During my old university days, the hepcat footwear to wrap around your feet year round were Birkenstock sandals (with or without socks). As a Virgin Vegan, I’m thrilled to report that Birkenstock not only provide a wide range of cruelty-free and animal-free products, they are proud of this fact and want to get the word out to everyone, not just folks in the Vegan community.

Review Lights
In this article, I will rate each Birkenstock product individually. Each item will be evaluated on the standard system of one to five Go Inside Magazine Review Lights. Five green GO lights are best while all red STOP lights are the worst. I’ll place a text tag under the Review Lights so you’ll know the colors of the lights in case you choose to print out this review on a black and white printer that doesn’t have great greyscale ability.

A Question of Quality?
The trouble with many non-leather shoes and sandals is the fact that many brands appear to be cheap, plastic and brittle. I’m pleased to testify that Birkenstock’s implementation of their Vegan line is exquisite, hardy and delightful.

Long-Term Durability
The real test of good shoes is their everyday endurance over an extended period of time. I live on the mean streets of New York and The City is notorious for destroying shoes! We walk everywhere and curbs and steps and bike messengers and busses and grime and doggy dung all help promote the early death of many a pair of shoes. I’ll update this review as time goes by with ongoing “Durability Ratings” to demonstrate how these Birkenstock products hold up day in and day out.

Non-Leather Alternatives
I have the black Milanos (second brown sandal from the left) and I must say they are better in every way than the old leather version I used to wear during my university days. I say this not from the point of view of a Vegan, but from the eye of a newfound window of extreme comfort. Let me explain.

The Birkenstock Non-Leather Alternatives sandals are 50% lighter than the leather version and they’re softer and silkier on your foot, too! Here’s why: Birko-Flor. Birko-Flor synthetic uppers are made of acrylic and polyamid (a polymer containing repeated amide groups, as found in nylon) felt fibers. Birko-Flor is an oil-derivative and its polymid fibers are tightly spun to create a soft fabric that rides against your foot while a smooth, leather-like, finish brags on the outside. This combination makes for a super-strong, sharp-looking and soft sandal! Birko-Flor will not stretch, it is waterproof (beware that since it “breathes” it will take awhile to entirely dry) and they’re cheaper than the leather versions without looking cheap.

No animal byproducts are found in the Non-Leather Alternatives line. The footbed liner is made of Birkolon (chemically stable “velon” — a cotton and polyester weave). The footbed liners are dipped in polyurethane and they’re free of chlorine, chromium, fat and resin. They’re also waterproof. Clean them with a damp cloth. Replacement liners are available. The footbeds are a cork/latex mixture and are repairable. The soles are EVA (ethyl-vinyl acetate).

I put on my black Milanos and hopped into the shower. I then got them entirely wet and I walked around the apartment to let the Birko-Flor uppers mold to the contours of my feet as they dried. I now have a “perfect fit” that molds to the contour of my feet — an impossible feat for leather to imitate.

Beware that, unlike the leather versions, the glue used to bind the Birko-Flor to the footbed sides dries hard along the arch because it can’t “sink in” to the Birko-Flor as it can with leather. I confess to a moment or two of discomfort as I tried to wear away the dried line of glue along the inside of the sandal. I wore thick socks and did my “shower treatment” a few times. After a week or so of everyday wear, the extra glue became more malleable and I can now go barefoot in my Birkenstock once again without brittle glue pain.

The Birkenstock Non-Leather Alternatives are the most comfortable sandal or shoe I’ve ever had the pleasure to wear or own despite the initial hard glue issue and they’ll cost you around $70.00 on the street.


(all GREEN)

Birki’s Professional Clog
The Birkenstock Professional Clog is quite a different animal from the Non-Leather Alternatives line. Vegan and animal-free and animal-friendly, these clogs are made of a flexible polyurethane and they’re simply a wonderment in that they are indestructible out-of-the-box. They come in blue and black. I grabbed the blue. The blue is a deep, rich, hue and works well with khakis or jeans.

The Professional Clog is perfect for moshing around the apartment or grunging along the garden, but their intended use is in the workplace. These clogs have a fully enclosed back. The tread is super-deep like a radial tire, and that gives you great grip and extra stability while standing or walking. The Professional Clog can replace your work shoe and provide great style and comfort if you walk or stand all day long. Birkenstock believes their Professional Clog to be perfect for chefs, gardeners, doctors and nurses. If they get dirty or muddy? Just hose them off! You can’t get simpler or more convenient care instructions than that!

The removable footbed is contoured like all Birkenstocks and is made of a tough polyurethane that will stand up to regular washings and extended wear.

