It happens to all of us. That moment when we see something and want it at first sight. Call it greed, desire, or maybe a desire or an urge. It can happen with a plate of food, a watch, a car or even a member of the opposite sex. I was on vacation when I saw them: his and her sneakers worn by a stylishly dressed couple. It was the first time I saw Allbirds sneakers and I instantly knew I had to have a pair for myself.
Well, apparently my knowledge of athletic shoes and emerging brands has been in a cave as I was unfamiliar with the Allbirds brand. This company created an innovative and truly sustainable shoe brand that has become quite popular and trendy since launching on Kickstarter in 2016.
The style I liked was the Allbirds Trail Runners. It has been made more durable than many of their other styles to be water resistant and to withstand trekking or light trail running. I wasn’t aware of all these extra features; I loved the style – white on tan with a subtle brown dot pattern, they just looked great. I immediately envisioned a place in my spring and summer wardrobe to wear with white pants or shorts and a contrasting earth-colored shirt. Dressy enough for casual affairs and comfortable too. So basically they had me at hello. Everything else I would later discover was a bonus, and what a bonus.
Allbirds made a name for themselves by creating very comfortable sneakers made of wool that could be worn without socks. And this is not just a pseudo-eco-focused green company. Allbirds takes sustainability seriously as all of their products are made from recyclable or sustainable materials such as sugarcane for the hard foam soles and eucalyptus fiber for the parts of the shoe that must be durable but flexible. A central element of all their shoes is merino wool, sourced from New Zealand sheep for soft, moisture-wicking materials. Even the box you will receive and the packaging is 90% recycled cardboard. It’s a very smart company that makes really smart shoes.
Tim Brown, founder of Allbirds
Allbirds was founded by Tim Brown, a New Zealander who grew up around sheep. After its crowdfunding launch and direct-to-consumer strategy, the brand took off once it was named the “world’s most comfortable shoe” by Time magazine. Their original Wool Runner sneaker was the first model, and by most accounts, they’ve come pretty close to the promise of comfort with primarily wool uppers that can be worn without socks. The shoes are washable and durable with a semi-casual style so you can wear them instead of shoes or sneakers. Because they were also sustainably made, the brand took off, especially with Silicon Valley types, as well as celebrities like Jessica Alba, Sarah Jessica Parker and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Since those early models, the brand has created new styles of running shoes and athletic styles, as well as sandals, shoes and apparel, all with a focus on style, sustainability and comfort.
As I’ve shared, my attraction to the Allbirds Trail Runners was the looks, but I soon discovered that these sneakers are much more than just another pretty face. Yes, sure, they’re sleek and stylish and come in many colors, including gray, black, green, and multi-colored, but there’s a lot more to these shoes than looks. Beyond their stylish looks, they’re performance shoes also made for light hiking, running and trail running with durable, water-resistant side panels, breathable wool upper and lining, and a hard foam sole that absorbs the bumps for stability and support.
Again, this shoe, like all his others, ticks the ecological and sustainability box. There are no plastics or petrochemicals here other than the shoelaces made from a recyclable plastic water bottle, so even these are responsibly made too. The soles are made of sugarcane, the side panels with water-resistant and durable eucalyptus fiber and the upper sole and lining of merino wool.
The shoes are instantly comfortable and quickly adapt to the foot. The construction is more like a sock around the opening without the usual tongue you’ll find with most sneakers. They’re durable yet lightweight, making them great shoes for travel, not to mention they transition easily from running and performance to casual wear.
Often when we want something based on impulse, it doesn’t work out the way we imagined. In this case, my initial desire for the Allbirds Trail Runners was a wise one that exceeded my expectations. Not only do they look great, but they are an absolute joy to wear from comfort, portability and performance. The fact that the company is focused on the environment and that the shoes are intricately made from sustainable or recyclable materials made getting these shoes a no-brainer. It feels good to know that there are smart companies out there who care about the environment by making good products like Allbirds. Thanks to them I may have the coolest sneakers on the planet.