These shoes were make for walkin... for 8 months
February 19, 2011 11:14 AM   Subscribe

What's the average expected lifespan of a shoe, given daily wear?

I've got a pair of Birkenstocks that I absolutely love, they're so comfy, and I've worn them almost every day (as in, I've worn other shoes maybe a total of ten times) since I got them last June. I was dismayed the other day to notice the rubber sole had completely worn off on one side of the left heel and the cork is being shredded.

Is this normal / to be expected? They weren't cheap (I think I paid around $60 for them) so I guess I expected them to last a bit longer -- say, at least a year.

Are other people's experiences with Birkenstocks similar? If so, is there another type of sandal that's as comfortable but lasts longer?
posted by rabbitrabbit to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (24 answers total)
For shoes you wear every day, it's expected that you'll have to get them re-soled at least once a year. To expect otherwise is unrealistic. You can get Birkenstocks resoled.
posted by jayder at 11:19 AM on February 19, 2011

Yes, that's typical, you can get them resoled if you wish, though now that the cork's been damaged that might not be worthwhile.

I don't think any $60 mass produced shoe is going to last for a year of daily use.
posted by skewed at 11:19 AM on February 19, 2011

Doesn't sound unusual for any shoe that's worn every day, regardless of price. YMMV. Some folks seem to shuffle their feet more than others, or have otherwise unusual walking habits. What lasts one person 6 months might last 18 for another.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:29 AM on February 19, 2011

FWIW, the rule of thumb I was taught is that 3 pairs of shoes worn interchangeably last as long as 5 pairs bought sequentially.
posted by rhizome at 11:35 AM on February 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

I consider $60 to be a pretty average price for shoes. Cheap, no, but not expensive, either. I buy lots of shoes in this price range and wearing them most every day I can expect 6 months to a year from them.

Note that more expensive shoes don't necessarily last any longer.

FWIW, the rule of thumb I was taught is that 3 pairs of shoes worn interchangeably last as long as 5 pairs bought sequentially.

That makes no sense. It's not like they're alive and "heal up" on their days off.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 11:45 AM on February 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you alternate shoes they dry out between wearings.

If you take very good care of shoes by alternating, polishing, using shoe trees, reheeling in good time, and having rubber soles applied, they can in theory last indefinitely.
posted by tel3path at 11:52 AM on February 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

If they're "real" Birkenstocks (not a knock-off brand with the same look), that is WAY short. I'd e-mail the company.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:54 AM on February 19, 2011

My experience with Birkenstocks have been the same. Even after I wore out the first pair and tried to be more careful with the second new pair. Same thing. I only wear them half the year (I live in the northeast) but I walk a lot and wear them on all surfaces.
posted by bread-eater at 12:00 PM on February 19, 2011

Birkenstocks were the "in" shoe when I was in high school. (I never had a pair, thankyouverymuch.) However, everyone in my class did, and they had theirs for literally years, wearing them almost every day. From what I recall, $60 is way cheap for a pair of legit Birkenstocks. Are you sure you're wearing the real thing and not a knockoff? (My brother had a pair of knockoffs--they fell apart after a couple months.)
posted by phunniemee at 12:06 PM on February 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Do you wear them in all weather? My guess with my Birkenstocks was always that wearing them in rain and getting them wet would not be good for keeping them in one piece.

Also, I don't think 8 months of wearing a $60 shoe every day is particularly bad wear. I'd hope for something closer to a year, but it's not like you only got three or four months.
posted by J. Wilson at 12:17 PM on February 19, 2011

Also, seconding the comment about knockoffs. On the Birkenstock website, all the men's sandals are $80 to $130. Shoes are more, clogs are more, and women's appear to be the same as men's.
posted by J. Wilson at 12:19 PM on February 19, 2011

My experience with shoes is that as their price increases so does their durability. Unfortunately, $60 is not very expensive as far as shoes go.

I can't speak to whether you have knockoffs or not, but, really, expecting a $60 purchase to last while using it daily is, well, not realistic.
posted by dfriedman at 12:35 PM on February 19, 2011

When I bought Birkenstocks > 10 years ago, the company recommended putting something they called "cork conditioner" on the exposed cork, and reapplying it whenever it started to wear off. My first pair, I didn't do that; they wore out pretty fast. The next pair, I used the conditioner, and I'm still wearing them, many years later. It really does make them last longer. The stuff is very similar (identical?) to white glue (PVA, Elmer's, Sobo, etc) so you probably could get the same effect using that. It's a cheap way to get a lot more life out of pricey shoes.
posted by Corvid at 12:36 PM on February 19, 2011

I have (genuine) Birk clogs that I wore every day for ten months (teacher here) and they lasted four or five years. Same with the pair before that. If I would bother to get one shoe in each pair resoled (I seem to have an uneven gait), they'd still be fine, but I'm lazy, plus the suede tops are a bit manky. (Also probably not beyond repair, but again, lazy.)
posted by Liffey at 12:41 PM on February 19, 2011

I got a pair in college and wore the hell out of them. These cost about $120 initially, with two resolings ($40 a pop). I found I had to have them resoled after a year of almost constant wearing. Still have them.

