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Travel shoes are difficult to pack because you want comfort while you travel without sacrificing style.
For most trips, I bring a pair of nice-looking sandals, but I’ve now gone through a half dozen pairs. So I sought out a new pair of shoes that would be casual enough to act as a substitute for flip flops, comfortable enough to wear all day in my destination, and chic enough to dress up for a night out.
I did my research and landed on Birkenstock Madrid sandals, one of the first styles that the company made.
The Birkenstock Madrid Slide Sandals
Birkenstocks tend to elicit images of frumpy-looking clogs, but the brand has created some new styles and revived old ones for today’s fashions. When my family and I were in England several summers ago, my mom rubbed her feet raw and borrowed my sister’s Birkenstock Arizona sandals to alleviate the pain.
It was then that I started seriously considering buying my own pair of the German-made footwear and just had to narrow it down to the style.
I loved the simplicity of the Madrids and ordered a pair in black.
Features of the Madrid Birkenstocks
Adjustable strap: The strap that crosses your foot is adjustable, which is great for when your feet swell on a plane or when you want to wear socks with them. I recommend wearing them tighter than you think you’ll need, as they stabilize your foot better.
Cork footbed: This is a signature of Birkenstock shoes, providing arch support and shock absorption. The product description also claims that the sandal improves your circulation.
Large toe box: It doesn’t crowd your toes, which is good for someone like me who has had problems with her feet.
The Pros & Cons
Multiple colors: While I chose black since it goes with almost everything, Birkenstock makes Madrids in dozens of funky styles and colors, including metallics and prints.
True to size: When you choose your size, know that it will be accurate, not too big or too small. But if you’re worried about it, double check your size against European sizing and consider wide or narrow options.
Lightweight and packable: These shoes are no more than 1 pound because of the cork materials, making for an ideal travel shoe. They can also fold flat, saving valuable space in your bag.
Durable: Birkenstocks last for many years before showing wear and tear. You can get them fixed at Birkenstock retailers, but follow their footwear guidelines to keep them in good shape for as long as possible.
The Breaking in process: Be aware that you can’t comfortably wear them straight out of the box. Like other types of shoes, specifically Rainbows, they have to be broken in and molded to fit your foot. This can be uncomfortable for some and prevents them from enjoying Birkenstocks.
I recommend that you wear with them with socks around your house for a few days before you bring them on a trip.
Price: Priced anywhere from $75 – 180 USD (depending on outlet and style), they’re not cheap. I still believe it’s better to spend more on shoes that will last rather than continually buying low-quality footwear.
>> Check out prices and deals for the Birkenstock Madrids on Amazon.
Feedback from Readers on Facebook
The HPL readers on our Facebook page voiced their opinions of these Birkenstock sandals. Many said they are cute and comfy for short and casual trips, but others would prefer more technical sandals (like Keens or Tevas) with a heel strap that can get wet and be good for more hardcore walking and adventuring.
How to Wear Your Birkenstock Madrid Sandals
You can wear Birkenstock Madrids dozens of ways, including as plane shoes. Just add socks and loosen the buckle for comfortable shoes to wear to and from the lavatories. I’ve put together a few stylish Pinterest-inspired outfits based on the shoes.
For a casual fall look, I’ve paired black skinny jeans, a fake leather motorcycle jacket and a flowy top.
To dress down a nice outfit or find an alternative to heels, I chose a grey maxi dress and statement necklace to wear with my Madrids.
A beach day is easy in terms of outfits, so I’ve picked my Madrids with a swimsuit and the always multifunctional sarong.
I also think the Madrids would be great to wear pre-workout like yoga or swimming or to work.
What other outfits would you wear with the Birkenstock Madrid Slide Sandals?
*This article was originally published in 2016.
I live in Birkenstock Gizehs! Same principle, super comfy, and cute!!! I tried the Madrids once, but I have wide feet that weren’t flattered by them. I do miss the ability to wear socks though…
Do you prefer the Gizehs or the Arizonas? I was planning on purchasing a pair of madrids, but after seeing your comment I’m having second thoughts since I have pretty wide feet as well!
erin bg says
Please, tell me more about how your Birks stood up at the beach? I have been ogling these very shoes for some time now, but have been wary to buy because during sandal season I am nearly always near the water. I’m not necessarily looking to use Birks to replace shower shoes, but perhaps to slip on while still dripping wet from the pool/beach/lake, or getting caught in a summer thunderstorm, etc. Thanks!
I have had a pair for 5 years and have been brutal with them : India , multiple beach trips , wear them wet etc and only just showing a bit of wear on sole ! Just bought a new pair
I’m looking at getting a pair of Birks for my spring/summer/future travels – great to hear you love them! Not exactly looking forward to the breaking in process, but I know in the end it’ll be worth it!
