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A question for Richard or any Birk wearers

Posted by Kathy G on 5/06/04 at 16:08 (150140)

I finally did it! I got some narrow softbed Florida's from Birkenstock Central. When I wore them, they felt good so I wore them for 1 hour the first day, 1.5 the next, 2.0 the next and maybe 3 the next. Then the middle of my back began to hurt very badly. The pain is on each side of my spine, around waist level.

I stopped wearing them and the pain went away, after about four days. I tried them today and had to take them off after about thirty minutes; the pain in my back became quite severe. Now I know that's what caused the back problem.

My question for you is complicated because I never make things simple. About six or seven years ago, my Pod made me a pair of custom Birks. They are also Florida's but they don't have toe grips (I had a bad neuroma at the time) and they don't seem to have all the arches that the OTC Birks have. They do have the heel cup. They don't feel as good as these softbeds because they are so hard. I can wear them for four hours before my feet start to hurt. I also slide around in them because they aren't narrow enough. He had the heels lifted 3/8', in the cork area, because he knew that I had had problems with OTC Birks and the negative heel causing back pain. They never hurt my back.

Do you think the back pain is being caused by the negative heels? I can have my cobbler put the lifts into these new Birks. I just can't figure out if I could have back pain from the various arches in Birks or if the negative heel is causing the problem. What do you think?

I know it's a guess on your part but it's an educated guess! I appreciate your input.


Re: A question for Richard or any Birk wearers

Dorothy on 5/06/04 at 17:06 (150149)

Is it the general concensus that the Birkenstocks HAVE a negative heel?
I think of Earth shoes when I think of negative heel and Birkenstocks are not at all like Earth shoes in that way.

Re: A question for Richard or any Birk wearers

Suzanne D. on 5/06/04 at 21:44 (150159)

Kathy, I'm sorry that the soft footbed Birks which felt so good have now caused your back to hurt. I believe I would go with having the cobbler place lifts in the heels and see how they feel. At the slightest bit of back pain, then of course you would want to stop wearing them. That may be the only way you'll really know if it's the lower heel that is causing the problem.

When I was seeing a podiatrist (after finding this site and buying Birks), I asked him what he thought of my wearing the Arizonas which I had on at the time. His comment was that they were fine as long as I could tolerate the 'low heels'. He said they were good shoes but some people needed more lift in the heels. He didn't go into detail about it, but he did make that comment.

I hope you find a way to wear the Floridas. I know how frustrating it is to keep trying to find 'the perfect shoe'!

Suzanne :)

Re: A question for Richard or any Birk wearers

Carole C in NOLA on 5/07/04 at 08:48 (150179)


I am puzzled by your post, but if shoes hurt you then by all means, don't wear them! I've never had the soft footbed, but tried them on in the store to compare with the regular Arizona footbed. The regular footbed seemed more pronounced to me, and more comfortable (for me) so that is what I have.

I had Achilles tendonitis, and despite the somewhat negative heel, my C.Ped told me I could wear my Birkenstocks in the evenings to give my heel cord some variety. They were a big help in my recovery.

I could imagine that maybe if I did a whole lot of walking in my Birkenstocks, the lack of cushioning would jar my knees and back a lot. But when I had PF, a whole lot of walking really just was not in my agenda since my feet hurt like the dickens! I mostly just wore them around the house.

Carole C

Re: A question for Richard or any Birk wearers

Shell D. on 5/07/04 at 09:40 (150185)

Now I'm a little concerned. I just ordered a pair of Birks yesterday off the internet site. I've heard so many good things about them with PF, I wanted to try it for myself.

I'm crossing my fingers.....

Re: A question for Richard or any Birk wearers

Cindy W-A on 5/07/04 at 11:37 (150187)

I recently purchased 2 pairs of Birks. The 1st were the Tatami Santa Monica. I stumbled onto them at Ross for $30 in the men's shoe section and just wanted to try the Tatami foot bed since I have a high arch. They're hard and don't appear to have a heel but are comfortable.

