We first heard of Allbirds shoes about back in 2016 when our friend from New Zealand was wearing them. She claimed these shoes (which were made from New Zealand merino wool) were super comfortable — they certainly looked comfortable. Then a few months later we started seeing them all over New York City so we decided to check them out for ourselves since they looked like a great shoe for travel.
We’ve currently had our Allbirds Wool Runners for about 12 months — we’ve spent a good amount of time pounding the pavement with these shoes so we wanted to do our own Allbirds Review.
UPDATE: This post was originally posted in October 2018 so we’ve had a little more time with our Allbirds Wool Runners. We found they did a nice job keeping our feet warm during the NYC winters (but we didn’t wear them in the snow/rain/winter muck).
Naturally, they’re showing a little more signs of wear and tear but nothing out of the ordinary. We’ve read reports from other Allbirds wearers who said their shoes lasted around 8-10 months of moderate use and we are seeing about the same results.
UPDATE 2: Now that the weather is getting a little nicer, we’ve started testing the Allbirds Tree Runners (read our Tree Runners review).
UPDATE 3: Allbirds recently released their water-resistant Mizzle line of Runners and Runner-Ups. I’m wearing them as we speak and I’ll write up a review once I put a few more miles on them.
Quick Background of Allbirds
For a bit of background, Allbirds is a new shoe company from New Zealand (a country famous for its wool) that made their debut with their Wool Runners — a pair of shoes made from merino wool and other sustainable/recycled materials. They went the direct-to-consumer route (although they do have a few physical locations now) and all their shoes sell for $95 via the Allbirds Website (free shipping and returns). People seem to really dig them and their popularity is skyrocketing.
In addition to their Wool Runners, Allbirds also has a model called “Tree Runners” (which are made out of eucalyptus pulp instead of wool). They also have more casual “loungers” version of their Wool and Tree shoes.
We also like how Allbirds put a big focus on sustainability — their soles are made from sugarcane and their laces are made from 100% post-consumer recycled polyester.
Our Allbirds Review
We’re always raving out wool when it comes to travel clothing but we’ve never thought about wool for shoes. So when we saw the Wool Runners we were intrigued — especially since Allbirds claims their wool is soft, moisture-wicking, and reduces odor.
And as you can see from the chart above, Allbirds makes a lot of claims about their shoes so we wanted to test them for ourselves.
We actually ordered our Allbirds shoes online but Susan’s were a little too small so we headed to their NYC location to exchange them for a bigger pair — they have free online returns but we figured we’d do it a the store since we were in the neighborhood. The exchange was quick and painless (they also gave us a few free sets of free laces).
The superfine merino wool was immediately soft and comfortable — the shoe is very slipper-like. The foam of the sole is spongy and provides a nice amount of cushion.
We also immediately noticed how crazy lightweight the Wool Runners are — a pair of size 9 is 17oz. You can easily throw these into your luggage without adding hardly any bulk/weight.
Allbirds says you can comfortably wear their shoes both with and without socks. With that in mind, I went sockless during my maiden voyage to the park with Henry. Even after a good amount of walking, I found them very comfortable straight out of the box and I’ve never gotten any blisters.
Susan’s first wearing didn’t go quite as well — she developed a blister on her heel but it went away after they were broken in. So, just like every other pair of shoes, we suggest wearing your Allbirds a bit to make sure they’re broken in before going on any super long walks.
We’re really digging the look of our Wool Runners. They’re a nice blend of fashion, athletic, and casual. And they’re about to open a store in London so we’re sure you’ll start seeing them all around Europe very soon.
I chose the Natural Black with Black Sole and Susan got the Natural Grey with Light Grey Sole. They also have an ever-changing selection of limited edition colors. If I were to do it all over again, I probably wouldn’t get the all black as I think having some contrast between the sole and the upper part of the shoe would be nice — but that’s just personal preference.
We also like how there isn’t any real branding on the shoes so it keeps with the minimalist look.
Comfort & Sizing
After a few months of wearing my Wool Runners around the streets of NYC, I still find my Wool Runners to be perfectly comfortable. The soles have a lot of cushion and bounce. The insoles + sole actually offers a decent amount of arch support — which is fairly rare in other minimalist shoes. That said, Allbirds aren’t running shoes — even though they’re called “Runners”. They’re firmly casual walking shoes.
Additionally, the wool is plenty soft so Allbirds isn’t exaggerating when they say you can wear these without socks.
One thing we found a little annoying is that Allbirds currently only come in full-sizes (i.e. no half-sizes). Their website says that their shoes naturally stretch to fit your foot after a few wearings. Luckily, they give you 30 days to fully test the shoes and their return process is super simple.