Maybe the wear factor depends on your gait. I have a wear gait pattern, and I start to seriously shred shoes after 6 months of daily wear. Even nice ones. You have to decide the cost point for resoling vs. replacement for shoes. This includes comfort/utility/how the shoe looks/replace-ability.
posted by shinyshiny at 1:06 PM on February 19, 2011

I used to work at an outdoor shop that sold Birks and had three pairs myself over the years.

Here are a few things you can do to make them last:
Cork Life, the Birkenstock cork protector that Corvid mentioned, is really important. Put it on when you bring your shoes home and re-apply when the cork starts to look dry.

Watch the heels for signs of wear. Then, if the wear is uneven, send them off to get 'heel taps.' If the wear is even, then you can get new soles. The important thing to know is that real Birk heel taps and replacement soles are harder than the soles that come with Birks, so they should last longer.

Your local Birk retailer might know of a local shop that can do this, or else send them off to a repair shop.

At some point, you can get the entire shoe re-built with just the original straps, but I only knew of people doing this after a couple of years of wear.

You'll also want to avoid wearing them when they can get wet or sandy. Birks are not made for rain. You might try Chacos for an alternative on warm, wet days or when you are walking or hiking. Or get a second pair of Birks made in the waterproof material.

In general, I also think it's best to avoid wearing the same shoe multiple days in a room. Give the footbed liner time to dry and the cork time to recover, and they should last longer.

All this goes for real Birks. I don't know about the knock-offs ('Fakenstocks').
posted by bluedaisy at 1:07 PM on February 19, 2011 [4 favorites]

weird, not wear
posted by shinyshiny at 1:07 PM on February 19, 2011

My shoes seldom last that long; you're not doing too badly!

Luckily, you can get Birks resoled; my mom has had the same pair for going on a couple decades! Since you like the sandals enough to wear them out, it might be a good idea to get a few pairs and rotate them. From my experience, you won't find better sandals for the price... cheaper brands wear out much faster. I've had the knockoffs and they were quite hard on my feet, but that might just be me.
posted by faeuboulanger at 2:18 PM on February 19, 2011

$60 is very inexpensive for a pair of shoes, and indicates you've got cheap shoes that you should not be surprised wear out quickly.

That makes no sense. It's not like they're alive and "heal up" on their days off.

This makes perfect sense, but may only partially apply in this case. Leather shoes, with leather soles, do indeed need time to rest between wearings. The leather gets saturated with perspiration and the soles get wet from the ground. The insole gets saturated as well. Rotating your shoes gives them a change to dry out and air out between wearings, significantly increasing their lifespan. Daily wear keeps them wet, and when they are wet they wear much more quickly. Shoes with cork insoles and leather uppers would benefit similarly, though the rubber sole would likely wear the same either way.
posted by OmieWise at 2:35 PM on February 19, 2011

If they're "real" Birkenstocks (not a knock-off brand with the same look), that is WAY short.

Agreed. The pair I have now were purchased in 1997. Until this spring, I wore them nearly every day it was warm enough (and five years of that was in Southern California). I've had them completely resoled twice. That said, I did tend to let them get pretty worn down before I broke down and took them in for resoling.
posted by something something at 3:17 PM on February 19, 2011

Nthing that you paid less than I would expect to, and your Birks wore much more quickly than I would expect.

But mostly it sounds like it's not the level of wear so much as the unevenness... which is usually because of how you walk. Some mindfulness about how you step and not dragging your feet will extend the life of any shoes.
posted by anaelith at 4:23 PM on February 19, 2011

Can't speak to the OP's shoes, but I purchased my first pair from the Birkenstock USA website and my second from, so I think mine were genuine, but they still wore out pretty fast. $60 is certainly possible if they're on sale. Maybe the quality isn't as good now? I did wear mine in rain a lot though (it's not comfortable, no). And yes it was also definitely a matter of unevenness, but I don't notice as severe a wearing problem with many other shoes.
posted by bread-eater at 4:46 PM on February 19, 2011

They're real, bought on sale.

I have been wearing them through an Oregon winter (rainy) -- also I got them when I was 3 months pregnant, and wore them every day through delivery (and indeed, wore them through the 4 days of constant walking that was the only thing that worked for me during my ridiculously long labor) so I guess I was pretty hard on them.

Thanks, guys, I guess my expectations were too high! I have had other shoes that I've worn way more than a total of eight months, but they have "rested" more than these have.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 5:59 PM on February 19, 2011

Rabbitrabbit, yeah, Birks don't do so well in rainy weather. They're just not made for it. You might try the (not especially attractive) waterproof style.

Do you have any Dansko or Sanita clogs? The professional style from both brands is excellent, as comfortable as Birks for me. They run about $130 or so new, but you can get discontinued colors at (Zappos's outlet) for a lot less. They both make other styles as well, but if you go for some, make sure to get the stapled clog variety, as they are incredibly comfortable. And the waterproof, thick heel makes them perfectly suited for our Oregon winters.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:55 PM on February 21, 2011

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