Then, based on Dorothy's recommendation, I bought a pair on the Sierra Trading Post website. They're the Tatami Georgia sandals with a soft footbed and they appear to have a slight heel. They only had a narrow in my size (I normally wear medium width) but these fit perfectly. They kind of hug my foot so that I'm not slipping around as I do in most sandals. I like these better than the first pair. Maybe the slight heel is part of the difference. And they were only $45! (I can't believe I now think that's a bargain in shoes when that's the most I used to spend on any pair of shoes!) I think it just depends on the individual and trying different styles to find which are best. Unfortunately, that can get expensive because, for me, just walking around a shoe store for a few minutes isn't a true test of comfort.

Re: A question for Richard or any Birk wearers

Dorothy on 5/07/04 at 11:52 (150189)

Carole ~ It is so comforting to read your words, 'But when I had PF....' and to read that you believe you are cured of PF (and Achilles Tend., I presume). It is truly encouraging. I enjoy the methodical way you approach issues and describe them clearly. Not to 'gush' but your posts are inspirational whether about PF, or weight loss, or wise use of personal finances! Just a thanks -

Re: A question for Richard or any Birk wearers

Carole C in NOLA on 5/07/04 at 13:20 (150195)

Aw! You are sweet to say that. Thanks. :)

Carole C

Re: A question for Richard or any Birk wearers

Carole C in NOLA on 5/07/04 at 13:22 (150196)

Don't be concerned! Birkenstocks are heavenly for many or most who post here with PF. Nothing works for everybody with PF, but Birkenstocks probably work for more people with PF than any other treatment I can think of. They are certainly worth trying.

Carole C

Re: A question for Richard or any Birk wearers

Lynda S. on 5/07/04 at 19:03 (150210)

I wear nothing but Birks now adays, mostly the Arizona, Florida, and Boston clogs in the winter, as they are the only shoe that is comfortable for me. I have tried everything, orthototics, cortisone shots, 2 surgeries, and nothing had ever given me any relief before Birks. Well, my daughter is getting married next month. She asked me if I could please wear some regular stylish shoes for the wedding instead of my Birks. Well I had just gotten the latest catalogue from Birkenstock , and I saw some dressier looking sandals, Morgan, for high arches. I have high arches though have never gotten any Birks with high arches, just the classic arch. Well, these Morgans are the most comfortable shoe I have ever worn. I told my husband I may just wear them to bed! They don't have the usual beige cork bed, they're black, even though they were $120, I may never take them off. My husband told me that I should save them for the wedding, they'll get scuffed or something. I love them. So it's a lot of trying different things, different shoes. What works for one doesn't for another. I have suffered with PF for over 12 years now and it has taken a long time to figure out what works for me.

Re: A question for Richard or any Birk wearers

Suzanne D. on 5/07/04 at 21:53 (150216)

I agree, Dorothy! Carole's a scientist through and through, and it comes out in her posts. I admire her clarity and sensible logic. She seems to be able to go straight to the heart of an issue while I always have to travel around some before I get there! :D

Suzanne :)

Re: A question for Richard or any Birk wearers

Suzanne D. on 5/07/04 at 21:55 (150217)

How nice for you, Lynda, that you have found shoes that feel good - and in time for your daughter's wedding, too! The Morgans are pretty. There are several in that line that I'd love to wear, but unfortunately the largest size is just a little too short for me. I'm glad they worked for you.

Best wishes! After 12 years, you certainly deserve some good fortune!

Suzanne :)

Re: A question for Richard or any Birk wearers

Dorothy on 5/08/04 at 02:16 (150225)

I agree with you (and me, I guess :-) ) about Carole, but I have to disagree with you about you. I think your posts, information and advice is very clear and to the point and very thoughtful.

I've been reading the Birkenstock discussion a bit today and looked at an online image of the Morgan that was mentioned. I looked at http://www.birkenstockexpress.com because they had that model. This company states that they specialize in hard to find sizes, split sizes and so on....I wondered 'if Suzanne knows about them' - when you are having difficulty finding your size in a shoe you would like to try?

Re: A question for Richard or any Birk wearers

Dorothy on 5/08/04 at 02:18 (150226)

Correction: ...ARE very clear..etc. Tired and weary.

Re: A question for Richard or any Birk wearers

Suzanne D. on 5/08/04 at 07:24 (150227)

Thank you, Dorothy, for your kind comments and also for thinking of me in relation to 'hard to find sizes'!

I have found Birkenstock Express to be a great company with which to do business. I have ordered (and returned) shoes from them, and their repair department worked with me to customize the removeable footbeds in my Annapolis shoes. I e-mailed them, they answered and instructed me what to do, called once to make sure the markings for the extra arch aupport were correct, and responded kindly when I wrote to thank them for their good work.

Alas, those pretty Tatami Birks like the Morgan won't work for me. I've tried the Alice and the Margaret, which are similar, and had to return both. My feet (even in the narrow) tend to slip forward a little for the arch to hit me in the right place, and my toes hit that hard ridge in the front of the sandals. That's in the size 43, the largest available.

I have found a pair, however, which I have only seen on the German site, and only in the bargain section there. They are called Santee, and I'll try to provide a link to let you see them. I ordered them for $40-something (free, ground shipping - took 3 weeks) back in the winter so I would have plenty of time to break them in and figure out what to do to make them work for me. They have no ridge in the front which I could see from the picture and which is why I ordered them. The 43 narrow fits fine. The arch isn't quite high enough, but after experimenting with some things, I have finally found a way to make them work. The removeable insoles that come in my SAS shoes have little felt-like arch 'bumps' that I found could be carefully pulled off. They have sticky backs, and I placed them on the Santee footbeds, and they provide just the extra arch that I need. I broke the shoes in gradually, and I have now worn them to school two days this week! It seems I must go on a grand adventure to make a pair of shoes fit and work for me, but it sure is worth it when they finally do!

I'll post this and then find the link to the Santee shoes in case anyone else is interested in them.

Suzanne :)

Re: Birkenstock Santee site...

Suzanne D. on 5/08/04 at 07:35 (150228)


This gives you (I hope) a good view of the Santee shoe. Mine are cream-colored rather than the white shown here. I am pleased to have some shoes for summer which are dressier than the Arizonas and yet not closed shoes like the Annapolis.

Suzanne :)

Re: Birkenstock Santee site...

Kathy G on 5/08/04 at 08:23 (150231)

Those are sharp looking, Suzanne. I'm glad you found a way to make them work for you!

I'm bringing my Birks to the cobbler and going for it. I have to call and see if he's open today before I leave. He's very independent and closes whenever he wants to. Seeing as he's the only cobbler in the area, it's not a surprise. It's a dying art and when he retires, I don't know who I'll go to. In today's throwaway society, people don't bother to have shoes reheeled or resoled. The majority of his business is from his sale of Birkenstocks and the adjustments he does on shoes for area podiatrists.

Re: Birkenstock Santee site...

Suzanne D. on 5/08/04 at 08:56 (150233)

Thanks, Kathy!

I hope the adjustments your cobbler makes to your new Birks will make them wearable for you.

You're right: the work of a cobbler seems to be a lost art. I know of none in our area. I can remember going with my parents to a nice little man's shop where I grew up. We went to have shoes reheeled, to have another hole made in a belt, or to have a pair of shoes stretched. I was always fascinated by his shop. I loved the leather smell that hit you as soon as you walked in the door. I thought the shoe stretchers were neat, and I remember that after putting new heels on, he would always polish the shoes so nicely. It looked as if you had a new pair when you picked them up.

Good luck!
Suzanne :)

Re: A question for Richard or any Birk wearers

Dorothy on 5/08/04 at 15:01 (150236)

OWCH! for what happens for you in the styles that don't feel good.
For all of your very smart re-working of the Birkenstocks to make them work for you, I think YOU could be a cobbler! You also have a scientific, methodical bent like Carole does - and they are terrific qualities. I am going to have to turn you in to the SAS folks, however, for defacing the SAS and augmenting the Birks!
Your description of the cobbler you knew and his shop was very nice; I also have those memories - there also always seemed to be the neon 'Cats Paw' clock for the Cats Paw brand of heels, I think it was. My dad actually cobbled our shoes on some old-fashioned shoe equipment he had. He would put a new sole and heel on and tack them in place. Before too long, the tacks would work themselves into the sole of your FOOT!
I love the idea and the practice of repairing and rebuilding shoes versus the toss-away mentality. Our shoe-repair person (doesn't call HERSELF a cobbler) is very nice and has reglued my Birkenstock Arizona soles about five times - and never will take any payment.
I also loved to go into old-fashioned barbershops with men in my family - such a 'manly' place and wonderful smells. Same with an old, and old-fashioned, tailor in my hometown, down the old iron stairs in a mid-1800 brick building basement. His windows looked up and out to the sidewalk - and it was dim in his shop - and his eyesight was very poor in his old age. A very sweet old Europeon man, always in a white shirt, wool gaberdine trousers and suspenders. Some of these elements I still find irresistible in men, I must confess. (barbershop smell, white shirt, the 'world of manly' activities...) Ok - back to real work. Have a nice weekend -
Oh almost forgot - the Santee - very pretty, Suzanne. You must be tidier than I to be able to wear light-colored linen shoes - but they are pretty. It's tough in the spring/summer when all the pretty little strappy sandals and heels are all over the place - I look at them and wonder: how could you get a PowerStep in there - or - can't wear a Thorlo with THAT!! Different perspective now.

Re: A question for Richard or any Birk wearers

Suzanne D. on 5/08/04 at 16:04 (150237)

Thank you again, Dorothy! I also enjoyed your description of the old-fahioned barbershop and your tailor's place of business. When we were growing up, men and women did not get their hair cut in the same place, did they? There were barbershops and beauty parlors. Kind of like on the good old Andy Griffith show. :)

No, I could not ever wear light-colored linen shoes that were fabric. My little children at school step on me too much, and the shoes would soon be soiled. Actually, these look like linen but are made of some synthetic material, Birko-flor, I think it is called. They feel a little like plastic and wipe right off with a damp cloth. So that's nice!

Have a nice weekend, too! I have never thought that I had a scientific mind - probably in part because my husband has always said I am not very logical. :) I think I have always had to be creative and 'make do'. But it's nice to think I might be a little scientific.

Suzanne :)

Re: A question for Richard or any Birk wearers

Carole C in NOLA on 5/08/04 at 22:55 (150257)

Thank you, Suzanne! You and Dorothy have made my day. :)

I agree with Dorothy... I think your posts are great! Your knowledge of feet and shoes is invaluable, and your posts show such patience and caring, too.

Carole C

Re: Thank you, Carole, and a question...

Suzanne D. on 5/09/04 at 08:06 (150267)

Thank you, Carole!

I hope today on Mother's Day you get to have a nice talk with Christina.

Are you still walking each day? How far do you walk? Do you do it in one outing or walk shorter distances more than one time a day? What shoes do you wear while walking?

Sorry to bombard you with questions, but I walked a mile Friday and again yesterday and hope to keep doing that. I am feeling so out of shape and sluggish. My feet felt o.k. in my SAS shoes with the SuperFeet inserts. I don't want to overdo it and make my feet start hurting, but they felt alright while walking and don't seem any stiffer this morning than usual.

Thanks for your help!
Suzanne :)

Re: Actually, I should have written "and some questionS"...(eom) :-)

Suzanne D. on 5/09/04 at 08:07 (150268)


Re: Thank you, Carole, and a question...

Carole C in NOLA on 5/10/04 at 06:41 (150312)

Suzanne, I am not still walking every day but it's not due to my feet as much as the fact that I need to make this a habit, and it isn't one yet. I have been walking about once a week and I would get a lot more benefit if I was still walking every day.

I wear my New Balance 991's for walking, because they are the most highly cushioned shoes that I have (and I walk on concrete sidewalks). I do my walking in one outing, but breaking it up is a good idea! I wasn't able to start out with a mile, like you did. After trying a mile once, I felt 'beat' and exhausted, so I scaled it back to a half mile and worked up from there. Sometimes I walk a mile now, but since I'm not walking every day that gives me time to recover.

I discovered recently that my grocery store is just 0.8 miles away from my house! Now I am thinking it would be great if I walked to the store every day, bought a couple of things for that day's dinner, and walked back home with it. The thought of being able to do that is a great incentive to get back to walking regularly.

I'm SO GLAD that you are feeling well enough to start walking, Suzanne! :) Who would have thought we'd be posting like this, two or three years ago. :)

Carole C

Re: P.S., the experience and what works for me

Carole C in NOLA on 5/10/04 at 06:57 (150313)

P.S. - - Although it's hard for me to get started (since I am a world class procrastinator), once I am walking my feet are not crying out, and after I'm done they don't hurt, either.

I walk at a pace that would allow me to 'speak but not sing'... a level of activity that Weight Watchers calls moderate. That seems to give me plenty of aerobic benefit without being too much in danger of overdoing. While I am walking, I pay close attention to my feet and how they feel, and also to staying within the 'speak but not sing' level of activity.

Another thing that I pay attention to, is not letting my feet flop wherever they want. I try to walk in perfect form (or as close to it as I can manage), with my feet pointed straight ahead, my stomach pulled in, my chin up, and my arms swinging appropriately.

I warm up beforehand by strolling about the back yard, and doing my gentle stretching.

Carole C

Re: P.S., the experience and what works for me

char B on 5/10/04 at 17:33 (150341)

When you say soft bed what do you mean? Is it the same as the original birk? How about the titami foot bed???? I have PF really bad should I maybe stick with a back strap sandle?(milano)?????What are euro birks?

Re: A question for Richard or any Birk wearers

Ed Davis, DPM on 5/10/04 at 19:21 (150361)

Good question and a relevant one. My guess is that they don't have a negative heel but one that is very close to the ground. I think that if the heel was actually negative, their effect on PF would be less positive. I often find patients doing much better when a heel lift is inserted in between the footbed and the sandal. That requires use of one of the models with a removable footbed.

Re: soft footbeds...

Suzanne D. on 5/10/04 at 20:02 (150368)

Char, here's a good explanation of the soft footbed Birkenstocks. I hope the link works!


Suzanne :)

Re: Thank you, Carole, and a question...

Suzanne D. on 5/10/04 at 20:13 (150369)

Thank you for your answers, Carole! Yes, who would have thought we would have been posting about walking a couple of years ago?! I remember when the thought of walking from the Wal-Mart parking lot into the store was enough to make me just stay in the van!

I didn't get to walk today due to my schedule. The front part of my lower legs are a little sore today as well as my feet, but they don't hurt in the arches or heels, so I'm thankful for that. Probably a mile to start with was a bit ambitious. I'll just have to see how it goes. The main thing is to start something!

Thanks again,
Suzanne :)

Re: P.S., the experience and what works for me

Suzanne D. on 5/10/04 at 20:14 (150370)

I like that explanation of a pace that would allow you to 'speak but not sing'! That really makes sense! I'm going to remember that.

Suzanne :)

Re: Thank you, Carole, and a question...

Carole C in NOLA on 5/10/04 at 20:41 (150375)

My shins were a little sore too when I started walking, and I am pretty ignorant about things like shin splints so that is one reason that I cut back to 1/2 mile. They hardly hurt when I walked the shorter distance. Since we've had PF and haven't been able to maintain the activity level we once did, probably other muscles have become less capable than they once were.

But still, it's exhilarating to walk again, isn't it! I find that even 1/2 mile a day makes a HUGE difference in how I feel.

You're so right. 'The journey of a thousand miles, begins with but a single step' (old Chinese proverb attributed to Lao-Tzu). The patience we learned with PF will be our strength as we begin to go for walks again.

Carole C

Re: P.S., the experience and what works for me

Carole C in NOLA on 5/10/04 at 20:45 (150376)

If you have bad PF then probably you should avoid the strap sandals like the Milano, and stick with the Arizona. The reason is that the sandal needs to be able to 'float' a little so that it can position itself correctly. The logic here is difficult to explain, but I would suggest the Arizona instead of the Milano.

There are many Tatami footbeds... high arch, low arch, and so on. I would suggest that you begin not with the Tatami, but with the 'classic footbed' (like the Arizona, Florida, Granada, Boston, and so on). This footbed works best for most PF sufferers. Then, if it works you can always try different Birkenstock footbeds for variety (which is helpful in PF).

Carole C

Re: Thank you, Carole, and a question...

Suzanne D. on 5/10/04 at 21:54 (150380)

You are so right, Carole!

Suzanne :)

Re: Thank you, Carole, and a question...

Kathy G on 5/11/04 at 16:48 (150420)

I found, too, that I started to develop shin splints while undertaking my limited walking program. It only happened one day but my daughter pointed out that the route I chose is uphill. I didn't think it would matter because it was a gradual incline but it did bother me one day. The next time I walked, I was fine but I tried to slow down a bit. I am a very fast walker and I think I just overdid it that day.

I can't remember how far I walk although I did clock it in my car. I go by minutes. I'm only walking fifteen minutes every few days. I let my feet be my guide; when the pain gets to a certain degree, I turn around and head for home. At first I could only do thirteen minutes. I would check the clock when I left and when I returned, and every single time it was thirteen minutes. Some days now, I can go for seventeen! Every little bit helps and even when I can't walk far, I say it's more than I was walking a year ago!

Today, I went to the mall after getting a haircut and I did some other errands. My feet definitely hurt but I'll bet I walked further than I do when I take my walk.

It is very liberating to be able to take any kind of walk, as you said, Carole. I'm cautiously optimistic that this will help to eliminate the five more pounds I would like to lose. But, see the Social Board, to see why I question what is going to happen to my weight!

Re: Thank you, Carole, and a question...

Carole C in NOLA on 5/11/04 at 20:14 (150437)

I was walking at a fairly brisk pace, also, Kathy! Maybe that is what does it. When I walk slowly, my shins are not bothered. Luckily, reducing the distance to 1/2 mile seems to have helped (but if I begin having trouble with them, I'll have to slow down).

I am so glad to hear that you are beginning to be able to walk, too! That is just wonderful. Imagine! The three of us actually walking for exercise, when once we were so incapacitated with PF. Once a dream, and now our reality. Will wonders never cease. :)

Walking has helped tremendously in my weight loss efforts, when I do it regularly and also control my food intake. I've found that brisk walking for exercise helps, but for some reason normal walking (as in the mall, doing errands, and so on) is not nearly as helpful for my weight loss.

Each to her own, but in case anybody's interested, here's how I like to walk. When I walk for exercise, I try to walk at the brisk pace I described, and to use good walking form, as I discussed too. I also do not try to do anything else while I'm walking for exercise. I like to leave life's worries behind, and I don't even listen to the radio or to music. I go on a route that is pleasant and safe, but takes me nowhere but back to my house. And, I try to listen to the sounds of nature, and take in the beauty of the flowers and the neighborhood. It's part of my time for me. :)

Carole C

Re: Kathy and Carole...

Suzanne D. on 5/14/04 at 17:32 (150601)

Hi, Ladies! My shin pain disappeared after three days. I think it was the briskness of my walking now that you mention it. What you both said makes sense. You know, I do walk more than I realize sometimes because of our long halls at school. But I go at a slow pace because first grade legs and feet cannot keep up a fast pace while I'm asking them not to run. A few times when we have been almost late for PE or lunch and I take off at a quick pace, I look around and realize they're almost running to keep up! (It would be a funny sight if we weren't admonished to keep quiet, nice lines in the hallways! :'> )

It does seem that I must walk at a more brisk pace to burn enough calories to make a difference. I guess I'll have to experiment to see if shorter distances at a quicker pace or longer distances going slower works best for my fitness plan. I don't want new pain in my feet or legs, but I would like to lose 5 - 10 pounds this summer! And I'd also like to feel more fit in the process.

Thanks for your comments,
Suzanne :)

Re: Kathy and Carole...

Carole C in NOLA on 5/14/04 at 22:20 (150615)

Suzanne, I think you are wise to be careful not to get a new pain in your shins. You are going about this just right. :)


Re: Suzanne

RACHAEL T. on 5/15/04 at 06:17 (150621)

Hi S! Sounds like you are getting your feet right in order....& your shins too! I am happy you are doing well. Keep at it but remember to 'budget' your feet daily - as I call it! School is almost out & your r & r is about here....enjoy!

Re: Suzanne

Suzanne D. on 5/15/04 at 08:13 (150625)

That's a good way to look at it: 'budget your feet daily'! That describes it well. I'm going to try to file that away in my mind along with Carole's gem about walking fast enough to 'speak but not sing'!

And I'm going to do one more thing to help myself today. After I leave this message board this morning, I'm going to order myself a pair of Birk Pacific sandals made for water. I only step into the bathtub and out onto a rolled up towel, but still, I've been thinking that I should listen to Carole and not even be without shoes those two brief times a day. I dress like she descibes and never, ever have my feet out of shoes except for getting in and out of the bath, but standing up in the tub to get out puts a strain on my feet that I don't need. It's worth the $35 to see if wearing those sandals into and out of the tub might help.

Thanks to you both, Carole and Rachael, for your good wishes!
Suzanne :)