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You might have a pair of merino wool socks in your drawer, and maybe even a merino wool sweater, but wool shoes aren’t quite as common as socks and sweaters. Surprisingly, wool has several inherent qualities that make it a great material to use for shoes, so before you buy a pair of one of the traditional, athlete-endorsing big brands, it’s worth considering whether a new pair of wool shoes might be the better decision.
Are Wools Shoes Sustainable?
Most modern shoes are made from synthetic materials, which often involve harsh chemicals and other manufacturing processes that are less than desirable for the planet. Wool is considered eco-friendly for a variety of reasons.
The biggest reason is that sheep grow out their fleece in cold seasons to keep them warm. When hotter weather rolls around, the animals’ humane treatment calls for their coat to be sheared to keep them cool. Not only is fleece completely renewable, but it is also necessary to shear the wool to prevent the sheep from overheating.
Allbirds cites that their manufacturing processes use 60% less energy than traditional shoes manufactured with synthetic materials because they use wool.
Wool is also incredibly durable, which will help your shoes last longer than synthetic or cotton-based shoes. Most of the waste from the shoe industry actually comes from the manufacturing process, so wearing shoes that last longer potentially reduces the need to buy replacement shoes as frequently and could help reduce your overall footprint in the process.
Do Wool Shoes Get Hot?
Since wool is grown to keep sheep warm during the winter, it’s reasonable to ask whether wool shoes get hot. While that answer will vary between shoes, generally speaking, wool is very breathable. Wool shoes are comfy and cozy, while the natural breathability prevents them from getting too hot.
Naturally, a thick layer of wool will keep your feet toasty during winter, but if warmth is what you desire, boots with thicker wool do tend to be warm. On the other hand, if you are looking for an everyday shoe and are concerned wool shoes will be too hot during the summer, there are still wool shoes that will work nicely for your needs.
Everyday shoes will have thinner wool, which reduces the amount of heat that is trapped. That said, wool tends to trap moisture even if it isn’t trapping heat. As the moisture evaporates, it cools your skin. For this reason, many people choose to go sock free in their wool shoes. Merino wool is very soft and lacks the scratchy sensation lower quality wool creates.
We recommend you try the sock free, wool shoe combination in summer months because you might find it was your socks that were making your feet hot, not the shoes. And while not all wool shoes are washable, if you get a washing-machine-friendly pair, you don’t have to worry about the odor.
Can Wool Shoes Get Wet?
It’s no problem at all if your quality wool shoes get wet. Some wool shoes are even machine washable. Be sure to follow all instructions, but wool shoes aren’t like suede shoes. If you get caught in the rain, your shoes will be just fine. Wool has natural qualities that help water bead, so wool shoes might help keep your feet dry in light rain.
What Are the Best Wool Shoes?
If you ask us, Allbirds and Baabuk wool shoes are some of the best shoes on the market. They are made from quality wool, comfortable designs, and multiple styles, so there really shouldn’t be a reason to look any further. When comparing Allbirds vs. Baabuk, there are some distinct differences between the two companies. Check out our side-by-side comparison below, or read the detailed reviews.
Allbirds vs. Baabuk Reviews
While Allbirds and Baabuk both make great shoes, they are more dynamic as brands than we can portray in the table above. Allbirds are well known for their comfort and have become the mainstream wool shoe. Baabuk, on the other hand, is lesser-known and strictly focuses only on wool sneakers. Allbirds has sustainably based Eucalyptus shoes in addition to their merino wool sneakers if you are looking for other sustainable alternatives to synthetic shoes. We took a deep dive into each brand below to help you pick the perfect pair of wool shoes.
Allbirds Shoes Review: Comfortable Wool Shoes For Any Occasion
It’s hard to say what exactly pushed Allbirds from a niche brand focused on sustainability to a mainstream brand. Still, there’s no denying Allbirds is a household name, especially among the millennial and gen z cohort. Of course, great publicity helps, and Time Magazine called Allbirds, “The World’s Most Comfortable Shoe.” It is also revealing that the New York Times wrote an article titled, “To Fit Into Silicon Valley, Wear These Wool Shoes.”
But how did they even gain so much media attention, to begin with? Allbirds makes comfortable shoes, in a streamlined silhouette, with sustainable processes and materials. If you want to wear a cozy pair of clouds while doing good for the earth, buy a pair of Allbirds. The brand started with comfortable everyday wool sneakers and has expanded to include a full line-up of wool and eucalyptus shoes.
Wool Runners - The Allbirds Wool Runner is made from ZQ Merino wool, and is Allbirds’ original shoe. We should probably say that the Wool Runner isn’t designed for running. Allbirds sells the Tree Dasher for that. The Wool Runner is a comfortable everyday shoe that is soft and moisture-wicking, with a classic profile. The shoe is machine washable and made from renewable materials. In addition to renewable wool, the midsole is made from renewable Brazilian sugar cane that is actually carbon negative.
Wool Runner Mizzles - The Allbirds Wool Runner Mizzle predictably has a very similar profile to the standard Wool Runner, but is designed for cold and rainy weather. The Wool Runner Mizzle is made with thicker wool for coziness and a bio-based water repellent to keep your feet dry. It also sports a slightly different sole, with no-slip natural rubber gripping.
