Only in New Zealand do the sheep outnumber the number of humans by 6 to 1. With social entrepreneurs transforming the playing field of product design, what better place to create wool shoes than NZ. Founded by Tim Brown and Joey Zwillinger, Allbirds is a New Zealand-based sustainable footwear company. These innovators revolutionized wool to be utilized as the main material for their new footwear line. The synthetic fabrics that most shoes are made from, such as rubber and polyester, use 40% more energy to create than processing wool, and they do not biodegrade as easily as natural materials. So, the Allbird design was made to be simple and sustainable, sourcing materials from places in nature you would never even think of.
Animal welfare concerns are taken care of by ZQ Merino, the company that sources the ethically-made wool. This ensures that the sheep are treated responsibly, in accordance with the ZQ accreditation program. SweetFoam makes up the sole of the shoes, made from sugarcane, and the other parts are created from castor bean oil. The shoes have a comfortable yet supportive, bouncy yet lightweight feel. I would say it’s a hybrid between mocassins and athletic shoes, which sounds like a miracle combination.
In addition, Allbirds has the Forest Stewardship Council Certification, further demonstrating their dedication to sourcing sustainably and responsibly with their packaging. None of the packaging involves plastic whatsoever. It’s all made from cardboard, with 90% of it being post-consumer recycled.
All in all, Allbirds is a successfully certified B-Corp, also known as a Benefit Corporation. Their company has met high standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. In addition to sustainable innovation, their initiative, Soles4Souls, similar to TOMS One for One Program, is a social commitment that sends all gently used Allbirds sneakers to communities in need around the world.
I feel like I am wearing clouds on my feet all the time with my Allbirds. It’s a similar comfort to if you have ever owned a pair of UGGS, but with more support for your arch. These are now my go-to, everyday walking shoes for the trips I take around my campus. The wool makes the shoes breathable and sweat-free, and they’re easy to slip on and off with the flexible laces. I personally got the grey color, but they also come in white and black.
I don’t recommend using these in the rain or snow because they are not meant to endure harsh weather conditions. Puddles are especially not fun for these shoes. They are definitely not activewear either, but if you are looking for something eco-athletic, Adidas has a new shoe made from recycled ocean plastic. While they are on the pricier side, they are super high-quality made and comparable to more well-known footwear brands.
At the end of the day, I think these shoes are worth the price, despite the disadvantages I mentioned. They also have other options for both men and women, including laceless and loungers, and with the right care, my pair will last for years to come. If you are not satisfied with your Allbirds 30 days after purchase, you have the opportunity to return the shoes to be fully refunded.