Leather or Synthetic Birkenstocks: Which is Better? What's the Difference?

Birkenstock is one of the leading sandal brands known for its use of high-quality materials in production. I am guessing that you are clueless about what Birks you should pick for your first pair: leather or synthetic? Been there!

Birks use leather and synthetics in producing durable and comfy pairs. They continuously utilize natural, nubuck, oil, and suede leathers. On the other hand, their synthetic collection includes Birko-Flor, Birkibuc, and Birko-Felt. Of course, real leather is tougher to break in, unlike synthetics that are lighter and softer.

Leather is the first type of material used by Birkenstocks to ensure the durability and sustainability of each of their pairs. However, the brand is seen as transforming its ways as it conformed to the needs of its target consumers. Now, apart from leathers, they are also offering Birks made of synthetic materials.

If you are new to these, this guide will definitely be helpful. For you to know what the differences are between leather and synthetic Birkenstocks and which one is better, just continue to scroll down.

What is the main difference between leather and synthetic Birkenstocks?

Birkenstock Women's Arizona Birko-Flor White

Birkenstock Arizona Women's Sandals

Birkenstock rose as a premium brand because it uses the finest and highest-quality materials. First, they have invested in producing a wide range of genuine leather lineups. 

From boots, sneakers, clogs, and sandals, Birks has promised durability and a high level of comfort for each leather pair. Generally, these pairs adapt to the shape of your feet and become more comfortable after some time.

Their leather Birkenstocks have a natural grain texture which proves its leather’s authenticity. When worn often, these will have wrinkles and creases. Also, the brand uses natural dye to add color to the leather they’ll use for production. 

On the other hand, Birkenstock has produced its own synthetic lineup and had them trademarked. Officially, Birko-Flor, Birkibuc, and Birko-Felt, are the synthetic materials used by the brand as alternatives to genuine leather. 

Appearance-wise, synthetics resemble leather. Synthetic Birkenstocks have the same level of durability and comfort level, but for a lower price! Apart from that, they need lower maintenance than genuine leather. 

In comparison to some leather Birkenstocks, synthetics are cruelty-free, easier to clean, and do not require being broken-in! However, they can’t duplicate the creases and wrinkles which authentic leathers effortlessly show off. Also, they do not have the same molding feature as real leather Birks.

Birkenstock Leather Materials

Birkenstock Gizeh Vegan Watercolor Flower White Birko-Flor 38 (US Women's 7-7.5) Regular

Birkenstock Gizeh Women's Sandals

Leather Birkenstocks are really the most sought-after style as these became the backbone of the brand. This is because genuine leathers look so classy with their smooth appearance. More so, they are so durable and comfortable.

The main types of leather Birkenstock uses are natural, nubuck, oil, and suede. At this point, you should be able to know what their discernible features are.

Natural Leather

Natural leather is famous for its thickness and durability. Although Birkenstock isn’t the only brand that uses natural leather in producing their footwear, it is worthy to note that they stand out because of their natural leather pairs’ untreated surface. 

Generally, Birkenstock does not treat those grainy textures of natural leather. They retain it and it actually adds elegance to Birks’ simple yet sophisticated style.

In addition, these are not just visually pleasing but also sturdy. With 2.8 to 3.2 millimeters of thickness, natural leather ensures additional support and security to your feet. 

Nubuck Leather

Traditionally, nubuck leather is used by Birkenstocks in producing their footwear. Nubuck is a high-quality and luxury grain leather that has a rustic and velvety look on the outside. However, its grains are not that recognizable.

This type of leather is produced by buffing the top grain, which is a tedious and complicated process that requires gentleness. In comparison to Amalfi and oiled leathers, Nubuck is thinner and easier to break-in. 

More so, Nubuck leathers are not water-resistant and are actually sensitive even to moisture. However, you can do some ways to waterproof them.

Oiled Leather

Birkenstocks in oiled leather also have an untreated surface. However, compared to nubuck leather, they are less sensitive to moisture and are more durable.

Oiled leather Birkenstocks have a waxy or oily finish. If you are the type of person who does not want too much attention, opt for oiled leather Birks for they are less shiny. 

This type of leather is also thick so you have to prepare for a break-in period. For some useful tips, you can read our article on how to break-in your oiled leather Birks.

Upon multiple wears, Birks in oiled leather will have unique and distinguishable patina and scuffs. The appearance of these marks is non-negotiable; they occur once Birks are out of the box.

Suede Leather

If you want to go for an overall look that is chic but relaxed, try out Birkenstocks in a suede version. Their soft texture is just so comfy, making them perfect for long-distance walks. 

This leather type is also highly flexible and breathable. Suede also has that velvet texture and feel on the inside. Suede Birkenstocks are just so soft that it feels greatly comfortable and relaxing to wear, even if you just took them out of the box. However, one disadvantage is that in comparison to smooth leathers, suede Birkenstocks need more maintenance

Amalfi Leather

Amalfi leather is thick but compared to natural and oiled leather, it has a smoother finish. This type of leather is also so flexible that it can stretch and perfectly mold your foot’s size and shape. 

Birkenstocks in Amalfi leathers are shiny and flashy. So, if you want some extra eyes and attention on you, try to get one!

Birkenstock Synthetic Materials 

Birkenstock Unisex Arizona Sandal,Mocha Birkibuc,39 M EU

Birkenstock Arizona Women's Sandals

Some customers feel that Birkenstocks in genuine leather are very challenging to break in. Others voiced their criticisms of the brand not being cruelty-free and environmentally friendly. 

