Birkenstocks: Are they "worth it"?

I found myself needing some genuinely comfortable shoes for the Summer, as my pregnancy progressed it became apparent that my feet would suffer if I didn't put them in something with impressive ergonomics. A short (uncomfortable) walk in my favourite Melissa flip flops exposed the fact that I might need something akin to a slipper.
Basically, I found myself convinced that I should buy a pair of Birkenstocks (I mentioned this desire in my Third Trimester Shopping List post).
Birkenstocks, a German brand, claim to promote podiatry health by evenly distributing a person's weight through their feet, to ensure added comfort (and aiding one's own centre of gravity) - this sounds like a pregnant lady (who seems to have no centre of gravity) dream.
A pair of classic Birkenstocks (available in a range of colours and patterns) tend to cost around £45-£50, which, considering that most of my shoes come from New Look or Primark, seems a lot. I managed to get a pair from TK Maxx for less than £20 (which was the predominant deciding factor in my purchase!)
Sandy toes fresh from the beach
But even at a significantly reduced price - are they worth the hype?
Let's address the elephant in the room - the Birkenstock isn't necessarily a good looking shoe, the classic single strap design is similar to that of pool sliders, but with a shaped cork lower, and leather upper. They are the Summer sunshine equivalent of the Ugg boot really - functional, but not beautiful - yet their popularity seems to create a culture whereby people swoon over them, despite their ugly appearance.
I had to adjust the strap on mine as they were originally too wide, but now I get a good snug fit and despite only having a single (reasonably wide) strap across the widest part of my foot, they don't flop off easily.
On the first outing I was initially happy, they were comfy, I could see the benefit of the moulded shoe - although I have very unusual toes, in that my middle toe is the longest of the lot (apparently a sign of great wisdom in China) - and the shape of the Birkenstocks doesn't really accommodate this! However, after no more than 20 minutes, I was in pain, and after 30 minutes, I was bleeding. This was not the ultimate comfort that I had been promised!
After one relatively short wear I had a large blister on each foot which needed a plaster in order to get me home.
For some reason, and I think it's because I was convinced that the hype had to be for real, I refused to give up, and continued to wear the stupid things through the pain. Eventually the blisters turned to thick, bomb-proof scabs, and the Birkenstocks remained on my feet daily.
I told my concerned boyfriend that I was "breaking them in" - despite him pointing out that if a shoe needs "breaking in" then it simply doesn't fit (perhaps he's forgotten what it's like to have new Converse!)
And now? Now they are my go-to shoe. They are the comfortable "moulded to my feet" dream that I had in mind. I can slip in and out of them merrily, walk all day, run to catch the bus, and ascend and descend the three flights of stairs to my flat, all without difficulty. As I gain more and more pregnancy weight and my abdominal circumference increases rapidly, I'm reliant on them for keeping my feet comfortable, and they seem to accommodate any swelling during the day, without discomfort.
These days, I'd absolutely recommend them as the ideal Summer shoe for pregnant ladies (or anyone for that matter). I don't know whether everyone would be prepared to go through that hideous scabby period for the luxury though.
Would I consider my Birkenstocks to be worth £45? No not really, I'm pretty sure you can get fake-stocks that aren't much less comfortable. I'm sure you're paying for a relatively iconic name (let me bring Converse back in to the arena as a case study), but for £20, they're cool and comfy and I'm glad to have them. Swollen feet are not good with toe-post shoes, so these seem to work better in hot weather tan most flip-floppy shoes. The question is whether I buy a second pair - I'm tempted, although I don't know whether to go for patent black or a funkier, brighter colour; but then do I want to give myself concrete scabs and weeping blisters again? Not really. I'd probably get fed up and dig these "broken in" ones back out.
I'm not entirely sure they're worth the hype, or the money - but do I dislike them? No, not at all.
Be assured, if you've bought a pair of Birkenstocks in this style and they're hurting like hell (I know I'm not alone in this experience) - it would seem that determination and perseverance does win results!

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