The Great Birkenstock Footbed Debate: Soft v Regular, Is there a Difference? Does it Matter?

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Last Updated on May 11, 2022

Okay, so as a mid-forties, semi-stylish broad and a self confessed Birkenstock-aholic the Great Birkenstock Footbed Debate has intrigued me for a while.

Back in the 90’s when I purchased my first pair of Birkenstocks with the regular footbed it was, to my utter dismay, “the norm” to have to wear them indoors for a couple of weeks before venturing outside in them; largely down to the fact that they were so darned uncomfortable and took that long to break in!

Fast forward 20 years and Birkenstock started to manufacture a “soft” footbed which was essentially a foam layer placed between the suede liner and the cork layer, allowing for long lasting cushioning and a rebound capacity.

For those who are unfamiliar with Birkenstocks, what distinguishes them is the footbed. That is, after all, the whole point of investing in a pair of these Ugly-Chic sandals in the first place.

Wearing Birkenstocks has additional advantages for anyone who suffers from plantar fasciitis, mortis neuroma, or high arches, which can be uncomfortable in normal flat shoes. The structural mouldings have been designed to relieve pressure on your feet, joints, and back whilst you walk.

So lets see what all the fuss is about shall we?

What is a Birkenstock Footbed and its Different Sections?

For anyone that doesn’t know what a footbed actually is, it is the inside part of the shoe that runs under the bottom of the foot, sometimes known as the insole.

So the Birkenstock footbed is made up of four sections.

The core of the footbed is the most important portion. It is constructed of a flexible and shock-absorbent cork and latex blend.

The footbed core is then placed between the two layers of natural jute fabric, which both stabilises and flexes the core.

The suede lining is the final layer. It has a pleasant, soft feel to it and is not only super-comfy against the sole of your foot but also retains moisture well, ensuring effective odour control, so no more cheesy feet!

Main Differences Between Regular and Soft Foot Bed

The original Birkenstock footbed is a hard footbed which takes a while to break in and yet despite this, it molds to the shape of your foot pretty darned quickly.

Birkenstock describe this regular footbed as follows:

  1. Extra Toe Room – Allows for natural toe movement, which promotes better balance and proper foot alignment.
  2. Elevated Toe Bar – Encourages natural foot gripping motion.
  3. Contoured Footbed – Four arches ensure proper posture and even weight distribution.
  4. Deep Heel Cup – Essentially cradles the heel and maintains natural cushioning beneath the heel bone.
  5. Shock Absorbing Sole – Flexible, long-lasting, and light.
  6. Jute Fibers – Two layers – one adds strength, the other “wicks” moisture away.
  7. Cork Footbed – A firm, pliable cork/latex base for extra support.
  8. Footbed Liner – Soft suede helps to keep your feet dry and comfortable.

The Soft footbed is practically identical to the regular, with the exception of a soft foam layer sandwiched in between the suede and cork.

A common misperception about the soft footbed is that it is as soft as a trainer or a sports shoe; however this isn’t actually true.

Yes, it is softer than the regular Birkenstock footbed, but it still delivers a more stable footbed experience, which is vital for the health advantages of Birkenstocks.

Birkenstock have described the Soft Footbed as:

  1. Lining in Suede Leather
  2. An additional layer of foam
  3. Jute Upper Layer
  4. Core of Cork-Latex
  5. Jute Layer at the Bottom
  6. Outsole made of EVA

So the main, and only difference, as far as I can actually tell is the extra layer of memory foam between the top jute layer and the suede lining, which, in essence means that although the soft footbed is more comfortable and springy, it will take longer than it does with the regular footbed to mold to the shape of your foot, predominantly due to that extra pesky foam layer between your foot and the cork core.

Soft Foot Bed Pros

• An easier transition from regular shoes to Birkenstocks.
• Out-of-the-box comfort.
• Ideal for anyone with a low arch that hasn’t fallen.

Soft Foot Bed Cons

• Because of the memory foam, it may take longer to ‘properly’ mould to the shape of your feet, so if it is comfortable for you out of the box, it will tend to stay that way, but don’t expect it to shape to your foot quickly.

Regular Foot Bed Pros

• Once broken in, they quickly take the shape of your feet.
• Long-term comfort, as they will always stay in the shape you have chosen. • Excellent for supporting the arches of your foot for anyone with high or low arches.

Regular Foot Bed Cons

• Breaking in can take anywhere from 1-2 weeks. Wear them for 2-4 hours every day at first, then gradually lengthen the amount of time you wear them to break them in gently.


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Which Sandal is Most Comfortable Over All?

Personally I found the soft footbed much more comfortable. The regular footbed is hard until broken in but I really do think that this is down to personal choice. The regular footbed does get much more comfortable over time but if you are looking for comfort straight out of the box then the soft footbed definitely wins hands down.

Do Birkenstocks Get Softer Over Time?

The breaking-in process for Birkenstock clogs and sandals requires patience, commitment and a whole lot of Band-Aids!

Yes, they do get softer over time but in all honesty you will be looking at anywhere between 1 and 3 weeks before your Birkenstocks are ready to face their public.

What is the Softest Birkenstock Sandal?

Okay so my own personal choice? I would definitely pick the Papillio Arizona Shearling Big Buckle Sandal. They are soft and fluffy and just super comfortable, especially with the soft footbed. I can only liken them to wearing two plush teddy bears on your feet!

Obviously again, it’s down to whatever you feel more comfortable in – but you have to try these puppies – they are to die for!

Best Birkenstock Soft Foot Beds Sandals

The Boston clog is a timeless design that can be worn all year. The soft footbed provides extra comfort and pampers feet all day long thanks to its additional foam layer. Its natural design stems from the upper, which is made of especially soft suede and hugs the foot like a second skin. These classic clogs come in both regular and narrow fit and comes in a variety of colors and a full range of both men’s and women’s sizes.

The Mayari thong sandal from BIRKENSTOCK is a funky style with a toe loop. The elegant and comfortable blend of design and durability will see style-conscious women and men through the day in stylish comfort. The upper is constructed of Birko-Flor®, a skin-friendly, long-lasting synthetic textile and of course the footbed is soft, complete with memory foam layer

The BIRKENSTOCK Arizona is a true classic with a timeless design that has won the hearts of both men and women for decades. The soft footbed offers additional comfort and pampers feet all day long thanks to its additional foam layer. The upper is made of extra-thick, oiled nu-buck leather with raw edges.

Best Birkenstock Regular Foot Bed Sandals

The Arizona Platform is still as classy and chic as the original Arizona sandal but with the addition of a cheeky lightweight platform sole it has certainly been taken to new heights. Finished in super soft suede leather and with lovely chunky buckles, this sandal is the epitome of style and comfort. Available in a range of colours and also available as a vegan option the Arizona platform sandal is a must have in your new Summer wardrobe.

The BIRKENSTOCK Atacama is a twist on the classic Arizona that is ideal for anyone that is on their feet all day. Hook-and-loop fasteners have replaced the pin buckles, and now has a reinforced heel.

The Atacama ensures a high degree of comfort as well as excellent functionality. The sporty Adventure Cross-country version is intended for BIRKENSTOCK fans who enjoy being active and seeking new experiences. The color-co-ordinated footbed completes the sophisticated look of the shoe. The upper is made of the skin-friendly, long-lasting synthetic material Birko-Flor®, which has been given a futuristic twist.

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