Birkenstock sandals have become quite the rage in recent years. Manufactured in Germany, Birkenstock footwear is known for its unique take on “comfortable” footwear, with sandals that are extremely difficult to break in before becoming one of the most comfortable sandals you can wear. They’re not known for their water resistance, however, so can Birkenstocks get wet?

Birkenstocks can certainly get wet, but it’s the kind of sandal that requires your attention after the fact. You never want to get caught out in the open where they will become saturated or exposed to water in the long term, but stepping in a puddle or getting splashed isn’t the end of the world.

A typical Birkenstock sandal has four laters of material in the sole of the shoe. The most well-known material that Birkenstock uses is cork, however, there are also layers of jute and shock-absorbent material. Some offshoots of the original sandal add a layer of foam for a softer sole.

The point is, these materials, especially the cork and the jute, don’t get along with water very well and there are special precautions you need to take if they do.

What to do if your Birkenstocks get wet?

sandy toes
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Even if you get splashed and it’s a brief thing, you still want to take some extra precautions so your Birkenstock shoes aren’t permanently affected by the water. The fact is, these are very expensive sandals and you don’t want to end up tossing $100 + sandals in the fireplace because they’re as useless as a submarine with screen doors.

  • Use a damp, cotton cloth with a small amount of soap to clean them
  • Place them in a cool, dry place
  • Pack them with newspaper or napkins
  • Use the provided maintenance kit
  • Provide them with some unheated air
  • Use cork sealer

You don’t want to make a bad situation worse but when your Birkenstocks get soaked, it often means that dirt and water are a part of it and you want to clean that stuff off. All you need to do is use a slightly damp cloth and a mild soap that suds up well with very little water.

Dry them off with a cotton towel and place them in a cool, dry area. Although your initial reaction may be to apply a heat source, don’t do so. Heat is the natural enemy of cork, especially cork that is very wet as it can completely rearrange the sole to the point where it is no longer wearable.

Pack newspaper or napkins into the sandals. It will help absorb water from the cork soles without you having to scrub or apply absorbing pressure on the soles of the sandals. It’s the equivalent of pouring sand or kitty litter on an oil spill in the garage. The material does all of the work for you.

It might help to expedite the process if you point a fan at your sandals as they dry, just make sure that there is no additional heat to go along with it.

Birkenstock sandals usually come with a maintenance kit as well, including the stuff that you need to waterproof your soles. Even so, it’s easy for little kits like that to disappear in the house somewhere. Fortunately, there are plenty of alternatives on the market.

The most important thing is getting all of the water out of the material and applying waterproofing spray to the material. Be sure to evenly distribute it around the sole, without concentrating too hard in one area, as it will affect the aesthetic of the shoe.

Properly maintaining Birkenstock Sandals

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The three most important components in Birkenstock Sandals, in terms of getting wet or otherwise dirty, are the leather, cork, and jute materials. Everything else, from the metal buckles to the “sometimes used” memory foam material and the shock-absorbent lining in the soles are materials frequently found in many other shoes and boots.

Of course, in this circumstance, the materials are all packed together into one, final product, so what you do with one is automatically done to all. When you first purchased your Birkenstock sandals, you probably noticed the gleaming, shininess of the heel and sole.

That’s a layer of cork waterproofing materials that goes on as part of the manufacturing process. Over time, especially during the “break-in” process, you will wear this layer off and it has to be replaced periodically.

For the leather material, you need to treat it with water and stain repellent from time to time, especially if you just got the sandals wet and you are through drying them out. The cork in your sandals requires a different repellant.

  • Routinely apply repellant and sealant on your cork and leather
  • Keep your Birkenstock Sandals dry and cool
  • Break them in as soon as you can
  • Use Birkenstock Cleaner & Refresher on the footbed
  • Soap and water for stubborn stains

The unfortunate part about owning premium shoes is that they require premium maintenance. You can’t just toss these sandals in a corner or leave them on the floorboard of your hot car.

You have to stay on top of them by keeping fresh applications of water sealant and cork sealant on the materials, without going overboard, and always keeping the sandals in a cool, dry place.

One of the biggest factors when it comes to Birkenstock Sandals is that this company doesn’t pull any punches with its material. Birkenstock manufactures sandals that they know, and everyone who purchases one knows, are going to be brutal on their feet.

The thing about Birkenstock sandals is that they are some of the most comfortable sandals you can purchase, but you have to earn it. When we say “earn it” we mean by more than just your money. We mean red, irritated skin and fat, bubble blisters.

It’s the way these sandals work because each one has to be permanently conformed to your feet. Since everyone’s feet are different, you aren’t going to get these sandals ready to wear right out of the box.

The key is, to break them in as quickly as possible, that way you don’t have to spend a long enough period trying to uncomfortably wear them to the point where you lose interest. Birkenstock advises you to try them for a couple of hours per day to get them properly broken in.

Birkenstock also advises you to frequently apply their Cleaner & Refresher spray, especially if you’ve spent a pretty good amount of time out and about in them. Also, as aforementioned, soap and lightly damp washcloth are the way to go when you want to give them a good cleaning.

Does Birkenstock manufacture waterproof sandals?

Birkenstock’s most famous shoes are all of the leather and cork variety and, most decidedly, not waterproof in the least. However, they do manufacture what they brand as their EVA lineup for men, women, and children.

Despite being known for their non-waterproof shoes, Birkenstock manufactures quite a few lines of these EVA shoes.

EVA stands for ethylene-vinyl acetate and it’s a type of elastic that is completely waterproof. It’s very similar to the material and feel of Crocs, except that Birkenstock sticks with its more hardened, ergonomic design that has made the entire line so popular.

These are extremely lightweight shoes, as EVA usually is and they are molded and ergonomically shaped in the exact same form as their matching, non-EVA versions.

Should you wear Birkenstocks to the beach or river?

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Birkenstock sandals are made for that kind of use. Once the material has been broken in, shaped, and reformed to your feet, the shoes are practically made to go anywhere and, even though they are sandals, hold up really well in just about any hiking or outdoor activity.

The only thing that you can’t do, is get them wet. This is especially true when it comes to saltwater if you’re out on the beach. Water is already no good for leather and adding salt to the equation just makes things that much worse.

Not only does the water cause long-term damage if it isn’t dealt with, but the salt also acts as a kind of grinding sandpaper that will eat the leather up, often discoloring it in the process. Your sweat can cause the same kind of problems as well, which is why it’s important to keep them clean at the end of a hot day.

So long as you keep them dry and clean, Birkenstocks are good for just about any eventuality, including the river or the beach.

Final thoughts

Birkenstock Sandals are becoming more and more popular and for good reason. They’re outstanding sandals and, even though it takes time to fully break them in and enjoy the full comfort they provide.

Unless you have a pair of EVAs, be sure to get them clean whenever they get even a little bit of water on them, including your own sweat, and these sandals will last you a long time. Birkenstock builds their sandals for the long haul, after all.