I hate checking luggage. I absolutely hate it.
The reasons for this are varied but it really comes down to my impatience when I land at my destination. I strive to be out of the airport within 15-20 minutes of landing and that is impossible to do if you check bags. There is nothing worse than landing in a place like Maui, smelling the ocean air and seeing the sunshine only to be forced to wait 45-60 minutes for your bags to come out.
One of the things that you typically have to give up when you travel with carryon luggage only is shoes. In the past, I have had to make the choice between shoes that looked great and shoes that were comfortable and I have gone with comfortable shoes 100% of the time.
What’s the big deal with that? Well, as a guy that loves food and fine dining, I often times have had to forgo some great dining experiences because showing up to a Michelin star restaurant in sneakers or sandals just doesn’t cut it.
I thought that I would always have to give up on my love of fine dining when I was on vacation until one of my readers, Irving, made an amazing recommendation to my new favorite shoe, the AllBirds.
What Are AllBirds?
AllBirds are a shoe that is made of Merino Wool … yes, you heard that right. Merino Wool.
The reason for Merino Wool? Well, it’s a natural thermoregulator, meaning that they keep your feet cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It’s quite a claim but I can attest that the claims are absolutely true.
Some of the other benefits of wool are that it wicks moisture/sweat away from your feet and can absorb up to 35% of its weight in water before feeling wet on the feet and even when wet, the wool can still regulate temperature.
AllBirds come in either a Wool Runner or a Wool Lounger. The difference between the two is that the lounger looks more like a slipper and is a bit more casual. I went with the runners because I liked the look of them better.
Why They Are Great
There are many reasons that I love my AllBirds and I will provide you with some of the reasons below but in general, they look great, feel great and are perfect for almost any weather condition you can throw at it.
I love these shoes because they are quite honestly the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn. No joke.
I read a lot of reviews before purchasing these shoes and many reviewers compared these to the Adidas Ultra Boosts. This is very high praise indeed because the Ultra Boosts are almost universally recognized as one of the most comfortable shoes ever made but they have two very serious downsides. The first is that they are ridiculously expensive at about $250 a pair and the second is that they are almost impossible to find.
The Ultra Boosts were the shoe that I was after before I discovered the AllBirds and even though they are very comfortable, they just don’t cut it in terms of being able to use them for formal occasions … they most definitely look like a sneaker.
When I was considering the Ultra Boosts, I had pretty much given up on finding a shoe that was both functional and looked like it belonged in a nice restaurant.
Luckily, I couldn’t find any Ultra Boosts in all of Calgary and after reaching out for some help from PointsNerd readers, I purchased up my AllBirds online from the company directly.
In terms of real world comfort, I can tell you that as a person that has been cursed with a bad lower back and foot pain, the AllBirds have been an absolute joy to walk in. Normally, I have been the type of person that would rather take public transit than walk 20 blocks but on our trip around the world, I had no issue walking around all day for miles at a time.
I can honestly say that I never noticed my feet being sore even on the longest walking days. My wife loves to walk everywhere and so does my daughter. Usually, I’m the limiting factor in their fun but on this trip, I was able to keep right up with them. Normally, even if my feet don’t hurt during the walk, I pay for it the next day but not so with the AllBirds.
I know that this may seem like I’m overexaggerating the point but it’s the God’s honest truth. My feet didn’t hurt at all in these shoes.
The ability to wear these shoes with shorts is just as easy as if you wore them with slacks and a button-up shirt. These shoes are incredibly versatile and work with almost anything you have in your closet. Now, the color you choose will probably play a factor in this statement but for the most part, these shoes look better than sneakers and when you’re dressed up, it looks like you are on the cutting edge of fashion. You don’t look as dressed up as if you would in wingtip shoes so perhaps these don’t work in the fines of dining establishments but when you wear AllBirds, you look like a tech billionaire that prefers comfort over conforming to the status quo.
I will say that these shoes look better with pants than with shorts but that’s not to say that they look strange with shorts because they don’t. I just prefer the look of the shoes in pants more so than with shorts.
I’ve already covered off the versatility of these shoes when it comes to their ability to dress up and down but what about in different weather conditions? Well, I can tell you that AllBirds claims of the shoe being a thermoregulator is no false claim.
I wore my AllBirds in a wide range of temperatures, from +35 Celcius in Cairns, Australia to -40 Celcius in Calgary. In both conditions, my feet felt great. Not too hot and not too cold. I was incredibly impressed by the shoe’s ability to make my feet feel comfortable.
In terms of being able to wick moisture away from my feet, I can say that the claims are also true. I’ll admit that when I was walking around in hot temperatures, my feet did sweat a little bit but not nearly as much as I have experienced in other shoes. I would describe the feeling as slightly clammy but not enough that your toes are sliding back and forth from the sweat. It was just mildly noticeable.
