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Minimalist Sneakers, Made from Merino Wool

Sustainable materials in a new style of shoe.


San Francisco-based footwear brand Allbirds launched their first shoe today, and though the silhouette is a familiar runner shape, it’s built out of a new merino wool blend. Tim Brown, a former New Zealand soccer player, founded the company with renewable-materials expert Joey Zwillinger. The duo worked to create a shoe that that is both aesthetically pleasing and designed with natural materials, not the petroleum by-products commonly used in the footwear industry (e.g. nylon, polyester). The merino upper, which is breathable and antimicrobial, sits above an insole made of vegetable-oil-based polyurethane. Adding another level of comfort, the insole is lined with ultra-fine merino wool and is designed to be worn with or without socks. These shoes are also incredibly light, due mainly to the fact that the outsole is a blend of rubber and foam polymer, designed to reduce weight while still providing structure.

These shoes are surprisingly versatile; I’ve worn a pair across Manhattan on both bone-chilling 5-degrees-Fahrenheit days and spring-like days in the high 50s. In terms of comfort, they envelope just as well as your favorite pair of slippers, but give the support needed for a day on your feet. The shoes come in a variety of colors — Charcoal, Dark NZ Blue, Kea Red — and are sold direct-to-consumer online for $95. An innovative take on a classic silhouette, the Wool Runners are as good on your feet as they are on the environment.

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