DIY Slow Fashion

How to Care for Your Birkenstocks

September 1, 2015


When I was in the 8th grade my best friend and I saved our allowances for months until we could buy our first ever, and oh-so-coveted, Birkenstocks. We chose the masculine (well, aren’t they all?) Milanos in chocolate leather. We wore them proudly with our marled wool socks, sometimes even two pairs of stocks. You’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do in a PNW winter I guess. If I didn’t have so much stuff in storage I’d show you the picture we took with our algebra teacher and our trio of socks and Birkenstock clad feet.

Since the 8th grade I have worn countless pairs of Birkenstocks, rainbow colored, garden variety (literally), shoes, clogs, thongs and on. Along the way I have learned a few things about Birkenstock upkeep that I thought I’d share with you guys.

The shoes are almost completely reparable, especially if you have leather. I wish all shoes were this way – buy well, and lovingly look after them and they will love you back. Birks are a little bit needy when it comes to upkeep, but it’s cheap and easy if you stay on it.

Heels: don’t drag your feet! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had new heel wedges put on my soles from feet dragging. Now that I’m “all grown up” I’ve gotten a lot better at this, but there is still some wear on my heels. Pay attention and get your heels patched before it wears into the cork – which leads to bigger, more expensive problems.

Cork: the strongest feature of these shoes is also the most delicate. The cork is what makes these beds deliciously comfortable to our feet. To keep the cork long-living it’s very important to re-seal it once per season. Below, I’ve shot a little tutorial with some more info.

1.) Purchase cork sealer. I bought mine on Amazon, but specialty shoe stores that sell Birkenstocks might have it too.

Birkenstock care-32) See the condition of my cork? Not so good. I have worn this pair for two summers without re-sealing them. Failing to do that has exposed my cork to the elements and caused some of it to fall out. :(

Birkenstock care-43) The shoe in the left of the frame is how the cork should look. The shoe on the right is not. My biggest wear spots on the cork are near the big toes and the heels.

Birkenstock care-54) After examining your shoes, crack open the cream and squirt a little on your fingers. Back in the day the cork sealant used to be sold in a jar with a brush. I found that method left me over-sealing my cork and ending up with buildup. Using fingers works very nicely because you can ensure you apply a small, thin layer, and work it into the cork. It helps to have a napkin or cloth on hand to wipe off any excess that might get on the rubber part.

Birkenstock care-65) The sealant goes on shiny, which helps so you can see where you’ve applied it. When I did mine I did not put sealant on the spots that still obviously had it, I stuck mostly to the parts where the cork was bare, adding a little extra to the spots where the cork was starting to chip out.

Birkenstock care6) The sealant dries matte and restores your cork to like-new condition! This extra protection from the elements will help give your beloved Birkenstocks a long life. Love them with a bit of TLC and they will love you back with years of happy feet!


*This post is not endorsed by Birkenstock, all opinions and information is based on personal experience and research.

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  • jaana September 1, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    I didn’t even know that was a thing! Great tutorial

    • Andrea September 2, 2015 at 1:07 pm

      Thanks girl! :) Glad I could help.

    • Katherine Arnett March 29, 2016 at 3:07 am

      I didn’t either! I’m going to go get some of that cork sealer. Just in time for spring!

  • Nathan July 9, 2016 at 10:49 am

    I bought the sealer yesterday and have applied it a couple of times and my shoes are not shiny. Am I doing something wrong? Should I be using the sponge like thing on the cap?

    • Andrea July 9, 2016 at 11:19 pm

      Hi Nathan! I am not sure which kind of cork sealer you have, but mine dries matte. Hope that helps!

  • Miranda August 31, 2016 at 9:08 pm

    Did you wash your cork before applying the sealer? I’ve been wearing my pair Birkenstocks religiously for the past 2 years, and they are in desperate need of some cork sealer!

    • Andrea August 31, 2016 at 9:09 pm

      I did not. You want them to be dry. But if there is excess dirt, I’d certainly clean it off first, and then let them dry up before applying. Best of luck!

  • Alex September 18, 2016 at 6:55 pm

    Where do you get the heels on the birks redone?

    • Andrea September 19, 2016 at 10:43 pm

      Hi Alex, when I lived in Eugene, I used to take them to the Birkenstock store that actually did repairs. Here in Portland, I just take them to a good shoe cobbler.

  • Amy February 26, 2017 at 7:19 pm

    Hey Andrea, I recently bought Birks that are suede leather and the material is looking rough and a little off the edge rather than looking smooth like how I bought them. I was wondering if there was a way to fix this…

    • Andrea February 28, 2017 at 9:41 pm

      Hi Amy, is it nubuck or suede? I think the nubuck tends to be more nubby, but not sure about the suede.

      • Amy March 5, 2017 at 11:34 am

        They are suede, I wish I would’ve gotten the nubuck if I knew about them.. I thought there were just leather or suede

  • Jade April 2, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    Hey do you think I could use elmers glue?

    • Andrea April 3, 2017 at 8:33 pm

      I don’t think I would risk it!

  • Ariel Aguilera April 5, 2017 at 10:26 pm

    So my shoes got wet few days after I applied the sealer, there was what it look to be fresh sealer and when it dry, it dried white I brushed it off. So now do I apply more and let it dry or is it normal for a small amount or excess to come off. I want to get them ready for the summer

  • Ange June 1, 2017 at 7:45 am

    How much is the cork sealer thru Amazon? I want to compare the price with that at the local shoe store. Many thanks, Ange

  • Gina Mama June 19, 2017 at 6:16 pm

    Great blog about Birkenstocks!

  • Shauna | Linden & Lavender June 27, 2017 at 7:56 am

    I still have my milanos from grade 9! I have had the sole replaced a couple of times but they have held up and are now over 20 years old. It pays to save up and buy a quality item.

    • Andrea June 27, 2017 at 9:46 pm

      That’s amazing! I got Milanos in 8th grade, wish I’d kept them! But I do have a pair of bostons from college. :) :)