How are Birkenstock sandals made

Birkenstock: 4 reasons why health shoes are now gaining a foothold around the world

Birkenstock. Cork footbed and leather straps. Since its introduction in 1964, the Birkenstock sandal has been considered sensible, but ultimately bourgeois footwear on the feet of staid family fathers, fashion deniers and hippies who are hostile to consumerism. Until the tide turned in 2012. Since then, there has been a real hype about the chunky shoe with a health insole, and Birkenstock is also represented in the trendy districts of international cities and on the catwalk. The temporary high point of a 245-year company history - but which success factors is Birkenstock building on? We went on a search for clues ...



Since Johann Adam Birkenstock founded his shoemaking business in 1774, the family business has focused on health-promoting footbeds. These have not only been further developed over generations but have also been supplemented by books and lectures on the subject of well-being for the feet. Even the word “footbed” was coined by Birkenstock. Finally, in the third generation, the sandal developed by Carl Birkenstock was presented, which first reached target groups such as health workers in the 1970s, then the hippie and eco-movement and finally “normal” households. Known and ridiculed for its consistently anti-fashion, purely function-oriented style, Birkenstock thrived in some quiet niches of the shoe market.

From upheaval to breakthrough

While Birkenstock hardly experienced any existential crises, the company stagnated from the 90s. The managing family was divided and could not find a common line, serious arguments with the workforce damaged the image. Then suddenly the breakthrough came in 2012: Birkenstock unexpectedly stepped into the spotlight of the fashion scene when Phoeby Philo, then designer of the luxury label Celine, caused a sensation with the “Furkenstocks” and made the staid sandals a presentable fashion statement. Another upheaval followed in 2013: the Birkenstock brothers Alexander and Christian initially took over the shares of the third brother Stephan, then withdrew from the management and handed over the management to an “external” dual leadership for the first time. Thanks to Markus Bensberg, who has been with Birkenstock for more than 25 years, and Oliver Reichert, a media career changer, Birkenstock is now flourishing - and innovating - like never before, the number of employees has doubled.

A success that is always based on many factors. We took a closer look at the four most important ones.

The product: Quality is timeless - and unmistakable

Even when Birkenstock sandals were considered hopelessly out of fashion, consumers were in agreement. In Birkenstock sandals, it is unmatched and safe and comfortable. They are anatomically shaped, made primarily from natural materials and will last for many years due to the high quality of the material and workmanship. Such a powerful selling point, the company managed to be old-fashioned yet successful for over 230 years.

The design, which has remained almost unchanged for decades, also distinguishes the product - Birkenstock is immediately recognizable worldwide and is accordingly frequently copied. In the meantime, the company is taking rigorous action against it - even against distributors who do not do enough against the counterfeiters, such as. Amazon. As a consequence, investments were also made in distribution, with its own shops and an online shop available in 20 countries.

The tour: many years of experience and new perspectives

Just rely on old values ​​and the tried and tested product? Or do innovations and other markets open up? Until a few years ago, the management of Birkenstock consisted of a quarreling family association that could not agree on the strategic continuation of the company. Until they finally agreed on one last common position in 2013 - to rely on non-family management for the benefit of the company.

The decision in favor of a quorum, consisting of the Birkenstock veteran Markus Bensberg and the former sports broadcaster manager Oliver Reichert, turned out to be the perfect combination of tradition and new impulses. This was followed by a radical restructuring and simplification of the company structures that had grown up over 6 generations, measures to improve working conditions - and a series of product innovations. In contrast to the past, Birkenstock was able to derive the greatest possible benefit from the recurring trends towards convenience and sustainability.

The brand: with consistency for credibility

The public debates about climate change, sustainability and the ecological balance sheet, but also about the change in how women see themselves, meet the core values ​​of the Birkenstock brand. In contrast to companies that have to integrate these trends retrospectively and often less convincingly into their brand world in order to benefit from them, well-being, sustainability and good quality have always been at the center of the Birkenstock brand. Thanks to its longstanding consistency around the topic, Birkenstock can credibly offer a vegan version of its shoes or a (cork-based) high-priced care line without departing from the brand essence. Another advantage for Birkenstock: the growing number of women who no longer want to bend to the dictates of wearing high shoes at the expense of their foot health. A trend that Birkenstock is now countering with numerous, even more unusual, designs - without compromising on the footbed.

The innovations: growing around a solid core

Even if, according to Co-Managing Director Reichert, 55% of the models sold are still the classic sandals Madrid, Arizona and Gizeh from the 1970s: In recent years the range of Birkenstock shoes and licensees such as Papillo has expanded substantially. You are also open to fashion trends - with sandals in trendy colors and patterns, special collections with cooperation partners (Valentino, Rick Owens) and brand ambassadors (e.g. Francis McDormand, Heidi Klum) selected according to strict criteria, and now closed-toe shoes and boots.

But the heart and soul remains the familiar Birkenstock footbed made of cork and natural latex. Materials that are also the basis for product innovations that are further removed from the original shoe universe. So z. B. the own cosmetics line made with essences from the cork oak (USA, Asia). But beds and even office furniture are also being considered, because the successful Birkenstock management duo clearly sees the expanded brand world in the area of ​​ergonomics and health at home - just as it did 245 years ago ...

Birkenstock: The MARMIND® top tips

Focus on the product - a good, high-quality product finds its market, also apart from trends.

Stay true to your own values - rather wait for trends than chase after them.

Orient innovation to the brand essence - this is how new products remain credible.


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