Travel Gear Review: Allbirds Merino Wool Slip-on Shoes
Walking around airports in open-toed shoes can feel a bit, um, gross, not to mention chilly when you’re actually on a plane — there’s a reason airlines give business- and first-class passengers comfy socks. But since we can't actually travel to our destinations wearing socks and slippers, finding the right pair of shoes is crucial.
Enter Allbirds Loungers, which feel (and sort of look) like slippers, but are far more comfortable than the cardboard-soled version offered in hotels. In fact, Allbirds just might be your next go-to travel shoe.
The San Francisco-based shoe company launched in early 2016 after a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised $100,000 for its pair of Wool Runners that were “so soft you can wear sockless.” The shoes quickly became favored by the Silicon Valley crowd, notching several favorable write-ups in travel publications for their wearability. But its new Wool Loungers, launched in April, make even more sense from a travel perspective: they’re light, comfy and literally go with everything. Did I mention you don’t need socks?
Founder Tim Brown hails from New Zealand — "the land of 29,221,344 sheep," according to Allbirds — where he came to notice the merits of merino wool: It’s breathable, moisture-wicking and somehow not at all itchy. The shoes are available for $95 online or at Allbirds’ concept store in San Francisco; the second, brand-new shop in New York City's SoHo neighborhood opened this week.
Available only in whole sizes from size 5 to size 10 for women and size 8 to 14 for men, the site's online fit finder asks a few questions and recommends your ideal size — a size 7 fit was perfect for my typical size 7-7.5 foot.
One of the shoe’s best features is its simplicity. A tiny tag on the heel is the only semblance of a logo, and the rest of the shoe is so innocuous that it could, in the words of fashion magazines, “transition from day-to-night with ease.” They’re less conspicuous than sneakers and the lack of laces and external detailing makes them easy to take off and put on again.
Currently, they’re sold in six colors for women: “classics” in grey and black and “limited edition” in moss, plum, navy and pine — men also have the "classic grey" and black options and "limited edition" moss and plum colors.
Where to Wear
Here's the one downside: You probably won’t want to rough these up. While sneakers would do well to protect you during a thunderstorm or could easily double as hiking shoes, the Loungers are best for city walking or, yes, lounging so you might want to travel in the Loungers and pack a sturdier shoe for any intense sight-seeing.
One perk if you want to give them a try: the warranty lets you exchange them after 30 days for any reason, no questions asked. The shoes are also machine washable and odor-minimizing, which is good news for anyone who’s returned from a trip, opened their luggage and found all of their clothing and gifts smell like dirty shoes. And with a sole made of foam and rubber, the shoe is feather-light.
After walking many miles in the Loungers in my home city, hiking up stairs and sweating through a humid summer, my gray pair of Allbirds Loungers hardly took a beating. A darker color may attract more heat, but the moisture-wicking wool kept my feet dry, even without socks. Finally, a travel shoe that doesn’t scream “tourist” can easily navigate everywhere from the TSA line to rolling hills and won’t stink up my suitcase.
Would you purchase a pair of these shoes? Let us know in the comments below.
All photos courtesy of Allbirds.