As a marathoner and sustainability blogger, I’m always on the lookout for more eco-friendly running shoes. So when the Allbirds Tree Flyers came out, I was curious, but didn’t want to get my hopes up.
I was actually getting kind of discouraged, as it seemed that shoes made with more conscious materials couldn’t be as cushioned or responsive. To be fair though, I often didn’t like other models from conventional running brands as well.
The Allbirds Tree Flyers were the first pair of sustainable running shoes that I felt comfortable running in regularly. In fact, they’re currently replacing my Brooks Launch, and I’ve run in them for over 100 miles!
Here’s my honest review of the Allbirds Tree Flyers, including their sustainability, the fit, and more.
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 6 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 currently low since I’m returning from a break.
For full disclosure, I was gifted a pair of these shoes, but was not obligated to write this review. This post also contains affiliate links to Allbirds and secondhand platforms, meaning that I may earn a small commission on any purchases through those links, at no extra cost to you (in fact, you’ll actually get a free pair of socks through my Allbirds link with the purchase of shoes).
Sustainability of the Allbirds Tree Flyers
One of the biggest draws of the Tree Flyers is its lower-impact production. While this has nothing to do with the actual performance of the shoe, I am a sustainability blogger and want you to be informed about your potential purchase.
The Tree Flyers are mainly made from natural or recycled materials. Here’s a quick breakdown:
- Upper: FSC-certified TENCEL Lyocell (made from eucalyptus trees)
- Midsole: 48% bio-based from castor beans
- Outsole: sugarcane EVA and FSC-certified natural rubber
- Laces: 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. I generally try to avoid animal products, so I’d love to see a non-synthetic or recycled vegan alternative.
The shoes are carbon-neutral thanks to the offsets from renewable energy and methane capture. Before offsets, the carbon footprint of the shoes is 9.92 kg (printed on the heel!), which is 27% less than the average 13.6 kg for a pair of running shoes.
To reduce waste, the Tree Flyers ship directly in the box, and the box itself is made from 90% recycled cardboard.
Allbirds is a B Corp, which is a company-wide social responsibility certification that takes into account things like supply chain transparency, employee benefits, and sustainability.
Allbirds has a Code of Conduct and expects factories to participate in third-party social assessments. They don’t allow subcontracting without prior approval. This is a start, but I’d like to see more evidence of fair wages and safe conditions, like Fair Trade or SA8000 certification. For example, Allbirds’ factory in China is WRAP-certified, which is further reassurance of responsible manufacturing.
The Tree Flyers are made in Vietnam, which Allbirds says is “LEED Certified, built for energy efficiency with rainwater capture and reuse, and green space for native plants.” Again, this is great to hear, but I’d like more details about the workers.
All in all, Allbirds is not a perfect company, but they are more transparent and lower-impact than traditional running shoe brands. I hope to see them continue to improve!
(I’m usually pickier in my sustainable brand reviews, but the running shoe industry lags behind the fashion industry in sustainability, and there’s the added component of performance).
My Experience with the Allbirds Tree Flyers
The Tree Flyers retail at $160, which is slightly pricier than most running shoes, though comparable with the higher-end brands.
I’m a pretty thrifty person and usually save money on running shoes by buying them lightly used on eBay or Poshmark for $50-70, so this would be a lot more than I’m used to spending. Since the Tree Flyers are relatively new, it’s less likely that you’ll find them secondhand, but I have seen some sold in the $50-70 range on Poshmark!
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 Flyers are pretty sweet-looking, with an angular heel counter (made entirely of scraps from the SwiftFoam midsole production process!). They also come in some gorgeous limited edition colors. I only had access to the classic colors of Blizzard or Natural Black, so I went with the Blizzard, which still looks pretty snazzy in my opinion.
The heel counter is made of a more porous foam than the rest of the outsole though, so it doesn’t clean as easily. If you want your shoes to stay pristine, then these may not be a good fit unless you completely avoid mud and dust.
I usually wear a 7.5 in running shoes and a 7 in street shoes. I got the Tree Flyers in size 7.5 and have a typical amount of extra space in the toe box. They fit me true-to-size.
When I wear a certain pair of socks, I did get some chafing on the inner arch, which led to a couple blisters. This hasn’t been a big concern for me though since I can just wear another pair of socks or use some BodyGlide, and my skin has also strengthened where the blisters were anyways, making it less sensitive.
The Tree Flyers step up where the original Tree Dashers fell short. In the Tree Dashers, my main complaints were:
- Firmess of the sole
- Lack of traction
- Lack of ankle support
The Tree Flyers feel responsive to me and offer just the right amount of cushioning. I wish they’d be just a tad bouncier and lighter, but they’re good enough that I can use them as my main pair of running shoes right now (this could change once I take these on a long run, but I’ll be sure to update this review if my opinion is different).
The outsoles also have a good amount of rubber traction that keep the shoes from slipping on smoother surfaces. I’ve even taken the Tree Flyers on a light trail run with gravel paths and small hills and found them perfectly usable in that setting.
As for ankle support, while the upper is like a sock and doesn’t have a tongue, there’s a heel cup that holds your foot steady. I actually like the fully-knit upper because it’s easily to slip the shoes on and off.
Overall, I’m a fan of the Tree Flyers and would recommend them.
Would I go out of my way to buy them myself? To be honest, I’m still partial to the Brooks Launch and would try to get those used first (and new if I couldn’t get them used). But if I couldn’t get the Launch, I’d opt for the Tree Flyers next since they perform well enough to be my current main pair of running shoes, and are lower-impact. This was not the case for the other sustainable running shoes I tested (Tree Dasher and Hylo Run 2), which weren’t comfortable enough to use for running regularly, or at all.
After 140 miles, the Allbirds Tree Flyers are still going strong. Some of the traction has worn towards the ball of my foot, but there’s still plenty left. I have no doubt these will last for up to 250-300 miles (when I usually replace my shoes).
I haven’t taken these on runs longer than 8.2 miles, but will update my review if that changes. I have run with them in the rain and light snow, and found the grip good. They do make some squishy noises in the rain or if the ground is wet though, as the foam is pretty porous. It doesn’t impact performance in my opinion, but it can be a bit annoying.
Because the foam in the heel counter and on the bottom of the shoe is more porous, it also attracts dirt easily, and it’s hard to wash it out. I don’t care too much for appearances, so it doesn’t bother me, but I wanted to point it out in case you like to keep your shoes pristine.
These shoes have grown on me over time, and I honestly like them almost as much as my Brooks Launch. I’d strongly consider making the Tree Flyers part of my rotation in the future.
Update February 2023: I ended up getting a second pair since they were heavily discounted on REI.
Where to Buy the Allbirds Tree Flyers
If you’d like to buy yourself a pair, you can do so on the Allbirds website. 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 (I’ve actually seen lightly-used Tree Flyers on Poshmark in my size for around $50!).
If you’ve determined that the Tree Flyers aren’t for you, I encourage you to check out my guide to sustainable running shoes, with several more different options.