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Complete Separation From the Pack | Birkenstock’s Outlet Performance in a Casual World

In the final post on the distinction I’ve noticed taking place by Birkenstock, I wanted to share information on a person working behind the scenes to ensure the brand doesn’t run into any issues with claims and misrepresentations. People aren’t running in Birks. They aren’t doing deadlifts or HIIT in Birks. The shoes aren’t performance in the athletic sense. The shoe, unlike its foam and EVA counterparts, forms to your foot upon wearing. While I wouldn’t recommend it, take any pair of EVA based slides and you can give them to anybody and the shoe would feel the same. EVA is less resistant to damage and by default will last longer, but the foot is a complex machine. The many bones, the cartilage and nerves in the foot aren’t meant to be pushed back upon continuously. Just as bad as it can be to walk barefoot, it can be equally detrimental to wear performance shoes constantly. This means that an EVA based slide, which can have similar properties to an athletic shoe can contribute to problems primarily because slides aren’t made to prevent foot slippage inside of the shoe. When your foot moves around inside of any shoe, it’s problematic. I reached out to one of the most important people in the running industry over the last ten years.


James Van Dine, as I mentioned in my Delineation post on Birkenstock, led the team at Hoka One One to 100 Million dollars. Equally as important is his background as a track/running coach, who has coached joggers up to World Ranked runners and even Olympians. The video above is from RunBlogRun and The Shoe Addicts. I add this as a reference to credibility, as if 98 Million dollars in growth isn’t enough. Through his consulting firm, Van Dine now lends his expertise to brands looking to find a way to expand and grow authentically and organically into markets where they already exist.

Kyoto Suede Leather/Birko-Flor

When did you decide to work with Birkenstock?

Answer JVD: David and I have spoken in generalities about my potential involvement for a few years. The limitations of capacity and the needed focus on development of the main “engine” for both the brand and US company kept these conversations speculative. (That is my view – David may say otherwise!!!). David has a strategic vision for the brand which includes, if not emphasizes, the orthopedic and performance benefits of the product – with which I align. So, when David broached me last fall, I was excited to join and add what value I could. Note that I am a consultant, not an employee, and cannot speak officially on behalf of the brand.

Is Birkenstock preparing to add a segment with performance running?

Answer JVD: If you mean shoes for running, then that answer is “no” for the foreseeable future. If you mean, can/will Birkenstock engage with the specialty retail/athlete/coaching communities to emphasize the beneficial role of products for training, then the answer is “yes”. Unlike the “soft, comfy” options that are offered by other brands, Birkenstock offers “Active Recovery”.

I was a certified NFHS basketball coach in San Diego. My basketball players would put on slides with socks after the games. It always concerned me because I could see their feet moving and shifting
inside of the shoe. I know that movement of the foot can contribute to
problems with the lower legs. While I know you’re not certified as a
podiatrist, have you ever heard of knee problems of athletes based on
the TPU/EVA based footwear worn after participating in sport? It’s hard to find anything on this, and I’m thinking about some of the issues my
players had with tendinitis?

Answer JVD: You are right that I am not a podiatrist and also that there is unlikely to be any specific research on non-supportive slide footwear. However, any podiatrist would certainly attest that non-supportive footwear – and/or being barefoot – is not optimal for the majority of people. In particular, athletes are more susceptible to injury during and after exercise.

I have consulted numerous sports podiatrists and biomechanical experts over the years – never for paid endorsement – on similar issues and feel confident about these statements. As an example, my own sports podiatrist has advised me to always wear my orthotics or Birkenstocks, but not to walk barefoot for any extended period of time

Like gravity – you don’t have to prove Newton’s theory to demonstrate it; you just have to drop an apple.

Kyoto Suede Leather/Birko-Flor

Run, Birkenstock, Repeat is what caught my eye. Looking beyond a catchphrase, that isn’t even being utilized yet, has given me a better understanding of those “Jesus sandals” that covered the mesa at San Diego State and was always a staple up and down the boardwalk of Pacific Beach and Mission Beach. Now that I’m in Memphis and the demographics of the people wearing Birks has shifted, this rediscovery feels different. It’s extremely difficult to capture a new segment, especially in a blue collar area like Memphis. This is the home of warehouses and is the distribution center of the U.S. The interesting thing is Birkenstock hasn’t even looked at emphasizing the recovery aspect to warehouse employees and those working in shipping and receiving. The middle of the country isn’t even aware of the brand. They have covered fashion and the east coast and they have nailed down post hike and beach territories. Writing this has generated another option in expanding. That’s why I take the time to write and share. I hope you enjoyed this short dive into Birks. I’d like to read your comments and thoughts on LI or e-mail me.