How a Pair of $95 Shoes Changed My Life

Claire Stern Allbirds - Lead 2016
Photo: Kyleen James

I've always been a tomboy when it comes to clothing. Growing up, I would routinely wind up in the boy's section of the store, and every chance I could get, I'd steal shirts from my older brothers. They were exceedingly comfier than anything I owned, and for me, comfort was always paramount. So when a male friend recently showed me a new pair of sneakers he bought and dubbed them "the most comfortable shoes ever," I was immediately intrigued.

The first thing I noticed was the absence of a logo. The design was minimalist and clean, with chunky laces slightly resembling Kanye West's Yeezys, and the material was curiously made of merino wool. I peered inside the shoe and noted the label: Allbirds. After some light Googling, I discovered that one of the San Francisco-based brand's co-founders, Tim Brown, hails from New Zealand, which explains the wool (if there's one thing New Zealand is known for, it's sheep).

"The footwear industry largely ignores natural materials," Brown told me over the phone recently. "We saw an opportunity to marry that with sleek design, and that led us to wool." Here's the thing about wool—specifically merino wool: Not only does it regulate temperature and wick moisture—it minimizes odor, rendering shoe deodorizer permanently irrelevant, as if it's really effective anyway. Oh, and if they get dirty? Allbirds are machine-washable.

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Claire Stern Allbirds - Embed 2016
Kyleen James

I ordered my pair faster than you can say, "Ye." When the box arrived, my premonition that the shoes were something special was only further reinforced by the packaging. Keeping in line with their focus on sustainable materials, Allbirds ships using a container that doubles as a shoebox, which saves roughly 30 percent of cardboard. And from the moment I slipped them on, I earnestly wondered whether I'd ever take them off. The softness is truly unparalleled.

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According to Brown, comfort is the brand's mantra. "It's the number one reason people buy shoes, and it's seldom paired with good design," he said. "When your old man tells you he bought a pair of comfortable shoes, you assume they look very bad." Think about that for a second, and you'll see he has a point. Allbirds lines their insoles with the same merino wool used on the upper section, giving you solid resiliency with each step. And because they're so inherently soft, you'll be inclined to wear them sans socks, which Brown encourages.

Claire Stern Allbirds - Embed 2016
Kyleen James

I've had my Allbirds for about three weeks now, and they've been in heavy wardrobe rotation ever since. I wear them everywhere, and with everything: cropped flares, midi dresses, leggings (when I'm en route to the gym), pajamas (for a quick run to the corner bodega). I lovingly refer to them as my "foot pillows," because that's essentially what they are. Frankly, I don't know how I ever lived without them. And in the event disaster strikes, I bought a back-up pair—just in case.

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