Allbirds Review: Why Allbirds Wool Runners Are My New Favourite Travel Shoes

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I don’t like wearing shoes. Where possible, I go barefoot or wear the minimal footwear possible—usually sandals or ballet flats.

But Allbirds are the least shoe-like shoes I’ve ever worn. They are soft and snuggly, more like slippers than running shoes, but they look good enough for city exploring.

Allbirds is a New Zealand company and what makes their eco-friendly shoes stand out is their use of merino wool. I have long been a fan of this superfine wool for socks and t-shirts as it’s soft, breathable, moisture-wicking, and odour-resistant.

I wasn’t sure how wool would work in shoes but was intrigued by the claim that Allbirds make the world’s most comfortable shoes.

Could this possibly be true? I bought a pair nine months ago and have put them to the test on our travels from winter in Australia to summer in New Zealand.

This Allbirds review will focus on the pros and cons of the original Allbirds Wool Runners, but I’ll also compare them to the Allbirds Tree Runners, which Simon has. Women’s Allbirds are identical to the men’s version, so my review applies to both.

This post was originally published in February 2020 and was last updated in May 2020. 

Contents

Different Styles of Allbirds

Erin wearing Allbirds Wool Runners at the Brighton Bathing Boxes in Melbourne

Wearing my Allbirds Wool Runners at the Brighton Bathing Boxes in Melbourne

Allbirds has grown hugely in recent years, and there are now multiple styles beyond the original Wool Runners. All come in versions for men and women, except for the women-only Tree Breezers.

Here’s their current lineup:

  • Wool Runners – The original merino wool shoes that caused such a sensation. This is what I have and my review will focus on.
  • Wool Runner Mizzles and Runner Up Mizzles – These new shoes are similar to Wool Runners but are water repellent and have grippier soles. They also come in a high-top version.
  • Tree Runners – A summer version of the runners made from silky smooth and cooling eucalyptus tree fibre along with the classic merino wool insole. Simon loves these. You can read our Allbirds Wool vs Tree Runners comparison below.
  • Tree Dashers – The new Allbirds running shoes. As a runner I’m excited to try these and will be writing a review after I’ve tested them.
  • Loungers (Wool and Tree) – Slip-on, laceless shoes in either wool or tree fabrics.
  • Tree Breezers – Women’s ballet flats.
  • Tree Skippers – A slimmer version of the runners but with less support.
  • Tree Toppers – A high-top version of the Tree Runners.
Simon wearing his lighter Allbird Tree Runners at a Nelson vineyard in New Zealand

Simon wearing his Allbird Tree Runners at a Nelson vineyard in New Zealand

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Allbirds Sizing

Allbirds shoes come in whole sizes only and Simon and I have both found them true to size. We ordered our usual sizes and they fit perfectly.

Allbirds recommends that you size up if you are a half size.

Allbirds Wool Runners do stretch a tiny bit (about a quarter of an inch) after a few weeks wear. This isn’t something I noticed or that caused any problems—they only became more comfortable over time. The Tree Runners don’t stretch.

If you are unsure about sizing, Allbirds has a fantastic return policy—see below for the details.

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Allbirds Pros

Free Shipping in Many Countries

Much of our favourite travel gear is available in the US only, so I’m really pleased that Allbirds are available online in the US, Canada, UK, EU, Australia, New Zealand, and China.

Best of all, shipping is free for all orders over $50 (which is all the shoes).

I ordered my shoes in Australia and they took four working days to arrive. In the US, shipping takes 5–7 business days, or you can pay for expedited shipping ($12–20). Simon ordered his Allbirds in New Zealand and they arrived in a couple of days.

I love the simple packaging that the Allbirds arrive in. They use just one box made from 90% recycled cardboard that’s easy to open and works as the shoebox, shopping bag, and mailer all in one.

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The Amazing Allbirds Return Policy

I was on the fence about buying Allbirds. I wasn’t sure they’d be warm enough for the chilly Melbourne winters or comfortable enough for long days exploring.

But what convinced me to give them a try was the incredible Allbirds return policy. You can return them for free within 30 days—even if you’ve worn them outside! I know of no other shoe company that offers what is essentially a free trial.

It was so reassuring to know that if they didn’t work out for me, for any reason, I could return them no questions asked.

Spoiler: I did not return my Allbirds.

If you do want to return your Allbirds or exchange them for a different size, it’s easy to do by attaching the included return label to the box they were sent in.

