Since officially launching in 2016 San Francisco-based startup Allbirds has experienced rapid growth with its first shoe the Wool Runner. It now makes different shoe silhouettes and has experimented with a variety of sustainable materials. We tested their ‘Classic’: the Allbirds Wool Runner to see if this pair of shoes lives up to its promise.
Extremely light and flexible
I have a high arch to my foot and it’s often hard to find footwear that will be supportive enough without an additional insole, especially in active footwear. Many of the sneakers I have tried resulted in my foot feeling numb part the way through walking around during the day. These wool runners not only supported my high arches but felt like a little springboard for my feet. I actually wanted to wear these shoes, which is not a feeling I’m accustomed to. The sneaker is extremely light and flexible.
As I tested these out in the winter months, I wanted to see if the shoe held up to it’s “cool in the summer, warm in the winter” claim. Most days I wore these sockless to run errands in about 40 degree weather and my feet felt comfortable. Not too warm, but definitely not cold. When working out in the shoe, they felt supportive and held up to my daily cardio routine. I’m not sure you could run a marathon in these, but they are great for getting in 30 minutes on the treadmill.
Comfortable and durable design
I’m not a big fan of sporty looking sneakers outside of the gym. It’s a cardinal sin for a travel junkie, but I have to say, these wool runners changed me. I chose the Jackalberry color, a deep forest green, and it lent to my wardrobe seamlessly. I wore them with athletic gear, jeans, even a dress, and dare I say, they were cute. Allbirds come in a variety of colors ranging from neutral tones to a loud bright red, so there is a shade to suit everyone’s unique style.
Opening a pair of new sneakers without digging through a mountain of tissue paper was refreshing and thoughtful.
Functionally, the design is comfortable and durable. They basically feel like supportive slippers that you can wear in public. The tread on the bottom of the shoe is shallow, however, so I wouldn’t recommend wearing them on extreme hikes or in icy weather.
Sustainable and eco-friendly engineering
Allbirds are known for their sustainable makeup that is completely washing machine safe. Just pop them in a delicates wash bag, wash them on the gentle cycle, and let them air dry. The interior and upper exterior are made completely of merino wool, which accounts for their durability and softness. Merino wool also acts as a natural wicking agent and doesn’t retain odors. Though they are made out of wool, they are not itchy at all. The material is soft enough to go sockless and is temperature regulating. One thing about these runners is that they are not waterproof. I wore them in the rain and they are water resistant, but if you are in a bad storm your feet will get wet.
Staying true to their low carbon footprint pledge, the laces of the wool runners are made from post-consumer recycled polyester. The soles are made of SweetFoam, derived from Brazilian sugarcane, and is the world’s first carbon negative green EVA. When the shoes arrive, there is no excess packaging. They are shipped in the shoebox and include a removable insert you are encouraged to keep in the shoe when you aren’t wearing them. I recycled one cardboard box, and that was it!
True to size
I’m a size 9 but can go half a size up or down depending on the cut. Allbirds are true to size, but the brand doesn’t make half sizes. The majority of the styles are available in whole sizes 8-14 for men and 5-11 for women. If you’re in between sizes, it’s best to size up. The sneaker styles are also good for people with wide feet because the upper fabric is flexible. There is enough room in the toe box while still remaining snug for a good fit. The best part about these shoes–you don’t need to break them in. Because they are made out of wool, the shoes form to your feet the more you wear them.
They are that comfortable!
As whole, the brand’s shoes are exceptionally comfortable. Sneakers, by design, are created for comfort, but if you have a high arch like I do you could find that even the highest-rated kicks can leave you with achy feet or even numbness after a long day. I found Allbird’s Wool Runners to be supportive and fashionable. The more I wore them, the more they molded to my feet.
Allbirds Wool Runners are worth the money
Good tennis shoes run the gamut in price point, but if you are looking for a shoe that can take you just about anywhere, Allbirds Wool Runners are worth the investment. Teetering around $95 a pair, it’s hard to justify the almost three-figure price tag for a shoe that isn’t noted for its athletic features, but if you are on a plane as much as I am, this shoe is your ideal travel partner. Since these shoes can go with any outfit, they have likely saved me hundreds of dollars in overweight baggage fees so I’ll happily pay the price.