Saturday, September 7, 2013

Beloved Birkenstocks Bite the Dust

My elderly Birkenstocks, age 36+, were recently put to rest after a remembrance ceremony. Yes, friends, I threw them into the trash and the garbage truck hauled them to the landfill.
My other Birks got together for a send-off. I forgot to add the ones I was wearing, a black three-strap pair with brand new soles. Only about 12 years old, as are all the others except for the tan fat-strapped units on the right.  They look mature, but are less than a year in my possession.
One year down, 36 to go. 
I wore my first Birkenstocks for nearly 37 years. I can't recall how many times I had them resoled, and the shoe bed was replaced once, or maybe twice. When PK and I traveled to Italy for a bicycling trip, they were my only shoes, in addition to cycling shoes. Several days of that adventure were spent hot-footing along Italian streets, 10 miles a day, at least. These Birks also carried me down the Rogue River trail for 20-some miles after my official hiking shoes produced a huge blister and rubbed a toenail off. I have worn Birkenstocks to death and have never suffered a blister, corn, bunion, ingrown toenail, plantar wart, toenail fungus or feet-that-failed-me on their account.
My original Birkenstocks finally faded beyond repair. 
I remember the day in 1977 that I purchased them for around $30 - a lot of money then, in Medford, Oregon. I was pregnant with my first-born, Quinn, who turned 36 in August. I wore the Birks a lot during the next 20 years, but not exclusively.

Those were the days when I could wear other types of shoes. It wasn't like NOW when Birkenstocks, or other high-quality sandals, are my only choice since developing, several years ago, a hostile bone spur, which defied bone spur-removal surgery and grew back with attitude. It is my enemy,

Left foot—perfect. Right foot—big painful gobby-looking bone spur, the reason I rarely
wear shoes with closed toes, unless I"m in a self-flagellating mood.

I must say I've taken a lot of, ummm, derision, for being a constant Birk wearer, especially regarding the recent cast-offs. Hey, I should get credit for loyalty and the wisdom to ignore current fashion. To Birk aficionados, shoe-horning feet into pointy high-heeled shoes seems ludicrous.

Through the decades of being the only person I knew wearing Birks, I believed they must be in style someplace. I am now thrilled to learn that Birkenstocks are officially back! The Fashion Beast (of online Newsweek's Daily Beast fame) even said it. 

This article confirmed my suspicion, and gratified my hope, that my decades-long devotion to Birks has not gone unnoticed, and now luminaries such as Miley Cyrus and other famous beautiful young people, whose every fashion move creates headlines, have perked up their toes with the world's best shoes! Like moi!

I have a few decades on them, and I live in the Oregon boonies, so I'm wondering how the fashionistas knew? Who knew first? How did the word spread that a fashion leader had emerged in Southern Oregon? Well, that was about a week ago and the Birk revival is likely fading already, despite my continuing devotion. Sigh.

I'll be going to a fancy wedding next weekend, where the fantastically gorgeous bride will be wearing shoes worthy of her sleek bridal gown and beautiful self, and where her multitudinous lovely friends will be fashionably attired and shod. Me?  I'll be wearing my "dress Birks", the black ones with the back strap that served me well during a mud fest at the rainy New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Fest in 2008, and also as my official bike shoes on numerous rides over the past several years.
The "bandages" are duct tape blister prevention.
These Birks provide a clue to how the word "shoddy" may have originated? But seriously. Since this photo was taken a mere five years ago, they've been cleaned up and resoled and are ready to rock and roll! They're likely to be useful far longer than me.  I'm taking them to South Africa and Uganda in a couple weeks. Aside from gorilla tracking (the subject, no doubt, of a future blog post) I know the black-strapped Birks will be up to the challenge. I hope I will be too!


  1. I truly enjoy reading your blog; the post today brought a huge smile since my daughter and I just ordered a new pair of Birks for my 70th birthday gift from her. I bought my first pair when I was expecting my son in 1969 and have never ceased wearing them.They are fabulous with a pair of tights and wool socks for the winters in Montana and only in deep snow do I need to wear something else to go to the market or post office...I, too love the Arizona but also enjoy the clog styles, closed toes, for my winters here. 37 years is truly a good long life...those uppers are made with the best stuff and do live on and on...Great to see the story of another wearer of the best shoes made, imho. Kristin

  2. Thank you so much for your comment. I need to try out one of the clog styles on my bum foot. We don't get much snow in the valleys of southern Oregon, but we get significant rain for a few months and those open-toed sandals can be inconvenient when negotiating puddles! Thanks again.

  3. Love this! Can't say I've been as loyal, though would have been if replacing Birks wasn't a major investment. Dress Birks -- love it!

  4. Wonderful article, Mary. I think the company should at least feature it on their website if not give you a lifetime supply (1 pair?) of their impressive product. Safe travels in Africa--can't wait to read about it when you get back. And remember what the Beach Boys said "Take Good Care of Your Feet".

  5. A pair would be nice! I have to take the same hiking non birk shoes that wore off a toenail and gave me a blister to Africa on account of gorilla tracking! I will attempt to post something about this before leaving....I'm pretty excited about the whole trip.

  6. Must be a family trait:I have my "shop Birks," with the soles covered in paint; casual Birk clogs, dress Birk clogs, dress Birk shoes (closed heel), and casual Birk sandals ("casual" meaning suede). In the '90s, I was introduced to the Provost of Chapman University as "the professor who lectures in clogs." Nothing better than Birks for standing up for 3 hours of night class after all day at $DAY_JOB. Nice to give them a formal send-off. Getting harder to find repair places. BTW, Judy got some Keen cycling shoes (regular, not sandal-style) and loves them--the only cycle shoes wide enough to ride in day after day. If only Birkenstock made cycle shoes...

  7. But wait! When you were here Riding the Rogue, I was doing so in my dress Birks, which double as dancing Birks and biking Birks. I was called the "Birkenstock Bike Babe," the only time I've been called a Babe in decades!
    I now have the Keen cycling shoes, but I still prefer the Birks on account of the bone spur.

  8. I enjoyed reading your post. I will share it to my "I Love Birkenstocks" Facebook page. If you are still wearing Birks in 2017, I invite you to check out my blog about all things Birkenstocks at Kindly, Gina

    1. Hi Gina - I just now accidentally read your comment.....only about six months late. Thank you for commenting and sharing on your FB page, which I am about to check out.