Allbirds donates the lightly used returned shoes to charity for use by people in need.

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Soft and Cosy

Allbirds Wool Runners in natural grey worn on the beach

My Wool Runners have been perfect for winter beach walks

My Allbirds Wool Runners felt amazing as soon as I put them on—they are so fluffy and cosy inside that they feel more like a pair of slippers. They feel especially good when worn without socks.

Merino wool is superfine so it’s much softer than regular wool and there’s no itchiness at all. Merino is also breathable, moisture-wicking, and odour-resistant.

Although I don’t usually like wearing shoes, putting on my Allbirds always feels comforting.

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No Break-In Period

My feet are awkward and I often struggle to find shoes that fit well. Amazingly, I had no break-in period with my Allbirds.

They felt great straight away even on a long walk around Melbourne, and I had no rubbing, blisters or discomfort.

Simon had a similar experience with his Tree Runners.

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Comfortable for Walking

Wearing my Allbirds Wool Runners on an easy hike through the forest at Pelorus Bridge, New Zealand

Wearing my Allbirds on an easy hike through the forest at Pelorus Bridge, New Zealand

As a full-time traveller, I have no space in my luggage for shoes that are pretty but impractical. All my footwear must be comfortable for long days of exploring.

Allbirds Wool Runners really are comfortable shoes. The foam soles are light but bouncy, and my feet don’t ache even after spending all day walking in them.

They are certainly more supportive than my beloved Tieks ballet flats (which I also find comfortable for walking) with more arch support and heel padding.

I’ve also worn them on plenty of short hikes—through the forest, on beaches, and on gravel trails in Australia and New Zealand. I wouldn’t want to wear them on muddy trails or very uneven, slippery surfaces, but they have more grip than I expected and are fine for easy hikes.

Although they are called runners, Allbirds sneakers are not designed for running, and they don’t have as much support as my running shoes. See the FAQ below on can you run in Allbirds?

Allbirds has just released a new running shoe called the Tree Dasher, which I’m excited to try and will be reviewing soon. 

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Can Be Worn Without Socks

Allbirds wool runners in grey worn without socks

I usually wear my Allbirds without socks

As Allbirds are so soft, you can comfortably wear them without socks, which is what I do most of the time. They feel great on my feet and I’ve had no issues with rubbing.

I even find them easy to pull on and off without untying the laces (yes, I’m lazy). They were especially convenient to wear to yoga class—they kept my feet warm on chilly mornings, but I could slip them off easily before class.

I haven’t worn them to Japan yet, but they would have been ideal for our trip there in early spring. I would have appreciated a warm pair of shoes I could slip off easily at temples and traditional restaurants and hotels.

My Allbirds were ideal for sailing in early autumn when I wanted to alternate between being barefoot and wearing shoes. I could put them on easily when the weather turned colder or when I wanted more protection when dropping the anchor.

The non-marking soles were ideal on the yacht and gripped well on the wet deck. 

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Simple Design and Range of Colours

Allbirds wool runners website showing a range of colours available

Just some of the colours currently available for the Wool Runners

I love the simple design of Allbirds Runners. There are no logos or extra details, and they have a low profile design that works well in the city or countryside.

They would be ideal for a trip to stylish Europe where they’d blend in better than bulky running shoes but be comfortable enough for pounding the cobblestone streets.

Allbirds are casual and look great with jeans or leggings, but you can also wear them with a skirt or dress. Simon pairs his Tree Runners with a shirt and blazer for a smart-casual look that works well for dinners out.

Simon's smart-casual look with his Allbirds Tree Runners paired with Bluffworks blazer, shirt and pants.

Simon’s smart-casual look with his Allbirds Tree Runners paired with Bluffworks blazer, shirt and pants.

They are available in a range of colours. The Wool Runners come in four classic colours—I have the Natural Grey (with a light grey sole), and there’s also Black (with a black sole), Tuke Jo (Black with cream sole), and Natural White (with cream sole).

In addition, there are currently over a dozen limited edition Allbirds colours that vary from pale blue, pink, and apricot to earthy green and more vibrant shades of blue and red. Occasionally, they’ll also have patterned designs.

Simon has the Tree Runners in a limited edition dark purple which I’m rather jealous of.

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Lightweight and Travel-Friendly

As I travel with only carry-on luggage, my shoes must be packable and lightweight, and Allbirds are definitely travel-friendly.

