I first heard about Allbirds a couple of years back, and ever since then, I haven’t stopped hearing about them. A lot of people say they are the most comfortable shoes maybe ever. It took me a while to get around to trying them out because I already had a pair of travel shoes; I wanted to wait for those ones to wear out.
Well, they recently did just that a few weeks before an upcoming trip. I figured this was the perfect opportunity to give a pair of Allbirds a try. I wanted to let you know whether they really are as good as everyone says. Even for the demands of world travel? Let’s dive in.
Allbirds Shoes: The Back Story
Allbirds is a newish company based in New Zealand.
While Allbirds have a few physical stores, I am an online shopper through and through. I just ordered my pair straight off the website. All their shoes cost $95, which is a deal for a pair of good travel shoes. The price includes free shipping and returns as well.
I got myself a pair of their flagship product, the Allbirds Wool Runners. They are made from a blend of recycled material (green street cred) and merino wool. New Zealand just happens to be famous for the excellent wool produced there. Allbirds is certainly spoiled for choice when picking out their materials. At first, I was a little skeptical – and maybe you are like me – imagining that wool would be really hot and not very breathable. Well, not true. It turns out that wool is actually one of the most breathable natural fibers out there. It’s so breathable, in fact, that Allbirds say you don’t even need to wear socks with these runners.
I took their word for it, but then I saw another one of their products that piqued my interest – the Allbirds Tree Runners. These shoes are made from eucalyptus pulp instead of wool. I often worry that wool runners will get a bad smell or not breathe enough. Plus, I know a lot of people are looking for non-animal products these days. It can be hard to find good ones that aren’t filled with plastic and other pollutants, so I figured I’d buy myself a pair of those too. Live a little.
If you haven’t guessed already, Allbirds are big on sustainable products. They’ve come up with some innovative ideas to lessen their impact on the environment. The soles of the shoes are made from sugarcane, and the laces are made from 100% recycled material.
First Impressions of Allbirds
As soon as I pulled my new Allbirds out of the box (with no plastic packaging) I was impressed by the softness of both styles… but the merino wool Wool Runners won by a hair. I also loved the sponginess of the soles straight away. It was like I’d bought slippers in runner form. I am not ashamed to say that’s my kind of shoe.
I also immediately noticed how light the shoes were. I can’t stand it when shoes bulk up my luggage, so both styles got a big tick for travel right off the bat.
There are a range of sleek, neutral colors available on the Allbirds site. At first they mostly stuck to the gray spectrum, but now Allbirds have expanded their range to include all sorts of amazing colors. As always, I opted for blue in the Wool Runners and purple in the Tree Runners.
Are the Allbirds sporty? Fashionable? Casual? A little from columns A, B, and C. The look of these Allbirds runners met another one of my travel shoe requirements – versatility. I also love that they’re not covered in big logos. This is what keeps them looking a bit classier so you can wear them to nicer places undetected. You could just as easily go out to a semi-nice bar wearing these as you could go for a walk in the forest.
Once I took a look at my new Allbirds, I couldn’t wait to give them a test drive. I laced up the Wool Runners and hit the pavement straight away. I immediately noticed they had a nice bounce to them, which is always a good indicator of long-term comfort.
To get a better sense of their comfort before I set off on my trip, I decided to alternate between the Wool Runners and the Tree Runners for a week. I did my normal day-to-day stuff, which involves at least a few miles of walking every day. The arch support is great in both styles; I never got sore feet. That is rare for a flat-footed person like me. The main difference in them is the warmth, with the Wool Runners being better suited for winter travel and the Tree Runners better for summer weather.
Allbirds say you can wear these runners without socks, and it’s true. I actually find that wearing socks with my Allbirds to be more uncomfortable These puppies are ultra comfortable without socks, and I didn’t knock anyone out with the stench of my feet when I took them off. Win-win.
Side note: despite the name, these are not really runners. They are definitely walking shoes. Sure, you could run for a bus in them but not a cross country run or trail run.
Are they the comfiest shoes ever? Truth be told, that’s a little subjective, isn’t it? They definitely are very comfortable. I can easily clock ten miles in them without blisters or pain. They are soft, lightweight, and have good arch support. I recommend them based on comfort alone.
I am always thankful that I am not a half size. It seems that hardly any brands make half sizes these days, Allbirds included. If you are a half size, try out the smaller size as they will likely stretch out. You should be fine, but you do get 30 days to test and return them if they are not right for you.
Warm Weather Wear:
I wear my Allbirds Tree Runners for warm weather destinations like the Philippines and Thailand. They let my feet breath without odor.
Cold Weather Wear:
Both styles keep your feet cozy in cold/freezing weather, especially with a good pair of wooly socks. However, wool is always going to be slightly warmer than anything else. I wear my Wool Runners for winter travel.
