Allbirds has been around for quite a few years now, but the brand that’s known for making “the world’s most comfortable shoes” is showing no signs of slowing down.
Founded in 2014 by New Zealand native Tim Brown, Allbirds has been defined by simple design and comfortable construction since the beginning. The brand first saw success as a Silicon Valley staple (which makes sense for the San Francisco-based startup). But the sneakers have quickly racked up popularity with celebrities like Jessica Alba, fashion icons like Sarah Jessica Parker and even environmentalists like Leonardo DiCaprio. Today, you’ll see Allbirds on everyone from college students to busy parents, dancers, nurses and others who are constantly on their feet.
But the internet-famous shoes don’t come cheap: The majority of styles start at $95. And the brand makes a lot of different claims about the quality, comfort and maintenance level of its shoes. That’s why we’ve broken down everything you’ll want to know before you invest in your own pair of Allbirds.
Are Allbirds comfortable?
In short, extremely. The sole of an Allbirds shoe is made from a proprietary low-density foam that contributes to the shoe’s extremely lightweight feel, its No. 1 distinguisher from other typical sneakers. The shoes’ insoles are made from a proprietary merino wool fabric that gives Allbirds its signature “walking on a cloud” sensation. The wool fabric is billed as both moisture-wicking and odor-minimizing (more on that later) and is also used on the outside of the Wool Runners, Wool Mizzles and Wool Loungers.
Which Allbirds claims stack up?
When it comes to everything a shoe can do for you, Allbirds claims to be able to do a lot. Here’s a quick breakdown of how some of them stacked up against our testing and experience with the Wool Runners, Tree Runners and Tree Toppers.
So soft you can go sockless: You can definitely wear Allbirds sockless. The Wool Runners, in particular, are super soft and feel almost slipper-like without socks. They’re a breeze to just slip on and off, making them our quick and convenient shoe of choice for everything from running errands to heading to a workout like yoga or swimming.
However, if you’re planning to spend a full day on your feet, we recommend wearing socks — purely to maintain the soft and comfy quality of the shoes.
Minimizes odor: When worn with socks, it was almost impossible to detect any odor despite long days and even moderate exercise. This is in part due to the temperature control abilities of the material. Even without socks, we barely experienced any odor. That may be due to Allbirds’ merino wool material, with wool being a naturally odor-resistant material. It also holds up well against sweat and bacteria, which helps to minimize any long-term odor.
Machine washable: The big question: Can you just toss these in the wash? Surprisingly, yes. Washing your Allbirds is a great way to prevent odor or stains, especially if you wear them a lot and in environments where your feet are exposed to puddles, dirt or other undesirable elements. Allbirds recommends removing the laces and insoles from your shoes, then washing them in cold water with a gentle detergent. However, there is a caveat when it comes to the Wool Runners. The more you wash your shoes, the faster the material starts looking worn out. This is especially true for the lighter shades. Over a couple of months and washes, the Wool Runners in Natural White started to stretch (especially around the toe) and the color gradually became more dull and less white.
And one more thing — never put your Allbirds in the dryer! One of our editors accidentally threw his Tree Runners in the dryer, and they came out looking just fine — but there are horror stories of Wool Runners post-dryer bring completely ruined.
Temperature control: If you suffer from sweaty feet or plan to wear your Allbirds throughout the summer, definitely opt for one of the Tree models. They’re super lightweight, breezy and all-around great for hot temperatures. While the Wool Runners are lightweight as well, and fine for warmer climates, they impressed when it came to keeping our feet warm and cozy during the cold, Northeastern winter. If you’re going to be trekking in any slush or snow, just be sure to opt for the Wool Mizzles over the Wool Runners, since they feature a weather repellent Puddle Guard to keep your feet dry.
What Allbirds style and size is right for me?
The first decision to make is whether you’re looking for a sneaker, or something a little different. Allbirds produces five types of sneakers — Runners, Dashers, Toppers, Skippers and Mizzles — along with two other styles, Loungers and Breezers.
The five sneaker variants differ in a few key ways, the main distinguisher being material. The Tree Toppers and Tree Skippers are basically low-cut and high-top versions of the same sneakers. The Tree Skippers are extremely lightweight and perfect for summer. The Tree Toppers are pricier, but we’re big fans of the stylish high-top. Both shoes feature a slightly flatter sole and wider toe box, giving your foot more space but less support.
The Wool Runners and Tree Runners are Allbirds’ classic styles. The sneakers are particularly flexible and supportive, and truly engineered for all-day comfort. They’re the perfect city-trekking, day trip or long walks type of shoe. If you’re not sure which material to opt for, wool is softer and better for colder climates, while the Tree is breezier and better for warmer climates.
The Mizzles are a take on the Wool Runners that features natural rubber treads and the brand’s own Puddle Guard technology. Available in both normal and high-top versions, the wool keeps your feet warm while the shoe’s design ensures your foot doesn’t get too wet — though Allbirds makes sure to emphasize that these aren’t waterproof. They’re perfect for anyone who’s willing to spend a little more to make a sneaker purchase go further and last longer (or, of course, if you live in a colder, wetter climate).
If you’re in need of a running shoe, Allbirds has you covered with its new Tree Dashers. With a one-piece upper knitted from FSC-certified eucalyptus tree fibers and a dual-density SweetFoam midsole, these shoes are the perfect balance between comfort and performance. We reviewed them when they first came out in June, and loved the support and flexibility of the Tree Dashers.
If you’re looking for ultimate comfort, the Loungers are the way to go. Available in both men’s and women’s styles, they’re the perfect shoe to slip on and off, for running errands or any number of day-to-day tasks. They’re less supportive than the sneakers, however, so don’t choose them if you’re looking to go on demanding day trips or long walks. Reviewers say they feel “like wearing a super comfy pair of socks” everywhere they go, and that they hold up great in both hot and cold weather.
The Breezers are a classic flat, available in one style (but a ton of super fun colors). They’re perfect if you’re looking for something more work appropriate than a sneaker.
When it comes to sizing, be sure to size up. Allbirds says that most customers choose to size up in every style except for the Tree Runners, which we would also recommend. Luckily, Allbirds offers a no questions asked 30-day trial period, when you can return or exchange your shoes for free.
Are Allbirds worth it?
If you haven’t been able to tell by now — absolutely. The comfort and style combined with high-quality materials are something you can’t find in other sneakers.
The only thing to be cautious of, particularly with the Wool Runners, is that the wear you get out of them over their lifetime might not be as long as what you would get out of typical running shoes. The wool material is more delicate, susceptible to staining and starts to show wear after a couple of weeks. One way to counter this is not to wear them as your only pair of sneakers, but as a type of comfy sneaker shoe that lives alongside your grittier sneakers or running shoes. This way, you’ll be able to enjoy them longer.