It seems like only yesterday that Allbirds began to wedge itself in my mind as a company to watch out for in the direct-to-consumer (DTC) space, and yet here we are, six years after its founding, 21 retail stores around the world, and one Adidas partnership later. Despite the dying down of the initial hype in silicon valley circles, Allbirds continues to impress with their primary product line of shoes including these Allbirds Tree Runners.
Building on their sneaker lines’ success, the company, whose roots are in New Zealand, is now headquartered in San Francisco and has naturally started to expand into other product categories such as socks and underwear.
But before I continue to ramble about the company, you came here to learn if the Allbirds Tree Runners are worth buying. In a word, yes. In more than a word, absolutely, without a doubt, and enthusiastically yes.
I thought long and hard about how to structure the review of this amazing sneaker because I wanted to make sure that I was answering the most common questions I think people will have about the Allbirds Tree Runners. But before we get to those, if you don’t know much about Allbirds, let’s do a quick recap of what makes them different.
- Began as a Kickstarter project in 2014 by co-founder Tim Brown who received a research grant from the New Zealand wool industry to try and engineer a sneaker.
- Created one of the first successful wool sneakers in the world
- The company’s ethos is based around creating shoes from sustainable materials not commonly used in the sneaker industry.
- These materials are superfine merino wool, castor bean oil, eucalyptus tree, sugarcane, and others.
- The company claims that the average sneaker construction emits approximately 12.5kg of CO2e while the Allbirds process, on average only results in 7.6kg of CO2e being released into the atmosphere.
- The company also claims that they take that 7.6kg of C02e and offset it by donating to projects that neutralized their carbon footprint.
- Their shoelaces are made from recycled plastic bottles.
- Allbirds have donated over $500,000 worth of their shoes to healthcare works in response to the COVID-19 crisis—a pretty great gesture given healthcare workers’ heroic work worldwide.
With that out of the way, let’s answer some questions about Allbirds and their Tree Runners.
Are Allbirds Tree Runners really that comfortable?
Yes. Allbirds Tree Runners are easily the most comfortable sneakers I’ve ever worn. Even after months of extensive wearing, the shoes feel about 95% new in overall comfort. It probably has something to do with the choice of materials, including the Eucalyptus tree upper and the Brazillian sugarcane midsole. Still, surely there is some other secret sauce that Allbirds uses to make them so comfortable. It’s no wonder that Allbirds shoes are becoming a favourite of those that work in positions where they have to be on their feet all day.
Are Allbirds Tree Runners Supportive?
The short answer is sort of. Perhaps that’s where Allbirds went wrong with naming this shoe. It’s not a running shoe. It’s a walking and being on your feet shoe that is versatile in almost all conditions. But its certainly not a shoe that you’re going to be running around the track on. Even a casual jog is probably not recommended. Remember that word jogging? Nobody uses that word anymore.
Frankly, I wouldn’t even recommend these as cross-training or gym shoes. They’re designed more for comfort than the utility of supporting any lateral movement. Where they are supportive, however, is in the sole. That’s where all the engineering has gone into, to make sure your feet get significantly less tired than they normally would. At least that’s been my experience. And you can trust me on that one, ever since I made a trip to New York twelve years ago, I screwed up my right foot from all the walking, and to this day, it is not quite right. It always gets sore before the left one. But with the Allbirds Tree Runners, that soreness doesn’t come on until far more time has passed than with even high-end Asics runners that I have.
Can Allbirds Tree Runners get wet?
Yes. Though I would recommend that you don’t go running through puddles unless you want some very wet feet. My experience has been that these shoes dry very nicely, and maybe even a bit faster than your standard sneaker. I can’t say I’ve done a drying time experiment to compare directly, but given the natural materials’ thinness, the Allbirds probably have a pretty good drying time advantage. The height of the sole at the back of the shoes seems to keep water away quite nicely.
Do Allbirds Tree Runners shoes smell?
Not really. It’s clear amidst all the advertising that Allbirds does that these shoes almost beg to be worn sockless. In fact, that’s how I’ve been wearing them ever since I got them three months ago. I can unequivocally say that some dark magic has been spun into these shoes that prevent them from getting too smelly. Yes, there is some minor detectible odour after a particularly sweaty jaunt in these sneakers, but not anywhere near the sort of rank smell you get with normal sneakers. This analysis comes from someone whose feet sweat like there’s no tomorrow, amidst a very hot summer we’ve had here. Of course, it’s not magic at all. It’s science, and the combination of materials is designed to minimize both perspiration and odour. It’s all quite remarkable.
Do AllBirds Tree Runners Wash Well?
Yes. And you’ll need to wash them somewhat regularly. Except for a few darker colour options and a couple of colour combinations with a coloured sole, these Allbirds tend to get dirty fairly quickly. My experience has been that the sole in particular gets scuffed up nearly instantly, so you’ll want to give them a nice clean maybe once a week. When cleaning, make sure that you always throw them in a delicates bag and give them 24 hours to air dry. DO NOT put them in the dryer unless you want to ruin them.