Wool Runner-up Mizzles - When you have something good going, why change it up too much? The Allbirds Wool Runner-up Mizzle is the high-top, cold climate version of the Wool Runner. Like the low-top Wool Runner Mizzles, the high-top version features cozy ZQ Merino wool and Puddle Guard, Allbirds bio-based water repellent shield.
Wool Loungers - The Allbirds Wool Loungers are a slip-on shoe best worn without socks. The Wool Loungers are minimalist inspired shoes perfect for casual wear and are made with the same ZQ Merino wool as Allbirds other wool shoes. They are superfine and cozy and make for the ideal combination of comfortable and casual.
Wool Piper - You will need to look no further than there being three variations of the Wool Runner to understand it has been wildly successful for Allbirds. The Wool Runners are so ubiquitous that some people might prefer something a little different, which is where the Wool Piper comes in. The Allbirds Wool Piper is made from the same sustainable and comfy materials as Allbirds other wool shoes, but in a silhouette that looks closer to an old school Chuck Taylor than it does a modern sneaker. They are designed for versatility in a classic look that will never go out of style.
Are Allbirds Shoes Sold In Stores?
Like many trendy newer companies, Allbirds started selling direct-to-consumer. This enabled the company to maintain reasonable pricing while expanding quickly, but they are a much more mature company at this point. Allbirds has started to open physical locations in major cities, in cities where the stores might be considered flagship stores (i.e., San Francisco, New York, London, and Amsterdam). So Allbirds does have a few locations if you live close to a significant population center, but most people will need to buy online.
Allbirds Customer Reviews: What Is So Special About Allbirds?
We love Allbirds for their comfort, sustainability, and simplicity, but it might be helpful to hear why other people love Allbirds too. We curated the most insightful five-star reviews to help you understand what sets Allbirds wool shoes apart from the competition.
Review from Schulyer: I’ve put thousands upon thousands of steps into my first pair. These shoes are great. I’ve struggled all my life finding a sturdy AND breathable athletic shoe, and the struggle is over. I’ll be repurchasing these in the future.
Review from Austin: The Allbirds, as expected, are extremely comfortable, warm, and versatile. They look good with nicer outfits but are very functional for walking and running as well. I highly recommend these for a sleek, comfortable shoe.
Review from Tim: The most comfortable shoes I own. I just washed a pair of Tree Runners and Wool Runners, and they came out just like new. I ordered another pair for myself and one for my mother. I do order one size larger than I usually wear in other shoes. This also worked for my mother as well.
Review from Balaji: The shoe is light & comfortable and keeps your foot warm even in below-freezing temperatures. My foot never felt tired even after walking for an entire day, and the best part is it goes well with any outfit.
Are Allbirds Shoes Worth It?
From a pricing standpoint, Allbirds shoes are very affordable. It helps that Allbirds ‘ primary focus is on direct-to-consumer sales, with some company-owned store sales mixed in. Since Allbirds doesn’t focus on selling their shoes through traditional retail channels, there isn’t a massive retail mark-up built into the pricing structure.
Without worrying about how retail sales will cut into their margin, Allbirds can also focus on sustainable materials and processes, which is part of their company ethos. They use innovative materials, such as a sugarcane-based sole, laces from recycled bottles, and packaging that come from recycled cardboard.
As far as the wool, it is cozy, comfortable, and breathable. Allbirds also works with organizations such as Merino ZQ to ensure the wool is harvested by the highest standards of animal care and land management. The Allbirds Mizzles combine bio-based water repellent to wool’s natural all-weather properties to make a tremendous cold-weather shoe.
Allbirds shoes are not only cutting-edge, but they are also great value.SUMMARY PROS
- Sustainably-focused brand
- Half sizes not available for most models
- Weather repellent Mizzles available
- Machine washable
- Multiple wool models to choose from
- Classic silhouette
Baabuk Shoes Review: Traditional Wool Technique Meets Modern Styling
To understand the thoughtful design and quality materials that go into every pair of Baabuks, you must understand the company itself. Baabuk is a family-owned company that strives to do right in the world. Baabuk is a B-Corp certified company, meaning they meet rigorous social and environmental impact standards and how they treat their employees and communities. Still, these high standards are also evident in the shoes themselves.
Baabuk built a shoe brand on wool because it is durable, renewable, and recyclable. The wool itself is sourced from areas with responsible and humane farming practices in Portugal and New Zealand. The slippers are made in Nepal, where Baabuk pays wages 25% higher than the national average. Baabuk intentionally developed a company that is responsible for sourcing to distribution.
As far as the footwear itself, while Baabuk’s line-up isn’t quite as expansive as Allbirds, they still have an excellent selection to choose from.
Urban Wooler: - The Baabuk Urban Wooler is Baabuk’s low profile shoe, which comes in quite the variety of colorways. The Urban Wool is designed in Switzerland and made in Portugal, and importantly is a machine washable shoe. Baabuk recommends specifically using wool settings on your washing machine and air drying, but it is nice to know you keep your shoes clean and fresh. The Urban Wooler and Sky Wooler both feature an elastic lacing system so you can slide your shoes on and off with no trouble. Don’t worry about tying your shoes again.
