We tried ‘the world’s most comfortable shoes’ to see if they’re as great as everyone says they are
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Whether you know someone who has and loves them, or you’ve just seen enough colorful, plush-looking sneakers walking around to note the style, you’ve likely already come into contact with the San Francisco brand Allbirds.
Allbirds is only about a year old, but you’d never know that by how popular it has become.
The founder, Tim Brown, grew up in New Zealand — a place most of us rightfully associate with rolling green hills, Lord of the Rings, and hordes of fluffy sheep grazing on said green hills. It was there that he noticed the properties of merino wool and their implications — A super comfortable, sustainable material that wicks away moisture, regulates temperature, and minimizes odor? Why hadn’t this been used to make shoes before?
Well, hindsight is 20/20, and now that Allbirds exists none of us are really sure why it took this long to make either. But we’re extremely glad that Brown spent years researching and testing along with Joey Zwillinger, an engineer and renewables expert, to make the perfect wool fabric made specifically for footwear. The result is likely the most comfortable footwear option you can imagine being real.
While wool might seem oppressively hot or scratchy, this isn’t the wool your authentic Irish fisherman’s sweater is made out of. Allbirds uses the superfine New Zealand merino wool of his childhood and fibers that are 20% the diameter of a human hair, so you’ll see all the benefits without the itch. Speaking as someone who owns quite a few wool products, I can say this might as well be more closely compared to a coarser cashmere.
While Allbirds is best known for its trademark Wool Runner (which looks like a comfy, unusually pliable sneaker), the company just recently came out with the Wool Lounger, and we were appropriately excited. Three of us on the team got to try them out, and I at least will be buying quite a few more to stockpile for gifts.
Both options are great, but if you’re looking for as diverse a shoe as possible, the Lounger seems like a more obvious pick. While the runners weren’t made to take on marathons, the Loungers similarly aren’t made just to pace the house.
They’ve got the insane comfort of a house slipper, but the stylish loafer shape that means you can wear yours to brunch, a museum, or the five-star dinner I recently wore my own to last-minute, and you won’t look out of place. Especially if you’re traveling and want shoes that are efficient to pack and versatile in style, occasion, and temperatures (excepting rainy days), these are going to be a fantastic option.
And if you prefer to wear them sockless, the insole is replaceable, the entire shoe is machine-washable, and it’s odor-reducing.
But don’t just take my word for it. Below you’ll find each of our thoughts on our specific Allbirds Lounger experiences:
Mara Leighton, Insider Picks reporter
The Loungers are my first experience with Allbirds, and while I’ve heard a lot of rave reviews, I wondered if they could really be that good.
They are that good. They are ridiculously soft, breathable, and supportive. The insole feels bouncy, the body feels like one long, comfortable sock that moves seamlessly when you move, and the sole is sturdy but really lightweight. And even though I’ve only worn them in the summer, my feet have never felt overheated.
The first day I wore them, I walked over 30 blocks with heels that were already sore and near-blistering from a pair of heels I’d been wearing earlier. In the Loungers, I didn’t feel any discomfort and no blisters formed. This is a feat worth celebrating, even without all the other benefits.
You won’t want to wear them on rainy days, and some buyers might want to keep them just for lounging around the house, but I wear mine often outside. They’re also machine washable, so any grime isn’t permanent, plus it means I don’t worry about the fact that I prefer to wear them without socks.
Women’s Wool Loungers, $95
Ellen Hoffman, Insider Picks editor
I’ve now tried the Wool Lounger and the Wool Runner, and they’re both stupidly comfortable — and I mean that in a really good way.
The slip-on Loungers are lightweight and breathable, supportive, and just as comfortable as my Adidas Ultra Boosts. Whatever technology went into making these shoes should be bottled up and used in all future footwear as far as I’m concerned.
I slightly prefer the Lounger to the Runner since I find the slip-on silhouette to be more versatile and easier to wear casually around my apartment. I have them in gray and they go with everything in my closet, but they look especially nice with jeans and my MeUndies lounge pants.
Women’s Wool Loungers, $95
Brandt Ranj, Insider Picks associate editor
The first thing I said after putting on Allbirds’ Loungers was “Oh, wow.”
I’m not a huge slipper fan. I either get by in socks indoors or a pair of regular shoes outside, but Allbirds’ Lounger walks the line between indoor and outdoor wear finely. I wouldn’t wear them to work, but if I need to run to the corner store, take out the trash, or do some quick chores in my apartment building, they’re fine.
The reason for my initial exclamation is that these shoes are very comfortable, enough to be surprising upon first wear. I’ve worn them a handful of times since they were sent a couple of weeks ago and that same thought has crossed my mind multiple times. Whether you traditionally wear footwear around the house, or are looking for a very comfortable pair of shoes for local errands and chores, Allbirds’ Loungers are what I recommend.
Men’s Wool Loungers, $95