by Ronnie Charrier
One of my favorites parts of flying business class is that moment when you can take off your shoes, kick your feet up, and relax. Many airlines will even provide higher end passengers with luxurious socks and slippers to make the journey even more comfortable. The discomfort, even with business class travel, lies in the several hours before you get to this point, when you’re walking around the airport or standing in line with your bag - your feet take a beating! But what if you could have that level of comfort while you’re walking to and from the plane?
Let me introduce you to Allbirds Loungers, which are about as close as you can come to wearing slippers, while still looking dressy enough for the airport lounges (for more on how to access any airport lounge in any airport, see my recent article on travel rewards programs).
Allbirds is the passion project of Tim Brown, a former player on New Zealand’s national soccer team. During his professional playing days he would get free shoes all the time, with many companies hoping for his endorsement. And while free shoes are great, he couldn’t help but notice the proliferation of bright colors, distracting logos and synthetic materials, and he wondered if there was another way. Brown set out to make a shoe that was “simple, beautiful, and made from natural materials.” After a successful Kickstarter campaign raised more than $100,000 for the original Wool Runners (“so soft you can wear them sockless”), word of Brown’s brand spread around the internet like wildfire. When they launched their new Wool Loungers earlier this yeat, they really shook up the market for travel shoes.
The key to their success (and softness) is the pure merino wool upper - no leather, and no synthetics. Merino wool has long been a staple for adventure clothing: it is naturally durable, water-resistant, temperature regulating, and reduces odor. Plus, shoes made entirely of wool can be thrown in the wash just like any other clothing item. One aspect that I find appealing is the simplicity of the shoe’s aesthetic. The tiny logo is barely visible - but the shoes speak for themselves with their distinctive design. A number of people see mine and say “are those Allbirds?”
The one caveat to consider is that these shoes really are what they say they are: loungers; best for casual wear and light walking. Their ultra-comfy build means they don’t have a lot of ankle support and the traction on them isn’t suitable for sprinting (you certainly wouldn’t want to take them hiking either). However, they’re perfect for those long travel days, taking you from your house, through the TSA line, and onto the plane, all without stinking up your suitcase at the end of the day.
Allbirds are available online, for just $95, with a 30 day, no-questions-asked exchange policy. Women’s shoes come in whole sizes 5-10, in six stylish colors: “classics” in grey and black and “limited edition” in moss, plum, navy and pine. Men’s sizes run 8-14, in “classic grey” and black options and “limited edition” moss and plum colors.