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Here’s everything you need to know about the “world’s most comfortable” shoes.
For the uninitiated, Allbirds is a sneaker brand launched in 2016 that claims to make the “world’s most comfortable shoe” without actually looking like a comfort shoe — and they’re more popular than ever. The sneakers have long been a reader and editor favorite at Good Housekeeping, both for wearing and gifting — the brand’s basic styles are super versatile, and they have a unique construction that fans say makes them feel super comfy.
Still, Allbirds makes a lot of bold claims about everything from comfort to sustainability to ease of use (no socks needed and machine-washable!). So we couldn’t wait to put them to the test in the Good Housekeeping Institute Textiles Lab.
Our team of fiber scientists reviews fabric-based products of all kinds, from clothing and footwear to home products like sheets and towels. Our Lab experts evaluated Allbirds firsthand, wash-testing multiple pairs in the Textiles Lab. We also surveyed our consumer tester panel to see what dozens of real-life users think of the brand’s various styles. After reviewing over 1,330 data points, we determined that Allbirds really are worth buying. Read on to see what we found and get answers to the most often asked questions about the super-popular sneakers.
Are Allbirds really that comfortable?
Yes! As a whole, the brand’s shoes are exceptionally comfortable. In our consumer survey, 65 people of varying shoe sizes, genders and style preferences rated the shoes as comfortable to wear. In fact, 91% gave the shoes a perfect rating for comfort.
The Wool Runners are Allbirds’ most popular style. Made with merino wool, the material is softer than regular wool and has temperature-regulating properties. Consumers say “it literally feels like you’re walking on clouds when you’re wearing them,” and “they’re the comfiest pair of sneakers I own.” The only downside? A few said the wool made their feet sweat in warmer weather.
Most users say the shoes run true to size. The majority of the styles are available in whole sizes (8-14 for men and 5-11 for women). If you’re in between sizes, it’s best to size up. The sneaker styles are also good for people with wide feet because the upper fabric is flexible.
Are Allbirds shoes good for walking?
Yes, Allbirds are great walking shoes. Whether you’re traveling, running errands or wearing them for everyday use, Allbirds feel comfy even after walking for miles. Just keep in mind: most styles, like the Wool Runners, are not intended to be athletic sneakers and don’t have the built-in arch support or traction of workout shoes designed for high-impact activities.
If you’re looking for a performance shoe, the Dashers are your best bet. It’s also worth noting that some users said the brand’s Breezers ballet flats felt less supportive overall and more snug in the toes (which is expected for a pair of flats), so this particular style isn’t an ideal walking shoe.
Should you wear socks with Allbirds?
You certainly can wear socks if you prefer, but you don’t have to. The sneakers don’t itch or cause irritation when you go sock-free and most people on our panel told us the shoes don’t smell or have any odor after use. The Wool styles are mostly made of merino wool, which doesn’t absorb odors the way synthetic fibers like polyester do, and the Tree styles use a breathable mesh fabric on the top with a merino wool liner on the insole.
So yes, you can absolutely go sock-less, but if you can’t bear the thought, the brand also sells socks specifically designed for wear with Allbirds shoes after they learned that nearly 50% of Allbirds owners opt to wear socks with the brand’s sneakers. But, you can also wear any type of socks you prefer with the shoes.
Are Allbirds eco-friendly?
While no shoes are actually beneficial to the environment – i.e. all products have at least some negative impact – Allbirds does take a sustainable approach in the materials used for its shoes. The merino wool is considered a natural fiber and follows ethical standards, while the “Tree” fabric is made of Tencel lyocell.
The brand also uses other sustainable materials like recycled water bottles for the polyester in the laces, recycled cardboard that makes up 90% of the packaging, sugar cane in the foam sole and castor bean oil in the insole.
One more thing to note: The brand says the Tree styles are made of “tree fiber,” but there’s actually no such thing. Tencel lyocell is regenerated cellulose, meaning wood pulp from the trees that are chemically processed to turn it into a fiber. It’s not totally synthetic, but it’s not “natural,” either. Still, it’s considered sustainable in the textiles industry because it uses less-toxic chemicals that get recycled in the production process, and the wood is from trees in sustainably-harvested forests.
How do you machine wash Allbirds?
First you’ll need to remove the insoles and laces and brush off any excess dirt. The brand recommends placing the shoes in a linen bag and machine washing in cold water on the delicate cycle with gentle detergent.
Don’t put them in the dryer, though: the brand specifies that you should let them air dry. Heat and agitation from the dryer can cause felting, shrinkage and wear and tear with wool.
