Welcome to the weird world of the custom SPD Birkenstock sandal
Shimano's oft-derided SPD sandal has a place close to the heart of many a cycle tourer, but for some, it seems that only one toe-showing shoe will do; the Birkenstock sandal. While roaming the internet, we've discovered quite the subculture of sandal-modding, so strap on and clip in...
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The humble Birkenstock has, rightly or wrong, somewhat of a reputation for being a bit of a hippy shoe but they've won over many people thanks to their mix of comfort and support, all while letting your toes take in the fresh air. It seems that this hasn't gone unnoticed in the wonderful and often weird world of cycle touring, where modifying Birkies to take an SPD cleat fitting seems to have gained traction.
Take, for example, Arno Welzel, who got his Athen model sandals tweaked by a local orthopaedic shoemaker to allow him to clip in, toe out after Shimano discontinued the big daddy of SPD sandals, the SH SD-60.
Then there's also Jim Knopf, who posted up his super sweet modified Birkenstock Athen sandals on the German rad-forum.de, again with the same Basel-based shoemaker converting them for a mere 194 Swiss Francs (£150 or so at the moment) on top of the price of the sandals.
If you were thinking that this deep love of both the SPD sandal and the Birkenstock was just confined to Switzerland and Germany, you'd be wrong, because it appears that the progenitor of all this was actually Portland, Oregon-based Mountain Soles & Outdoor Threads, who posted up these nicely bedded in Arizona sandals on Flickr that had been modified by an employee - though, to the great disappointment of many commenters, they were a one-off.
We've dropped Birkenstock a quick email to see if they've any plans to put an SPD sandal into production, so we'll wait to hear back from them. We've also asked our local shoe-modifying specialists Bolton Bros if they can do this task in the UK, but sadly they can't! Boo!
In the meantime, Shimano still makes the SD5 sandal, should you wish to feel the gentle squelch of mud 'twixt your toes when out riding.
And just in case you thought we were taking the mickey, this article has been written from the cork-lined comfort of a set of blue Birkenstock Arizona narrow sandals - though totally unmodified. So there.
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