose a fit as you want. I have kept them quite loose as I mainly wear them round the house, so they are easy to kick off if I am sitting down. But if you tighten them up then they will certainly do for longer walks.
The cork footplate in them is strange at first because it is quite contoured, with a good instep and a ridge at the base of the toes. They did feel kinda funny the first few times I wore them, but since then I have found them to be my most comfortable flip-flop or sandals ever. The contouring seems to be in all the right places and supports my feet extremely well.
The cork itself, does a great job of keeping my feet cool. There is none of the stickiness that can come with rubber. I am not entirely sure how it does this, whether it absorbs moisture or that it is just quick drying.
The one pitfall the cork has it that it gets quite discoloured very quickly and you end up with the silhouette of your foot on the cork. This doesn't bother me and it might not affect everyone, but if you are sensitive about your footwear looking dirty then bear this in mind. I have tried to wash them, but it doesn't shift the marking.
The base of the sandals is made of a fairly stiff rubber, which while it helps the overall structure and support, it is not the most grippy indoors, especially on tile or wooden flooring. Now it's not link being on ice skates or anything, just wanted to raise it as a minor point.
Overall they are fantastic sandals and will give great service if the cork foot silhouette doesn't bother you.
I struggle to find well fitting, comfortable shoes ever since my hubby stood on my little toe when I was wearing flip flops a couple of years ago. Now the said toe sits at a jaunty angle, quite at odds with the rest of my digits. Judging by the pain I felt at the time and for weeks afterwards I have concluded that he broke it and it's reset itself. He does swear it was an accident to this day but I have my doubts.
Anyway, wearing summery sandals displays my tortured toe in all its glory and I've been struggling to find something that is both comfortable, summery and, most importantly keeps my odd digit in place.
I've heard a lot about Birkenstock sandals but never really investigated further as I thought they were some sort of glorified Scholl sandal which I can remember from days of old. Great heavy lumps of wood which were supposed to exercise the feet while you were wearing them.
However, when I actually got to look at a pair I found to my surprise that they were amazingly light, didn't look too hideous and I was assured by the salesgirl that they were extremely comfortable. I didn't need a great deal of persuasion to be talked into buying a pair of my very own. My ones are from the Papillio range and retail at £36 in the department store (House of Fraser) that I bought them from but there is a vast range of styles and prices starting at about the £29 mark.
I've since found that there are several websites devoted to Birkenstock shoes, chief one being www.birkenstock.co.uk which sells nothing but and also there's good old Ebay to fall back on if you don't fancy shelling out the recommended retail price. Though beware, there are loads of imitiation ones which although they look exactly the same don't share the unique construction that Birkenstock are famed for.
Birkenstocks are proud of their understanding of the contours of our feet and constructing their shoes and sandals in a way in which the feet will have free movement, constant exercise and improved circulation. Don't let this put you off, for they now sound similar to Dr Scholls but they couldn't be further away from them in terms of weight. The birkies are featherlite so the exercise doesn't come from trying to drag lumps of wood stuck to your feet.
The upper of the sole does look very strange and very lumpy bumpy but this is to provide a healthy walking surface. The contours are designed to provide support and encourage circulation. The moulded heelcups are to stabilize the heels and act as shock absorbers. A bump towards the top of the footbed is called a toe bar and this is designed to encourage a gripping motion which will also exercise legs and feet.
The actual walking surface is made of suede and is supposedly specially tanned for softness, absorbancy and comfort. Underneath this is a layer of jute fibres which are designed to absorb moisture. I bet they have to work overtime in my case. Next comes a cork and latex footbed which is to insulate your feet and moulds itself to the foot over time, making the sandals a superb fit and extremely comfortable. Below this is another layer of jute. Suppose this is to catch all the nasty moisture that the first layer missed. The final ingredient of a birkie is the sole. This is very flexible and made of EVA (no, I don't know what that stands for and I've failed to find out). Used because it is very durable and hard wearing which good shock absorption.
All the glues used in birkies are water-soluble and solvent free. So no need to try to get high sniffing them then.
I usually take a size five and a half but was advised to go down a size rather than up (no half sizes made) so I settled for a size 5 which fits comfortably. The whole of your foot must be within the footbed for a good fit and if your heel or toes are hanging over the edge you need a size bigger. Mine just sit nicely where they are supposed to.
I've been wearing these sandals for a while now and though I was warned they might not feel totally comfortable until they had moulded to the contours of my feet, I have had no problems with them at all. So light that you forget that you're wearing shoes and if they weren't so pricey I might have another pair to specially designate as slippers. As it is, I wear these inside and out. They've coped quite well with being in the greenhouse and getting covered in soil, walking on the sodden lawn and getting drenched. No signs of ill treatment have shown.
When they get too dirty the cleaning method advised is to sponge with a little washing up liquid.
They do seem virtually indestructible and I can see getting a good few years' wear out of them and if I do eventually decide that they are just too hideous to be seen wearing out in public, they will do nicely as slippers. So although the intial outlay is a bit steep I'm sure they're going to be cost effective in the long run.
I can't say that I feel my feet/legs are being exercised as I wear them, but I'm a sucker for marketing ploys, so I'd like to think that they are and all in all, I'm pleased with my purchase.