Sky Wooler: - The Baabuk Sky Wooler is the high-top shoe from Baabuk, and shares the same features as the Urban Wooler. The upper and the inner are made from 100% Portuguese mulesing-free sheep wool. They feature a Merino wool lining to make them super soft to the barefoot and are comfortable regardless of the temperature. Wool’s natural moisture-wicking and breathability keep your feet comfy in any climate.
Yves Slipper: - The Baabuk Yves Slipper has a higher profile for ultimate comfort. All of Baabuk’s felted wool slippers are handmade from New Zealand wool. The red stitching on the label signifies that each pair of slippers was hand-stitched by artisan experts. The slippers feature padded insoles and latex soles and will keep you warm.
Mel Slipper: - The Baabuk Mel Slipper is the Yves’ low profile version. The Mel is made with the same process and features but rises below the ankle. One thing worth mentioning is that Baabuk’s slippers aren’t intended to be machine washable. The surface can instead be cleaned with a damp cloth. The slippers are made from a process called wool-felting, which uses only soap and water, and is considered by some to be the oldest textile in the world.
Are Baabuk Shoes Sold In Stores?
There are authorized dealers in Europe if you’re interested in trying your Baabuks on or picking the perfect colorway in person. You will have to rely on internet orders in the United States, but Baabuk makes it convenient. Baabuk offers free shipping for orders over $150 but also advertises free shipping at lower price points from time to time. The shoes ship directly from Switzerland and arrive within 5 to 7 days.
Baabuk Customer Reviews: What Is So Special About Baabuk?
Review from Sue: Love your shoes! Now I don’t wear anything else :) Bought the first pair in March but already have five pairs in the house …and just ordered several more! Quite simply, the best shoes ever. (And love that wool is a sustainable alternative to leather).
Review from Andress: Great shoes, they’ve already lasted for years and still look great. Just ordered new insoles, and they feel like new again. Keep it up, guys and gals! Really appreciate the effort you’re taking to protect your employees and still provide your customers with your excellent products and service.
Review from Amanda: Baabuk is a thoughtful, fun, and innovative company who have produced the most comfortable, good looking, supportive, and practical shoes I have EVER been able to find, plus they fit perfectly. They are ecological, and the story is there to follow from beginning to end. This company fulfills all of our wishes, sustainable and responsibly sourced products, care of their workers, great looking, comfortable, and durable shoes with excellent customer service. Then, as a bonus, you will be treated to some fun films to make you smile.
Review from Anne: I like these shoes very much and have had excellent service from Baabuk. The shoes are comfortable, washable, and cute. I have sneakers, urban woolers, and sky woolers (high tops). I wear them often, and they seem pretty durable.
Are Baabuk Shoes Worth It?
Baabuk shoes are the real deal. The entire brand was inspired by a pair of gifted Valenkis, traditional felted footwear once worn by Russian Czars, and Baabuk’s slippers are made from a similar authentic process today, albeit in a much more regulated and ethically driven manner.
We always appreciate a quality brand that is less mainstream than the competition, and Baabuk fits that bill. Baabuk has just enough product line-up for you to find what you are looking for, but not a line-up so expansive it feels overdone.
Baabuks are unique, comfortable, and durable. They are worth the investment.SUMMARY PROS
- Ethically driven company
- No water repellent versions like Allbirds
- At home repair kits and replacement insoles available to maximize longevity
- Slippers use traditional felted wool
- Superior wool sneaker quality
- Natural wool properties make shoes comfortable year-round
Our Favorite Wool Sneaker
We usually recommend one brand over the others, but these are both great companies responsibly making quality shoes, so it feels like it would be an injustice to pick a winner in this case. Instead, we decided on our favorite shoes by category, so regardless of what you are looking for, you can be confident buying your next pair of wool shoes.
Favorite Everyday Sneaker - Allbirds Wool Runners - The Wool Runner is a classic silhouette, that was Allbirds original shoe when Time Magazine called them “The Most Comfortable Shoes In the World.” It’s the perfect everyday sneaker, and it is athletic enough that if you can book it through the airport or to catch public transportation with no problem.
Favorite High-top Shoe - Baabuk Sky Wooler - We appreciate that the Sky Wooler is a slip-on design with elastic laces. While it is a timeless looking shoe, it also has some unique style features that will help you stand out from the crowd in an understated and sophisticated way.
Best All-Weather Shoe - Allbirds Wool Runner-up Mizzles - Allbirds combines the natural water repellent qualities of wool with a bio-based water repellent that helps keep your feet dry during the cold and wet winter. The Wool Runner-ups have a thicker layer of wool than some of Allbirds’ other shoes, and they are a high-top, so they will keep your feet cozy.
Best Indoor Slipper - Baabuk Yves Slipper - I’m rarely barefoot, even in my house. There is something about cozy feet that also comforts the soul, and these slippers are as soul-warming as slippers come. Keep in mind they are felted with the same process used for centuries and is considered by some to be the original textile. Anything that passes the test of time like this felted wool is worth the investment.
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