In the interests of full disclosure before I sing their praises, I received a pair of Allbirds from the brand’s PR company in a previous job, where I reported on its vast celebrity fanbase – from Oprah Winfrey to Ben Affleck, Hillary Duff to Chris Pratt, there’s barely an off-duty A-lister you won’t find them on the feet of.
But while it was the endorsement of Barack Obama, Leonardo Di Caprio and Kristen Stewart, to name just a few more, that got me intrigued initially, it’s the incredible comfort the shoes offer – not to mention their impressive eco-friendly credentials – that’s got me recommending them incessantly to anyone who’ll listen years later.
Allbirds began life in New Zealand as the brainchild of Tim Brown, who wanted to innovate a sustainable merino wool fabric from the country’s vast population of sheep.
He joined forces with renewables expert Joey Zwillinger to make this vision a reality; with this novel wool outer, teamed with laces crafted from plastic bottles and soles produced using renewable sugar cane, it wasn’t long before Allbirds had developed a reputation as one of the most sustainable shoe brands in the world. Add the celebrity fanbase, and it’s no surprise that the company has since been valued at more than $1.4bn (£10bn) – and counting.
We all know making sustainable fashion choices is more important than ever, and this doesn’t just go for garments. According to TRAID, 90 per cent of our shoes end up going to landfill – and due to the fact that many styles are made with materials like rubber, or worse, chemicals such as ethylene vinyl acetate, (a key component in many soles), they can take up to 1,000 years to decompose.
While most brands, unsurprisingly, want to encourage us to buy more of its styles, Allbirds certainly isn’t shy about reminding us of the impact our constant footwear rotation is having. “Newsflash: Your outfit is killing the planet”, the opening of its sustainability page declares, before laying out its own watertight ethical supply chain, commitment to reducing its remaining carbon footprint to zero and aim to meet even more sustainability goals by 2025. From the beginning, it’s been a B Corp certified brand, an ethical accreditation that hundreds of thousands of brands have sought, but only 3,500 have achieved so far.
This is all seriously impressive stuff that should be applauded. But the truth is, I believe it’s how Allbirds actually feel on your feet that has really catapulted them to global acclaim among famous faces and us everyday folk alike – here’s why.
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Allbirds wool runners
Buy now £95, Allbirds.co.uk
Humour me for a moment, and imagine slipping your feet into a springy, supportive cloud. A stylish cloud, no less, and one that will hold you up through any number of miles around the block or stomps through rolling fields. That’s what wearing a pair of Allbirds wool runners is like, and it’s the primary reason why I’ve barely taken mine off for over a year.
These lightweight wool runners are the original Allbird, if you will – somewhat confusingly, the brand’s wool dashers are its running shoe offering, and it’s also launched everything from high tops to boat shoes in recent years, so you can (almost) build your entire footwear wardrobe from the line.
But my question is thus: why improve on perfection? Because these first generation shoes really do live up to the oft-spouted Allbirds hype of “the world’s most comfortable shoe”. Now whenever I dare to slip on any other trainers for variety, all I do is wish is that I was back in these ones again.
Believe me when I say I don’t make the comfort claim lightly – I have plantar fasciitis (a by-product of running on hard pavements rather than a springy treadmill during lockdown), and at times in the past 12 months it’s been so bad these are the only shoes I can bring myself to wear. Taking tentative steps in my Allbirds has been intrinsic to my recovery during these periods – the soft, slightly stretchy wool exterior and plump cushioned sole provide the support my sore feet need, allowing me to still take a shot at my 10,000 steps per day even when running is out of the question due to the strain.
In short, they do good for the planet, feel good on your feet, and for vanity’s sake, I think they look good too – you can’t go wrong with a basic sneaker, and I appreciate the lack of heavy branding and absence of logos, which give them a more neutral finish.
In terms of care, you can even chuck them in the washing machine, and the clever removable insoles go through separately, so they don’t even take that long to dry. However, I’d avoid wearing them in heavy rain or snow, as the nature of the wool means they’re not entirely waterproof, and you may end up with soggy toes.
My only other gripe is that the white colourway – the one that conveniently goes with everything – never quite returns to its former bright white glory, no matter how many stain removal sprays or loads of laundry I add it to. For my next pair, I’ll buy a darker hue, but to be honest, I’m so invested in the fit and style of these shoes, I’m also tempted to get another set of white ones to turn grey with excess wear all over again too.
Buy now £95.00, Allbirds.co.uk
The verdict: Allbirds wool runners
If you haven’t already gathered, we’re pretty big fans of Allbirds wool runners, and can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t enjoy wearing a pair as part of their everyday attire. For those toying with the idea of picking some up, take this as your sign – if they’re good enough for Obama and Oprah, they’re certainly good enough for us.