When was Birkenstock founded? The true history of an iconic brand

When was Birkenstock founded


When was Birkenstock founded? Birkenstock is a German brand of comfortable healthy footwear that has been known since 1774. It was then that the simple shoemaker Johann Birkenstock received the first mention in the church archives of the town of Langen-Bergheim.

Johann was a glorious master of his craft, so both the inhabitants of Langen-Bergheim and the whole land of Essen ordered shoes from him.

In 1896, his business was continued by his grandson, Konrad Birkenstock, who opened two stores at once in Frankfurt.

It was Conrad who introduced an important invention – an insole that repeats all the irregularities of the foot.

Since then, Birkenstock footwear with Birkenstock footbed has developed its orthopedic specialization, which remains true to this day.

The Birkenstock history is quite rich. Starting with the invention of the Birkenstock footbed, books in podiatry the Carl Birkenstock system, and the making of fitness sandal ending with PETA approving this brand as an environment-friendly and animal-friendly shoe company.

When was Birkenstock founded? Birkenstock History and Philosophy Since 1774

1774 – Johann Adam Birkenstock

When was Birkenstock founded

Johann is registered as a shoemaker, which indirectly marked the beginning of Birkenstock.


Konrad Birkenstock, a grandson of Johann, founded two shops in Frankfurt Germany. He developed a concept for which he was going to change the shape of the shoe itself. Although the sole is curved, the insole of the shoe is always flat.

Konrad believed that if the shape of the shoe follows the shape of the foot, the feet will be much more comfortable in these shoes, especially for those with chronic foot pain.

He designed the first pair of shoes with a contoured insole that would be used by shoemakers producing custom footwear.

He began manufacturing Birkenstock ‘Fußbett’ insoles and selling flexible footbed insoles to specialist shoemakers.

When was Birkenstock founded


When was Birkenstock founded

Konrad Birkenstock gives specialized lectures to train shoemakers in order to convey to them his idea of shoes made specifically for the foot. He sells licenses for his unique sole model.


Konrad Birkenstock develops the first flexible arch support to be inserted in factory-made shoes that have become widely distributed in Germany.

When was Birkenstock founded


In 1925, Konrad Birkenstock built his first own factory in Friedberg. The main product was a curved insole using proprietary technology. And in 1932, his son Karl Birkenstock started Birkenstock training courses in podiatry, teaching weekly about maintaining healthy feet. Specialist footwear courses were popular among podiatrists.

The “blue footbed” is among the products manufactured.

Insoles repeating the shape of the foot greatly increased the demand for Birkenstock shoes, and Konrad himself went on a trip to Germany and Austria, giving lectures to other masters and teaching them his technique.

In 1925, to expand production, they bought a factory in Friedberg, where work did not stop day or night.

One of the most popular and recognizable products was blue insoles that could be inserted into almost any shoe from the factory. Sandals “Birkenstock” were one of the first orthopedic shoes.

After the Second World War, they were especially loved by employees who returned from the war – they liked the support of the foot.


And in 1932, his son Karl Birkenstock started specialist footwear courses in podiatry, teaching weekly about maintaining healthy feet.

Some of the advice from these Birkenstock training courses, for example, to walk more often barefoot in nature, was published in the books “Guide to Foot Care” in 1935 and “Podiatry – Carl Birkenstock system” in 1947 in editions of 15 and 14 thousand copies, respectively. By 1983, the Foot Care Guide had been reprinted in 360,000 copies.

1964 – Carl Birkenstock sandals

In 1963 Carl Birkenstock introduced the Madrid thin-strap sandals, thinking they would be good “for sports”. To keep them from falling off, the buyer strained his toes all the time – this kept the calf muscles in good shape, Birkenstock believed.

Thus, the Birkenstock sandal is born. These were the first Birkenstock sandals with deep and flexible footbed.


At the same time, in 1966, the dressmaker Margo Fraser, a German living in the USA, came to Germany on a visit. In search of comfortable shoes for her aching feet, she bought a pair of “Birkenstocks” in the company store.

Inspired by these health benefits, Margot begins importing Birkenstock footwear to the USA, founding a trading company called Birkenstock Footprint Sandals, Inc. in California.


At the same time, in 1966, the dressmaker Margo Fraser, a German living in the USA, came to Germany on a visit. In search of comfortable shoes for her aching feet, she bought a pair of “Birkenstocks” in the company store.

And then she brought a few more pairs to her friends in the USA – and in 1971 opened a representative office of the company in the USA called Birkenstock Distribution USA.

All women’s shoes were narrow and with pointed toes. Even the so-called healthy shoes had a heel. Since millions of women in the United States have sore feet, I thought it would be easy to get them to wear these wonderful shoes.

from a letter to Margot Fraser

According to Birkenstock’s head of public relations, Jochen Gutzi, Carl Birkenstock chose to partner with Fraser not because she was a professional, but because she was “a person to trust.”

