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Hands-on Gear Review
Birkenstock Gizeh Review
Cons: Stiff, breaking in takes time
Bottom line: The Gizeh is a beautifully unique sandal that provides amazing support and, after breaking in, some of the most personalized comfort a shoe can offer.
Obviously, we have an outdoor focus here at OutdoorGearLab, so we honestly didn't expect to be very impressed with a model we had typecast as an overly urban shoe. And we certainly didn't expect said shoe to run away with our Editors' Choice award. But the Birkenstock Gizeh surprised us at every turn, regularly outperforming our other tested models while cradling our feet in comfort. It molded to our feet, made us feel secure and supported, and provided excellent traction. While the break-in period was a bit rough, we stuck with it and were rewarded in kind. This stylish sandal probably isn't the one to pick if your primary warm weather goal is to get wet and dirty every day, but if the Gizeh does end up in a mud pit or a river we know it can handle it because we put it through all that and more! This is a superbly well-made shoe that, while expensive, can easily be part of your wardrobe for many years to come.
RELATED REVIEW: The 11 Best Flip Flop Sandals For Women
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Gizeh, our Editors' Choice winner, started out stiff and hard, but quickly softened and won us over with its lush materials, comfortable design, and unique style. While an expensive investment, if you're searching for an attractive sandal to last you for the long haul, this is a great one to consider.
The Gizeh (in blue below), performed impressively across every one of our rating metrics, easily snapping up the Editors' Choice award.
The Gizeh has the potential to be wildly comfortable but, like many worthwhile things in life, you have to work for it a bit. In the beginning, the shoe is stiff and unwelcoming, decidedly different from the instant luxurious comfort of the OluKai Ohana. But if you persevere, the cork footbed lined with suede will soften and mold to your feet, rewarding you with a sandal sculpted perfectly to your unique shape. Add to that adjustable straps with a soft fleece-lined underside and a footbed design meant to cup and support every part of the foot's anatomy, and you have a comfortable shoe.
We found that the footbed of the Gizeh became softer and more welcoming relatively quickly. However, the toe post is made of hard rubber, and it took more time and dedication to get used to and fully break in. By far the most common complaint we saw in online customer reviews was regarding the toe post, but the majority of people seem to agree that if you continue to wear them through the uncomfortable and/or painful stage, you will be glad you did. This was certainly our experience; the very first time we slipped this shoe on the toe post felt shockingly brutal. Going up and down stairs or hills that caused the foot to slide into it with more pressure bordered on terrible. But, at least for us, with some dedicated wear, this discomfort disappeared quickly.
As with all shoes, sizing is important. But the contoured footbed of the Gizeh makes getting the proper size even more important - if you don't, the arch support and toe ridge won't sit in the correct place and you may not be able to achieve the same level of comfort you could with an excellent fit. We found that for a size 8.5 foot, the European 39 was perfect.
If all of this sounds like more work than you want to dedicate to a sandal, perhaps consider something simpler with more of a traditional flip-flop shape. The Ohana was our top scorer for comfort and required zero breaking in (though that may not be the case for everyone). The Rainbow Single Layer Premier was also a very approachable and cozy flip, as was the Sanuk Yoga Chakra which has a footbed made out of real yoga mats.
Support & Stability
The Gizeh has some interesting and unique features that add up to a seriously supportive and stable shoe. We awarded it a perfect 10 for this metric, one of only two in this entire review. The contoured footbed has a deep heel cup that's meant to hold the heel bone in its most natural position and provide almost as much support as wearing a fully enclosed shoe. This model provides arch supports, which run down the sides and middle of the shoe and a toe grip ridge which is supposed to help keep the toes in a natural spread out position (encouraging the natural rolling motion of the toes when walking). Finally, there are raised footbed edges which are extra high in the front to protect the toes as the foot rolls forward. Whether or not these individual features do for you exactly what Birkenstock says they are "meant" to do, this is a well planned out and executed sandal that we felt comfortable in even after hours of being on our feet.
Another aspect that makes the Gizeh feel so secure is the presence of wide, long, adjustable straps. For a sandal, you end up with quite a lot of your foot covered. Some people may not like this as it can feel constricting and hold in more heat and sweat when it's sweltering outside. If you like the idea of a contoured footbed with excellent arch support but don't want all the strap material, take a gander at the Vionic Tide II, another highly supportive model. However if you like a lot of strap coverage but would prefer a more rugged design, check out our Top Pick for Hiking and Scrambling, the Merrell Around Town.
You cannot help but appreciate the craftsmanship of the Gizeh from the first moment you pull it out of the box. There's a reason Birkenstocks have been worn by professionals and enthusiasts alike for decades. It's clear that time and care have gone into the design and execution of this sandal. The high-quality materials and construction had no problem standing up to hikes in gooey mud, dirty, dusty trails, and full immersion in a cold Colorado River without hardly showing a scuff. On top of that, there are many viable options for repair, resoling, and strap replacement available, so you can keep your pair going strong for a very long time. Birkenstock also offers care tips and products on their website, meaning that, with the right attention, this sandal could quite literally last you a lifetime.
If you want a seriously durable flip-flop but prefer to steer clear of leather or leather-like finishes, consider the Chaco Flip EcoTread. Its rubber sole and polyester webbing straps make it a sandal that, while perhaps not quite as durable as the Gizeh, are better suited to regular run-ins with mud, water, and dirt. The Tide II is also a very well made flip that is a better choice if you plan to get dirty and wet repeatedly. The Gizeh can arguably take the same abuse, but the cork and suede footbed will also deteriorate faster than rubber under such conditions. On top of that, the Birkenstock website advises that you keep your sandals away from concentrated heat and extreme temperatures; while this is a highly durable shoe, it's also not appropriate as your main outdoor adventure accessory.
This metric is where the Gizeh surprised us. Initially, we didn't even want to do the full river submersion water test on these sandals because, well, they're just so darn fancy. But in the interest of fairness, these shoes went into the river and under the hose just like all the other pairs. And, lo and behold, they did great. Several of the other models felt slimy and insecure for a bit of time after getting wet, but the Gizeh actually felt good - snug, secure, and cool on the skin. The footbed was damp but completely wearable in under a half hour. The underside of the straps took over an hour to dry, but they also felt nice on our skin on a hot day.
The Gizeh took longer to dry than other models due to the materials it's constructed with and because when on foot, the upturned sides and snug straps disallow very much air flow. We noticed this a bit when it temperatures were high, and our feet were sweating - sometimes we just needed to take this sandal off and allow it to get some air. So, not surprisingly, it was the more open and minimal designs that performed the best in this category. Both the Reef Leather Uptown and the Rainbow Single Layer Premier were thoroughly dry in 20 minutes after being completely soaked. Synthetic and water resistant models like the Flip EcoTread and the Tide II also excelled in this category.
Once again, the Gizeh soared into the top of the pack, showing us why it was worthy of our Editors' Choice award. The combination of good bottom sole traction and excellent footbed security meant that this was a contender we felt confident wearing to navigate all sorts of obstacles. Our only complaint on steep terrain was the stiffness of the toe post, discussed above, even after having broken it in.
While the Gizeh did impress us with its traction, there were a couple of models that did slightly better. The Merrell Around Town, our Top Pick for Hiking and Scrambling, has been incredibly impressive in this category, making us feel as though we were wearing shoes instead of sandals. Quite honestly, the Gizeh also made us feel this way much of the time, and the Around Town didn't have as phenomenal footbed traction, but the treads on the bottom were noticeably more robust. The Tide II was also outstanding, its thermoplastic rubber sole keeping our feet sticky and solid in all kinds of conditions.
When talking to people about the look of this shoe, we found some solid opinions both ways. For the most part, all the women we polled loved it, ranking it in their top 3. But for some, the unique look of the Gizeh was unappealing. Of course you will decide for yourself whether you find this sandal appealing enough to buy, but since the consensus in our research was positive, we rewarded it with a high rating.
If the Gizeh doesn't do it for you, Birkenstock does make other less exotic styles that may be a better fit for your wardrobe. As far as the 11 sandals we tested, the clear winner was our Top Pick for Stylish Adventures, the OluKai Lala. Like the Gizeh, the Lala is an elegant shoe with wide leather straps, but it has a noticeably more streamlined look that is a bit more approachable. The other favorite flip-flop for style was our Best Buy winner, the Teva Olowahu, a fun strappy sandal that you can score for only $25.
Despite the fact that the Gizeh performed excellently across all our metrics, it still isn't a model that we would recommend for aggressive or continual outdoor use. While it can handle the occasional (or even semi-regular) rainstorm or mud puddle, it is simply too nice of a shoe to subject it to that kind of thing all the time. But we highly recommend the Gizeh if you're looking for a more urban sandal that's stylish, comfortable, supportive, and will have no problem lasting many years.
At $95, this shoe is an investment for sure, and you should probably be pretty certain in your decision before committing to drop that much dough. But we have zero reservations in saying that this sandal is worth the steep price tag, and not having to buy a new cheap flip-flop every year or two could actually save you money in the long run. If you take proper care of your Gizeh it could last you for decades, keeping your feet supported and your style high.
The feature-heaviness and aesthetic of the Gizeh isn't for everyone, but if you're in the market for a well made, highly supportive, and classically stylish sandal that becomes more comfortable with time, then look no further. This sandal is expensive and takes more time to break in, but if it fits your needs and lifestyle than we believe both of those small hurdles are worth it for what you get.
— Penney Garrett
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