August 15, 2005
Birkenstock sandal review
A long time ago, I rejected shoes. Oh, when I have to, I will still wear them, but not because I want to. In high school, my feet would stink due to gross amounts of sweat (hey, it happens when you are a teenager in a hot part of the country). Embarrassed, I started finding alternatives to shoes (like this cool water shoe thing that I loved but that went out of style) and settled on sandles. For a long time, Teva was my brand. Hey, they looked good, could be used in almost any setting, and they kept my feet cool. Biggest problem with Teva was a lack of foot support.
So I looked around. I found my absolute favorite sandal ever, the Zach model made by Mephisto. Actually, there was another sandal I tried on that made my feet feel like heaven, but at $230, I was not about to afford it. So, I settled for the still very fine and comfortable Zach, on sale for $99 (normally $160). Great investment. They molded themselves to my feet, they felt great, and lasted three years. Think that's not very long? Consider that I wear them all the time. At home, at school, at work, outside on walks. Yes, I wore them every chance I got. Water damage started the gradual decay of the insole and my favorite sandals had to be abandoned. Despite an angled walk that wears the outsole funny, my Mephistos' outsole had a lot of life left in them, and the leather was still in great shape, but I couldn't step comfortably in them anymore. So last year, for my birthday, I went looking with Kari for a new pair of sandals. Apparently, Utahns don't wear sandals as much as Arizonans. Go figure.
I had to special order a pair of Birkenstocks. The salesman (who didn't know better) tried to tell me that Birks would feel as comfortable, and not cost as much. I knew the difference, but didn't want to spend $160 for new Mephistos. Hey, Birks are supposed to be good, right? The special order grabbed me a pair of Birks from an Arizona store (funny, that), and wore them out of the store, putting thebeloved Mephistos in the Birkenstock box.
Disappointment was immediate. There is no comparison. Really. But I thought, "I just need to get used to these new ones, break them in." Birkenstocks have a raised portion between the big toe and the 2nd toe, part of their idea of "support," I guess. My toes could not get used to them, hated this artificial divide. My Mephistos put the divide where my toes naturally fell (no, really, they molded themselves to my feet after a week of usage). It took time and many raw sores on the top of my feet there the stiff and unpleasant leather tore into my flesh before sandal and foot grew accustomed to one another. I wasn't happy but at least OK with the situation.
Fast forward a year. My birthday is coming up again. My Birkenstock insoles are starting to decay. My outsoles or wearing fast and looking terrible. These won't last much longer. Hmmm. The $160 is starting to sound more reasonable. My recommendation would be to avoid Birkenstocks. They are all right, but nothing special. They certainly do not deserve the price they demand. I plan on investing in a new pair of Mephisto Zachs again, and I'm willing to pay full price. They are worth it. My feet are worth it.
Sadly, they seem to be discontinued, but there are stores online that still sell them. Other models exist, but I have to admit this: Mephisto makes a darn comfortable sandal, but most of their styles are ugly as sin. Must be a European taste thing. Anyway, I will never buy Birks again, and now you know why.