Choosing Sustainable Sneakers | Tread by Everlane Versus Allbirds

Choosing Sustainable Sneakers | Tread by Everlane Versus Allbirds

treadvsallbirds7.png

When I received the first flashy email from Everlane’s new venture into sustainable sneakers - aptly named Tread - I wasn’t convinced:

“The world’s most sustainable sneaker,” the marketing copy gushed. “I doubt it,” my internal monologue responded.

What does it even mean for something to be the most sustainable sneaker in the world - by what standard are we measuring? Yes, going carbon neutral is great, but it doesn’t resolve initial concerns over resource use and production pollution. That’s why I was interested in comparing Tread by Everlane to the original sustainable sneaker brand, Allbirds, who, I’m sure by no coincidence, announced within days of Tread’s launch that they, too, are now buying carbon credits to offset their emissions.

While it’s certainly true that the most sustainable sneaker isn’t a new sneaker, the fact remains that shoes of the functional, practical variety can be difficult to buy secondhand. They tend to get more wear, more “stink,” and conform to the original wearer’s foot more than, say, a pair of sandals, and so there is some need for production of new sneakers.

With that in mind, I set out to compare the classic wool Allbirds, which I purchased several years ago, to the new Tread by Everlane sneaker in three ways:

  • Use of sustainable materials and manufacturing

  • Style

  • Comfort and durability

Everlane sent me a pair of Tread sneakers in Blush for the purposes of review. NOTE: I SIZED UP A FULL SIZE, FROM MY USUAL EVERLANE 8 TO A SIZE 9.

treadvsallbirds2.jpg

How do Allbirds and Tread by Everlane compare in terms of sustainability?

Everlane

According to research by Fashionista writer, Whitney Bauck, Everlane’s longterm commitment to remove all virgin plastic from their supply chain by 2021 convinced them to incorporate “recycled polyester laces and lining, leather uppers and soles made with a combination of natural rubber, recycled rubber and 5.8% virgin plastic.”

The big kicker is that they decided to use chrome-tanned leather rather than less toxic veggie-tanned versions, claiming that this makes the leather more durable and long-lasting. They chose to source leather from Gold Star rated TanTec, reasserting that chrome-tanning under the right parameters does not cause any harm to workers or the surrounding environment.

Production is carbon neutral.

Allbirds

Allbirds currently carries shoes in a couple of materials: wool from certified humane farms and tree-based Tencel Lyocell from FSC certified forests. Laces are made with recycled plastic, soles made from sugarcane, and shipping boxes from 90% post-consumer recycled cardboard.

While Allbirds products are not technically vegan, animal death is not required for production, because no leather is used (as far as I can tell).

Production is carbon neutral.

Who wins this round?

Allbirds, because their uppers are made with more sustainable, less toxic materials.

How do Allbirds and Tread by Everlane compare in terms of style?

Everlane

This will come down to personal preference, but I like Everlane better. I think it’ s because I’m not a sneaker person in the first place, so Everlane’s commitment to a real *lewk* makes me feel less like an imposter and more like a fashion person. People have compared the Tread sneakers to orthopedic shoes, and they’re not wrong, but the color options and a few retro details - like the vented leather on the sides - make them feel playful and self aware.

Allbirds

With a decidedly lower profile and more slipper-like fit, these are great for people who live in athleisure. They are more minimalist and less *fashun,* but they’re still very recognizable on the street. That’s one thing I like about them - you can spot your Allbirds family out in the real world and know that they have at least a passing interest in sustainability like you do.

Who wins this round?

In my opinion, Everlane.

How do Allbirds and Tread by Everlane compare in terms of comfort and durability?

Everlane

The Tread sneakers are quite substantial all around with a thick, textured sole and robust leather upper. Arch support is great for my relatively high arches, and the wide sole design keeps my weak ankles from turning.

The only discomfort I feel is right at the ankle bone, because the shoes come up fairly high and rub a bit. Still, I plan to wear these on a hike this weekend because they’re the most substantial shoes in my closet, and I think they can endure rough terrain better than my Allbirds.

Allbirds

I wore these all day to the Women’s March in 2017 in damp, cold weather and these worked out great. The arch support and padding are sufficient and the soft wool upper means I don’t experience any sharp points or rubbing. That being said, that same soft upper is a real risk when hiking in the woods, they’re not water resistant, and your big toe will definitely make an indent in the uppers after just a couple wears.

I have no experience with the tree uppers, so those could be quite different, but the other thing I’ll say is that the claim that these will regulate your temperature even in hot weather is not accurate. Something about the wool contacting my skin directly makes these turn into a furnace in temperatures above 70 degrees.

Who wins this round?

Allbirds for comfort, Tread for durability.

Who wins in the end?

In terms of overall sustainability, Allbirds wins, hands down. That being said, I personally prefer the Everlane sneakers because I find that they fit my feet better, they feel a lot more substantial and durable, and the color and style work better in my wardrobe. Ultimately, the choice is up to you and your priorities. I’d be curious to know how the Allbirds Tree uppers compare.

Sizing Notes: I typically wear a 7.5 or 8 in shoes. I ordered an 8 in Allbirds and a 9 in Everlane, and both fit well.

Shop the Post

Everlane Current Favorites and a $100 Gift Card Giveaway!

Everlane Current Favorites and a $100 Gift Card Giveaway!

An Experiment in Optimism

An Experiment in Optimism