I strongly suggest you drop down a size if you decide to get a pair of the Birki Professional Clogs — they run really, really, big. While that may be the style of a clog, if you’re like me, you won’t like the slipping and swimming your foot will do in these clogs if you order the same size you wear as in, say, the Non-Leather Alternative style. If you wear a 42, buy a 41. I promise you’ll feel safer and more secure even though these Professional Clogs are designed to wear big. There’s no glue to be found, so that issue is not applicable to these clogs.

The Birki’s Professional Clog will cost you around $72.00 on the street.


(four GREEN, one RED)

Birkenstock House Clog
The Birkenstock House Clog is warm and wonderful and it is made of Birko-Felt. The Birko-Felt uppers have the look and feel of cashmere or soft suede on your foot while being animal-friendly and animal-free. This felt-like House Clog is the perfect shoe for wearing around the home because of its pure comfort and smart design.

You won’t need a sock on the coldest days since more than half of your foot is kept warm and succulent in the Birko-Felt forum. The House Clog is so warm, in fact, that you feet can start to sweat if you exercise in these good looking foot huggers. The Birko-Felt is over 1/4 of an inch thick, so it’s solid and tough and won’t easily tear or discover holes.

The footbed and footbed liners are identical to the Non-Leather Alternatives line. The PVC sole is a stunning white with an ordinary pattern: It’s thinner and less robust than the normal Birkenstock sole, but it feels harder and more rugged.

The glue issues rears its wild head again here as a hard line of glue pokes out from the Birko-Felt along the archline. After a week of working with the clog in socks, the glue softened up again and became less sharp. I didn’t jump into the shower to break in these clogs since great amounts of water like that would, in my opinion, ruin them beyond repair.

The Birkenstock House Clog will cost you around $90.00 on the street.


(all GREEN)

The Classic Birkenstock Sock
What can I say about the Classic Birkenstock Sock except that it’s the best pair of socks I’ve ever had the pleasure of sliding on my foot! That isn’t hyperbole. It’s the simple and honest truth.

These socks are absorbent. Thick. Soft. They’re perfect for helping wear down the hard glue lines in the Non-Leather Alternatives and the Birko-Felt lines. They come in a wide variety of colors and they’re made of 68% cotton, 30% polyester and 2% lycra. Your feet won’t sweat or feel heavy in these heavenlies. I think they add a half-size to your foot in your shoe.

The Classic Birkenstock Sock will cost you around $10.00 on the street.


(all GREEN)

Nubuck & Suede Kit
As a Vegan, I’ve eschewed leather and suede and I’ve given all those shoes, bags and other items away to charity. However, some Vegans draw a line of demarcation betwixt their old lives and their new Vegan lifestyle and don’t feel the need, as I did, to destroy or abandon their previously purchased leather and suede goods.

For Vegans of that persuasion, Birkenstock offers a keen Nubuck & Suede Kit consisting of a wooden, artificial bristle brush with “Birkenstock” burned into the back of the handle and a bar cleaner to erase stains.

I used this product on a friend’s leather Birkenstock sandals and on a pair of her suede shoes. A few rubs with the eraser followed by a few flicks with the brush and the problem stains were history!

The Nubuck & Suede kit will cost you around $8.00 on the street.


(four GREEN, one RED)

Birkenstock are a great company with a rich and wonderful history of providing comfortable and conscientious footwear selections. Their entire animal-free and cruelty-free line of products should be commended and celebrated by every Vegan alive. If you’re interested in getting details on Birkenstock’s Vegan line of products, touch here now.


  1. Hello! I’ve been looking for vegan Birkenstocks for a while now, and I’m wondering where you purchased the sandals you describe in the first few paragraphs. The closest I can find to vegan are non-leather uppers, but the footbed is still suede. Let me know as soon as possible! Thanks :):):)

    1. Thanks for the comment, Steph.

      I wrote that review on Feb 2, 1999 — so things may have changed in the last 11 years or so. I’m not up-to-date on the current Birkenstock line.

          1. I do not. I called an online store that sold Birkenstocks and when I asked further about the replacements sandals I wanted the rep. came back online and said that B had discontinued the production. Very sad. Now, I’m looking for another sandal to replace the Birks. Crocs just don’t do it for me. Any suggestions?

          2. Thanks David, I contacted Vegetarian shoes in UK as Moo didn’t have what I wanted, but maybe they can get it. We’ll see. Thanks for the referrals.

  2. I’m on the Vegetarian Shoes website right now and they have sandals that look just like Birks! I love the guy that started this business. He rules!

  3. It’s not exactly “cruelty-free” when the shoe material is made from petroleum by-products. In case the author of this article is unaware, the ecology is very much threatened by the oil industry – and that includes animals and marine life. Perhaps you didn’t know that. Not using an actual animal skin for shoes is only part of being a responsible vegan if animal protection is truly what you stand for.

    1. “Cruelty free” in the Vegan world means it does not contain animal parts. Your redefinition of the term in a different context doesn’t make a difference.

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