I tried Allbirds flats to see if they're as comfortable as the sneakers
My verdict: Tree Breezers are a true treat for the feet.
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The brand is also impossible to avoid. The wool, eucalyptus, and sugarcane-based shoes are heavily advertised on social media and seem to be on everyone’s feet, from young employees of tech startups in coastal cities to landlocked Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers who may or may not have ever been on Instagram. You can get Allbirds as “Runners” (the most popular pair, which look like sneakers), “Toppers” (high-top sneakers), and “Skippers” (extra-low-rise sneakers). As of this spring, you can get them as “Tree Breezers”—which, in normal-people speak, means “ballet flats.”
I have a contentious well-documented relationship with ballet flats. Basically, I straight-out (flat-out, if you will), don’t like them, despite trying many cult-y Instagram-famous brands including Rothy’s and Tieks. The results have been borderline disastrous: The flats were too flat for my arches or tore up the backs of my heels and made me bleed all over the place as I hobbled to and from the office on my walking commute.
What makes Allbirds' flats different?
But Allbirds' Tree Breezers seemed unlike other flats. They come from the brand that trumpets a claim of having constructed the world’s most comfortable sneakers that's extensively corroborated, so if any brand were to create a pair of flats that would not make me yearn to no longer have feet, it would be Allbirds. The flats' construction also gave me hope. In addition to being a part of the brand’s overall eco-friendly plan, they have attributes that seem legitimately comfy: A woven upper with a knit cuff around the opening to keep them in place, soft wool insoles, and a sugarcane-based sole, called “SweetFoam,” the same used in the brand’s sneakers. Because ballet flats have become a part of what I cover here at Reviewed, I ordered a pair.
Tree Breezers come in a range of pleasant—if insufferably titled—colors, such as “Caribbean” (teal), “elephant grass” (yellow), and “baobab” (olive). I ended up getting the “whitecap” (light blue) color, because I wanted black (excuse me, “heathered black”) but it was sold out in my size.
What are Allbirds flats like in real life?
When my flats arrived, they looked just like they had online: Shoes with a delicate blue cloth knit upper with a slightly darker blue sole and a light gray insole.
But when I slid them on? It may sound hyperbolic to say they were the most comfortable things I have ever put on my feet. And, technically, that would be a lie—I have worn Uggs and I have worn Crocs with wool socks (and what about it?), both of which are strong contenders for the comfort gold medal. But the Tree Breezers are a close runner-up, especially surprising to me because they are ballet flats, which I usually associate with blisters and having to ask for the office’s first aid kit.
What makes Allbirds flats so comfortable?
The Tree Breezers feel a lot like slippers, but with a structured, tractioned, rubbery sole, so wearing them outside of the house doesn’t feel like a mistake. I walked quite a bit in them for about two months—to and from my office, but also to out to bars and yoga classes—and the springy, supportive footbed felt more comfortable than some casual sneakers I’ve worn, even my beloved Supergas.
The stretchy collar around the opening kept the Allbirds flats secure without any chafing or digging in on my heels—and there was no break-in period. The shoes don’t really have built-in arch support, but because the insole is thick and squishy but not flabby, my feet didn’t feel as achy as they do after wearing other flats (designed with and without arches) for long periods of time. Best of all, the woven upper and wool insoles make for great breathability, so my feet didn’t get sweaty throughout the day—another complaint I often have when wearing flats. In terms of style, the blue didn’t exactly match with everything in my closet, but I loved them so much I found myself making excuses to wear them anyway.
The Tree Breezers also didn’t get too dirty during the time I tested them. Still, Allbirds claims that they are machine-washable, so I gave them a wash toward the end of my experiment. I followed the instructions to brush off excess dirt, launder them in a cold, delicate cycle, and let them air dry. After, the shoes looked pretty much the same as they did before the wash. I’m not sure how this would change after, say, 30-odd washes, but considering they didn’t show too much dirt or get particularly smelly in my time with them, I doubt I would wash them more than a few times a year.
Are Allbirds flats worth it?
As someone who reviews bizarre, fun, and possibly useless things—in some people’s eyes, I’m sure, though not mine—for a living, I pride myself on never quite being satisfied with anything. I feel that most things, even things I love dearly, use regularly, and push upon my friends and family to excess, can be improved in some way.
With these flats, though, I am stumped. I wish I had more complaints about these shoes. But what would I say? That I'd prefer each step I took had slightly less of a springy cushion? That the insoles weren’t quite as supportive? That they could make my feet just a little sweatier?
It pains me to admit it, but I must: There are very few nits to pick with the Allbirds Tree Breezers. Some reviewers on the Allbirds website say they run small and can cause weird-looking bumps where their toes protrude in the toe box area. But that can be easily fixed by getting a half-size bigger than usual, and, as such, most of the reviews are as effusive as mine.
One thing I will say is that they don’t look as formal as some leather flats—or even the much-less-comfortable Rothy’s, which are made of recycled plastic bottles—because they consist of a matte woven fabric and have a blunted toe. (Pointed toes, to me, signal formality, while rounded toes seem more casual, though this could be a personal hang-up of mine.) Because of this, they may not be appropriate in some formal offices—but that shouldn't stop anyone from wearing them on a commute to and from said venue.
Should you buy the Allbirds flats?
The Tree Breezers’ $95 price may be a turnoff to some people. But when other shoes in this space, like Rothy’s and Tieks, are much more expensive—$145 and $175, respectively—and, in my experience, significantly less comfortable, it seems like a total bargain. If you like wearing flats, and you’re OK with becoming one more person who can’t stop talking about how comfortable your Allbirds are, you’ll be happy to get yourself a pair.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
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