Despite their popularity, I was skeptical about Allbirds. Specifically, I wasn’t completely sold on their design. While one that personally skews towards minimalist and label-less styles, something about their Tree Runners just seemed a bit too casual for me…
Perhaps it’s the fabric, or maybe the two-tone design. Regardless, when given a chance to test drive a pair, I had to (albeit apprehensively) see what all the fuss was about.
After giving these a few wears, I just didn’t like them…
I loved them.
While still not 100% convinced on the style…I’m about 95% of the way there; the comfort of these shoes is unrivaled in every way. Ultimately, will I wear them again? Absolutely!
So, today’s guide isn’t just a gush piece that raves about Allbirds. Instead, it’s a three-part guide covering the company, design, and performance of one of their best-selling sneakers.
Editor’s Note: The shoes presented in this guide are complimentary in exchange for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links. Tools of Men is independently owned and operated. Allbirds did not review this post before publication.
If you want to learn more about Allbirds, you are best served by going directly to the company website – here is the Our Story page.
But really, all you need to know is this:
Allbirds was founded in 2014 by a couple of guys: Joseph Zwillinger and Tim Brown. They, to our knowledge, are still at the company today. This is important because the founder’s vision is still intact and not overrun by some new head honcho. I’m willing to bet that Joseph and Tim are incredibly passionate about their brand and want to put their best foot forward (pun intended) with each product they make.
Beyond having their original founders still involved, do know that Allbirds appears to be a pretty damn decent brand from a social and eco-friendly perspective. As a Certified B Corp, just like Ursa Major we recently reviewed, they “meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability” (source).
So know that they aren’t pumping god-knows-what into god-knows-where when it comes to making their products. As far as the country of origin, Allbirds makes their footwear and apparel in a few different countries – learn about it more here.
Allbirds is headquartered in San Francisco, CA.
We’ll go over more of the fabrics and construction of their flagship product up next:
Allbirds Design Overview
So, here’s the Allbirds Tree Runners:
And a side view:
As you can see, the full-mesh body wraps around the entirety of the shoe. When worn, this creates a breathable atmosphere for your entire foot.
The upper on the Tree Runners is what Allbirds is known for. Made from eucalyptus tree fiber, they are sustainably sourced rather than relying on virgin synthetic fibers (hence the name Tree Runners).
Next up, here’s a view of the sole:
Now, usually the sole isn’t something you give much thought to when buying sneakers. But what is pretty neat about these soles is that, according to their product page, they are made from Brazilian Sugarcane.
While you might not want to shred up soles and add them to your morning coffee, they are actually carbon negative, meaning that they reduce CO2 in the atmosphere rather than adding to it when the sole is made – pretty wild.
For the “cushion-y” insole, Allbirds relies on castor bean oil:
As I am writing this article, I am starting to wonder if this is a recipe review rather than assessing a new pair of shoes!
Now, let’s switch gears and look at some of the details. A good shoe is nothing if the details are poorly executed. Whether it’s a tongue that doesn’t stay put or laces that are just a hair too short or long, it’s the little things that complete the experience.
Here’s a close-up of the laces:
As you can see, they are rounded, as opposed to flat, and are quite chunky. In the walk test, covered shortly, the laces didn’t come undone. The thicker body of the laces makes them easy to grip and tie.
For the eyelets, you can see they are reinforced with a rigid material:
I hesitate on saying plastic, given that these shoes are made from all plant-based materials, but I was unable to confirm what the actual material is being used for the eyelet.
Unlike virtually every other shoe brand out there, Allbirds is very discrete in its branding. Only on the tongue of the shoe is there any indication of who made these:
For the inside of the shoe, here are a few other key details. First, the cardboard inserts that are included in the shoe are intended for reuse:
So, if you are short on a few shoe trees and want to keep these shoes looking like new, don’t toss the cardboard inserts.
As you can see in the picture below, the Tree Runners are made in Vietnam:
Now, if you had a keen eye, you may have noticed in the picture above that the Tree Runners are machine washable – yeah, you read that right.
