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I am a big fan of Birkenstocks' sandals - I find that I can walk long distances without feeling discomfort in them because the footbed offers the protection I need, and the foot straps are made out of soft uppers (either suede, nubuk or leather) that won't cut your feet as you wear these sandals for extended periods of time. I bought my pair of Papillio flip flops from Amazon.co.uk at 25+ pounds during a sale - which I think is such value-for-money considering that many high-street shoe shops are selling painful, unsupported and uncomfortable sandals for the same price.
BIRKENSTOCK & PAPILLIO
Birkenstock is a German brand that prides itself on making good shoes using only high quality materials. They are known for their contoured cork and rubber footbeds, and if you actually own a pair, you will understand why. Their website (http://www.birkenstock.co.uk/index.php?m=construction&a=anatomy) describes very well the technology that goes into the footbed, and insofar, although I am no footbed expert, I must say that the technologies really do help to make walking a lot more comfortable. The Papillio range pretty much refers to a range of sandals, of which the footbed is made by Birkenstock, but the design of the straps are made by the Papillio creative team based on the season's trends. I first started to notice the Papillio range because of their very lovely floral prints, although increasingly I also see animal prints or other geometric designs.
Papillio by Birkenstocks come in various forms -- the one in the photo presented at Dooyoo currently is the Madrid, but they also come in the Gizeh Briko Thong, or the Frankfurt, or the Arizona, Florida, etc. etc. etc. The one I got was the Madrid, because I've owned a couple of Floridas before and wanted a change in style. I find that the Madrid Papillio is slightly more comfortable than the Madrid Birkenstock though because it feels like the strap is thicker and provides more support when I walk.
BUYING A PAPILLIO
I find that the Papillios in UK come tend to come in EU sizes, and they tend to be a little on the large side so I would recommend that you either pop into store to try out, or order a couple of sizes online (and then return, if not suitable). There are two widths available usually for most designs - either the regular, which is denoted by a empty foot, or the narrow, which is denoted by a filled foot. My feet are slightly on the wide side, but I can fit into the narrow width comfortably - and I've also read various reviews while buying my own pair that the regular width really does tend to be quite wide, so unless you've got extremely wide feet I would recommend that you try the narrow width first.
WEARING YOUR PAPILLIO
These shoes are quite hard when you first start to wear them because of the corkbed - but worry not because the shoes will soften and become more comfortable as you wear. It is important that you adjust the straps to a desirable tightness (your feet shouldn't run loose), but not too tight to leave your foot feeling suffocated. Sometimes I find that I kind of need a 'middle' fit between the two levels of fightness, and I would prefer to go for the tighter one (for Madrid styles) because having it too loose changes the way I walk (the Madrid style kind of flips since there is no additional strapping across your foot) and hurts my foot. However, in the case of the Floridas, it's okay to have them a bit loose because there's quite a fair bit of strapping already and you wouldn't want something tight snuffing at your feet.
However, once worn in, these sandals are really the most comfortable things ever. I wear them almost everywhere - to high street, to the mall, to the markets.. unless when it's raining! That is another problem on its own, and I will tell you more about them...
CARE OF YOUR PAPILLIO
These shoes are especially sensitive to water and heat, unfortunately. I have spoilt several pairs before just because I didn't know how to care for them - and I'm hoping you won't do the same too! As recommended on their website, do not expose these shoes to extreme heat. They tend to dry out and things start to morph a bit, or even tear apart from the soles. This is especially worse if you get them wet (either sweaty, or AT THE BEACH - the beach is very unfavourable for Birks, please please save yourself the horror and wear beach sandals instead of these very comfortable shoes as much as you would love to!) and then try to dry them by exposure to direct sun. DO NOT DO WHAT I JUST DESCRIBED - it is very bad for your sandals. Instead, let them dry slowly and do not wear them until they are dried, or else the footbed will start to get persistently wet, and mouldy, and smelly, and you will have no choice but to condemn your pair of shoes. You have been warned!
If you are bringing these shoes into a dry climate and not intending to wear them for a while (ie during winter), do apply cork sealant as well. You can buy these cork sealant from any Birkenstocks store and I believe online as well.. and it is a worthy investment. The cork can dry out quite easily and then crack and warrant your shoe unwearable (it has happened to me).
You can also repair or replace your worn soles, if you're like me and you wear your sandals almost religiously. I tend to wear them out unevenly so what I do is to bring them into store and the very kind staff has helped me with them. I'm not sure if this is available in all stores however so you will need to check.
Please do not wash your cork sandals as I have warned. If you need to clean the sole (say you walked in the mud or in the sand), you can use a hose and squirt some water onto sole alone, be careful not to get the water onto the cork. You can also apply a protector to the uppers to have them look fresh over a long period of time.
Before I knew about caring for my sandals, they usually last for about a year, which is pretty reasonable considering how much I wear them. But with care I think these can last for quite a few years- which really make these shoes quite a worthy investment.
These are very comfortable shoes, that require quite a bit of care but can last you a long time. However, not unexpectedly, these may not be the most fashionable footwear since they don't come in heels, and they are generally more bulky than other ladies' sandals. But given that the Papillio styles are always being updated and they actually look quite attractive, as well as their undeniable comfort, I will definitely recommend these for anyone who is looking for a pair of durable, comfortable sandals for casual walking.