What if there was a shoe that is comfortable, functional, and, of course, attractive, and that didn’t destroy the planet in the manufacturing process?
Allbirds is breaking the tradition of compromise by offering a new shoe – marketed as “the World’s Most Comfortable Shoe”- that’s promised to meet all of those desires, and then some. We spent months wearing our Allbirds, and without further ado here is our Allbirds Review!
Allbirds Review Table of Contents:
- Commitment To Sustainability
- Customer Service
- Why Merino Wool?
- Allbird Product Offerings
- Shoe Appearance
- San Francisco, New York, and London Storefronts
- Oder Contol and Durability <— Read this section!
- Final Verdict
What is Allbirds?
Allbirds is a shoe company based out of New Zealand, founded by Tim Brown, a native who was well-versed in the properties of merino wool. Brown recognized that this fiber, which is nothing short of magical, was present in every clothing industry except for footwear. With that realization, his commitment to developing the ideal footwear appeared.
Brown partnered with Joey Zwillinger, an engineer and expert in renewable materials. Together, they created a footwear-friendly wool fabric that could be used to create simple, comfortable shoes. These shoes are made from nature instead of cheap, easily damaged synthetic alternatives. Their shoes are practical, honoring the environment and the way humans were designed to walk.
Commitment to Sustainability
Allbirds is a certified B Corp, serving their customers differently than other shoe companies might. With a charitable aim and a commitment to sustainability, the company reflects its founding principles in every aspect of its shoe designs and sales. The shoes are made out of mostly recycled or all-natural materials, reducing the number of fossil fuels required to make the product as well as the product’s overall carbon footprint.
For example, each shoe is made out of either merino wool or natural eucalyptus pulp. Both materials are responsibly produced and harvested, offering unlimited comfort without damaging the planet. Even the laces of the shoes are recycled, made out of post-consumer recycled polyester.
The company also partners with Soles4Souls, allowing gently used Allbirds to find new life around the globe. Donated shoes are returned to communities in need, allowing the shoes to be worn for years by those in need.
Allbirds doesn’t have a huge brick-and-mortar presence around the world as of yet, offering only three in-person stores in London, New York City, and San Francisco. That being said, their online shop is booming and incredibly easy to work with. The company offers free online returns as well as excellent customer support via phone and email. If you purchase shoes in-store or online, you can return them or exchange them for free at either location – no matter where you bought them. This is a nice feature, as many retailers don’t allow you to return shoes under any circumstances but particularly not at a location that is different from the one where they were purchased.
Why Merino Wool?
Merino wool has long been hailed by the outdoor crowd as one of the best materials you can find. Merino sheep have fiber that is roughly twenty percent the diameter of human hair. This ultra-thin wool helps regulate temperature and wick away moisture without creating the itchy discomfort that comes from other types of wool. It’s a great choice for any time of the year – no matter if it’s warm or cool outside.
Allbird Product Offerings
Allbirds’ first shoe was the Wool Runner, a shoe made strictly out of merino wool and other sustainable materials. The Wool Runner remains one of the most popular shoes, offered in several colors and sizes for men, women, and children. If you want a more casual version of the Wool Runner, the Wool Lounger is a good option, with a lower silhouette for a leisurely fit. Tree Skippers are similar breathable, low-cut shoes designed for dock or boat wear, but are versatile in a number of settings. These shoes are made out of eucalyptus fiber.
The company also has a shoe called the Tree Runner, also made out of eucalyptus pulp instead of merino wool. If you’re a fan of classic high-top sneakers, the Tree Topper is the shoe for you. This sneaker is made out of eucalyptus tree fiber, and is both breathable and renewable. The Tree Loungers are low-cut shoes designed for house wear, although they can easily be worn around town, too.
When reviewing Allbirds, I realized that although each sneaker model is slightly different in terms of purpose, function, and appearance, they all boast similar characteristics that make them the ideal shoes. My review will focus primarily on the classic Wool Runner, but keep in mind that depending on your needs and style preferences, any of these products would be a great fit for you (no pun intended!).
The Allbirds have a very unique, modern appearance. Monochromatic and offered in a variety of neutrals and pastels, these shoes can be dressed up or down. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend wearing them with work clothes, but they are a great option for around-town wear. Fitting in with the athletic and casual scene, they’re also popular among the high-brow fashion scene. It would be tough to find a brand of sneaker with more color and style options than Allbirds.
The laces, too, are cool to look at. Nestled among the mesh knit body of the sneaker, the laces look just like nautical rope, even though they are made out of old polyester and recycled plastic bottles. The eyelets of the shoes, too, are made out of bio-based TPU, a material that is created solely by microorganisms that consume plant sugars. As a result, these eyelets are some of the most resilient you can find in a pair of sneakers.
Allbirds’ shoes are definitely designed with the wearer in mind. The insoles are lined with merino wool, allowing moisture to wick away from your foot without causing that sweaty, swampy feeling.
