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Fashion & Beauty

The World’s Most Comfortable Shoes Go on Vacation

Wearing shoes without socks has always been a rather soggy, uncomfortable experience for me. But since AllBirds’ Wool Runners—known for their extreme comfort—are designed to be worn barefoot, I ditched the socks and spent a month testing them to see if they could stand up to the comfort, endurance, and style rigors of travel.

When I put the shoes on for the first time, it was immediately clear that they would need no breaking in and cause no trouble. They were bizarrely comfortable right out of the box—soft and supportive, flexible and structured. I assumed I’d defeat them within a few weeks of going sockless. They would lose their softness, or structure, or start to smell. But none of these things happened, though I was testing them at the height of summer.

They’re machine washable, so both smell and losing softness can be remedied with a quick spin in the wash cycle, but a month after wearing them for at least some part of everyday—always without socks—they still don’t need it.

And whether you call this style a sneaker, a runner, a running shoe, a trainer, or something else, the question remains: Will I look like I’m on my way to or from the gym when I wear them? And will I be calling attention to myself as a style-challenged tourist if I rock them abroad? The answer, happily, is no. Over the last month, I’ve worn the Wool Runners with skirts, jeans, and capris. I’ve polled people incessantly, asking family members, friends, and strangers for their opinions. And I’ve trailed a woman I saw wearing the Wool Runners through the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, admiring how stylish the shoes looked, even in a room full of Pop Art.

The only downside is that the colors are still pretty limited, with the options so far being some variation of white soles and either white, blue, or gray uppers. There are some cooler color combinations on the Allbirds website, but so far, those aren’t available.

Price and Where to Buy: $95 for men’s and women’s AllBirds Wool Runners.

How It Rates:

  • Usefulness: 10/10. They look good, they feel great, and they’re ideal for urban travel that includes a lot of walking.  And you don’t need to pack socks to wear them.
  • Value: 9/10. $95 is a solid deal for these shoes. As soon as AllBirds starts offering other sole-color/upper-color combinations, I’m getting a second pair.
  • Portability: 8/10. They’re light and the uppers can be compressed, but the sole is substantial—a definite benefit for walking, but a minor challenge for packing.
  • Durability: 9/10. They don’t show scuffs and they’re machine washable.
  • Cool Factor: 9/10.  The only thing that could make these cooler would be more color choices. And maybe if they had built-in jet packs.

Final Verdict: Like the shoe version of your favorite travel companion, Wool Runners are flexible, solid, supportive, soft, and don’t smell even when they’re sweaty.

Follow Christine Sarkis on Twitter @ChristineSarkis and Instagram @postcartography for more advice about making every vacation the best vacation.

Editor’s Note: Reviews are based on usefulness, portability, durability, value, and “cool factor.” Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product. If you have any questions or comments concerning our reviews, or would like to suggest a product for review, please email us at editor@smartertravel.com.

(Photo: AllBirds)

By Christine Sarkis

There's a 95 percent chance Senior Editor Christine Sarkis is thinking about travel right now. Follow her on Instagram @postcartography and Twitter @ChristineSarkis.

Christine Sarkis is an SATW-award-winning journalist and executive editor at SmarterTravel. Her stories have also appeared on USA Today, Conde Nast Traveler, Huffington Post, and Business Insider. Her advice has been featured in dozens of print and online publications including The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, and People magazine. She has also shared travel tips on television and radio shows including Good Morning America, Marketplace, and Here & Now. Her work has been published in the anthologies Spain from a Backpack and The Best Women's Travel Writing 2008. She is currently working on a travel memoir.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: The Trtl Pillow. It's easy to pack and comfortable, and makes it so I can actually sleep on flights.

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: Seeing the Aurora Borealis from the comfort of somewhere warm, like a glass igloo or hot spring.

Travel Motto: Curiosity is an amazing compass.

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: Aisle all the way.

Email Christine Sarkis at editor@smartertravel.com.

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