The soft fabric means they flatten down to fit in my luggage easily. My Wool Runners weigh 199g (7oz) per shoe compared to my lightweight Asics running shoes which weigh 229g (8oz).

While this is heavier than my Tieks vegan ballet flats (at 150g per shoe), they are about as light as supportive, full-coverage shoes get.

While my Allbirds fit in my suitcase, I’ve found they are my favourite shoes to wear on flights. I can slip them off easily at security, and they keep my feet cosy and warm on the plane.

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Keep Feet Warm in Cold Weather

Erin wearing Allbirds wool runners on a chilly, drizzly walk on Wharariki Beach in New Zealand

My wool runners kept my feet warm on a chilly, drizzly walk on Wharariki Beach in New Zealand

I originally bought my Allbirds Wool Runners in Melbourne because we were there in winter and my ballet flats weren’t practical.

Allbirds turned out to be perfect for the weather, which ranged from 5–20ºC (41–68ºF). My feet even stayed cosy and warm without socks when the temperature dropped close to freezing.

I’ve since worn them in New Zealand’s spring and summer where they have also worked brilliantly. I prefer my Teva Verra sandals when it gets sweltering, but the weather is so variable here that they still come in useful on colder summer days.

In freezing weather you can maximise the warmth by pairing them with cosy merino wool socks. The classic Wool Runners are not waterproof, so they aren’t snow shoes, but for milder winters as well as spring and autumn, I think they are ideal.

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Machine-Washable

Washing Allbirds is easy as you can throw them in the washing machine.

I’ve only done this once (see the instructions below) as most of the time I find it simpler just to wipe off any dirty patches with a damp cloth—it comes off easily.

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Made from Sustainable Materials

Allbirds is an eco-friendly company that is carbon neutral (by offsetting their emissions) and committed to using sustainable materials.

Their shoes are vegetarian as they don’t use leather (but not vegan as they do use wool).

The merino wool shoes use 60% less energy than materials used in typical synthetic shoes. The company says they “work with leading organizations like ZQ Merino to ensure our wool is held to high standards of farming, land management and animal welfare.” The sheep who provide the wool roam freely on vast open pastures.

The laces are made from recycled plastic bottles—one bottle = one pair of laces.

The SweetFoam shoe soles are made from sugarcane, a fully renewable resource that grows quickly using rainwater rather than irrigation.

Allbirds is working towards their shoes having a zero carbon footprint and they are already doing better than most. While a standard sneaker emits 12.5 kg CO2e, the Allbirds Wool Runner emits 7.1 kg CO2e. 

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Durable

I have had my Allbirds for nine months. I wore them every day for the first three months and then frequently since then.

They have held up well to this amount of use. The uppers look a bit floppier, but this isn’t noticeable when I’m wearing them. There is no sign of serious wear in the uppers or soles, although my light soles look a little grubbier up close.

The only issue I’ve had was a wearing away of the wool in the heel area of the insole. You can buy replacement insoles, which I’ve done once and will prolong their life further.

Worn heels in Allbirds insoles

The heel area of my insoles was starting to wear out so I replaced them

You can also buy replacement laces, but mine look as good as new (perhaps because I rarely untie them!).

So far, I’m happy with how the shoes are lasting and will report back as time goes on.

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Allbirds Cons

Not Waterproof

The classic Allbirds Wool Runners are not waterproof. I often wear them in light rain without my feet getting wet, but in a heavy downpour, they will get soaked.

Due to the moisture-wicking properties of merino, I find my feet don’t feel uncomfortable even when they do get wet in heavy rain, but it’s not ideal. 

If you plan to wear them frequently in rain, I recommend buying the new Allbirds Mizzles instead. These are similar to the Wool Runners but have a water-repellent coating on the wool and thicker, non-slip soles. I plan to buy a pair when I’m next in the rainy UK and will do a full review then. 

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Feet Can Get Hot 

The Allbirds Wool Runners are ideal in spring, autumn, and non-snowy winters, but when the temperature rises above about 22ºC (72ºF), I find my feet get too hot when I’m walking around a lot.

If you are looking for a summer shoe, I recommend the Allbirds Tree Runners instead. Simon has found them perfect in New Zealand’s late-spring, summer, and autumn. See the review comparing Allbirds Tree Runners vs Wool Runners below.

