When the Allbirds Tree Dashers were released in 2020, I was immediately intrigued. As a runner and sustainability advocate, I’d been looking for a more eco-friendly shoe.
If you’re new to Allbirds, it’s a is a popular sneaker company that’s known for its sustainable practices and minimalistic styles. The company has been a certified B Corp for 5 years, meaning that it’s recognized for its social responsibility.
I was gifted a pair of Tree Dashers with no obligation to write this blog post, but I wanted to share my experience running in these shoes and help you decide whether they’re right for you. If you decide to purchase, it would mean a lot if you used my affiliate links in this post, which allows me to earn a small commission at no cost to you (plus, you get a free pair of socks!)
For some context, I have a medium arch and usually run in neutral, lightweight shoes. I’ve run in the Brooks Launch for the past 5 years now, but I used the Saucony Cohesion for several years before and also had a couple pairs of Nikes.
I’m a distance runner who primarily trains for half and full marathons, but my mileage is relatively low because I cross-trained extensively before the pandemic. Now, I run 3-4 times a week and average around 25 miles per week when training for a marathon.
The Tree Dashers retail at $125, which is a pretty typical price for running shoes. I’m a pretty thrifty person though and usually save money on running shoes by buying them lightly used on eBay or Poshmark. Since the Tree Dashers are relatively new and somewhat niche, it’s less likely that you’ll find them secondhand.
If you’re worried about the investment, Allbirds has a 30-day guarantee. You can test out a pair for 30 days, and if you don’t like them, you can send them back. The used shoes are donated through Soles4Souls to people in need.
The Tree Dashers are made from natural or recycled materials. The upper is made from FSC-certified eucalyptus trees, the insole from castor beans, the bottoms from sugarcane EVA and natural rubber, and the laces from recycled water bottles.
The shoes are unfortunately not vegan because they have some wool padding near the heel to keep your foot secure. Allbirds uses ZQ Merino wool, which is certified for humane practices. That said, I generally try to avoid animal products, and would like to see a non-synthetic or recycled vegan replacement. From a business perspective, I think it’d make sense as well, as it’d open up a whole new potential customer base of people who are vegan or allergic to wool.
The shoes are carbon-neutral thanks to the offsets from renewable energy and methane capture. Before offsets, the carbon footprint of the shoes is 9 kg, which is 34% less than the average 13.6 kg for a pair of running shoes.
To reduce waste, the Tree Dashers ship directly in the box, and the box itself is made from 90% recycled cardboard.
If your running shoes are always muddy, you’ll also appreciate that the shoes are machine washable. Just remove the insoles and laces and be sure to air dry.
The Tree Dashers have a pretty bold look with a thick sole and pastel colors. I got the Cyclone, which appears to no longer be available, but the Neptune color is quite close.
The prettiest colors are often sold out, but Allbirds does try to restock as needed, so keep an eye on the website if your favorite color isn’t available. The Tree Dashers are some of the sleekest running shoes I’ve seen, and they also would look good with everyday athleisure looks.
Allbirds typically doesn’t have half sizes, but they do in the Tree Dashers. I had heard that they run small, so I got a size 8 instead of 7.5 (which is already half a size up since I like my running shoes to be roomier). You can see that the size 8 Allbirds Tree Dashers are nearly the same length compared to my size 7.5 Brooks Launch. I maybe could’ve gotten my usual size, but I’m happy with the size 8 I got.
If you have narrow heels, you may not want to size up, as some people have experienced slippage in that area. The shoes do seem better suited to medium or wide width feet.
The shoe upper is very flexible and the ankle area feels more like a sock. The Tree Dashers actually don’t even have a tongue; you’re literally pulling the shoe on instead of slipping your foot in. This flexible upper can help prevent any chafing around the ankles—sometimes my Brooks will rub against the back of my heel and cause irritation.
This flexibility means less support, however. The Tree Dashers are also missing the extra eyelet around the ankle that most running shoes offer. For these reasons, I wouldn’t recommend the Tree Dashers for running on unstable surfaces. It doesn’t offer the same ankle support as traditional running shoes (though this sock-like shoe style is definitely getting more popular, and my brother has several pairs of running shoes from other brands like this). If you’re running on the road, you should be fine.
Some people say that running in Allbirds feels like you’re running on clouds, but I actually find the soles pretty rigid. They don’t offer the same cushion or bounce as my Brooks Lauch, and I’d say the Tree Dashers feel more like Nikes, which have always felt more firm and and less cushioned to me. I also feel like I experience more leg fatigue when wearing the Tree Dashers, compared to my Brooks Launch. I haven’t worn the Tree Dashers for runs longer than 6 miles because I frankly don’t like them as much as my Brooks.
The Tree Dashers also aren’t the lightest shoes, with the size 8 in men’s weighing 9.7oz or 275g. Because of their rigidity though, I like wearing them for speed workouts and have not been bothered by the extra weight.
One thing to keep in mind is the lack of traction on the soles. They definitely aren’t great for slippery surfaces and I’d be careful with them in the rain or snow.
Basically, I neither love nor hate the way the Allbirds feel. I like them enough to wear them for about a run per week, but I don’t like them enough to make them my main running shoe. I guess I’m just too loyal to the Brooks Launch—I also tried the Saucony Kinvara a few months ago and gave them to my mom after one run since they didn’t feel right. I even hated the Hoka One One Speedgoats I tried, and they’re also known for their marshmallow-y/cushy feel.
I think the Tree Dashers would best suit people who like a more rigid sole, more flexible upper, and want to wear the shoes as sneakers outside of running.
Areas of Improvement in Sustainability
Transparency—while Allbirds is pretty sustainable, they lack the same transparency in their supply chain. They do trace most of their supply chain and state that the Tree Dashers are made in Shenzhen, China and Hai Phong, Vietnam. They also require suppliers to follow their Code of Conduct and participate in third-party social assessments, but it’s unclear how the suppliers are performing in those audits and whether the workers are being paid a living wage vs. just the minimum wage. We also don’t know which firms are conducting the third-party assessments for each factory (the Shenzhen factory is WRAP-Certified though). Allbirds is more transparent than most running shoe brands, but I’d like to see more evidence of social responsibility.
Circularity—Allbirds has no recycling program (yet) for the shoes, so you’ll have to find your own recycling program. Some potential ones are Nike Reuse a Shoe, Soles4Souls, and DSW Ways to Give, but double-check before dropping anything off as many programs were suspended due to the pandemic. Allbirds recognizes this problem and accounts for the product end of life in their carbon offsets. They state that they’re working on developing a solution.
Use of wool—like I said, I’d like to see Allbirds create vegan products. Vegan doesn’t always mean more eco-friendly if you’re using virgin synthetics instead, but Allbirds is always developing new technologies and I trust their ability to find an equally sustainable vegan alternative (in fact, they’re currently working on an open-source, biodegradable, plant-based leather).
All in all, the Allbirds Tree Dashers are not a perfect shoe, but they’re certainly an improvement and are leading the running shoe industry in sustainable practices.
Where to Buy the Allbirds Tree Dashers
If you’d like to buy yourself a pair, you can do so on the Allbirds website. Through that link, I’ll get a small commission at no extra cost to you, and you’ll also get a free pair of socks (while supplies last). Just add a pair of shoes and socks to your cart, and the discount will be applied at checkout. The discount also works if you buy clothing, minus the underwear.
Keep in mind that the most sustainable shoes are those that already exist, however. I encourage you to also look for lightly-used shoes on eBay and Poshmark. This is typically how I get my Brooks Launch.
If you try the Allbirds, come back and let us know what you think. Happy running!