Closet 101 Style

Wardrobe Staple: Birkenstocks

I mentioned a few weeks ago that one of my favorite pairs of “ugly” walking shoes, a pair of Birkenstock Arizonas, finally gave out the other day. I didn’t realize at the time that Birkenstock can and will apparently fix any part of a shoe (thanks to the wonderful commenter Jennifer P), but to be honest my old pair was probably dingy enough that it wasn’t fit for public consumption anyhow.

Luckily for me however, my Arizonas gave out just at the right time – when Birkenstocks were apparently acceptable again! I took the opportunity to order a bunch of different pairs and styles and try them all out. I hope my experience can help some of you looking for a perfect pair of Birkenstocks out there!

First up? Suede Arizonas.

Birkenstock soft footbed Arizona

I was already very familiar with the Arizona style, having worn the traditional oiled pair. This time I was lured in by the “soft footbed” version, which promised a shortened break in time and even more comfortable walking. Yes! Why not?

The first pair I tried: black suede Arizonas. I liked the matching black buckles on these – a little more modern and less “granola” in my opinion. A size narrow fit my normal width foot perfectly, likely because these are unisex shoes and “narrow” in the Arizona style is closer to a regular width for women’s shoes.

Next up was the taupe/tan suede pair I ordered. When I tried these on, I was surprised – they seemed super wide! I knew that different colors maybe had small deviations with Birkenstock, but I wasn’t expecting this. I checked the box and the label said “narrow,” so I shrugged and prepared to pack them away as a return.

Before I did that however, curiosity overcame me and I decided to try and find out if I could figure out the width of the sandals by looking around the shoe. There were no labels calling out the width, however. Then I did some research and learned an easy way to tell if your Birkenstocks are “narrow,” or “regular”.

Simply look at the little footstep icon.

Birkenstock narrow versus wide

If the foot imprint graphic is filled in/solid – then your shoe is a narrow fit. If it’s empty or unfilled, then it’s a regular. And that’s how I figured out that I had been sent the wrong width! Darn you, Zappos!

Verdict: these were super comfortable on me, especially with the soft footbed. I would think that the suede + soft footbed would mean a minimum of break in time. And I’d recommend that most women with narrow to regular width feet, opt for the narrow or B width for these.

Next up for me was another very popular style – the Gizeh in black on black.

Birkenstock black gizeh

I usually like to buy all of my sandals in leather or suede when possible, but for these I decided to try out the “Birko-flor” material that Birkenstock offers, as it was the only material that offered a black on black option.

Unlike with the Arizonas, I ordered the regular width in this style (which also comes in narrow) as my size wasn’t available in narrow. To my surprise, the regular width fit me perfectly.

Verdict: A great shoe, certainly more stylish than the regular Arizonas (in my opinion) and which look less clunky. No softbed version though, so would take a little longer to break in. The design, even though reminiscent of a flip flop, is way more stable and the shoe stays nice and secure on the foot you walk. And regular width wearing ladies can go ahead and order the regular/wide width.

The third style I tried out was a new one for me – the Mayari, in Licorice Birko-Flor.

Birkenstock Mayari black

Birkenstock Mayari

Unlike the Gizeh, I had the choice of ordering the narrow configuration (B) for these sandals, so I did, and they fit very nicely.

Verdict: A prettier pair of Birkstocks and in my opinion one of the more comfortable ones, partially due to the toe loop. The strap configuration also makes this a style that doesn’t “flop” around when you walk. Wish that there was a soft footbed available!

Out of the three, I actually liked the Mayari the best, by a slight margin. However, Mr. Feather absolutely loathed them for some reason. And since I had subjected him to a tower of Nordstrom and Zappos boxes and tromping around loudly in the house over the last week, I gave in and kept the Gizehs instead. I think I may still add another pair of Arizonas down the line to replace my former pair – like an old friend.

I hope this was helpful for some of you! Please share any experiences you’ve had with your Birkenstocks, recommended styles, the most comfortable styles – really, anything! Other brand recommendations are welcome as well.