To cater to these customers, Dr. Martens has launched its own trademarked synthetic materials such as the Birko-Flor, Birkibuc, and Birko-Felt. Listed below are their distinct characteristics. 


One of Birkenstocks’ best-selling alternatives to smooth genuine leathers is the Birko-Flor. It resembles smooth leather but is ultimately soft, comfortable, and, most importantly, more affordable. 

This synthetic variation is made with polyamide felt fibers and acrylic that are very easy to maintain. Birko-Flor is famous for being low-maintenance Birks. Also, it comes with a lining fleece on its sides, adding support and softness. No break-in period is needed!

Apart from that, you won’t see creases, scratches, and patinas because Birko-Flor is made of synthetic materials. Its color won’t fade, and it will still look brand new even after a year.

Birko-Flor has a variant which is the glossy Birko-Flor® Patent. This is Birko-Flor’s water-resistant version and is considered one of the best synthetic alternatives to leather. 


Birkenstocks in Birkibuc look very similar to nubuck Birks. Just like Birko-Flor, the sophisticated Birkibuc is also made of acrylic and polyamide felt fibers. 

These materials give off a slightly textured finish but are easy to clean with just soap and water. If you are into that classy nubuck appearance but are a vegan, you can choose a Birkibuc. 


If you want a synthetic Birkenstock that is gentle to the skin, Birko-Felt Birks is for you. These pairs are made with synthetic fibers and rayon blend or wool pulp mixture. 

The above-mentioned materials make Birko-Felt very tough and, at the same time, comfortable. Moreover, Birko-Felt is also used as inner linings for Birkenstocks’ boots.

Ethyl Vinyl Acetate

Ethyl Vinyl Acetate or EVA is a synthetic material that is non-toxic and lightweight. Birkenstocks in EVA are waterproof. Further, these Birks are heat resistant, preventing discoloration. Aside from being water and heat-resistant, EVA Birks is also shock-proof. 

How comfortable do leather and synthetic Birkenstocks feel upon wearing?

BIRKENSTOCK Women's Mayari Sandal, Stone, 39 R EU, 8-8.5 M US

Birkenstock Women's Mayari Sandals

Birkenstocks ensure that their leather is strong and smooth. The genuine leather used by the brand is somehow thicker than synthetic Birkenstocks. This requires a breaking-in process.

However, it can’t be denied that once your leather Birkenstock molds into the shape and size of your feet, they will feel so comfy and cozy upon wearing. Furthermore, they will soon feel supportive of your arch and transform into your favorite go-to travel or errand sandals.

On the other hand, if you don’t want to go through that blister and numbness phase, you can skip to the good part by buying a synthetic version. Even out of the box, synthetics are already comfortable to wear and do not require break-in periods.

How much do leather and synthetic Birks cost?

Birkenstocks made of natural, oil, nubuck, Amalfi, and suede leathers cost more than most synthetic Birkenstocks. This is primarily because of its material composition. But apart from that, other factors are also worthy to note.

Leather Birkenstocks are dyed using vegetable tanning, a natural method of dying leathers that is more complex and expensive. Vegetable tanning does not incorporate the use of chemicals, only natural coloring methods. 

Unlike synthetic Birkenstocks, which are dyed with chemicals. This is the primary reason why synthetics are available in a wider range of colors than leather Birks. 

So, if you currently are financially constrained, getting synthetic Birkenstocks won’t hurt your budget that much, compared to Birks made of smooth leathers. Many Birkenstock styles are accessible in synthetic versions like the ever-classic Arizona, and you can purchase one at $60.  

What are the advantages and disadvantages of buying leather or synthetic Birks?

Birkenstock Tokio Super Grip Natural Leather Black Size EU 37 / US L6 M4 Regular

Birkenstock Unisex Professional Tokyo Super Grip Leather Slip Resistant Work Shoe

Undeniably, both Birkenstock materials have something good to offer. Therefore, deciding between the two is really challenging. This section will really be helpful as it summarizes the advantages and disadvantages of buying leather and synthetic Birkenstocks.

In terms of appearance, no synthetic version can beat that smooth and grainy finish of genuine leathers. For a more classic and traditional aura, opt for leather Birkenstocks. 

However, if you like a more funky and chic color, you have a lot of synthetic Birks choices. They are dyed with non-natural coloring components, which can possibly achieve your personality’s color!

On the other hand, if you are looking for an easy-to-wear and lightweight version of Birks, synthetics is the one for you. They don’t need break-in periods and won’t cause you some blisters.

But if you can endure some break-in blisters for a more customized fit, try purchasing leather Birkenstocks. These pairs are designed to adopt the shape and size of your feet after wearing them a couple of times. You just have to give them some time!

Lastly, for more comfort and arch support, leather Birkenstocks are without a doubt more preferable because of their natural cork footbed and strong material composition.

Birks Leather vs. Synthetic, Final Thoughts...

Before searching for Birkenstock pairs on Amazon, determine first which defining features you are willing to pay for. Generally, Birkenstocks are a bit more expensive than other brands, so you have to be sure about your chosen one. 

Whether you prioritize aesthetics and visuals more or you want a perfectly fitting travel companion, you need to list them down for you to know what type of material you want and need. When done, you can easily add a particular Birks to your cart.

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