Allbirds has developed nothing short of a cult following, and it’s not hard to see why. The brand makes some seriously hefty claims about its products that, for the most part, ring true: You can pop them in the wash, you can wear them without socks and they boast temperature control features that make them suitable for all climates.
When I got the chance to test out the Tree Flyers, Allbirds’ most technical performance sneaker yet, I was thrilled. As a certified personal trainer, I’m always looking to recommend athletic gear to help support my clients’ progress. Read on to find out why these new shoes make the cut.
What is the Allbirds Tree Flyer?
The brand’s latest foray into footwear is designed to increase comfort as you hit quicker strides and boost endurance for longer mileage. It achieves this by infusing the midsole with new SwiftFoam technology, which was developed to cut impact on joints that often contributes to injury. The upper is made of a breathable, responsibly sourced eucalyptus fiber, and the tread is derived from natural rubber. The shoes come in women’s sizes 5 to 11 and men’s sizes 7 to 14 (both including half sizes), they’re available in colors like beige, yellow and black and they ring up at $160 per pair.
When I opened the box, I audibly exclaimed, “Damn, they didn’t have to go that hard.” I was referring, of course, to the geometric design at the heel that is at once striking to look at and nerve-racking to run on.
When I put the sneakers on, more magic happened. They fit “like a glove” both in the sense that the sizing was on point, and because they clung snugly against my instep and heel in a way few sneakers have achieved. I was pleased to find a pull tab at the heel to facilitate pulling them on, but in true glorious Allbirds fashion, you can slip right into them like a slipper. This is an absolute joy for those of us who frequently rush out the door and can’t be bothered to lace up each time.
Putting the Tree Flyer to the test
I’ve been a runner my whole life, so I’ve sunk my feet into quite a few running shoes with impressive specs. The Tree Flyers were no exception. Many running shoes bill themselves as breathable based on their fabric alone while fundamentally failing to consider air ventilation. Not only are the Tree Flyers made with lightweight eucalyptus fibers, but their toe box features enough tiny mesh holes at the vamp to make for a makeshift A/C, which is ideal for reducing foot perspiration and common skin conditions associated with it like tinea pedis or athlete’s foot.
I’ll admit: The Tree Flyers featured a couple elements that made me nervous to run in them. Firstly, the lace eyelets begin lower down the instep than I’m used to, which compromised some ankle support. I’m grateful to have an adequate base of ankle stability from all those hours tiptoeing in the dark to the fridge at 2 a.m., but that might not be the case for most folks. If you’re going to run in them, make sure you’ve performed adequate ankle stabilization exercises beforehand to reduce your risk of injury. It can be something as simple as balancing on one leg to performing lateral jumps or calf raises.
Next, I anticipated the geometric heel that had me swooning during unboxing would be a problem from a functional perspective once I hit the treadmill. My feet are predisposed to supination, where my weight rolls toward the outside of my feet. The angular design of the shoe — very much intended to provide support, which I appreciate — tipped my foot ever so slightly toward pronation, creating a rolling inward effect. I felt a true anatomical shift in my gait, and while it felt a little different than what I’m used to, it’s probably better for my feet in the, ahem, long run.
During testing, I made sure to choose a walking activity that involved different forms of dynamic movement. I couldn’t think of anything more fitting than wedding dress shopping because it involved frantically perusing aisles and city streets with varying levels of terrain, walking up several flights of stairs, putting the shoes on and taking them off and generally getting to know them when I’m in a heightened state of awareness. These running shoes came close to slip-ons or slides in the convenience department since my feet slid right in, all while providing far more support and cushioning than something I’d usually wear shopping.
These shoes contain a noticeably wider toe box, which is great for people like me who suffer from bunions. After several hours of walking, I felt a bit of pain at the midsole, which tells me they contain only moderate amounts of cushioning. This is neither a good nor bad thing — it comes down to preference, and I just happen to prefer more pillowy.
Bodyweight exercises that mimic actions of everyday life are a stellar way to gauge how a shoe is going to work for you. I performed several plank, squat and lunge variations to get a sense of how the shoes “behave” when planted on the ground at various angles. I don’t believe the geometric pattern (can you tell I’m obsessed?) impacted how firmly these shoes grip onto the floor as much as the traction-heavy rubber outsole. The funky zonal tractional pattern contributes to a strong foothold, while the flexible outsole allows me to bend at the toe without the shoe digging into my skin at the crease. Due to the sneaker’s flexible sock-like material, I anticipate they’d retain their shape after months of use.
If you’ve got a handsome budget to devote to an everyday walking or running shoe, the Allbirds Tree Flyers are a good bet. They contain all the necessary specs to make them appropriate for traveling long distances, from a cushiony footbed with plenty of flexibility to breathable materials conducive to high-intensity and high-impact activity. Plus, they blend in seamlessly with any type of workout, walk or wardrobe, and you can’t really ask a pair of sneakers for much more than that.