This is probably the most obviously and in-your-face sponsored post I’ve ever written, and I am unapologetic. Read on, dear ones, read on.
So I received my first pair of Allbirds merino wool shoes a few months after watching them creep in and pop up on my newsfeed amongst friends and influencers this past year. These simple wool shoes caught my eye mostly because everyone who wore them raved about them.
Personal recommendations go a long way with me.
I don’t think I’ve ever written a product review before in eight years of running this blog, so do tell me if I’m doing this wrong. Considering I’m sitting at around 1500 words as I publish this, I imagine I am. Oh well.
Also, I didn’t intend to write it this way. I was going to do a very length narrative piece about me wearing these lovely merino sneakers on a merino farm in New Zealand. Inception.
But I realized I loved these so much, and I absolutely put them through their paces in New Zealand and in Switzerland, and decided on my own that they deserved more attention than that, so here we are. It didn’t have anything to do with the fact that merino stations here in wintertime are covered in either snow or mud up to your knees, both of which are not ideal conditions for cute wooly sneakers.
Barring that, my conclusion is that Allbirds shoes are amazing, I’m obsessed and they are the best travel show. I dare you to read on, consume all my words, and not leave with the same conclusion.
The magical power of merino wool
It didn’t take long after moving to New Zealand to learn the magic of merino wool. After all, we are famous for our sheep here, with around 30 million wooly souls to only four million decidedly un-wooly humans, unless you’re in hipster Wellington where beards reign supreme.
Between spending a lot of time in the backcountry and on farms in often rather intense and unforgiving environments, you quickly learn the only true fabric to be worn on an adventure here is merino wool. Hands up if you are a fan.
But it ain’t cheap, and New Zealand wool is even pricier thanks to the strict rules here around the treatment of the merino sheep and thread quality of the wool that is used, which makes it some of the best in the world.
Why? Merinos are much tougher and hardier than you’re average fluffy white sheep, born and bred in the rugged high country of the Southern Alps in New Zealand, they live in super hot dry summers and freezing cold winters and their incredible fleece supports them in both climates.
Merino wool keeps you warm when it’s cold and keeps you cool when it’s hot, wicking away moisture and drying fast. Also, it doesn’t smell. I repeat, MERINO WOOL DOESN’T SMELL. In fact, I’ve even seen it advertised as 10 day underwear. NZ kills at marketing.
This also means you don’t have to wear socks with Allbirds shoes because they are, in fact, wool socks, and you can just chuck them in the washing machine if they get dirty. However, they aren’t really the best outdoor adventure shoe, not to replace running shoes or hiking shoes.
I wear them on my travels, in the city, and on mellow walks. I’ve found the bottom isn’t grippy enough for harder terrain and hikes.
Allbirds use only ZQ certified merino wool, that means the wool used in these sneakers come only from New Zealand farms that adhere to these exceptionally high standards for wool production and quality, and are committed to sustainability and ethical practice around the treatment of the sheep.
They’re like hugs for your feet
A friend of mine replied to one of my Instagram posts raving about Allbirds, describing them as hugs for your feet. And let me just say, a more accurate shoe description has never existed.
They are like walking on clouds. It’s like wearing slippers all the time. In fact, I’ve converted my grey loungers into slippers because that’s what they look like and they’re so damn comfortable.
And if you don’t believe me when I say they’re the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever owned, you can try them and if you don’t feel the same, you can return within 30 days. Boom.
Allbirds are a solidly decent company changing fashion
Last year I openly discussed my commitment to working on more sustainable travel and trying to work with brands that are deeply committed to sustainability too. Even just bringing it up in conversations and building momentum around the movement. And honestly, is there anything more wasteful than the fashion industry?
I won’t go into it here, but I am deeply disgusted by many Instagram “influencers” who never repeat an outfit and waste clothes like there’s no tomorrow. But I digress.
The point of my mini-rant is that at Allbirds shoes, they were constantly questioning whether there is a better way; there must be. But by looking at natural materials, like wool, and other things that exist right in front of us, instead of synthetics, they were able to build a successful business that is committed to using sustainably sourced, all natural materials.
Quick powerful facts:
- Allbirds’ manufacturing process uses 60% less energy than materials used in typical synthetic shoes.
