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woman wearing birkenstocks standing on a heart shape

The Birks Are Back!

Spring is here, Summer is just around the corner, and in many ways this means FREEDOM! Freedom from heavy coats and jackets, freedom from having to scrape snow and ice off the car each morning before driving to work, freedom from cold weather imprisoning you in your house for months. There is a warmth and lightness to these magical months that just seem to uplift and free everything a bit.

But one of the best examples of Spring and Summer freedom is FREEDOM FOR MY FEET! It’s officially sandal time now, and I couldn’t be happier about this. Goodbye, constrictive and oppressive winter footwear. Goodbye having to bend and stoop to tie up long bootlaces. Goodbye even to the thin socks I wear whose touch irritates my ankle pain. And HELLO to my beautiful and comfortable Birkenstock sandals! I was so happy to lovingly take them out of their boxes for the first time in many months and slide them onto my angry and swollen feet. Ahhh, relief. And, they look cute, which is a miracle in itself.

The challenge of finding RA friendly shoes

Finding shoes that fit my challenging feet is often a very frustrating and nearly-impossible feat to accomplish. Because of this, I dread and detest going shoe shopping. Trying on shoes takes hours, with boxes piling up beside me as I shuffle around the store and became disappointed, quickly knowing that this one’s too narrow, this one’s too tight, this one’s too long–and the shoe battle goes on and on. It’s exhausting.

I can never seem to find anything that works for my annoying feet. If by some rare stroke of luck I do find a pair of shoes that fit, once I take them home and wear them around a bit more, I invariably end up having to return them. What a pain. I hate shoes! And, before I got RA, I used to love going shopping for cute shoes. That’s one more thing that RA has stolen from me and that makes me incredibly angry–and sad.

Birkenstock as an RA friendly shoe

But let’s get back to the Birks A.K.A. Birkenstocks A.K.A. THE BEST SHOES EVER MADE! Before I go on gushing about them, I must say that this is not an advertisement or promotion for the Birkenstock company. I’m not affiliated with them in any way. I’m just really happy and excited that I finally found a brand of footwear that actually works for my poor, picky feet. Being able to find shoes that fit, don’t hurt, are comfortable, and look attractive is a HUGE deal. Especially the attractive part.

Aesthetically appealing

The majority of shoes that are available for people with “feet issues” are, well, extremely ugly. They’re often boxy, clunky, large, and heavy. Some remind me of “nurse shoes”: thick, boring, plain, orthopedic-looking things that have absolutely zero style. Or they look way too much like “Grandma Shoes”–no offense to grandmas. Why can’t we have comfortable, supportive, well-made shoes that also look good? If I could invent something like this, I suspect I would become a rich woman. People with painful and finicky feet are crying out for cute shoes–especially women, I would argue. Although I’m sure that men would also like some stylish shoe options.

Supportive, shock-absorbent soles

Birkenstock sandals have amazing cork soles that are supportive and shock-absorbent and mold to your feet. There is a breaking-in period when it feels like you’re walking on a rock-hard bulletin board, but the more you wear the shoes, the more they form to your feet. Once this happens, the cork soles are very comfortable and feel great! The sole is kind of like your own personal orthotic insert, but it doesn’t look ugly.

Different styles to choose from

Also definitely not ugly are the several different styles that are available for Birkenstock sandals (there are some closed-toe shoe options, too). They come in lots of different fun and cool colors and interesting strap options: double-straps with buckles, triple-straps, toe-loops, ankle straps, etc. Another great thing about Birkenstocks is that they are made out of leather, which also softens over time and molds to your feet in a way. There are some non-leather options, too, but I always prefer to go with leather.

Price: the only downside

The downside to these “wonder” sandals is that they’re not cheap. I think if you order the basic two-strap “Arizona” style directly from their website, a pair costs about $125 (free shipping though!). If you get them at a retail location, you might be able to use coupons depending on the store.

Grateful having quality shoes

Spending $125 on a pair of these sandals is definitely worth it, though. Good quality shoes these days are pretty expensive anyway. I’m happy to spend a bit more if I can actually find shoes that fit and that I like, because with RA, The Shoe Struggle is real! People who don’t have RA or painful, “difficult” feet have no clue what we go through trying to find shoes. Now if only Birkenstock would hire me as their RA ambassador and supply me with a closet full of cute sandals for Spring, Summer, and Fall! I can dream, right?

In the meantime, I will happily slip into my favorite pair of red leather double-strap sandals, and I can’t wait to pick up a new pair I just ordered: a feminine-looking sandal with thin black straps and an ankle strap. So cute and COMFORTABLE!

Best of luck to everyone out there who’s shoe and sandal shopping for Spring and Summer. Let me know if you find something good!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • NPEOttawa
    8 months ago

    I have wide feet and I like Rockports – completely adjustable everywhere.

    http://www.wideshoes.com/Franklin-Sand-Sport-Sandal-P1214.aspx

  • NPEOttawa
    8 months ago
  • christijo99
    8 months ago

    You may thick I’m crazy for what I am about to say, but I have found that Volitile shoes are the most comfortable for me! Love them, even though they are considered high heels. They are great! I have one in every color and I get more compliments on them and you can wear them with everything even shorts! Give them a try. And sometimes you can get them for really cheap.

