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Birkenstocks are trending — but are they good for your feet? A podiatrist weighs in

The classic shoes are loved by celebrities and TikTokers.
Kara Birnbaum / TODAY

Much like Crocs or New Balance sneakers, Birkenstocks haven't always been considered the most stylish choice. But lately, it's become hard to ignore their appeal.

From actresses to models, it seems like all our favorite celebrities own at least one pair of Birkenstocks. And the internet appears to be equally obsessed with the style. Videos featuring various versions of the shoes have racked up nearly 700 million views on TikTok (and those are just the ones that use the #Birkenstocks tag).

Just last year, the brand's Birkenstock Boston clogs were deemed the "hottest shoe of the year" in global fashion shopping platform Lyst's Year in Fashion Report. According to the company, searches for the shoes increased by 593% in the first six months of the year. And the shoe's popularity isn't slowing down — the style is still a top search query in 2023, along with the brand's iconic sandals, based on a recent report on Google Trends. And as with most fashion must-haves, we can thank TikTok for their popularity.

But with everyone rushing to grab the hot shoe of the year, we had to know: Are Birkenstocks actually a good choice? We consulted podiatrist Dr. Asim Sayed to get all of the details.

Are Birkenstocks good for your feet?

There’s a reason why you've heard so many people raving about how comfortable and supportive Birkenstocks are through the years. According to the brand, the original Birkenstock footbed is at the heart of all the models of the shoes. Made from a mix of cork and latex, it features a deep heel cup, arch support and a roomy toe box.

The deep heel cup in Birkenstocks gives you some stability and can also help control pronation (which contributes to flat feet), Sayed says; whereas the average sandal or flip-flop offers little to no support and have flat footbeds. Birkenstocks also have a raised toe bar, which he says "can put the toes in a more comfortable position, especially if you have something like hammer toes or a flat foot. And it really helps with slippage."

Birkenstock is known for its classic cork footbed, but as it turns out, it's more than just a marketing ploy. "The material that it's made out of, it's cork and latex," Sayed says. "So we use cork in custom orthotics all the time because it has great shock-absorbing abilities and it can reduce moisture."

According to the brand, the cork and latex footbed is sandwiched between layers of jute, which are said to stabilize the materials and increase durability.

Are Birkenstocks good for foot problems?

Given all that, you might not be totally surprised to hear that Sayed says they can be beneficial for everyone (he added that he's been wearing Birkenstocks for years). "They're really good for if you have a flat foot or you have arch pain because they have a supportive longitudinal arch. But I would recommend them to most people — unless you have some kind of severe ailment that obviously needs a more personalized approach."

Because the classic, supportive footbed is at the heart of all its shoes, you can't really go wrong with any model you choose. But in case you're having a hard time making a decision, we rounded up some of the brand's bestsellers that are worth adding to your cart.

Best Birkenstock styles to wear

Arizona Essentials EVA

If you're looking for something more affordable from the brand, we suggest grabbing this version of the Arizona sandals, which are made from a vinyl material. Modeled on the original, the brand says that they feature the anatomically shaped footbed, but they're also waterproof and lightweight, thanks to the EVA. Editorial director Adrianna Brach says she wears these shoes everywhere. "I literally wear these all summer long — whether I'm running around with my daughter, or at the office or TODAY studio."

Boston Soft Footbed Suede Leather

The biggest style of the moment, Birkenstock's Boston clogs are on plenty of people's wishlists right now (including ours). In fact, they're so popular that select sizes are almost completely sold out at multiple retailers – so you're going to want to grab them now to add to your seasonal rotation ASAP.

Kyoto Slide Sandal

Not a fan of buckles? This Kyoto sandal design does without it and instead features a wide nubuck leather strap with a hook and loop closure. But don't worry, the shoe still sports the classic cork footbed for comfort and support.

Arizona Birko-Flor

The Arizona style is arguably one of the most popular and classic models of Birkenstocks. The simple sandals feature two adjustable straps, which, in this case, are made from the brand's proprietary Birko-Flor material, which is designed to be both durable and easy to clean.

Mayari Birko-Flor

With its crisscrossed straps and multiple color options (including a chic metallic silver version), we imagine that this pair of Birkenstocks would be easy to dress up or down for any occasion. "Got these for the arch support having recently been cursed with plantar fasciitis but quickly fell in love for the sheer comfort and laid back style of them," one Nordstrom shopper wrote. "Happy feet! Wasn’t sure Birkenstock’s were for me but they are, I love them. Don’t hesitate."

Madrid Big Buckle Oiled Leather

The Madrid was the sandal that started it all! And it's still one of the brand's bestselling models all these years later. This pair has an accentuated buckle for a stylish touch and comes in multiple leather color options.

Arizona Soft Footbed Suede Leather

Another iteration of the Arizona sandals, these shoes feature the brand's soft footbed, which includes a foam insert for added comfort. They also have suede leather straps, which the brand says are "soft to the touch."

Gizeh Birkibuc

One Amazon shopper said that these sandals from the brand are "worth every penny." They added that they're "super comfortable [and provide] great arch support" to alleviate foot pain. The upper of the strap is made from Birko-Flor material with a nubuck look, so the brand says that it could almost be mistaken for real leather.

What are Birkenstocks?

According to the company website, Birkenstock's humble beginnings date all the way back to 1774 in Germany, where Johann Adam Birkenstock was a cobbler. It's clear that the career path carried on with the name, because later in 1896, master cobbler Konrad Birkenstock began manufacturing and selling flexible footbed insoles.

In fact, the family became experts in footwear. In the 1940s, Carl Birkenstock released his book, “Podiatry – The Carl Birkenstock System,” which dove into his theories about “natural gait” and healthy footwear and, according to the brand, it was the highest-selling podiatry textbook at the time. Then, in 1963, the company’s first sandal, the single-strap Madrid, was launched.

So, while the shoes may be super trendy right now, the Birkenstock name has been associated with quality footwear for centuries. “They've been pioneering the arch support game and contributing to podiatry for a really long time,” Sayed says.

How do you clean Birkenstocks?

If you already have a pair of Birkenstocks and they're looking a little worse for wear, the brand has some helpful cleaning tips on its site that you can follow. To clean your shoes, you'll need a brush, an old toothbrush, a cloth, leather shampoo and two bowls of water.

If your Birkenstocks are Nubuck leather or suede, start by brushing off dirt with a shoe brush (if yours are smooth leather, you can remove it with a slightly damp cloth).

After cleaning the outside, the brand suggests opening up the straps and cleaning the outside with a damp brush. Then, switch to the toothbrush and use it to massage a mix of water and leather shampoo into the footbed. Birkenstock suggests using a wet cloth to wash them off with lukewarm water — but the brand adds that you shouldn't hold them under running water or submerge them completely.

To dry, the brand suggests placing them in a spot inside, not in the sun or on a radiator, as they may lose their moisture-absorbing qualities.

Meet our expert

  • Dr. Asim Sayed, DPM, is a podiatrist in Kansas. He is trained in all aspects of podiatry, including sports medicine, wound care and trauma and is a member of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons.