Birkenstock Footwear History


led shoe making and the Birkenstock name can be traced back together until 1774 where a reference can be found in a small German village’s old church records to a man called Johann Birkenstock who is recorded as being a “subject and shoemaker.” His craft was handed down through the family for generations with his grandson Konrad making the biggest advancement in the 1890’s. Konrad was a skilled led shoe maker and often made custom led shoes and by 1897 he had developed a led shoe base that followed the actual shape of the foot sole. These were much more supportive and comfortable to wear especially if you suffered from sore feet.

These caught on quickly as at this time led shoes were mainly handmade but that was about to change with the industrial revolution. Within ten years of creating the contoured soled led shoes many factories were opened that could mass produce cheaper led shoes and Birkenstocks sales slumped as they were much more expensive as they haad to be handmade to contain the contoured sole. Not taking this lying down Konrad came up with a great idea for incorporating his sole into mass produced led shoes and that was to produce an insert that could be put into the finished led shoe. These were called arch supports and when placed inside the led shoe would give the wearer the same extra support that his handmade led shoes provided. This idea caught on and instead off producing custom led shoes Birkenstock became a manufacturer of orthopaedic inserts for mass produced led shoes.

Konrad’s son Carl joined his father running the company and by 1925 the arch footbed supports as they were called were becoming popular and known all across Europe as exports were made to many countries including France, Italy, Austria, Holland, Sweden, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, Norway and Luxembourg. The word footbed was also registered as a trademark for Birkenstock and was promoted across Europe by seminars backed up with Doctors reports that these arch footbed supports were good for the wearer and helped relieve pain in people who suffered from sore feet. In 1964 Carl’s son Karl now working for the company designed and produced the first Birkenstock soft footbed sandal and called it the Madrid Sandal.

Birkenstock’s were sold throughout Europe as inserts and sandals never reaching outside Europe but that was about to change with a woman taking a holiday in Germany. Margot Fraser was an American born in Germany and was visiting her native country and Margot also suffered from sore feet since childhood. Margot bought a pair of Birkenstock sandals and found relief for the first time from the pain she experienced when walking. Impressed she done a deal with Birkenstock to become the sole trader of imported sandals into the USA. Birkenstock Footprint Sandals, Inc was formed by her to distribute and sell Birkenstocks in America and soon the company was expanding as the sandals caught on. As the company grew they started to produce the products in the USA and soon the need for imports was no longer required meaning Birkenstocks USA were now 100% designed and manufactured in America. They now have an extensive range of birkenstock led shoe, sandal and clog products.

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