Allbirds Wool Runners Review
Allbirds are the epitome of what a good shoe should be: comfortable, stylish, and make you feel good while looking good. They are effortless, which may sound like a strange description for a shoe, but what I mean is: it’s easy to forget you are wearing shoes at all. Some have described them as comfy socks for your feet that you can wear in public. I think they are magical. Here’s a few reasons why I like them so very much.
This review will focus on the Wool Runners (I have the most iconic color combination: Natural Grey with Light Grey Sole). Allbirds describes them as “soft and cozy,” and this sums up the experience of wearing them quite well. For those uninitiated in the wonders of merino wool, out of which an entire clothing industry is spinning up (pun intended), wool at first might be a terrific deterrent, or at least a head scratcher. Why make a shoe out of wool?
It’s simple – because it feels amazing on your feet. Their proprietary merino blend has the best properties of synthetic fabrics, like durability, moisture-wicking capabilities, and water-resistance, but no plastic bottles were harmed in manufacturing it. Save that for the laces – they are made from 100% post-consumer recycled polyester. Your feet feel great while you’re doing something great for the planet – everybody wins!
There are removable and replaceable inserts that line the bottom interior of the shoe, providing some additional cushion and yet another contact point for that sweet sweet merino – bolstered by castor bean oil, a more environmentally-conscious replacement for petroleum-based foam.
There’s a couple other special features worth mentioning. The website suggests that you can wear Allbirds “sockless”. I believe this is technically true – I tried one whole workday going au naturel. It’s true – it did feel amazing, at least at the beginning. However, it was the middle of the summer in Atlanta, and despite all the moisture-wicking and “temperature regulation,” at the end of the day they were a little clammy. I don’t think I did any irreparable harm, but decided that donning a pair of no-show socks would be just the ticket going forward.
As a curious aside – for whatever reason (and my wife vehemently agrees), Allbirds just don’t look great with socks. So go as low-cut as you can, but I would recommend wearing something to prolong the life of the shoe, and avoid frequent insole replacement / the need to wash the whole shoe. Trust me, this spun off a whole new research project, and my no-show socks of choice ended up being Bombas. Read my full review of Bombas no show socks.
Should You Wash Allbirds?
Which brings me to another special feature touted on the website: the ability to wash your Allbirds. Honestly, I haven’t tested this claim personally. Why? My research suggests that other people have washed them, and they just weren’t quite the same after. Which makes sense – though well-made and structurally sound, I don’t think it’s completely reasonable to expect that washing would have no effect whatsoever and that they would pop out good as new. I’m happy to be proven wrong about this, but my main point is – though you CAN wash them, it doesn’t mean that you SHOULD. I have running shoes to get sweaty in and hiking boots to get muddy in – I think it’s possible to keep these relatively fresh with normal day to day use that doesn’t involve extreme activities.
How Comfy Are They, Really?
So what is wearing Allbirds Wool Runners actually like? They really are one of the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn. “Shoe comfort” is a bit subjective – everyone’s feet are different, and everyone has different expectations for what “comfortable” really means – does it refer to squishy cushioning in the sole? Nice snug fit in the toe box without being TOO snug? When I say they are extremely comfortable, I’m talking about the total experience of wearing them: the combination of my thin no-show socks and the way they hug your feet like a super-soft mitten for your feet, while still being supportive throughout your step – that’s what I mean by comfort. And the footbed isn’t TOO squishy – there’s a firmness in support there that speaks to durability.
Can You Wear Allbirds to Work?
Another way I measure comfort while wearing my Wool Runners is that they are my favorite shoes to wear while working at my standing desk. Without so much as a second thought, I can stand for most of the day without discomfort in my feet and legs. This is also a testament to a good standing desk mat, but still – the shoes do play an important role.
Finally, a note on wearing them at the office. My workplace dress culture leans towards casual, but not extremely so. For example, while no graphic tees can be spotted amongst the row of cubes, even the CEO wears jaunty sneakers on occasion. I feel completely appropriate wearing my Allbirds Wool Runners to work, understanding that they naturally dress an outfit down. The big difference, for me, is the lack of giant Nike swooshes along the side, or the rugged appearance of Merrells. Don’t get me wrong – I love both brands and have several pairs of each – but they don’t belong at the office. Maybe the office gym. Big logos or the appearance of just finishing a hike doesn’t project the kind of image I’m going for, at any rate. Allbirds have the ability to pull off a unique and casual look without feeling sloppy.
Have no issues working at my standing desk all day wearing Allbirds. Pictured here standing on my Topo by Ergodriven anti-fatigue mat.
Women’s Allbirds Wool Runners
A note for the ladies: my wife just got her first pair of Wool Runners, and she loves them. And I quote: “It’s very difficult for women to wear “athletic” shoes with jeans without looking a little TOO athletic, if you catch my drift. The Wool Runners somehow transcend that issue and they look great.”
Are there any downsides to Allbirds? Some who have tried them say that they don’t like how prominent their toes appear. I would say that this is a natural side-effect of the way they are constructed – there’s no highly structured toe box to be found here. The wool material tapers down and is affixed directly to the sole at the front of the shoe. Depending on the size and shape of your toes, there’s a possibility they will be more noticeable in Wool Runners than in the average shoe. I really think this is a preference thing and something that a person might become fixated on, and then all of a sudden can’t appreciate anything else about it. I honestly didn’t even notice it until someone else mentioned it, but wanted to be fully transparent. Don’t let me Incept your mind with it.
Lastly, not a true “downside” in any real sense, just a realistic limitation: though called “runners,” I really can’t imagine myself actually running long distances in them. Is it possible? I guess so. I just wouldn’t really recommend it – leave that for specialized shoes designed specifically for that purpose like the On Cloudflyer (unless you’re running away from something, in which case, they will totally do the trick!).
Great for travel and lounging while waiting to board a flight.
What About Other Allbirds Styles?
So, what about Allbirds’ other line of shoes – the “Tree” series? Check out my Tree Runners unboxing video to learn all about them. The main difference is they have an increased level of breathability. They also have quite a different style to them – that’s a preference thing, of course, but I would argue that overall they are a bit less formal, and as such, a bit less appropriate for office-wear (which hasn’t stopped me from wearing them to the office several times a week). Highly recommend!