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What do you do when your favourite footwear brand launches their first running shoe? You get moving.
After finding success with their ultra-comfortable sneakers and flats, sustainable footwear company Allbirds have introduced their first performance runner, the Tree Dasher. As a carbon neutral company, Allbirds utilized raw materials such as eucalyptus, merino wool and castor bean oil to create a runner that could go toe-to-toe with it’s competitors. In fact, the Tree Dasher produces 30 per cent less carbon than the average sneaker, fulfilling a long time goal for the San Francisco based company.
“For too long, the performance industry told us that athletic footwear meant synthetic footwear. By failing to make the most of what’s right in front of us – nature – we've missed some of the greatest performance materials in existence,” said Allbirds co-founder and CEO Tim Brown. “Our multi-year journey to create the Dasher demonstrates what’s possible if we put the kind of innovation muscle into natural materials that’s usually reserved for petroleum-derived synthetics.”
AllBird’s move into performance footwear peaked my interest. With several pairs of the brands wool sneakers already in my closet, I was curious to see if the Tree Dasher ($175 CAD) could deliver the same level of comfort I’ve come to know and love.
I was fortunate enough to receive a pair of Tree Dashers and although I am far from marathon material, I decided to hit the road and put them to the test.
At first glance, the Tree Dasher has the same, minimalist, sleek look of the brand’s sneakers and high tops. The upper part of the shoe is made from woven eucalyptus for increased flexibility and breathability, and has a merino wool lining at the heel to help support and keep your foot in place.
I usually wear a size 7.5/8 in shoes, but opted for the size 8 in the Tree Dasher since I knew I would be wearing socks while I ran. I was glad that I went for the larger size, because I have a wider foot and by sizing up there was still enough support throughout the middle of my foot but enough wiggle room at the toes.
The texture of the upper is unique for any performance shoe I’ve ever worn. During my run I could feel the air coming through the lightweight fabric with every step, which is something I’m not used to with my other pairs of synthetic running shoes and cross trainers. Although it took me off guard initially, I found it somewhat beneficial. As someone prone to feet sweat during workouts (super glamorous, I know) I can see how the woven upper can help keep feet comfortable, dry and ultimately help prevent odour.
What separates the Tree Dasher from their every day sneakers and flats is its layered sole. The Wool Runners, Skimmers and Tree Runners all have the sugarcane derived SweetFoam sole and castor bean insole that puts a bounce in your step, providing a cushion-like sensation as you move. The Tree Dasher, while it still has a removable castor bean insole, has two different densities of SweetFoam in its midsole as well as a flared outsole design to provide increased stability and pronation control while you run. It’s not exactly the lightest shoe I’ve worn to run, but you can definitely feel the midsole support while landing and has ample traction for road running.
At $175 CAD, the Tree Dasher is priced on par with its competitors. As a (very) casual runner I found the Tree Dashers to be more supportive than I originally anticipated. There’s enough of the Allbirds comfort that I love but the different densities of SweetFoam in the midsole and the traction pads make the Tree Dasher far sturdier than I expected.
The sole, although comfortable, is also the only potential downside of the shoes. The Tree Dasher is definitely heavier than some synthetic runners and cross-trainers. If you’re someone who prefers a super lightweight shoe, this may not be the one for you. Likewise, if you’re a serious runner or have some pre-existing issues with your feet, you’ll probably want to have your shoes professional fit and your gait assessed before making your purchase.
Overall, the Tree Dasher is a solid offering from Allbirds and a game-changer for the world of sustainable athletic footwear. As a consumer, it’s important to me to support a brand actively seeking to improve and protect the environment by treating the planet as a company stakeholder. The Tree Dasher is another example of Allbirds’ commitment to innovating the footwear industry, slowly but surely, one step at a time.