All Birkenstock shoes were made from natural materials: leather, copper, cork, felt, and natural latex. Therefore, as a marketing ploy, Margot Fraser began to supply shoes to stores that specialized in a healthy lifestyle.

The first customers were the owners of these stores, who spend a lot of time on their feet. After that, hippies, and soon other young audiences, actively bought sandals amid a boom in the return to nature movement.

In 1973, the company released the Arizona, a new model of sandal with two loops instead of one.


“The Birkenstock Foot Primer” by Karl Birkenstock is published with a print run of 360,000 copies.


By the early 80s, Birkenstock had become a household name in the United States. The Birkenstock shoe line now offers over 40 styles and color combinations.


Environmentally friendly materials are beginning to be used in manufacturing, setting the tone for environmental awareness around the world.


Production undergoes modern improvements, energy consumption is reduced by 90 percent.


Birkenstock Distribution USA Inc. celebrates its 30th anniversary. Now they have a choice of over 300 combinations of style and color in the assortment, shoes are delivered throughout the country.


Birkenstock celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Boston clog, born in 1977. 


In 2003, Christian Birkenstock’s wife, Susanne Papenbrock, divorced him after 15 years of marriage. And then she launched her own line of shoes Beautystep under the brand name Susanne Birkenstock International.

She sold 40,000 pairs of shoes in three years. Buyers confused Birkenstock branded goods with Susanna’s shoes – so Birkenstock filed a lawsuit. In 2006, a lawsuit followed, as a result of which Suzanne retained the right to produce shoes according to a corporate pattern without the right to use the Birkenstock trademark.

During this time, Margot Fraser’s company, Birkenstock Distribution US, continued to sell the company’s shoes in the US until 2007, when Birkenstock bought them out.


The Birkenstock group is led by an executive team, which for the first time is not composed of family members – an unprecedented event in the company’s almost 240-year history.

In the 21st century, the family business has expanded many times over, turning into a corporation. First, in 2007, the parent company BIRKENSTOCK Orthopädie GmbH & Co. KG takes over American distributor BIRKENSTOCK USA, Inc. In 2009, a new insole factory was put into operation in Görlitz.

In 2013, 38 companies, one way or another connected with Birkenstock, and merged into one corporation with three areas – production, sales, and services. For the first time in its 240-year history, no members of the Birkenstock family were at the head, but two third-party managers – Oliver Reichert and Markus Bensberg.


In 2016 and 2018, the company received the PETA award as “the most environmentally friendly”, and in 2018, according to The Cut, Birkenstock sales tripled compared to 2012, to $ 800 million.

When was Birkenstock founded? Philosophy

The brand has not changed its principles and has always put comfort as a priority. This philosophy perfectly captures the idea of “normcore” that made its way into fashion circles in the 2010s. Birkenstocks were worn along with a white T-shirt, straight-cut jeans, and “daddy’s” sneakers.

Everything that was contrary to the classical concept of fashion was fashionable. And first of all, “ugly” shoes became fashionable.

“Functionality is what drives us,” says Birkenstock CEO Oliver Reichert. “More and more people want something real. We have a real product, it’s timeless, and that makes it even more attractive.”

Today, almost every manufacturer strives for environmental friendliness, but Birkenstock did this back in 1988 – starting to use eco-friendly glue, water-soluble and without solvents in the composition. In 2019, more than 95% of adhesives from production are based on water.

But the attention did not stop at the materials – already in 1990, Birkenstock thought about the efficiency of using electricity, reaching 90% savings at some stages. At the same time, the heat generated in the process is also used for the needs of production – for example, for drying cork soles.

In 2018, Birkenstock received an award from PETA as the most animal-friendly shoe manufacturer.

FAQs: When was Birkenstock founded?

When did Birkenstocks come out?

The Birkenstock brand originates from Johann Adam Birkenstock, registered in 1774 as a “vassal and shoemaker” in the local church archives in the small Hessian village of Langen-Bergheim.

What was the first Birkenstock shoes?

In 1896, a descendant of Johann Adam, Konrad Birkestock, made the first pair of shoes with the hallmark of the Birkenstock, a curved insole. Such an insole supported the arch of the foot: up to this point, they were made flat.

When were Birkenstocks most popular?

When was Birkenstock founded? Birkenstock’s popularity explodes during the 1970s.  The Arizona, a style that has now become synonymous with the Birkenstock brand, is introduced.

Who invented Birkenstock shoes?

Johann Birkenstock.

Conclusion: When was Birkenstock founded?

When was Birkenstock founded? Now you know everything about the history of Birkenstock, including books on podiatry the Carl Birkenstock system, how to become pro, the invention of the flexible footbed, the formation of the Birkenstock group, how Margot Fraser made their healthy footwear popular in the USA, etc.


  • Paula Mareen

    Paula Maureen has collaborated with famous shoe brands and designed popular women’s sandals. As a proofreader, she contributes to foot wisdom.


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