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When I saw an article with the kinda clickbait-y title, “The Most Comfortable Shoes in the World,” I rolled my eyes a bit but definitely clicked on it. Because I like to take one pair of shoes with me when I travel: the ones on my feet. So I was curious what had been singled out as “the one.”
My go-to for the past XX years has been New Balance, which are comfy as heck. But they do have that appearance of “casual athletic” and of course the big reflective “N” logo all over them. I’ve been comfort-over-style, essentially. When I spend hours a day walking, I’d rather be comfortable and dowdy-looking than the alternative.
Enter Allbirds (what a name, eh?).
The idea of a comfortable and attractive shoe lured me in. They come in a limited range of basic colors, they’re $95 a pop, and the founders are super committed to design, sustainability, and high ethical standards.
“What the heck,” I thought as I placed my first order. If they last 6 months, it’ll be worth it.
They arrived this week. Here’s what I think so far.
My Allbirds research
- Link: Allbirds
I didn’t commit based on a single review. But a quick Google search brought up a ton of resources to discover more about Allbirds. Firstly, the tops made of wool. That doesn’t mean they’re hot – it means they’re reactive and durable. If you’ve ever hiked in SmartWool socks, it’s a similar idea. Then I learned the rest is made from all-natural materials.
The colors are neutral and practical. There’s nothing flashy about them. You can wear them with pretty much any outfit. And the heel is thick with plenty of cushion.
They even ship in a box that uses less cardboard.
They only come in two styles at the moment: runners and loungers.
Runners are your basic day-to-day shoe, with laces. Loungers are slip-on and def have a more casual vibe. I ordered a pair of gray runners for my Allbirds experiment.
Apparently, you can wear them with or without socks. They’re breathable. Water-resistant. And many reviews say they hold up well past the 6-month mark.
Here are a few other resources I consulted before I purchased a pair:
- Review: AllBirds Wool Runners (Wired)
- There’s a new version of the ‘world’s most comfortable shoes’ that Silicon Valley loves — here’s our verdict (Business Insider)
- Allbirds Wool Runners Mini-Review (Pics) (Reddit)
- Travel Gear Review: Allbirds – the most comfortable shoes in the world (The Global Couple)
I’ve been wearing them around town for a few days, and so far: wow! They’re like walking on a cushiony cloud.
As soon as I got them, I took the dog around the block and the lily white bottoms instantly got a patina of sidewalk sludge. But it wiped off easily. And the wool tops tend to “repel” most everything.
The bottoms are mostly flat, but have little grooves (you can see in pics above and below). The flatness is good because they don’t track in much dirt from outside.
I wore them during a bout of rain and didn’t notice any water getting down to my socks. I expect it would eventually if you stay out in it for a while but 1.) that sucks and 2.) that’s any shoe. The wool does dry much quicker than what I’m used to, though.
I don’t think I’d wear these to the gym because I don’t want to wear them out prematurely.
Also because, after a few days, the middle part of the heel already shows signs of wear. I mean, it’s a pretty thick heel to begin with, so I was kind of expecting that. Or maybe I just have a heavy tread? It’s not bad or anything, but I wouldn’t want to do say, cardio, in these. Or go on a run.
But for strollin’ around town, they’re pretty dang comfy.
What I’m hoping to get from these shoes
During my recent explorations in Brussels, Amsterdam, and Prague (BAP), I walked a lot in my New Balances.
Like, a few miles each day.
I ordered my last pair of New Balance on December 3rd, 2016. And the pic above is July 1st, 2017. So a solid 7 months of wear.
Inevitably, the insole slips around, and the inside back heel (particularly in my right shoes) are ripped to literal shreds. I’m a faster walker, I run a lot, I am NOT kind to my shoes.
But, this pair cost me ~$45 – a full $50 less than the Allbirds.
What I want from this pair is for them to look this good after the 6-month mark:
And I want them to be the one pair I take with me on my travels: comfy enough to wear on a plane, walk around new places, and look good throughout. Considering they’re over double the price I currently pay for a pair of shoes, that seems reasonable. I’ll have to post another update one way or the other.
Comfortable shoes are an essential part of my travel experience. I’ve tried to wear cute shoes before and ended up with blisters, foot pain, and the feeling of not wanting to walk any more. Which sucks when you’re in a new place (this happened to me in Osaka). After some trial and error, I default to New Balance shoes most of the time – especially when I travel.
So when I heard about Allbirds shoes, I dropped $95 on a stylish-looking and comfortable pair of wool runners. I replace my shoes about every 6 months, so if they hold up for at least that long, I’ll consider it a success.
I’m looking forward to traveling and taking these along for the ride slash walk. And so far, so good. They’re extremely comfortable. Perhaps the most comfortable shoe I’ve ever worn (time will tell). They still new to me, so I’m not completely sold just yet. Although reading lots of positive reviews has me hoping for the best.
Have you heard of Allbirds? If you have a pair, what do you think after an extended test run? (Gosh, I’m so punny.)
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