These Insta-famous flats claim to be as comfortable as slippers—are they?
Do Birdies' “stylish flat that’s secretly a slipper” live up to its claims?
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If you believe the Instagram ads, Birdies are the perfect pair of shoes. Billed as the “stylish flat that’s secretly a slipper,” the brand sells smoking loafers (picture what Hugh Hefner probably wore with his velvet bathrobes) and slides that look like shoes most people can wear to an office and, allegedly, are also as comfortable as the shoes you wear when you come home from work. Intrigued? I was, too.
What are Birdies?
I’ve been seeing ads for Birdies on my Instagram and Facebook feeds for a period of time that feels like several million years, but is really only about six or seven months. The San Francisco-based brand has itself only existed since 2015, when it was founded by two women, Marisa Sharkey and Bianca Gates. According to Birdies’ site, both are busy moms who were fed up with “hosting barefoot or in frumpy slippers” (which, as everyone knows, are the only two footwear options available once you have kids) and designed the flat as a comfortable-yet-fashionable house shoe. Eventually, the shoes caught on beyond housebound play dates and book club meetings, and started being worn by people outside of the home, too. One notable fan? Meghan Markle, who apparently loves few things more than a start-up flat shoe brand based out of San Francisco.
The shoes come in two main styles—a smoking shoe-type loafer and a backless slide—and for their original intended purpose of inside-only shoes, they’re pricey: They start at $95 (on par with other Instagram-famous flats) and some styles go as high as $165. All designs feature “seven layers of cushioning” in the sole, which the brand claims creates a level of support that rivals that of a pair of sneakers, but with the feel of slippers and the look of “designer” flats. That's a hefty, three-part promise. If these shoes were truly able to deliver on all three components, I thought they might be worth the money, so I ordered the brand’s bestselling Starling style—a classic smoking shoe with more than 3,000 positive reviews—in the basic black velvet color.
What is there to like about Birdies?
Birdies deliver on the main tenet of their marketing campaign—when you first put them on, they feel like slippers. The insole is made of a soft, pillowy memory foam that hugs the bottom of the feet, with bolstered padding in the center of the shoe for arch support. For a rich-looking flourish, the foam inside is overlaid with gold satin in diamond-shaped stitching. This doesn’t impact the shoe’s comfort, but it does give them a cool, luxe look (at least, before you put your feet into them). Birdies also have a sturdy rubber sole, so even though the shoes feel like slippers on the inside, they have enough structure that wearing them outside doesn’t feel wrong. Finally, much like slippers, you don’t have to worry about breaking them in—on the first day I wore them, they rubbed a little against my ankles but not enough to break the skin. Over the next few days, I didn’t notice any chafing at all.
Style-wise, they’re...fine. The silhouette is that of a standard smoking slipper, a basic loafer with a barely-there heel, which makes for an easy, low-maintenance pair of shoes that goes well with an outfit of a simple top and leggings or jeans. My only quibble with the look is the velvet material on the outside. It’s shiny and thin: The fabric beneath the flocking shows through and the texture tends to pick up little bits of lint and dust from the ground. Altogether, this makes them look much cheaper to me than a pair of $95 shoes should look. The Starling style is available with uppers made of other materials, like calf hair, leather, and suede, that likely look less cheap in real life. But, of course, you have to pay to look more expensive. Calf hair costs $140, leather is $165, and suede is $120. These aren’t totally exorbitant prices, especially when compared to other direct-to-consumer shoes, like Rothy’s and Tieks, which are in the same price range. But when compared to other brands of high-end flats, I think the Birdies also look the least expensive by far—a shame, because they feel great on the feet.
What’s not so great about Birdies?
One interesting thing I discovered about myself while testing Birdies is that I don’t actually like wearing shoes that feel like slippers outside the house. They are too soft! Their sole is sturdy enough to feel like a real pair of shoes, yes, but the upper portion doesn’t really breathe, and the insole is so pliable that walking around for a long period of time isn’t all that pleasant. I discovered this about midway through my walk to work—which takes about 20 minutes in total—when my feet began to sweat and slip around in a big, squishy way. Eventually, the foamy insole, which felt great when I was trying them on and not really doing much else, gave my feet a standing-in-quicksand sensation, like I was walking through a boggy marsh and not the streets of Cambridge, Mass.
Another drawback: Birdies are not machine washable. Instead, the brand recommends sprinkling baking soda inside, leaving it for a bit, dumping out what doesn’t absorb, and cleaning the outside with a soft bristled brush. I didn’t end up doing this—despite the sweat, they did not smell terrible—but it’s important to know that you can’t just throw a pair of Birdies in the washing machine after a long, sweaty day (or if you happen to get caught in a muddy rainstorm while wearing them). This likely won’t be a problem if you don’t move around a lot during the day—I didn’t have this issue when I wore them for long periods of time, only when I walked for more than 10 minutes at once—but it’s definitely something to consider if you have to walk (or run to catch public transportation) and don’t want to feel like you are wading along in your own portable foot spa.
Are Birdies worth it?
Deciding whether or not you should get Birdies depends on which of the brand’s three claims—comfort, support, and looks—you are most invested in. If you find slippers comfortable (as most people do), you’ll find Birdies comfortable, too. The support is not quite there—they don’t feel anything like sneakers, and if you walk in them for long distances, you’ll get the sense they’re giving out on you. Looks are more subjective, but Birdies hit somewhere in the range of “designer flat that’s always sold out” and “designer flat that’s always on sale at TJ Maxx,” depending on the upper material you opt for.
All in all? Birdies do almost what they claim. That’s not perfect, but if the price and style is right for you, they could be just fine.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.