This is important: Allbirds Wool Runners do not get along well with rain and snow. They are fine in a shower or light drizzle, but avoid wearing them if you’re walking around in a downpour or a blizzard. If you are bringing these traveling to a place with lots of snow or rain, I really recommend you bring a backup pair of waterproof or water-resistant shoes. The Allbirds Tree Runners however, can be doubled as water shoes.
Odor and Washing:
After my initial hesitation on wool shoes, I found that wool is actually quite odor-resistant. That said, if you did wear them without socks every day, they might get smelly eventually.
The good thing is you can just throw them in the washing machine. So convenient! Just make sure you’ve got the washer set to cold water. You can’t put them in the tumble dryer, however, you’ve gotta let these bad boys air dry. It takes about 24 hours unless it’s super warm and dry. Don’t plan any long walks on washing day if you don’t have a backup pair. This is one of the reasons I love Allbirds shoes, the ability to always throw them in the wash and have them not get ruined is amazing.
I’ve had my Allbirds since this summer and they are always in my suitcase. It’s not a very long amount of time, but I’ve used them quite a lot in several different environments. They’ve held up very well so far. That’s more than can be said for other shoes I’ve bought in the past that start showing signs of wear and tear after just a few uses.
Some people have said that the toe box tends to stretch out over time. I didn’t even notice this until I looked closely, but it hasn’t started to happen to my shoes yet. However, I’ve seen this happen with other wool and mesh runners from almost every other brand out there, c’est la vie.
Although I can’t speak from personal experience about the long-term durability of these shoes, people say they’ve got around 10-12 months of heavy use. That’s pretty solid, in my opinion. I heard nothing about them literally falling apart while you’re wearing them either. Always a bonus, because that has definitely happened to me before with other runners.
For me, my favorite thing about wearing these is their ease while traveling. They are a breeze when traveling through airport security and are super comfy on and off the planes. They are ultra-light and pack up small making them the easiest travel shoes ever.
Allbirds Wool Runners vs. Tree Runners: What’s the Difference?
The two styles have more in common than they have differences.
Both styles are much of a muchness when it comes to comfort. I did find the Tree Runners kept stinky feet at bay without socks a little better than the Wool Runners. On further investigation, Allbirds agree that the Tree Runners are better for hot weather. They are ever so slightly more breathable and light.
The main difference lies in the materials they’re made from. The Wool Runners are, as expected, made of premium merino wool – which is some of the best wool in the world. Meanwhile, the Tree Runners are made from Tencel – created from Eucalyptus trees. If you can swing it try either pair first depending on the season you are traveling, and if you like them then grab the other!
Which Style is Better – The Tree Runners or Wool Runners?
Well, it comes down to personal preference and how you’ll be using these shoes. If I’m honest, I didn’t really have much of a preference. So here are my thoughts:
If you are going to stick to colder climates, the Wool Runners will keep your feet toasty. Do make sure you bring a backup pair of shoes that can handle wet and winter conditions. If you’re going somewhere snowy bring boots and don’t just rely on these. If you’re heading on a trip to a tropical paradise, go for the Tree Runners.
There’s also the wool vs. eucalyptus debate. Are you vegan? Or just want to avoid wool for whatever reason? I bet you still want that incredible softness and comfort that wool runners bring. That’s why I’m pretty certain you will be happy with the Tree Runners. The Tencel is also just very cool technology.
Final Thoughts on Allbirds:
The Allbirds runners have a beautiful minimalist design that seems to be so on-trend at the moment.
They’re also incredibly comfortable, with pretty decent support. Sure, they’re not something you’d want to run or hike in, but they are great everyday travel shoes nevertheless. They’re certainly up there with the best pairs of shoes I have taken on a trip. You’ll easily hit ten miles in these without a blister or stinging heels.
It’s inspiring to see a company that creates options for different lifestyles and preferences. I also like to see companies that are brave enough to experiment with new materials for footwear. For all their comfort and style, the best thing about Allbirds is their unshakeable commitment to sustainability. They use 5% of the water and ⅓ of the land compared to other footwear manufacturers. They only source eucalyptus from plantations that abide by sustainable forestry standards. Their laces come from recycled plastic bottles and the packaging is made from 90% recycled cardboard.
Amazon has tried to copy them at a fraction of the price, but we all know those are just cheap knock offs.
Allbirds are only $95. At that price, with that level of ethics, you can definitely feel good about buying yourself a pair of Allbirds. I wish more footwear companies were like Allbirds. I know I’m going to see more and more great designs and shoes coming from this brand. Every time I check their site there is a new innovative product and different colors. I’m absolutely in love!
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