/Sustainable sneaker review: Allbirds Tree Runners

Sustainable sneaker review: Allbirds Tree Runners

According to Jones, the laces on the Allbirds Tree Runners are the perfect length. Photo by Jamie Haas

A few weeks ago, I began the search for a new pair of shoes, as I had recently worn holes into the bottom of my previous favorite pair; and, due to the recent rainy spell, my feet were becoming wet more often than not.  

Additionally, I’m on a personal crusade against uncomfortable shoes, which makes sense because I tend to be pretty hard on my footwear, averaging about nine miles of walking a day. This often leads to some pretty odd footwear purchases as I try to meet both demands with one pair of shoes. 

This quest led me through the usual retailers both local and online, but nothing caught my eye until I found the Allbirds Tree Runners. 

The Tree Runners struck my fancy due to an article on Vox spotlighting the brand. It stated, “these shoes are taking Silicon Valley by storm,” an endorsement that piqued my interest immediately.  

It wasn’t long before I found myself knee-deep in research surrounding the shoe, which led me to a well-designed, easy to navigate website. 

It was there where I learned the shoe’s upper is made out of what Allbirds claims is a sustainably sourced “magical eucalyptus tree fiber.” This upper is then mated to a custom foam sole in the company’s specially designed “S-curve,” which they say is supposed to more naturally move with your feet. The laces are made of recycled materials and the eyelets are made from a sustainably sourced bio-material. 

Armed with this new information, I bit the bullet and splurged on the shoes. Coming in at $95, it’s not unreasonable to say they’re on the pricey side of things.   

The site suggests to size down if you’re a half size, so I did, going from a 9.5 to a 9. The shoes shipped within a day and arrived in a recyclable cardboard package about 4 days later.  

Overall, the ordering process was simple and intuitive, though I do wish they sold half sizes. 

The pair I purchased was a Kauri Marine Blue variant of the shoe with a white sole. Color offerings range from everyday neutrals to some brighter hues, but none move into the realm of being garish.  

When it comes to the actual wear of these unique shoes, I can confidently say the experience is more than satisfactory.  

The insole is where the shoe truly shines, as it is both padded and lined with merino wool – the same wool that Tom Ford and Armani make suits from – and is the most comfortable thing I have ever had the privilege of placing my foot into. 

While the eucalyptus tree fiber upper is unremarkable, it does its job holding my foot in place and providing an excellent vehicle for the laces. Yes, you heard me right, the laces. 

The laces themselves are the perfect length, and, unlike in other shoes I’ve worn before, when tied in a single not they don’t drag on the ground.  

That being said, it took me a couple tries to get the laces exactly where I wanted. This impacted my initial comfort more than I was expecting but was quickly resolved.  

After the shoe was properly adjusted, the lightweight nature and excellent movement of the sole became evident. I don’t fully buy into the idea that the patented “S-curve” gives you a natural experience, though. It tends to move with my feet as well as a pair of Nike Frees did. 

However, the shoes are designed to be worn without socks to increase comfort, which I can vouch for. And, to those wary about such an endeavor, the shoes are sweat and odor absorbent to avoid unwanted smells. 

Additionally, the shoes themselves are machine washable, but, even with my average to heavy use, they haven’t really required it thus far; and, the white of the sole continues to be relatively bright after a week’s worth of wear. 

Instead of making a flashy, in your face statement, the Tree Runners opt for an understated, minimalistic design. And unlike other self-proclaimed “cozy shoes,” this footwear doesn’t consider a visually pleasing aesthetic an unfortunate tradeoff for comfort.  

Ultimately, if you’re seeking to make a bold impression through easy brand recognition, these shoes aren’t it for you. But if you’re looking for a tasteful and extremely comfortable footwear option, then The Allbirds Tree Runners might be the perfect fit. 

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Waid Jones was the editor-in-chief of The Alabamian during the 2019–2020 academic year. In 2018, while managing editor of The Alabamian, he received the Veterans of Influence Rising Star Award from the Birmingham Business Journal. Prior to coming to UM he was in the U.S. Marine Corps for two and a half years. Jones graduated with a degree in political science from UM in 2020. He is currently the news editor for the Jackson County Sentinel in Scottsboro, Alabama.