The only small gripe I have is with the tongue. It sometimes folds onto itself so I have a do a little adjustment after putting the shoe on. It’s not that big a deal but it is an annoyance.
I’ve worn my pair for multiple walks (usually one to three miles at a time) without any issues but a majority of the time I’ve worn them around the neighborhood/city and on walks with Henry. That said, when we travel, we regularly walk for 10+ miles/day so I’m not sure how my feet would feel if I put in that kind of millage with these shoes.
So, to sum it up, we think the Wool Runners have an excellent weight/size to comfort ratio — they’re so light that you can easily throw them into your luggage with adding any bulk.
So are they the “World’s Most Comfortable Shoes”? That might be a bit of an overstatement. But they’re certainly comfortable and I enjoying wearing them — especially considering how crazy light they are.
Note: We’ve read reports that some women felt the toe box was a little tight so they were told to try the slightly wider men’s version — luckily the return/exchange process is simple.
Warm & Cool Weather Wear
Allbirds says their Wool Runners “stay cool in the heat and warm in the cold.” Well, on hot days our feet still got a bit warm and sweaty so don’t expect these to be like air conditioning for your feet. That said, I didn’t feel like these were too much different than other sneakers I wear and they did dry fairly quickly.
However, the Allbirds Tree Runners are supposed to be much more light and breezy than the Wool Runners so they might be better suited for the summer.
And now that Autumn’s cooler weather has arrived in NYC, I find that my Wool Runners keep my feet comfy when I take Henry out on his nightly walks around the block.
Allbirds aren’t made for rainy weather so your feet will get wet fairly quickly if you get caught in the rain.
Odor and Washing
Allbirds are certainly soft enough to wear without socks. Wool is naturally odor-resistant so this was one thing that intrigued us about wool shoes. We’ve worn our Wool Runners multiple times without socks and have yet to experience any noticeable foot odor. Nice!
We’d still recommend wearing socks if you’re going to wear yours all day long because they will probably eventually start to smell from extended barefoot wear — especially if you have sweaty feet.
That said, you can simply toss your Allbirds straight into the washing machine (cold water) if they do get smelly or dirty. They do need to air dry — we haven’t personally washed our Allbirds yet but people online say they take about 24-hours to air dry.
We do like how Allbirds sells replacement insoles for $15 since insoles are what holds in the most amount of stink. So, should yours start to smell, just throw in a new pair of insoles.
Before I got my Allbirds I read some reports that the Wool Runners’ toebox had a tendency to stretch out over time. We only noticed very minimal stretching — so I did some research and it turns out that Allbirds made a few improvements in 2017 to reinforce the toe lining and tongue (they also improved the insole and made the sole more flexible).
Our Wool Runners are still holding up pretty well after a few months of light to medium use. We typically wear them around the neighborhood, to the coffee shop/store, and when we take Henry for his walks. We’ve done a handful of multi-mile journeys with them and they’re still holding up well. They’re starting to show a bit of age but that’s to be expected.
I’ve read a handful of reports on Reddit from other people who have worn their Allbirds pretty hard (i.e. every day for 6-8 months) and the max lifespan seems to hover around 8 to 10-months of heavy use — which is essentially the same results as I get with my Nike or New Balance shoes.
I have read that the wool tends to attract hair and dog/cat fur so you might need to de-fur your shoes from time to time. Also, some people also reported that their shoes had a bit of excess clear glue where the sole attaches to the upper.
After spending a solid amount of time wearing Allbirds Wool Runners we can see why Allbirds has become so popular (they’re now valued as a billion-dollar brand). They’re cool-looking, comfortable, have pretty good durability, and they’re made using sustainable manufacturing processes. We also like their simple return process and their 30-day guarantee.
They’re great shoes for wearing around the neighborhood, running errands, and urban exploration. We also wouldn’t hesitate to throw these into our suitcase before our next trip because they’re so lightweight and take virtually no space. Are you traveling soon? Check out our other favorite travel shoes for more footwear recommendations.
Allbirds Wool Runner cost $95 via the Allbirds Website.
More Allbirds Offerings
In late 2019 Allbirds released their Mizzle Runners and Runner-Ups. These are water-resistant Allbirds with a slightly thicker sole and water-resistant lining that make them better suited for those cool drizzly days.
I picked up a pair of the Mizzle Runner-Ups from their SOHO location and so far I’m really digging them. They’re super cozy, I love their style, and so far they’ve done well in light rain.
I’ll post a more in-depth review once I wear them a little longer. But, so far so good!
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Thanks For Reading! — James