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Birkenstock Orthopädie GmbH & Co. KG
Founded 1774
Founder Johann Adam Birkenstock
Headquarters Neustadt (Wied), Germany
Products Shoes
Pairs of Birkenstocks (original in the back, Birki's in the front (Birki's owned by Birkenstock)

Birkenstock Orthopädie GmbH & Co. KG is a shoe manufacturer headquartered in Neustadt (Wied), Germany. The company sells Birkenstock, a German brand of sandals and other shoes notable for their contoured cork and rubber footbeds, which conform somewhat to the shape of their wearers' feet. Representative products include the two-strap Arizona sandal and the Boston clog.


The Birkenstock brand traces its roots to Johann Adam Birkenstock, registered in 1774 as a "vassal and shoemaker" in local church archives in the small Hessian village of Langen-Bergheim. In 1896 Johann's great-great-grandson Konrad Birkenstock developed the first contoured insole for use by shoemakers in the production of custom footwear.[1] Also in the year 1896 Karl opened two shoe stores in Fankfurt, Germany where he continued to make and sell his insoles.[2] 1902 saw the development of the first flexible arch-support for insertion into factory-made shoes; and in 1964, Karl Birkenstock developed these inserts into a shoe — thus producing the original prototype of the Birkenstock sandal. In 1925 Konrad Birkenstock expanded the company by buying a large factory in Friedberg, Hesse. After World War II (1939-1945) the Birkenstock sandal was popular among returning soldiers because of the orthopedic support.[3] Starting in 1963 and continuing into 1964 Karl Birkenstock released his first athletic sandal with a flexible footbed called, Madrid. It soon became an icon especially among gymnasts.

In 1966 Birkenstocks were introduced in the United States, as well as elsewhere. American, Margot Fraser "discovered" Birkenstock sandals while visiting a spa in Germany.[4] She gained relief from a foot condition, and founded a trading company called Birkenstock Footprint Sandals, Inc., in Novato, California, based on her enthusiasm for the sandals. Renamed Birkenstock Distribution USA, Inc., in 2005, the company remained until 2007 the exclusive importer and distributor of Birkenstock name-brand products in the United States. In 2007 the owners of Birkenstock Orthopädie GmbH & Co. KG purchased their long-standing distribution partner Birkenstock Distribution USA, Inc. (BDUSA).

When Margot Fraser first started distributing them in San Fransico, California, she wasn't having very much luck. Later on in the 70's a cultural revolution was taking off and so was her business. In the United States, Birkenstock first became popular among young men and later on among flower children, a group traditionally associated with American liberalism.[5] The timing was important because the "hippie" kids wanted to be different from their parents and radical and these shoes were just the beginning for them. In the early 1990s "Birk" enjoyed a surge of popularity among high-school and college-aged Generation Xers comparable to the 2000s popularity of Rainbow Sandals and Crocs.[6] During the 2004 U.S. presidential primary, some conservatives derided Howard Dean's supporters as "Birkenstock liberals".[7]

The Footbed[edit]

The footbed of the Birkenstock shoe was created in the 1930's and is very unique, it has four different layers that complete the shoes. The first layer of the shoe is the shock absorbent sole, this is flexible, durable, and lightweight. Followed by the jute fibers which are two layers that wick away moisture and adds strength. The next layer is firm corked footbed which has a resilient cork/latex base for maximum support. The last layer is the footbed line which is a soft suede that keeps your feet comfortable and dry.[8] The company also makes something called the blue footbed which allows you to get the support of the Birkenstock in any closed toe shoe.

Birkenstocks in the Spotlight[edit]

As of 2013 Birkenstock continue to enjoy high popularity with teenagers and college-aged young adults. This is widely due to the haute couture brand Celine's 2013 Spring Ready-To-Wear collection.[9][10] In this collection a furry version of the orthopaedic sandals make an appearance in a variety of outfits, and soon after Birkenstocks were prevalent in other runway shows, as well as on multiple celebrities' feet.[11] Some celebrities that you'll see rocking Birkenstocks are Naomi Watts,[12] Leighton Meester,[13] Juliane Moore,[13] Jessica Alba,[13] Drew Barrymore,[13] Miranda Kerr,[14] Heidi Klum,[15] Cara Delevingne,[16] Vanessa Hudgens,[17] Ashley Olsen,[18] Selma Blair,[13] Anne Hathaway,[19] and Kate Hudson.[20] With the dramatic increase in of popularity of flip-flop and thong sandal styles, Birkenstock's avant-garde thonged styles—such as the Ramses[21] and the Arizona[22]—have become increasingly popular among both men and women.

Where Are They Now?[edit]

As of 2017, some important executives of the Birkenstock Orthopädie GmbH & Co. KG[23] include Alex Birkenstock as the Chief Executive Officer, Christian Birkenstock as the Managing Director, and Tim Steffens as the Managing Director.


  1. ^ History of Birkenstock
  2. ^ "History: Birkenstock Group". Retrieved 2017-04-25. 
  3. ^ e.V., Deutsche Zentrale für Tourismus. "Johan Adam Birkenstock". Retrieved 2017-04-25. 
  4. ^ "Talk with founder and former CEO of Birkenstock, Margot Fraser". 2010-04-07. Retrieved 2017-04-25. 
  5. ^ Carr, Collie (12 March 2006). "Thank You for Insulting Our Sandals". The New York Times. Accessed 7 May 2012.
  6. ^ Lydia DePillis (15 November 2013). "The rise and fall and rise and fall of Crocs". Washington Post. Accessed 7 November 2015.
  7. ^ Eric (31 August 2003). "Who's Afraid of Howard Dean?" Classical Values. Accessed 7 May 2012.
  8. ^ "Our Footbed". Retrieved 2017-05-07. 
  9. ^ "Céline Spring 2013 Ready-to-Wear Fashion Show Details - Vogue". Retrieved 2016-08-04. 
  10. ^ "Céline Spring 2013 Ready-to-Wear Fashion Show Details". Vogue. Retrieved 2017-04-25. 
  11. ^ Nnadi, Chioma. "Pretty Ugly: Why Vogue Girls Have Fallen for the Birkenstock". Retrieved 2016-08-04. 
  12. ^ "Celebrities Wearing Birkenstocks". Retrieved 2017-04-25. 
  13. ^ a b c d e "Celebrities Wear Birkenstocks this Summer". The Artistic Soul. Retrieved 2017-04-25. 
  14. ^ "Celebrities Wearing Birkenstocks". Retrieved 2017-04-25. 
  15. ^ "Celebrities Wearing Birkenstocks". Pinterest. Retrieved 2017-04-25. 
  16. ^ "Who Wore It Best: Birkenstocks". Her Campus. Retrieved 2017-04-25. 
  17. ^ "The Comfy Sandal A-Listers Wear to Run Errands". WhoWhatWear. Retrieved 2017-04-25. 
  18. ^ "Celebrities Wearing Birkenstocks". Retrieved 2017-04-25. 
  19. ^ "CELEBS". Pinterest. Retrieved 2017-04-25. 
  20. ^ "Kate Hudson wearing Birkenstock, Celine and Fable". Retrieved 2017-04-25. 
  21. ^ "Ramses Birko-Flor Dark Brown | shop online at BIRKENSTOCK". Retrieved 2017-04-25. 
  22. ^ "Arizona Mocha Birkibuc | shop online at BIRKENSTOCK". Retrieved 2017-04-25. 
  23. ^ "Birkenstock Orthopädie GmbH & Co. KG: Private Company Information - Bloomberg". Retrieved 2017-04-27. 

External links[edit]