So, if they start to smell, get stained, or you accidentally stepped in a questionable puddle, you can toss them into your washer on delicate and let them air dry.
While sizing may vary across the entire Allbirds lineup (source), I found that the Tree Runners fit true to size.
The Tree Runners are only available in medium width – narrow and wide options are not available. Additionally, these shoes come in full sizes (no half sizes) ranging from 8 to 14.
Here are a few unedited pictures of how the Allbirds looked when sliding them on:
There are a few things that you should know – particularly about the mesh upper:
These shoes felt incredibly comfortable when sliding them on. The full mesh upper allows so much air (not in a cold way) to come through the fabric to prevent any sweat build-up.
Given that the upper is of a softer fabric, the natural contours of your feet will likely be visible when worn:
So, don’t expect a streamlined silhouette as you would with other sneakers; an exception, of course, would be for fabric slip-on shoes such as TOMS.
When taking a step in the Tree Runners, the flexibility is best-in-class. As you can see, the foot can move uninhibited:
The fabric feels like it has just a little bit of give to allow the shoe to not feel stiff in any way.
Additionally, the insole and sole provide some cushion for added comfort.
What better way to evaluate the Tree Runners than to wear them for a nice long walk. To fully put them to the test, I decided to go on a 5.63-mile walk (which equates to roughly 11,000 steps) and swing by the Allbirds store here in NYC (corner of Crosby & Spring in SoHo):
During the walk, I found the Tree Runners to be quite comfortable. Specifically, here are a few of the notes I jotted down along the way:
- Toe Box Space: The feet were able to spread out comfortably. When pushing off the ground, they didn’t feel too cramped or narrow in any way.
- Ventilation: For the walk, the outdoor temperature was 60°F. Even when wearing slightly thicker socks, the shoes had plenty of ventilation. This is important because not only does the airflow increase comfort, but it also prevents sweat build-up, which may cause foul odors.
- Rubbing: There was no noticeable rubbing on the heel or elsewhere on the feet. Even after walking for 5 miles, there were no apparent issues with the shoes.
- Quiet Step: With a soft sole, the shoe lands silently. Don’t expect to get any odd looks from a loud footstep.
- Grip: The grip is good, but not great. While not snowy, I would be apprehensive about wearing these shoes in slick or icy conditions. That’s not to say that the step didn’t feel confident–it did; it’s just that there are likely better footwear alternatives available.
- Arch Support: The arch support for the Tree Runners is mild. However, even with flat feet, I found the support here to be adequate (more info).
- Tongue & Laces: Both the tongue and laces of the shoe didn’t get in the way at all. The tongue was comfortable and the laces stayed tied with a single knot.
Overall: The Tree Runners provide a pleasant walking experience. With the stop-and-go of NYC foot traffic, these shoes never faltered, even when walking for such a long time. Ultimately, I think these will make your feet feel pretty happy.
Other Things You Should Know When Buying From Allbirds
When buying from an unfamiliar brand, it’s always good to be familiar with their policies so you don’t get short-changed. Here are a few important takeaways when doing due diligence with Allbirds:
Shipping & Return Policy
For orders over $50, shipping is free. Orders under $50 will be charged a $5 standard shipping fee (source). The Allbirds return policy is good; they offer a 30-day no-questions-asked return window on shoes. Lightly used shoes are donated to Soles4Souls, who distributes the shoes to people in need.
For apparel and other small items, they must still have their original labels attached.
Read the up-to-date return policy here.
Where to Purchase
If you want to buy these online, then you will need to purchase directly from Allbirds.com. When doing a quick Google search, Allbirds aren’t presently sold anywhere else.
If you want to see a pair of shoes firsthand before you buy and live in a larger city, then you may be in luck. Allbirds has stores in San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles, and a few other large cities. Here’s the complete list.
Shawn Burns is the founder and senior editor of Tools of Men. He started this site with the goal of teaching men proper grooming habits and sensible style. Shawn’s expertise includes in-depth product reviews and how-to articles. Shawn was recently featured in the Wall Street Journal for his expertise.