The insoles are padded and infused with castor bean oil. This allows for additional cushioning without requiring the use of typical commercial foam, which is made out of petroleum and, as a result, is not exactly environmentally friendly. Now, if you’re planning on wearing these shoes out for a jog or for more athletic pursuits, the standard-issue insole probably won’t cut it. However, since it is removable, you can easily replace it with a more rigid insole designed for particular needs (like pronation or plantar fasciitis).
The soles are lightweight, made out of low-density foam to provide friction control and cushioning. Designed in a unique S-curve, the treads of these shoes are designed with the natural tread of your foot in mind. This makes it easier for the shoe to distribute your weight and to work with the natural flexibility of your feet. It conforms to your movements and is lightweight, allowing you to move easily and naturally.
Finally, the outsoles are made out of SweetFoam, a carbon-negative material made out of sugarcane. This sole provides a great bounce and comfort that’s easy on the planet, too. It has minimal tread but wears well, tapering to fit the natural curve of your foot.
These shoes are soft, unlike the rigid sneakers to which you’ve likely grown accustomed to. The material is silky-smooth, meaning you can wear them without socks without having to worry about chafing or blisters. Your feet stay cool because the sneakers are lined with a mesh knit that offers unrivaled breathability.
The first time I wore these shoes, I was surprised at how spongy and soft they felt. Normally, it takes several weeks of wear to break a pair of shoes down to that level of comfort. However, from day one, these sneakers felt just like slippers – no “breaking-in” required. They are lightweight and don’t add any weight to your feet, a must-have feature if you’re on your feet all day.
I’m not one for wearing sneakers without socks, so I didn’t give that feature a try. However, based on the company’s claims as well as those posted by other online reviewers, I’d wager that these shoes are just as comfortable without socks as they are with them. Even though I walk for several miles every day, I’ve had no blisters with these shoes.
As a consistent inbetweener regarding sizes, it was a bit discouraging at first to see that Allbirds does not offer half-sizes. I wasn’t sure how well these shoes would fit as a result. However, since the shoes can be worn without socks (or, as I preferred, just thinner socks), the half-size problem turned out to be a non-issue. I will say that I have a somewhat wider foot, so I ordered a size up to be safe. I cannot recommend this enough, because the toe box tends to be a bit snug!
The shoes can be returned within thirty days, so if you happen to order the wrong size, it’s not a problem. This is quite an anomaly among shoe companies – those that do let you return clearly state that the shoes cannot have been worn, not so with Allbirds. The Allbirds company actually prefers you to try them out for a few days (select the “help” tab at the top) to get used to them, since their shoes stretch to your foot after a few uses – another major benefit of the merino wool material.
These shoes can be worn walking around town, although I don’t know that I’d wear them jogging – even despite their name. There might be just a little too much bounce for comfort in that setting. The insoles do have good arch support, though, so they are well-suited for other kinds of physical activity.
I have always been a huge fan of how well merino wool holds up under hot and cold conditions, and these shoes proved to be no exception. They are exceptionally warm when you wear them outside in the cold weather, and since they dry quickly, you don’t need to worry about getting them wet and destroying them completely.
While they don’t necessarily have a cooling effect on your feet in the summertime, they don’t add any extra warmth, either. They are well-ventilated, allowing air to come in without that uncomfortable stuffy feeling you grow accustomed to in the summer.
Allbirds does not only have an online presence, but they also have three “brick and mortar” storefronts around the world. If you live in or are visiting, the New York, San Francisco or London areas, make sure you stop in and try on a few pairs. The friendly Allbirds staff will be happy will be happy to assist!
Each store is open 7 days a week, but the times change depending on location, so make sure to check their stores page before going.
Odor Control and Durability
Merino wool is famous for its ability to wick away moisture, and without moisture, there is little chance for unpleasant odors to develop. If you do get the shoes stinky, they can be thrown right into the washing machine. Many people mistakenly believe that wool materials of any kind cannot be washed, but merino wool can actually be washable. As long as you only use the cold wash setting, your shoes will hold up just fine!
After washing, I wouldn’t recommend putting them in the dryer. Instead, let them air dry. Since merino wool dries so quickly, you really only need about twenty-four hours for them to dry out completely. Even better, they don’t become stiff and rigid after you’ve washed them, which is a problem I have had with other shoes in the past.
Another nice feature of Allbirds is that the company sells replacement insoles. While these aren’t easy to damage, they can wear down with repeated use and, admittedly, get a bit stinky. For fifteen dollars, you can replace the insoles and completely refresh your shoes.
These shoes hold up well over time. Ironically, even though they stretch to accommodate your foot, they never seem to get really stretched out. The shoe’s toe lining and tongue are both reinforced, allowing for greater flexibility without all the wear and tear. They last just as long as sneakers from other, less environmentally-sound brands.
The Final Verdict!
If you’re in the market for a pair of shoes that is stylish, comfortable, and eco-friendly, you really should consider a pair of Allbirds. The company has grown to a billion-dollar brand within the last few years, and as a result is able to offer unrivaled customer support and style options. Allbirds are a wonderful option for light hiking and around-the-town wear. Lightweight, breezy, and sleek, these shoes should be on any adventurer’s packing list!
Shop both men and women’s shoes now on the Allbirds website! They often release limited edition colors.