Wearing Allbirds wool runners in a cafe next to a giant pumpkin

Wool Runners can get hot in summer but are perfect for autumn or spring

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Not Entirely Odour-Free

Merino wool is known for its odour-resistance and I’ve been able to wear merino socks and t-shirts multiple times without them smelling.

Allbirds aren’t entirely smell-free, though. I first noticed a smell after six weeks of wearing them every day without socks. I washed the insoles (and later replaced them) and this solved the problem.

If you wear them every day and do have odour issues, it might be a good idea to buy a spare pair of insoles and alternate them.

You could also stick the shoes in the washing machine, but I found the smell was coming from the insoles.

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Slow to Dry

If you get the Wool Runners wet, they take a while to dry. When I machine washed mine, they took over 48 hours to dry. The Tree Runners dry more quickly.

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How to Wash Allbirds

You can wash Allbirds in the washing machine, but I didn’t need to do this until I’d had them for six months.

If they get a little dirt on them, it comes off easily if you wipe them with a damp sponge or cloth.

If they start to smell, I recommend soaking the insoles for an hour or so in warm soapy water and then rinsing them. They dried overnight.

If you want a full clean, you can put them in the washing machine, but it’s best to brush off excess dirt first.

Allbirds recommends removing the laces and insoles first, but this seemed too much hassle to me. I kept my laces on the shoes tied up, removed the insoles, and put the shoes and insoles separately in one pillowcase (as I didn’t have a laundry bag) with the end tied up.

I washed them on the wool cycle at cold temperature with no spin, and they came out fine with no issues with the insoles or laces. You can’t tumble dry the shoes, and it took them over 48 hours to dry (the insoles dry much more quickly).

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Allbirds Wool vs Tree Runners

Allbirds Wool vs Tree Runners

Simon’s purple Tree Runners on the left and my grey Wool Runners on the right.

You might be confused about the differences between the Allbirds Wool Runners vs Tree Runners. As I have the Wool Runners and Simon has the Tree Runners, here is our comparison. 

Similarities

Here’s what the Allbirds Wool and Tree Runners have in common.

They both:

  • Have a minimalist design
  • Come in a range of fun colours
  • Use merino wool insoles
  • Are soft enough to wear without socks
  • Have bouncy, lightweight soles that are comfortable for walking
  • Are light and easily packed for travel

Differences

This is how the Allbirds Tree Runners differ from the Wool Runners.

They are:

  • Made with Tencel, which is created from eucalyptus trees, rather than merino wool
  • Lighter and more breathable
  • Cooler in warm temperatures
  • Less likely to keep your feet warm in the winter

Simon bought the Tree Runners as summer was on the way in New Zealand and he loves them. He’s worn them almost every day for the last six months. 

Although he’s used to wearing hiking shoes with much more support, he found them very comfy and enjoyed the bouncy light feel. 

The only issue he had was getting a blister when he first wore them without socks. Since then he’s worn them without socks with no problems. 

If you are looking for a summer shoe, I recommend the Tree Runners. For colder weather, the Wool Runners are a better option.

In spring and autumn we find either shoe works well. 

Simon's purple Allbirds Tree Runners

Simon’s purple Allbirds Tree Runners

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Allbirds Common Questions

What is so special about Allbirds?

Allbirds are made from merino wool which is a natural, sustainable material. It makes the shoes ultra soft and cosy, and you don’t really feel like you are wearing shoes.

The shoes are lightweight, comfortable for walking, and have a simple design available in many colours.

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Does Allbirds have free returns?

Yes, Allbirds has a fantastic return policy. You can return them within 30 days for any reason, even if you’ve worn them outside.

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Are Allbirds good for running?

No, Allbirds shoes aren’t designed for running. The soles don’t have as much cushioning as regular running shoes and the Wool Runners might get a little hot. 

If you are used to minimalist running shoes, they might work, but transitioning to minimalist shoes is best done gradually or it can cause injury (I tried and gave up). 

I can imagine running in Allbirds for a couple of miles on a treadmill occasionally, but I wouldn’t wear them on a long run. 

A better option for running is the new Allbirds Tree Dashers which are specifically designed for running and have much more sole cushioning. I’m looking forward to trying these soon and will write a full review. 

Jumping wearing Allbirds Tree Runners at Lake Tekapo, New Zealand)

Can you run in Allbirds? No, but jumping, yes! (Simon in the middle and our friend on the right are both wearing Allbirds Tree Runners at Lake Tekapo, New Zealand)

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Do you wear socks with Allbirds?

