Running shoes have certainly come a long way since Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mark 68 years ago this month. Bannister’s shoes would have been much lighter and more flexible than others on the market in the 1950s, but still! The clunkers looked like a pair of Oxford loafers with spikes nailed through the sole. Ouch! Fast forward to the 2020s, and footwear brands such as Allbirds have redefined footwear to be lighter, sleeker and safer, more durable.
About Allbirds, the brand has just released a new running shoe, the Tree Flyer. This latest shoe helps solve the problems that come with improved, high performance sports equipment: lighter, faster and stronger shoes also often lead to more components, the addition of toxic materials such as glues, less chances of recyclability and a complicated supply chain.
Allbirds has addressed some of these challenges with the Tree Flyer. Its lightweight, woven upper is made from FSC-certified eucalyptus. The lightweight, bouncy sole, which Allbirds brands as SwiftFoam, is made from materials including a castor oil-based resin. According to the company, the sole manufacturing process requires fewer raw materials and less energy.
Of course, a durable shoe won’t do much good if the runner feels like they’re going through the wringer instead of following their preferred running path. The chunky SwiftFoam sole features an elongated flared heel, which helps provide extra support. The woven elastic in the upper also helps the shoe feel good during a run, but not uncomfortable. The removable insoles, lined with a thin layer of wool, offer just enough flexibility but are not spongy; and again, Allbirds makes them from materials like castor oil.
Allbirds said more than 130 runners tested the Tree Flyer shoes together for nearly 4,000 miles, over a period of more than a year.
Of course, if you lean towards running shoes more for fashion and less for function, the Tree Flyer holds up – it does great when lounging by the pool with your dog, as seen in the photo above.
Allbirds’ latest shoes tie in with the brand’s other recent work, including a partnership with Adidas to make low-carbon shoes from recyclable materials; the company has long tinkered with other renewable materials such as sugar-based resins, tree fibers and sustainably sourced merino wool.
Image credit: Léon Kaye