Do Allbirds Wool Runners live up to the hype? And are they a suitable travel shoe? We put these wool shoes to the test to see if you should buy a pair.
We first heard of Allbirds shoes 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.
I’ve had my 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.
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.
Allbirds also has a model called “Tree Runners” (which are made out of eucalyptus pulp instead of wool).
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.
My Allbirds Review
I’m always raving out wool when it comes to travel clothing but I’ve never thought about wool for shoes. So when I 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.
Inside the NYC SoHo Location
I actually ordered my Allbirds shoes online but I still headed to their NYC location on SoHo to check it out.
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.
I also immediately noticed how crazy lightweight the Wool Runners are — a pair of size 9 is 17oz. They’re great for travel because 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.
That said, I’m not a huge fan of wearing them without socks on longer walks. Going sockless is fine for running to the store or bumming around, but I find the comfort goes down with extended wear.
I’m really digging the look of the Wool Runners. They’re a nice blend of fashion, athletic, and casual. And they’re opening a store in Europe so I’m sure you’ll start seeing them all around Europe very soon.
I chose the Natural Black with Black 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.
I 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 Runners aren’t running shoes — even though they’re called “Runners”. They’re firmly casual walking shoes.
If you want running shoes (or just a bit more support), get the Allbirds Dashers.
Additionally, the wool is plenty soft so Allbirds isn’t exaggerating when they say you can wear these without socks.
One thing I 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, I regularly walk for 10+ miles/day when I travel 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, I 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 without 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 enjoy wearing them — especially considering how crazy light they are.
Note: I’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 my 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 much more light and breezy than the Wool Runners so they’re 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. I’ve worn our Wool Runners multiple times without socks and have yet to experience any noticeable foot odor. Nice!
I 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.
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 — I haven’t personally washed our Allbirds yet but people online say they take about a day or two to air dry.
I do like how Allbirds sells replacement insoles for $15 since insoles are what hold 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. I 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).
My Wool Runners are still holding up pretty well after a few months of light to medium use. I typically wear them around the neighborhood, to the coffee shop/store, and when I take Henry for his walks. I’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. I wouldn’t hesitate to throw these into my suitcase before our next trip because they’re lightweight and take virtually no space.