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  • Trang
    September 3, 2014 at 5:55 am

    Congratulations on your lovely pair of birkenstocks. I just dropped mine off for repairs and miss them already. Wanted to note for your review that the Gizehs do come in black oiled leather as well as the birko-flor:

    • Katherine
      September 3, 2014 at 11:33 pm

      Thank you!! I will try those once mine wear out!

      • Kelly
        August 14, 2016 at 5:37 pm

        For my first pair should I get black arizonas or stone grey arizonas? I am asian and I want something that will match almost everything and not make my legs look stubby. Thanks!

        • Katherine
          August 15, 2016 at 8:01 pm

          I love the black…try out both though, it really depends on your wardrobe.

  • RL
    September 3, 2014 at 6:12 am

    Very helpful post! I hadn’t heard of the Mayaris before and will have to check them out. They look like a nicer, more grown-up version of Chacos.

  • Jennifer P
    September 3, 2014 at 8:02 am

    I’m glad you were able to find a replacement you liked! 🙂

    • Katherine
      September 3, 2014 at 11:32 pm

      Thank you for all your help!!

  • a
    September 3, 2014 at 10:44 am

    I had a pair of Birkenstock-like shoes. They weren’t the most comfortable, but Fit Flops are amazing to me. Also more sparkly depending on the style and provide a lot of balance and sole support. I think I’ll always keep those. Especially helpful in hot, humid climates.

  • save. spend. splurge.
    September 3, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    The Arizona suedes are the MOST comfortable for me. The Gizeh really hurts my foot at the top, something about the angle of the thong.. and the Mayari is my second favourite. They’re quite comfortable and don’t hurt that top bone part of my shoe.

    The most comfortable shoes I own are Birkenstocks. It takes about 2 weeks to break in before they feel amazing on your feet for life. I can’t do without them when traveling. They’re ugly but I dun care. I don’t have blisters. Dry feet.. but not blisters.

  • Sarah
    September 3, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    Birkenstocks are always acceptable! Ugly shoes = pretty feet. 🙂

  • Belen
    September 3, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    This is great because I’ve had a pair of white Arizonas on my Saved for Later on Amazon for a while.
    BTW, how do you deal with suede shoes fading or getting dirty overtime? I gave up on suede for this very reason.

    • Katherine
      September 3, 2014 at 11:31 pm

      They do just get dingy overtime, you are right. To try and stave it off I use a spray – Colonil I think to try and waterproof them.

      • Belen
        September 4, 2014 at 9:14 am

        I’ll look it up!

  • Oonagh
    September 3, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    I have the Gizeh in gorgeous metallic grey-blue leather and I love them. The Mayari are nice too though. For me, the Arizonas are too clumpy. There is a one-strap version I prefer, the Madrid. Again I have them in metallic leather, and they go with everything. Yes, I live by the beach!

    • Katherine
      September 3, 2014 at 11:31 pm

      Ahhh the perfect life!

  • Michelle
    September 3, 2014 at 7:49 pm

    The Gizeh is my fave style, Arizonas don’t work for me.
    We are the same Birkies shoe size, how cool!!!

  • Vivian
    September 3, 2014 at 10:55 pm

    I really like the Mayari on you actually but I do agree Gizeh is the most flattering choice. You might not believe but I like Fit Flop for comfort the most especially for long hours of walking. They might not be the prettiest sandals but that’s the only thing I can live in after walking 10 hours a day on cobblestone streets in Europe. Have you checked out Gentle Souls as well? Their break my heart sandals are chic and comfortable as well.

    • Katherine
      September 3, 2014 at 11:30 pm

      I love Gentle Souls! I had a pair from them that was soo comfy but they ripped. I tried out the Fit Flop because of feedback like yours, but for some reason they just didn’t work for me.

  • melvel
    September 4, 2014 at 1:36 am

    My Birks have lasted me 18 years (since I was a senior in HS), can you believe it? I only had to change the soles once. They’re the most durable pair of footwear ever.

  • Maria
    September 4, 2014 at 7:12 am

    I’ve been wearing Birks for decades and never knew the little foot symbol denoted narrow from wide! /Thank you! I stumbled on narrow when I bought my then 11 year old son a pair of “childrens” B’s. When he outgrew them, I slipped my feet in them only to realize they were my same size but…narrower. I have wide feet yet they fit better and looked more streamlined. That’s the width I buy now.

