The temperatures are steadily climbing, the spring breaks have begun, and the end of daylight savings’ time is on the horizon: the season for Birkenstock sandals has arrived! From the classic Arizona to the gracefully feminine Mayari, Birkenstock offers style and comfort for any wardrobe. Birkenstock’s footbed and unique style are often imitated but never perfectly replicated, and the internet is infested with cheaply made knockoffs that might trick an unwary purchaser. Luckily, genuine Birkenstock footwear is easy spot thanks to unique design elements and premium materials. So, what should you look for in a real Birkenstock? Read on to find out!
How to Spot Real Birkenstocks
• Sold by an Authorized Retailer
The first and easiest way to make sure you’re not being ripped off is to always purchase Birkenstocks from an authorized Birkenstock seller. The official Birkenstock website has a handy store locator so you can find an authorized retailer near you, and if you’re looking for a reputable website to buy your Birks, the websites of authorized retailers are a great place to check.
Do you see us listed?
For example, if you got to the store locator and put in the ZIP code 46250, you’ll see our Castleton Square Mall location listed as an authorized seller, so you know that anything Birkenstock you purchase from our stores or website will be the genuine article!
• Pre-Purchase Research
Let's say you've found a place to buy your Birkenstocks online, and you're having a hard time verifying that the seller is genuine with the store locator. Dig around the website and see what you can find. Are you seeing lots of spelling or grammar errors? If you're finding an outrageous number of errors, there's a high probability that the website is a scam, especially with sites that have "Birkenstock" in the URL either spelled incorrectly ("Birkinstock") or accompanied by enticing words like "cheap," "discount," or "on sale."
Unbelievably good pricing is another pretty obvious scam tactic. As cliche as it is to say, things that are too good to be true usually are. If you see a new pair of Birkenstocks offered at 20% below the MSRP (manufacturer's suggested retail price) or lower, you may want to do a bit more research into the seller before making a purchase.
Take the time to read reviews of the site. If you're finding a flood of one-star reviews complaining about the quality of products received, interactions with the seller, the shipping or returns process, or general customer satisfaction, you should probably steer clear of that website. Conversely, if you're finding exclusively glowing five-star reviews, be wary. Most retailers aren't ever going to have only happy customers, and there should really be a few middle-of-the-road or even bad reviews for a website. Only good reviews might indicate that they've been written by bots or purchased in order to make the website look good.
• Make Contact
If you still just aren't sure about a seller, reach out to them. Legitimate web businesses ought to have multiple ways to get in contact: a phone number, an email address, an actual physical address. If you can't get in touch with them or you find that they're evasive, unclear, or otherwise unconvincing when you do reach them, don't buy. A legit seller should be more than happy to answer your questions and fully reassure you of the authenticity of their Birkenstock products.
• Birkenstocks in a Birken-Box
Birkenstock branded shoe boxes.
Your Birkenstocks should come in a branded box. Be extra careful with sellers who don’t have the original blue box with their shoes. Of course things might happen to destroy a box beyond use, but a reputable seller will inform you of an issue like that up front.
An example of a Birkenstock label.
Birkenstock boxes also have labels that include pictures of the shoes in the box, so that little line drawing should look like what you ordered and like the pair in the box.
• Building Inspection
Birkenstock is a high-quality brand. When you look at your purchase, does it look like it lives up to that quality? You shouldn’t see any extreme visible flaws like dried glue globs, gouges in any of the materials, or missing chunks of cork. Any item is liable to tiny flaws or imperfections, especially products that use lots of natural materials, but overall a Birkenstock should come out of the box looking, well, like it just came out of the box.
While you're checking it over, take a look at the material. Birkenstock is known for their use of premium materials in their footwear, so if the materials look cheap something isn’t right. If you're an old-school fan, you may be surprised to learn that Birkenstock has developed their own synthetic upper materials. These materials have allowed Birkenstock to produce vegan collections and offer products to customers who might prefer not to purchase leather, but they are still high quality materials. We strongly recommend that you take a moment to read up on the products Birkenstock uses in the construction of their footwear on their website to get a better feel for what sorts of materials might be found in authentic Birkenstock products!
• It’s All in the Details
The little details make or break the shoe. Even a good knockoff can’t match every piece of detailing on a bona fide Birk.
Top left: an Arizona with Birkenstock on the buckle. Top right: a Florida with Birk on the buckle. Bottom: a Gizeh with Birken on the buckle.
Look for the word “Birkenstock” on larger buckles. Smaller buckles or metal pieces may have a shortened version of the word, like “Birk” or “Birken.”
An embossed Birkenstock.
You should also find Birkenstock deeply embossed in the strap material on the side of the shoe. It will almost never just be printed; you should be able to run your fingers over it and feel deep indentations.
One variation of the Birkenstock sole pattern you know and love.
The soles of almost of every Birkenstock should have the unique hourglass/bowtie/pinched-in-oval shape pattern or a variation of it. Some of the shapes should say “Birk” on sandals and clogs, while the Birkenstock logo may be printed on in blue on boots and athletic shoes. Now, there are many variations of Birkenstock soles, so these are just a few general guidelines. The biggest thing to be wary of is soles that have no Birkenstock branding of any kind.
A handy diagram from Birkenstock.
The most important authenticity details are on the footbed. The footbed should have a deep heel cup and toe bar, and the Birkenstock logo, the size, and “Made in Germany” should be printed on the suede lining. Does the shoe say made in Germany? If it doesn’t, be extremely wary. Birkenstock has licensed products that are assembled in other countries but still include the original footbed. If it says "Made in China," however, you absolutely have a knockoff on your hands.
Birkenstock Essential and Papillio
Two Birkenstock lines with pronounced differences from the original Birkenstock construction and style are the Birkenstock Essentials and the Papillios. These are still authentic Birkenstock products, but their looks are very different from what you may be used to.
Left: a yellow Birkenstock Essential Gizeh. Right: a pink Birkenstock Essential Arizona.
The Essentials are a water-safe line of molded EVA sandals based on some of Birkenstock's popular sandal styles. You can find Gizeh, Madrid, Arizona, Milano, and a few children's styles re-imagined as Birkenstock essentials. This line comes in a range of fun, bright colors, and with their low weight and water-ready materials, the Essentials are perfect for tossing into your beach bag for a day of fun in the sun!
Left: a Papillio box. Right: a Papillio sandal. See how the footbed looks different and where the embossed "Birkenstock" has been replaced with an embossed "Papillio."
The Papillios are a women's only line that's constructed in Spain on the same original, made-in-Germany footbed. They come in branded boxes with the Papillio logo, and the footbeds will say "Made in Spain" instead of "Made in Germany." They come in more feminine colors and patterns but are still the same Birkenstock styles you know and love.
If you do discover that you've purchased a pair of imitation Birkenstocks, try to get into contact with the seller for a return. Mistakes might have been made, and they might be able to help you get what you ordered or at least return the pair you received. If, however, you've run across a scammer, you may find making a return or getting your money back difficult. If the scammer refuses to cooperate with you, your credit card company or bank may be able to help you dispute the charge. If you've run into a shady seller, it might also be worth your time to keep a close eye on transactions on your card. Some scammers might try to scam you twice, sending you fake Birkenstocks and stealing your card information.
Of course, armed with these tips for spotting real Birkenstock products, you'll have no problem buying authentic pairs every time! Birkenstock’s style and comfort just can’t be imitated, so you definitely want to make sure that you’re getting the real deal when you buy a pair. The easiest way to get real Birkenstocks? Shop our huge collection of Birkenstock styles right here on the Englin’s Fine Footwear website!