- Each pair of shoelaces is made from one recycled plastic bottle
- The packaging is made from 90% recycled cardboard
- The shoebox uses 40% less materials than normal shoe packaging
- They’re a certified B-Corp, meaning they meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency
World-famous in New Zealand
Ok, I get really excited when New Zealand has a major international success story.
After all we were the first country in the world to give women the right to vote, the first nation to put a man on Everest, and the first spot that split the atom. New Zealand is nothing if not kickass and innovative.
Should I even be surprised that Allbirds was started by a kiwi? Nope.
Ka pai, bro!
Simple and cute sneakers
As an American, I moved to Europe when I was 19. Wait, I have always been American, when I was 19 and also now too. You know what I mean. Why am I so confusing?
As an American in fashion forward Spain, where you do not leave the house without mascara EVER, I quickly learned that rule #1 was one does not wear sneakers in Europe. Like sport sneakers. Trainers. Runners.
Those only belong inside the gym, not even to walk to the gym. Us Americans and our commitment to sporty footwear had no place in stylish Europe, and even now I can easily spot my brethren abroad when traveling solely by their soles.
I quickly accepted that I would have foot pain, and invested in all sorts of cute flats and wedges that would wear out after a few months of long commutes on cobblestones. When I lived in Córdoba for a year, I even developed a heel spur from my favorite beige Mango flats AND lived with it.
You’d think now that I am 30 and I travel for a living, and my long walks in Europe (and elsewhere) exploring require me to carry a heavy bag of camera equipment along with the 20 extra pounds I’ve gained since I was 19, I would begin to resign myself to wearing more comfortable shoes.
But guys! Allbirds has saved me! They are cute and comfortable. With their simple design and penchant for neutral colors found in nature (minus the bright Kea Red loungers I’ve been rocking) I can get away with wearing them while I work on my feet filming and not be crying on the inside in pain.
Natural, practical, simple. No flashy logos. No flair. Quality but unpretentious. I love it. it’s the Scandinavia of the shoe world.
Join the cult
Honestly, I haven’t met anyone who owns a pair of Allbirds and doesn’t rave about them. You’ll find yourself always discussing their attributes and forcing other people to buy a pair.
When I began wearing and talking about them online, literally every single message was positive and people constantly thanked me for pointing them out. They are gamechangers. I’m obsessed. Everyone’s obsessed.
Once you fall for Allbirds, you’ll start to notice when other people wear them, and if you’re like me, you make awkward eye contact and give a little chin nod, like yup, you get it too. While growingly popular, there are still many people hadn’t heard about them (yet) and you don’t see them all the time, lending them a lovely air of mystery.
It’s like you’re part of a secret club or something. Or cult. A sheep cult. Does it get any better than that?
Are you an Allbirds fan? Do you find yourself drawn to brands like theirs with a good story and care about sustainability in the things you buy? Have you discovered the wonderful magic of merino? Share!
49 Comments on “My favorite travel shoe: the magic of merino Allbirds”
Hi! Came across your website looking for thoughts on Allbirds for European travel! I have wide feet and a hard time with blisters in most shoes, so I’m thinking these might be the best solution! Do you recommend the loungers or the runners for tons of city walking? Leaning towards the loungers, but wondered how they’d hold up!
How ‘supportive’ are they? I have pretty flat feet. I walked all over Dublin and London a few years ago in stupid American winter boots (not hiking, just cute boots) and literally thought I broke the side of my foot. It was horrid. Last time I was across the pond I just wore my Nike runners and didn’t care what anyone thought. But I definitely want to try these, they look comfortable and cute! I usually put orthotic inserts into my shoes bcz I need the extra arch support – maybe I can do that with these or maybe there’s enough support in them already?! Thanks for this post!
I find them fairly supportive, I wore them walking all over europe and my feet didn’t get sore, but you can take the soles out so I reckon you could put inserts in if needed
[…] my favorite Allbirds – merino wool […]
Where are you in the photo with your calves looking good?? I need to go there, and I need some of these for my upcoming Europe trip! Will just have to not wear them on rainy days I think :p Definitely keen to avoid brands with unsustainable practices and human rights violations (i.e. most sport brands)!
hahaha I’m in Grindelwald in the Alps, definitely go there!