    And so glad you tried the Mayari! It has always been my favorite – very feminine as opposed to the Arizona – which has a masculine vibe and seems to get all the love. I bought the Mayari in white Birko Flor on a trip to Venice years ago and they finally fell apart after wearing them to death. Imagine my dismay when I realized that the pure white was discontinued. I always got so many compliments on them.:( Love the black.

  • TC
    September 4, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    Marni Fussbetts are super comfy also. They were making them well before Celine made “ugly” shoes trendy. I have the black stones on black leather.

    • Katherine
      September 8, 2014 at 9:10 am

      Thank you for the rec! I took a look and they do look super comfy!

  • Amy
    September 4, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    Yay Birks! I’ve loved my Gizehs for years. So funny that everything always comes back into style…

  • Yanhearts
    July 17, 2015 at 6:46 am

    did you get one size smaller than your actual size?
    Cause your feet look a bit crammed up in the narrow..
    Is it comfortable when you tried the narrow?


    • Katherine
      July 17, 2015 at 4:30 pm

      Which shoe are you talking about? In the Gizehs I got regular width…

  • nhu
    September 14, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    Do you remember how much wider was the regular vs. narrow for the arizona style?

    • Katherine
      September 14, 2015 at 6:43 pm

      I don’t, apologies!

  • Nicole
    October 12, 2015 at 9:50 am

    Great article! I’ve been having feet pain and decided to invest in Birkenstocks. I went with the Mayari, but bought them online due to them being much cheaper than in the stores.

    I see you have 37’s and that’s what I went with. I’m normally a 6.5 – 7 (in boots). What’s your normal size? I’m just hoping they fit well and aren’t too big.

    Thank you!

    • Katherine
      October 14, 2015 at 8:57 pm

      I am the exact same size as you. So I hope they work out!

  • carlos
    November 28, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    i purchased my first birkenstock online.. i would like to ask if it is normal that the footbed logo or the yellow birkenstock tag can be easily erased..?? mine are fading easily even just rubing you fingers into the insole logo.. thanks a lot for the help..:)

  • Audrinajulia
    April 5, 2016 at 10:49 am

    Thank you for all these information Katherine! I just posted at instagram a while ago how can someone help me with some information regarding narrow and wide fit since i’m in the look out for my fitflop replacement. Thanks for all your info, it truly help and need to bookmark.

    I always love how your blog have all the information that i need in times i needed most. Always a great reference and truly worth reading each time.


    • Katherine
      April 5, 2016 at 12:40 pm

      I hope my post was helpful Audrina and enjoy your Birks!

  • B
    May 23, 2016 at 7:05 pm

    I know this is an old post, but I stumbled upon it and thought you should probably know that your are actually wearing your Birkenstocks too small. There should be 1/4″ between the in front and back of the shoe between your heel/toes and the edge of the shoe. Your toes should not touch the edge of the footbed when you are standing. This allows for your foot’s natural rolling motion as you walk.

    Anyone who buys Birkenstocks online should check into how they are supposed to fit before purchasing a pair, otherwise they will probably think their correct size is too big.

    • Katherine
      May 24, 2016 at 10:15 am

      Thanks very much B! I had heard this before and tried the size larger but on the smallest hole, the shoe was falling off my foot 🙁 so I decided to just get this size. I’ve always found it very comfortable so I just decided to stick with it.

  • CC
    July 5, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    Great information! What is the difference between the black and licorice colors? It’s hard to tell from the photos.

    • Ash
      July 14, 2016 at 4:13 pm

      I have the same question!!!

  • Jess
    August 30, 2016 at 12:16 am

    Thanks for the informative article, I was wondering how the shoes have held up, in particular the ones made from Briko-Flor? I would normally buy leather shoes for longevity but I seem to be having trouble finding leather Birkenstocks in the styles I like. Did you find them to be as comfortable as leather?
    Thanks, Jess.

    • Katherine
      August 30, 2016 at 1:02 pm

      They are a tiny bit less comfortable but I didn’t mind at all…I would say durability probably also less than leather though, I replace mine every 2 years or so.