It’s up to you. You can wear socks with Allbirds, but they are also comfortable and warm without socks due to the cosy wool lining.

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Do Allbirds stretch?

The Allbirds Wool Runners stretch a bit, so if they feel a little tight at first, they will likely loosen up. The Allbirds Tree Runners do not stretch.

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Are Allbirds Wool Runners waterproof?

No, Allbirds Wool Runners aren’t waterproof. The new Allbirds Mizzles are treated with a water repellent coating, so they are the best option in the rain.

As merino wool is moisture-wicking, even when my feet get a bit wet in my Allbirds, I don’t find it uncomfortable.

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Do Allbirds get smelly?

They can do. For average usage, it shouldn’t be a problem, but when I wore mine without socks every day for months, they did start to smell.

The best way to get rid of the smell is to soak the insoles in soapy water for a while and then rinse and air dry. You can also buy replacement insoles. 

In nine months with the Wool Runners as my main pair of shoes, I’ve replaced my insoles once, washed the insoles twice, and washed the entire pair of shoes in the washing machine once. 

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Can you machine wash Allbirds?

Yes, you can machine wash Allbirds. See above for instructions.

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Are Allbirds hot in the summer?

The Allbirds Wool Runners can get hot in the summer. Allbirds Tree Runners are a better choice for wearing in warm weather as they are made from a cooling eucalyptus material rather than merino wool (although they do have the same merino wool insoles).

That said, I did often wear my Allbirds in summer in New Zealand—they were fine for cooler days (20ºC/68ºF or below). 

Simon wearing Allbirds Tree Runners at Hobbiton, New Zealand

Simon wearing Allbirds Tree Runners at Hobbiton

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Are Allbirds really that comfortable?

Simon and I both find our Allbirds very comfortable. Part of the comfort comes from the cosy wool insole and the soft lining of the shoe that makes it possible to wear them without socks. The other aspect is the lightweight, bouncy sole that provides enough support for a day out walking.

If you require a lot of foot support, Allbirds aren’t as supportive as a very padded running shoe. If you are looking for a minimalist, stylish shoe, Allbirds are a great choice.

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How much do Allbirds cost?

In the US, Allbirds Wool and Tree Runners for men and women cost $95. The Waterproof Mizzles cost $115. Spare insoles cost $15 and it’s worth buying a pair.

They don’t run sales or discounts. 

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Are Allbirds Worth It?

Wearing Allbirds Wool Runners at Apollo Bay on Australia's Great Ocean Road

Wearing my Wool Runners at Apollo Bay on Australia’s Great Ocean Road

Yes, I think Allbirds are worth it. The price is reasonable for quality, environmentally-friendly shoes, and they are unlike any other shoes I’ve tried.

My Allbirds Wool Runners are so soft, cosy and flexible that I don’t feel like I’m wearing shoes. I can wear them all day without discomfort, and they are light enough to pack in my luggage easily. I love being able to wear them without socks and my feet stay warm in winter.

The amazing returns policy makes it a no-brainer. If you are interested in Allbirds, there’s no reason not to give them a try as you have a 30-day free trial.

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Where to Buy Allbirds Shoes

You can buy Allbirds online with free shipping in the US, Canada, UK, EU, Australia, New Zealand, and China.

There are also Allbirds stores in New York City and other major US cities, London, Auckland, Berlin, and a few in China and Japan.

Browse the Allbirds website here.

If you are looking for dressier but comfortable and travel-friendly shoes, see my detailed review of Tieks ballet flats, which I’ve been travelling with for seven years.

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4 Comments (4 pingbacks)

  1. Really like the brands that you review! I stumbled upon an allbirds store when I was in San Francisco last December and bought the ballet flats in light grey on a whim. They carried me through walking 12k the next day without any blisters. They are also rather warm, but I am totally happy and would buy them again.

    Reply ↓

  2. Hello. You mentioned “Can you run in Allbirds? No, Allbirds shoes aren’t designed for running.” Why specifically would they not work for running? Do they tend to slip off?

    Reply ↓

    • It’s not that they slip off, more that they don’t have as much padding in the soles as regular running shoes. If you are used to minimalist running shoes then you might be fine. I’ve tried the whole minimalist running thing though and it can cause injury if you don’t make the transition really slowly.

      I think the wool runners would also get a bit hot running.

      Reply ↓

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