Allbirds has made its first foray into runners with the Tree Dasher, a shoe that claims to leave no (carbon) footprint.
The upper part of the shoe is a single knitted piece that makes it feel like you’re pulling on a pair of slippers. And once I had mine on, I didn’t really want to take them off.
I like the look of these shoes, although my feet – which are quite wide – do not look remotely dainty in them, partly because the eyelets are quite large and the laces are thick.
Allbirds’ goal was to create a performance shoe powered by natural materials, and the Tree Dasher’s carbon output is already 30 percent lower than has been estimated for the average sneaker, even before any offsets.
I took mine on several road runs, on the treadmill at the gym and up Mt Kaukau – through mud and over rocks and tree roots.
They were best on the road for shorter 5km runs and surprisingly grippy even in a downpour. I was worried about skidding, given they don’t seem to have much grip structure. However, even when my 30kg four-legged running companion lunged toward the post-that-must-be sniffed, I didn’t slide at all.
I did find they weren’t quite as comfortable, largely through the front of my foot, when I pushed the distance out further.
I also found another issue. The four-eyelet setup doesn’t really make it possible to adjust the shoe other than across the top of the foot, and the further I ran, the more I experienced heel slippage. This was despite the merino wool lining in the back that’s intended to keep your foot in place. You can apparently wear the Tree Dasher without socks, but I really needed them to keep my heel from moving.
The dual-density ‘SweetFoam’ midsole, however, was great for arch support. The Tree Dashers were very comfortable on the treadmill and good on the hard-packed earth on the trails.
I did have some trouble with ankle stability on the rockiest part of the trail and the shoes had zero traction in mud.
To be fair, I don’t think they are intended to be a trail or marathon shoe. The promo material for them says they are perfect for your morning 5k run or your dash to the grocery store.
Importantly, however, they are washable, although it took two washes to get most of the mud out.
Materials: Sugar cane, eucalyptus, merino wool.
Carbon output: 9kg of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions per pair.
Heel drop: 7mm (forefoot: 15.5mm; heel: 22.5mm).