  • BeccaFloyd
    8 months ago

    I can totally relate to the frustration of not being able to wear the kinds of shoes I want to! In my late teens and twenties, I loved wearing heels. At 5’9″, I had no qualms about wearing a 3″ inch heel and towering over most of my girlfriends. I would plan my outfit around the shoes I wanted to wear that day, and not the other way around! I amassed quite a collection, and it was quite painful to admit I simply couldn’t wear them any longer. My heel got shorter and shorter until I stopped wearing them all together. I gave them all away, to my friends or to local charity thrift stores, but I’m lucky in that I’ve been able to find lots and lots of cute and comfy boots, tennies, dress shoes, and sandals! I just did another purge of shoes I no longer wore, and at last count, I’ve still got 37 pairs to choose from… so I’m not complaining I’m what you might call a “shoe person”! It’s helpful to know that even on my most painful RA days, I can still slip on a beautiful pair of shoes. It’s one of the little things that help lift my spirits on otherwise challenging days. Happy (and comfortable) shoe wearing to you all!

  • Franki King moderator
    8 months ago

    37 shoes!! You are my shoe inspo, Becca. Thanks for sharing 🙂 -Franki (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • Djpatters
    8 months ago

    I love the Birkenstock’s brand also for sandals and am a fan of adidas cloud runners and sketchers.

  • jarme
    8 months ago

    I just bought a new pair of Birkenstock sandals! Quite pricey but definitely worth it!

  • CpmRA
    8 months ago

    I too love my Birks! I started wearing only their sandals and the clogs about 15 years ago after I fractured my ankle, pre-RA. They are comfortable and adjustable for swelling feet. Recently I have also purchased some Vionic tennis shoes. They have comfortable and removable arch supports. I really like them too.

  • chip1944
    8 months ago

    I have always loved my Birks! And have had many pairs. But now I have neurological problems due to GBS along with fibro and erosive arthritis and sometimes need more support because I’m off balance. I strongly urge you to try Rieker shoes! Wonderful, cute and comfortable! Wish I could post a picture!

  • jspears
    8 months ago

    The shoe struggle is real. I have also searched high and low for shoes that work with my fussy feet. If you like Birks you should check out Naot shoes. They have removable cork insoles so you have the great lightweight insole that molds to your feet or you can replace them with your own orthotic. They have wide toe boxes but run narrow. Perfect for my feet that are skinny in the middle but have toes that need room, however they won’t work for everyone.

  • mseelhoff
    8 months ago

    Also peeps-use Amazon. My Merrell’s jungle Mocs usually are $125 a pair on Amazon they are $63 with free shipping if your a prime member!

  • Franki King moderator
    8 months ago

    Thanks for the great tip, @mseelhoff! -Franki (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • mseelhoff
    8 months ago

    I love Merrell’s. I worked at Lowe’s as Receiving manager, so walking was an understatement! Jungle Moc’s are my favorite! If you measure your days in miles, these out do tennis shoes in a heartbeat!

  • PattyHep
    8 months ago

    I stand by my Taos shoes. My feet hurt all the time with R/A pain, gout and Neuropathy. Taos are super great for my feet and they are cutemy foot doctor was quite impressed. He didn’t notice the cuteness

  • FyrGal17
    8 months ago

    I am so glad you have something to choose from! However, my choices are quite limited to New Balance sports shoes. Color choices are slim. I must wear a brace on my right foot so cute shoes are out of the picture for me. Adding to my conundrum is my narrow feet. The right must be at least a medium width for fitting the brace, making it too wide for the left foot! I add padding which helps some. Too bad there isn’t a shoe warehouse where you can buy one pair of shoes but each shoe with different widths!

  • Mary Sophia Hawks moderator
    8 months ago

    Angela,
    Great article! We are all so different in our needs. Birkenstocks don’t work at all for me. Because I live in the south, I wear sandals from March until October. I also wear a women’s size 13 and have narrow feet. Toss in the RA and I might as well wish on a star!!! I have found 2 companies that work for me. I find that I can wear size 12 in sandals. Alegria has super fun girly sandals in lots of colors! The best part is the foot bed. It is removable and replaceable. I have had some of my pairs for 8 years and they still look great! The foot bed is made of memory foam, latex and cork. (the latex part does not touch the skin) They mold to your foot within a few minutes and cause no pain. The straps are always easy to adjust also. A new find is Spenco–they make very comfortable sandals, and some come in 13s. I buy all my shoes online, because very few stores carry my size. Here’s to happy feet!!
    Mary Sophia

  • zanda1000
    8 months ago

    Those same Birkenstock sandals are 39.95 at Zappos.com

  • zickchen
    8 months ago

    Since you are giving them all this attention they should at least provide a discount coupon.

  • David Advent moderator
    8 months ago

    Thank you for this article, Angela! I’ve been looking into buying some Birkenstocks for a while now, as RA affects my feet so much. So glad to hear they’ve worked for you. -David (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team Member)

  • LemonThyme
    8 months ago

    Re Birkenstocks. I wore them all the time for over 30 years, and still occasionally. They’re great. In recent years, after increasing problems with my feet, I discovered the availability of having the Birks re-built with high-arch footbeds. These are so comfortable. I live in Washington State, so the place I sent them for rebuild is not far away, in Corvallis, Oregon. It’s called Birkenstock Express.

    Another shoe that works well for me are Keen. I have both sandal and conventional shoe style. They have a lot of firm, resilient cushion in the sole.

  • David Advent moderator
    8 months ago

    Thanks for this information, @lemonthyme!

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    8 months ago

    Oh I just spent $150.00 on a pair of shoes. So I hope that I do not get labeled as an extravagant show shopper. Now to be fiat my shoes last 12 months of near constant wear.

    I hope that you enjoy your Birkenstock. I have never had a pair so maybe some,,, nope never mind, that will never happen.

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