As far as the smell goes, I wore these shoes 95% of the time without socks on and I did not notice any sort of smell from the shoes. My wife can attest that some of the shoes that I wear without socks need to be left outside but the AllBirds did an amazing job at keeping the stench away. Perhaps the smell will come over time but in the two solid months that I have worn them, they do not smell.
Unlike the insanely priced Ultra Boosts, the AllBirds are competitively priced at $95 USD per pair. You will pay the local state tax depending on where you ship them but I believe the price point offers incredible value.
Ease of Care
The construction of the AllBirds makes these shoes the perfect travel companion because they don’t have any stiff sections like most other shoes. The only thing that you could consider stiff is the sole of the shoe but the rest of the shoe is made of soft merino wool including the heel cup. This means that you can easily squish the shoes down to fit into your luggage, saving you tons of space.
When we were moving between cities in Australia, I often wore my sandals and stuffed my AllBirds into my carry-on luggage and they were no worse for wear when I pulled them out later.
The other amazing thing about AllBirds is that you can actually throw them into the wash. I was a little skeptical of these claims but after doing it myself, I am convinced that these are one of the easiest pairs of shoes I have ever had to take care of.
Here are the pictures of the shoes after one month of constant wear:
Here’s what they look like after a quick wash on the gentle/wool cycle:
I should note that there was no spot treating or any sort of special care taken to wash these shoes. I simply tossed them into a bag, added some soap and set the washing machine on the gentle/wool cycle. With the AllBirds, you allow them to air dry so don’t put them in the dryer.
You may notice that the shoes have lost their shape a little bit but after a couple of wears, they look as good as new.
This might be a minor thing for some but for me, this is incredibly important. First off, the shoes that I received from AllBirds came with two different colors of laces which make changing their look quite easy, but more importantly, the laces are very grippy.
What do I mean by that? Well, in the two months that I have worn the shoes, I have had to tie the laces twice. Yes. Twice.
The laces are so well engineered that if you tie a good knot, you won’t have to worry about them coming undone. This is such a huge plus for me because I hate having to tie my laces all the time. I’m not sure why this isn’t the norm but for whatever reason, it isn’t.
AllBirds nailed this small but rather important aspect of shoe design.
Nothing is ever perfect and while AllBirds are fantastic, there are a few minor gripes I have about them. Nothing is that major but I figured I would give you both the positive and the negative.
Scuffs and Dirt on the Toe
I’m not sure if this is because of the way I walk or the design of the shoe, but I noticed quite frequently that the toe would attract an inordinate amount of dirt. You can definitely see it the pictures above. I’m guessing that it’s the way that I walk but in the future, I would probably pick up a slightly darker color of shoe so that this isn’t quite as noticeable.
The grips on these shoes are terrible. They are virtually non-existent. I wouldn’t have noticed this at all except for the fact that I bailed hard when I was running for a train in snowy Calgary. I imagine it looked something like this:
When I wiped stopped crying and wiped away the tears, I took a look at my shoes to find out what had happened.
It’s no surprise that these grips didn’t provide much traction on the icy streets of Calgary. If you are planning on using these shoes in winter conditions, be aware that traction isn’t the greatest but it hasn’t stopped me from wearing them here in Calgary in the winter. I’m just a lot more cautious.
No Half Sizes
AllBirds have made a strategic bet that people don’t need half sized shoes. They suggest that you size up if you wear a half size and I was a bit nervous about doing so but it worked out fine. I will readily admit that the shoe is slightly larger than I normally like but it was easily remedied by tightening my laces. In the grand scheme of things, it’s no big deal but it would be nice to have half sizes available.
Perhaps the biggest drawback of the AllBirds is that the company currently only ships to the US, Australia, and New Zealand.
I had my AllBirds shipped to my hotel in Los Angeles and everything worked out just fine but what if you aren’t traveling to the States, Australia or New Zealand? Well, you might be forced to use a re-shipper like Shipito. I covered off how to use Shipito in a previous post about How To Get US Credit Cards but you can certainly use them to forward your AllBirds package to Canada.
While this could be considered a big hassle, now that I have had these shoes for a while, I can tell you that it’s well worth the effort.
This isn’t a sponsored post nor did I get these shoes for free. This is my 100% unbiased review of the shoes and I absolutely adore them.
I believe that these shoes perfectly encompass amazing comfort and a style that can be dressed up or down for almost any occasion, making them incredibly versatile and a must-have for any traveler.
Hopefully, you can get these shoes in Canada in the near future but even if you can’t, it’s still worth the effort to try to secure them through other means because they are just that good.
Also published on Medium.