Skip navigation
Company
section-bg-aboutus-brown.jpg

History

Entwicklung_Headerbild_desktop.jpg
Scroll

The BIRKENSTOCK journey through time

01

It all started with shoemaker Johann Adam Birkenstock’s commitment to his craft. The year was 1774. This commitment to craftsmanship was passed down from generation to generation, including Johann Adam’s great-great-grandson Konrad Birkenstock. In 1896, Konrad had a visionary idea: make and sell flexible footbed inserts. From there, it wasn’t long before he invented the footbed.

This innovation determined the fate of the company and contributed significantly to the popularity of our shoes. The footbed is based on the cast of a healthy foot in the sand, ensuring that feet feel as comfortable as possible for hours on end. We still develop shoes that promote health and well-being – aided in this task by our wealth of experience.

1774 The birth of a legend

1774.jpg

The history of traditional German footwear brand Birkenstock can be traced back to the 18th century. Going all the way back to 1774, the church archive of the town of Langen-Bergheim in Hesse lists Johann Adam Birkenstock as a “cobbler and subject.”

1896 The footbed takes its first steps

1896.jpg

Some 120 years later, master shoemaker Konrad Birkenstock opens two shoe shops in Frankfurt and starts making and selling flexible footbed insoles.

1925 Increasing demand

Entwicklung_1925_desktop.jpg

Thanks to the increasing success of his insoles, Konrad Birkenstock starts looking for a larger production facility in 1925. He buys a factory in Friedberg, Hesse, with extensive grounds. As his customer base is expanding all the time, the insoles are produced day and night. The legendary “blue footbed” is already among the products manufactured.

1932 Theory and practice

1932.jpg

Carl Birkenstock launches the BIRKENSTOCK training courses – which would later become famous – in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. In the decades that follow, over 5,000 professionals take part in his week-long podiatry and specialist footwear courses. Leading physicians endorse the seminars and the “Carl Birkenstock system.”

1947 The Carl Birkenstock system

Entwicklung_1947.jpg

A textbook entitled Podiatry – The Carl Birkenstock System is published with a print run of 14,000 copies and is the best-selling podiatry textbook of the day. Over 112 pages and with 55 illustrations, Carl Birkenstock expounds his theories about the “natural gait” – the footprint system – and healthy footwear.

1963 An icon is born

Entwicklung_1963_desktop.jpg

This is the year that gives rise to a revolutionary idea. Taking the flexible Birkenstock footbed with a cork and latex core, Karl Birkenstock develops his own sandal and launches the Madrid – the first-ever flexible sandal with a deep and flexible footbed – in 1963. Originally launched as a “gymnastics sandal” and more or less unchanged to this day, this unmistakable classic model lays the foundation for today’s comfort footwear market.

1988 Environmentally-friendly adhesives

1988.jpg

Birkenstock and environmental protection: BIRKENSTOCK starts using eco-friendly adhesives back in 1988, making it one of the first shoe manufacturers in the world to use water-soluble and solvent-free adhesives almost exclusively in its production processes.

In recent years, Birkenstock has tirelessly and successfully worked to considerably reduce the proportion of adhesives that contain solvents. Today, the proportion of environmentally friendly, water-based adhesives is more than 95%.

1990 Sustainable energy policy

Entwicklung_1990_desktop.jpg

Reduction of energy requirements. Birkenstock addresses the question of energy efficiency at an early stage. It has continuously reduced energy requirements through the internal development of special equipment and constant improvements in production processes – with reductions of more than 90% to date.

Birkenstock uses combined heat and power plants at several locations. These plants allow us to capture and use heat that escapes when electricity is produced – for example, when we dry our cork footbeds.

1991 New additions to the family

Entwicklung_1991_desktop.jpg

The Birkenstock family grows. A variety of licensed trademarks, such as Papillio and Betula, are established over the following years, so that the company can offer complementary and additional product groups.

2007 Combined strength

Entwicklung_2007_desktop.jpg

The owners of Birkenstock Orthopädie GmbH & Co. KG take over their long-standing distribution partner Birkenstock Distribution USA, Inc. (BDUSA). The company is headquartered at the existing site of BDUSA in Novato, California.

2009 Görlitz grows

Entwicklung_2009_desktop.jpg

A new, larger footbed production facility is commissioned in spring 2009 in Görlitz.

2013 The formation of the Birkenstock Group

History_CEOs.jpg

This is the year that heralds one of the most significant turning points in the company’s history: Birkenstock becomes a corporation. The traditional company successfully makes the transition from a loose network of 38 separate companies to a group with three business units (production, distribution, services). The 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. Markus Bensberg and Oliver Reichert are in charge of the activities of the BIRKENSTOCK Group.

2014 On to new shores

Entwicklung_2014_desktop.jpg

Birkenstock takes an important step forward. It expands its product range, going beyond the borders of shoes and accessories for the first time. The main focus is on three new themes: healthy sleeping, healthy living, and healthy working.

2017 Sleep Systems

Entwicklung_2017_Bed-Collection.jpg

BIRKENSTOCK is expanding its range of products with the BIRKENSTOCK BED COLLECTION. At IMM Cologne, the traditional family business unveils premium-quality beds, slatted frames, and mattresses. These products are the result of a partnership with premium manufacturer ADA - a family business of a similar size and with a similar philosophy to BIRKENSTOCK.