When we wash tested both Wool and Tree styles in the Lab, they held up well in the washing machine, though the Wool style took over 24 hours to dry and showed more signs of wear than the Tree fabric. We also weren’t able to get rid of dark marks on the white fabric and sole of Tree Runners that had been worn during a week-long vacation. If you’re worried about that kind of thing, we suggest going with a darker color.
Pro tip: It is safe for Allbirds to get wet – after all, they’re machine washable! – but they’re not waterproof, so don’t wear them in rainy weather. They won’t get damaged, but your feet will get wet and the shoes will take a while to dry. The exception is with the brand’s Mizzles, which have a water-repellant finish.
Which Allbirds style is best?
The brand makes a variety of shoe styles in either merino wool or “Tree fabric,” a.k.a Tencel, a manufactured fiber that uses wood pulp from trees as the raw material. All of the styles are available in classic colors that lean neutral (like white and gray) along with limited edition colors. Here are the styles you can choose from right now:
Pipers: This latest addition to the Allbirds lineup offers a classic take on streetwear silhouettes, available in three cozy designs: Wool Pipers, Wool Piper Mids and Tree Pipers. Our Textiles analyst tested the Tree Pipers, a combination of an athletic shoe and an everyday shoe, and found they nailed the comfort and fit mark. Thanks to their lightweight, stretchy knit fabric, they make a great spring or summer shoe. Another one of our experts tried the Wool Piper Mids and found them more comfortable than any other shoe they’ve owned, saying, “I like the casual look of these — they’re like a grown-up converse high top but more comfortable.”
Runners: A basic sneaker and the most popular design. You can get Wool or Tree Runners for men and women. Our testers chose the Wool Runners as the comfiest sneakers in their rotation, plus versatile enough for social outings and work. Its flexible toebox and cushion bed lend it a “walking-on-clouds” reputation. In fact, the Tree Runners kept a tester supported all day while walking for 12 miles. Afterward, toss them in the washer for an easy clean. If you have a trip coming up, these make the perfect travel shoe thanks to their reliable comfortability and stylish design.
Dashers: A slip-on running sneaker that has more stability on top and more cushioning on the bottom. It comes in the Fluffs or Tree fabric for men and women, and unlike the other styles, they’re available in half sizes. It earned the top spot for one of our editors who loves its mold-to-fit sculpt. The pair holds up well on different terrains while offering great foot support on a run.
Loungers: A slip-on shoe that looks like a cross between a laceless sneaker and a slipper. This one also comes in Wool or Tree fabric for men and women. They feel so lightweight that one tester forgot they even had them on! Unlike similar styles out there, these slip on super easily and hug (not rub) your ankles.
Skippers: A slimmer, lighter sneaker that has fewer laces and less coverage than the Runners but offers all-day comfort. It’s available for both men and women, but only in the Tree fabric. Our testers generally found they regulated body temperature well. Plus, people enjoyed wearing without socks.
Toppers: A high-top sneaker that covers the ankle. Like the Skippers, this style comes in the Tree fabric and has options for men and women. They’re slightly more expensive than the other lifestyle sneakers at $115. Compared to the Wool Runners, our testers thought these cooled better in hot weather and felt more supportive. One downside we found is that they lack traction, so you may opt for it as a walking shoe over a high-impact shoe.
Breezers: A breathable ballet flat, Breezers are available in the Tree fabric for women. Our testers rated them high for their super soft and stretchy material, attesting that “they become one” with their feet. Frequent gym-goers may delight in these as they don’t take up much space in gym bags and are easy to change into. We found they provided more support than other popular slipper styles, except you can feel more adventurous in them while looking put together.
Mizzles: A collection of Wool Runners and Wool Runner-Ups (a high-top version) that have a water-repellent finish so you can wear them in wet weather. Although we’ve yet to test this specific design in our Labs, our testers generally found the hardy style of the comparable Wool Runners easy to wash without losing its shape or size.
The final verdict: Yes, Allbirds are worth the money
At just under $100 for most men’s and women’s styles, these sneakers are not exactly inexpensive, but we’ll put it this way: Not a single one of the 65 users we surveyed was disappointed with their Allbirds purchase.
On top of that, our reviewers said the shoes were worth the price and they’ve held up to lots of wear (with a few knocks on the all-white styles, which are harder to keep clean). The best part is that the brand offers a free 30-day trial so you can get a full refund if don’t love them, even after they’ve been worn.