Do Allbirds Tree Runners shoes last?
That depends on your expectation of how long a shoe should last. I can’t speak to the extensive nature of how long these shoes last. I’ve owned them for over three months now, and they’ve performed exceptionally well. After each wash, they like almost new. That said, I have heard anecdotally on twitter and in various forums that you shouldn’t expect these shoes to last more than 2-3 years.
I’ve also read that you should take care not to snag your shoes on something, the lightweight mesh upper being somewhat susceptible to tearing if you happen to catch them on something.
I’ll make sure to update this article at multiple points to give you a better perspective on how my pair of Allbirds is holding up.
The Allbirds website is easy to navigate and easy to use. From start to finish, my entire shopping experience was friction-free and pretty much what I would expect of any top-notch direct-to-consumer Internet company these days. I live in Canada, and shipping was fast and free.
The Men’s Tree Runners are currently available in thirteen different colour combinations, though this does change from time-to-time as Allbirds makes adjustments to their lineup. The men’s version is available in sizes from 8 to 14, while the women’s sizing runs from 5 to 11. The women’s version of these shoes is also available in a slightly smaller twelve colour combinations.
I won’t comment too much on the colour options as I know this is a highly subjective area. That said, the Allbirds Tree Runners come in at least a few colour combinations I wouldn’t mind owning.
Perhaps the best part of the shopping experience is knowing that Allbirds gives you peace-of-mind when buying any of their shoes. That’s accomplished through a 30-day no questions asked return policy. That’s right, you can wear these shoes for a full 30 days, and if you’re not happy for any reason, you can return them for a full refund. Even better, lightly worn, returned Allbirds shoes are donated to the Soles4Souls charity.
The Fit & Wearing Experience
I’m one of those weird people that almost never come across a shoe that doesn’t fit my standard size of 10. It’s incredibly rare that I’ll try on a shoe that is marked as a ten and want something a half-size larger or smaller. Perhaps it’s simply because I’m a bit less fussy about exact fit if I like the aesthetics of a sneaker or boot, I’m willing to bear some minor discomfort. So it’s no surprise that I ordered the Tree Runners in a size 10. Running true-to-size, they fit me perfectly. I’ve had no desire for even a quarter size larger or smaller. Of course, that’s my personal experience, but so far, so good.
I’ve already briefly touched on the level of comfort with these shoes, but I’ll happily say it again. There’s no question that these shoes provide a superior level of comfort. They are, in fact, the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn. I can’t wait to get my hands on a pair of their Wool Runners, and Wool Loungers to compare. In my rapidly advancing middle-age, I want my feet to be surrounded by a comfortable cloud of magical material whenever I’m out and about, and that’s exactly what the Allbirds Tree Runners do for me.
This is not a “running shoe.” In other words, don’t expect these to be a workout shoe of any kind. If that’s what you’re looking for from Allbirds, I’d suggest looking at their Tree Dashers model.
That said, when it comes to things like breathability, this shoe is amazing. I’ve never had feet remain this cool, even in the midst of +90° F temperatures. With that comes the flip-side of that coin. As the cooler weather has started to settle in my part of the world with Fall rapidly approaching, I’ve noticed a few times, particularly on more breezy days, that my feet, without socks, get a bit cold in these sneakers. There’s no question that this is not a cold-weather shoe.
But even on my sweatiest of days, wearing these shoes with no socks for nearly a full day, I experienced zero blisters or discomfort in any part of my feet. They are truly the first shoe I’ve owned in my lifetime, of which I can make that assertion. Other sneakers would have destroyed my feet in one way or another under those conditions.
Finally, I will mention one negative thing about the Tree Runners. Don’t expect a lot of traction. These shoes are great for dry-walking, but if you find yourself running for the bus in sub-optimal traction conditions, such as a bit of frost, or newly fallen rain, you might experience some level of traction loss. I’ve experienced it twice already while wearing these sneakers.
One other minor gripe. Because the fabric on the upper of this shoe is as thin as it is, if you choose to forgo wearing socks with these shoes, the outline of your toes will show up fairly clearly in various situations. Not a big deal, but it can be a bit distracting at times and detract slightly from the otherwise genius aesthetics.
Nothing to write home about, except, perhaps for the fact that the box the shoes come in has some cute drawings on the interior. Other than that, a fairly standard shoebox with the shoes packaged relatively loosely.
It’s hard to write more praises than I’ve already enumerated above. The Allbirds Tree Runners are highly versatile, everyday, and all-day sneakers. They blend an awesome combination of materials and performance for a wide variety of daily applications. The price is more than reasonable, and the fact that they are committed as a company to producing sustainable products is a big win in my books.
My experience has been so positive with the Tree Runners that there’s no question I’ll be picking up other shoe models from Allbirds in the coming months and years.