6.17.2014

repaired Birkenstocks

Birkenstock Hunter Brown leather Gizeh sandals, footbed replaced

Here I go again about shoes, but I really do have trouble finding walkable, sexy footwear that doesn't punish my feet. And the Birkenstock Gizeh sandal works for that, as far as the word "sexy" can be used in the same sentence as "Birkenstock." Gizehs, like most Birkenstock styles, look like something Roman gladiators might have worn, but we all know from movies that gladiators were hot (if male). Regardless, at least my Gizehs, purchased through Zappos four years ago, don't give me blisters. They've been my default sandal ever since. They've even gone camping in the mountains and survived long walks in the rain. I also own a pair of comfortable, classic tan Greek-made leather toe-ring sandals purchased like-new last summer from Goodwill for $5 that are walkable and don't give blisters (which I'm prone to) but offer less arch support. But other than a pair of clunky Keens for outdoor sports, that's it for my entire sandal collection, which means I've been wearing these Gizehs out.


cracked Birkenstock Gizeh sandals

So this spring, when I hauled my Birkentstocks out of the closet and wore them a few times on warm days, I found that the cork-jute-suede-and-latex footbed had started to crack in one place at the inner side of both shoes, while the crack in my right shoe was actually rubbing into my skin, creating a red sore, which is why I noticed the cork cracks in the first place. So I figured I'd have to fork over another $120 for a new pair. Consider that $120 divided by 4 is only $30 a year. (By the way, I know people who'd never spend that much on a pair of shoes, but cheap shoes fall apart quickly and aren't worth repair costs, meaning they'll cost more in the long run, replacement after replacement.)


worn Birkenstock Gizeh sandals needing repair

But Birkenstock is no longer making the dark Hunter Brown leather version from four years ago and has also been experimenting with bright rubber soles. (Ugh.) There's an oiled leather version available, but oiled leather reminds me of motorcycle boots, and who wants to think about boots in the heat of summer? Plus, there's no dark brown anymore, only a range of medium browns. I prefer the dark brown because it can almost pass as black, which makes it more versatile. Birko-Flor synthetic fabric versions come in a wider range of colors for $90, but I didn't want a half-vegan sandal, though the black patent, silver metallic, and red shades are cute.

What to do? Then I remembered reading that Birkenstock footbeds can be repaired or even replaced. A little googling uncovered a local repair source also serving the wider online market: Footwise, a family-owned Oregon shoe store specializing in Birkenstocks with locations in Corvallis, Eugene, Hood River, and Portland. Footwise and their online Birkenstock-only store, Birkenstock Express, offer a range of Birkenstock repair options at different price points. Mine needed a total footbed replacement, though the leather uppers were fine. So one weekend I walked into the Footwise shop on NE Broadway, dropped off my sandals, paid $75, and picked up a half-new pair of Gizehs two weekends later.


Birkenstock Gizeh sandals, repaired

This is what made in Germany looks like, folks, and I couldn't be happier with my decision. More of us should be choosing repair over replacement whenever possible for environmental reasons and to support local businesses—but first by purchasing items even capable of repair. This might mean paying more upfront for a green product made by an ecologically friendly European company than for a cheap Asian-made knockoff, but that choice will prove worth it in the long run. Earth's resources are finite while population is expanding exponentially. Remember the long run.

For those who've never owned a pair of Birkenstocks before, do buy the narrow version unless you have extra-wide feet (I've since revised my opinion on this and support the regular size for most people) and also go with the original footbed rather than the soft footbed unless you have ultra-high or flat arches. Reading scores of reviews on Zappos revealed those tips, which I'm passing along.

And if you're still on the fence about buying "hippie shoes," Birkenstock sandals appear to be making a fashion comeback—or so say fashion editors every summer—particularly the classic, fugly Arizona design, but I'm not interested in trends revisited from the grunge era. I'll keep wearing my resoled Gizehs—gladiator shoes made for walking. Now, time for some red nail polish!



Update 11/2016: The brown leather Gizehs looked and felt just like new after the repair, but after about a year, the glue came unstuck from one side where the leather attaches to the side of the cork footbed. Grrr. It doesn't affect functionality and isn't even that noticeable but annoys me. I would just take them back to that same local shop, complain nicely, and have that part re-glued (a much cheaper repair than a resole) except that I've since realized I shouldn't be wearing the narrow size at all because my feet have widened since I was younger. So next summer, I'll probably go talk to Footwise about whether it's possible to have those narrow uppers attached to a regular/wide footbed, rather than the narrow one. If so, I'll pay for a new footbed again, though I'm hoping they'll knock the price down because of the glue problem. (I did also buy a pair of black leather Gizehs in the regular/wide footbed, and they fit better, but I wear more brown in the summer, so I'd like to keep the brown ones operational.)


4 comments:

  1. Anonymous18/6/14 23:30

    I buy Birkenstocks at Sierra Trading Post. They currently have ~100 different women's styles there - closeouts, so they won't have all sizes/colors. The trick to getting the best price is to sign up for their email list and they send you codes for an additional 30% off, free shipping etc. (But then unsubscribe, since they do send out too many of those coupon code emails ... every few days.) I probably sound like a commercial for them, but just have gotten great deals on expensive shoes there - last Birkenstock clogs were $41. Though buying them there doesn't address reusing vs. replacing and supporting local businesses, which are both excellent as well. I enjoy your blog - thank you.

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  2. I don't do much online shopping and so didn't know about Sierra Trading Post as a closeout source—thanks for sharing! In my size they have only two Birkenstock choices right now, so I guess it's a matter of checking back frequently, especially end of season? I get frustrated with e-mail promotions, even from nonprofits, and usually end up unsubscribing pretty fast, but thanks for that tip, too. Seems like a good way to get a great deal on quality items if you put in the time and have patience. :)

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  3. Anonymous19/6/14 13:04

    I think their size categories aren't perfect. Your shoe pictures show a European size and when I use that to search I get few results, but when I use the equivalent US size, a bunch more show up. Anyways, I don't want to divert you into online shopping, since the thing I appreciate about your blog is the focus on simplicity and minimalism. Best wishes for a great week.

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  4. You're right—more did appear on the site that way in my size. Don't worry, I won't suddenly go crazy with discount shopping, but it's good to know a range of options for purchases when needing to replace things. Thanks for chiming in! I'm off to go play board games with a friend outside on his front porch in the evening sun. How's that for simple?

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