Having broken in 5 pairs of Birks, the process is not something to look forward to. The length of the process depends a bit on the material the sandals use for the straps mostly. I find I can break in the Birkoflor straps much faster (and much less painfully) than real leather. The Nubuck is soft and also easily waers in. When breaking in new leather Birks always have with you some hand lotion to put on your foot where the straps rub to head off blisters. I had to do this for a wekk with my leather Gizeh’s, but only on my right foot. The soles of new Birks (I haven’t tried the soft versions) are predictably stiff and cause foot aches and leg cramps for a bit. The way I have broken in all my sandals is to wear them to and from work every day and then change into broken in sandals once there. I do this for about two weeks until the sandals wear in a little and I know they don’t produce blisters…then they go into the regular everyday wear rotation. They still take many weeks to become really comfy…but there is always that magic moment where all of sudden it feels like they become one with my feet.
Maybe it’s just me, but growing up in the 80s in Germany has cemented my view on Birkenstocks – for me, it’s the classic footwear of healthcare providers, muesli munching hippie wannabes, and grade school teachers…
That aside, they really ARE comfy!
I’m always hearing that Birkenstocks are the go-to sandal for travel, and I know that people absolutely love them. My question is, how are they for smell? Any sock-less footwear that I’ve ever had, other than Crocs, has developed quite the funk. My feet sweat. My Toms, which I love, need to be washed fairly regularly. I had a really comfy pair of leather sandals that I had to toss because I couldn’t get them clean.
They are pricey, but I’d love to have a pair of sandals that I could walk in all day, something with cushion and arch support.
I don’t have these specific sandals, but I have the Granadas and the Mayaris. My feet are not the sort that smell like roses, and I too have had sandals develop The Stank. However, despite wearing these almost daily for months at a time, they don’t smell. I have the soft footbed variety. I cannot recommend Birks enough. I have 3 herniated discs in my lower back, and these made me hurt way less than anything else.
There are lots of great videos out there on how to safely and properly clean Birkenstocks. They don’t need it very often. I find the pairs I have with Birkoflor straps need the straps cleaned quite often (easy to wash with warm soapy water. My real leather Gizeh’s don’t seem to need that kind of attention. Most videos suggest a baking soda paste to clean the sole. Apply it, rub it in good and let dry, then brush off. The soda absorbs any odours and scours off the dirt. It is a misconception that Birkenstocks can’t get wet. They can stand being caught in a rainstorm once in a while. It is the drying process that can damage them. If they get wet or after a wash, let them dry naturally out of the sun and never near a source of heat. If it is really pouring I just take the sandals off (feet are going to get wet anyway)…and it’s no fun walking around all day in soggy sandals.
I backpacked Europe with my navy gizehs, loved them. Even wore them for an accidental hike in the mountains in Interlaken CH
I have a pair of gold/champagne colored Moorea Birks. I love them. I wear them almost anytime I travel. They’re super comfy, their basic, and because of the gold it dresses them up. I wear them with my sundresses to a union convention (with a maxi skirt), to booty shorts (kidding, kinda) and a cute top.
I LOVE my birks! Didn’t bring them to my last south american trip and boy did I regret! So comfortable and stylish!
If you have to break Birks in, then you bought the wrong style or size. Birks should be comfortable from the first moment you try them on. I find that different styles, and even different colors within the same style can fit slightly differently with one being very comfy and the other not hitting me in the right place. Also, if you get the soft footbed, you won’t feel like you need to break them in at all.
I bought a pair of Gizehs this spring and shortly after ordered a pair of Mayaris…The girl at the store was so surprised how good both these styles look on a guy. I have been enjoying them pretty well every day (putting on flip flops once in a while just to change it up.) They are dressy enough that I can wear them to work. I have had a lot of girls ask where they can a pair for their boyfriend or husband. I decided to really get brave and ordered a pair of black Madrids. These have become my favourite new style. So free and cool and stylish (kind of daring too as there is so little “shoe” there. Can’t wait to order another pair in brown or blue…
After i tossed my faithful Birkinstocks away after a long trip, (i couldn’t stand the smell annymore after 5years wearing them every summer 24/7 haha).
I really missed those shoes, but boy how happy was I when i saw that they launched severall classic models in whaterproof material!
Same comfort as usual but oh so light material, EVA rubber and bright colours! And they are way cheaper, for me half the price than the cork and leather material.
I don’t have to bring any shower-flipflops annymore in my packinglist beacause of these, So that saves me room in my backpack because of the 2-1 use them as sandals and shower/beachshoes.
If you are doubting about Birkingstocks definately check these out.