When Allbirds arrived in 2016 with simple, comfort-first sneakers that signaled environmental consciousness and coziness, they had a home run. By 2018, the direct-to-consumer footwear brand claimed to have sold more than a million pairs of their sugarcane-soled sneakers. As they continue to dive into different plant-based materials (breathable eucalyptus tree fibers) and categories (mix-and-match athleisure, cushiony carbon-negative sandals), their sneakers received upgrades for serious runners, too. Their newest running shoe, out this week, is named the Tree Flyer, what the brand calls its “most technical style to date.”
The $160 Tree Flyer is a performance- and support-centered design made for distance running. It joins Allbirds’s popular and well-reviewed $135 Tree Runner 2, designed for lighter workouts, which was released as a model update earlier this year. The sneaker features the brand’s new, more cushiony, castor bean-based SwiftFoam midsoles, swapping out their signature Sweetfoam. We asked Fast Company senior editor Amy Farley, a casual runner of many, many more miles than I, to put them to the test. While she declined to take them on an Ironman for the sake of my story, she did say, “I can’t speak to long distances, but I can say that for a four-mile run—paved and dirt—they feel wonderful. I usually run in a pair of Hoka Bondi X shoes, which are renowned for their ultra-springy and rocker-shaped midsole. The Allbirds Tree Flyer midsole, which has a similar, if less pronounced, shape, feels slightly stiffer than Hoka’s; but my knees and back, which is just two years out from disk surgery, didn’t seem to notice one bit.”
The brand said they sent samples to more than 130 runners, who collectively put the Tree Flyer through nearly 4,000 miles—searching for feedback on the shoe’s more technical elements (traction, rebound, toe spring, et al.), as well as durability and comfort. For Amy, the Tree Flyer offered more arch support than other running shoes she owns, but the secret sauce is really in the versatility. “The big difference,” she says, “is the eucalyptus-fiber upper, which wraps around your foot like a cozy, breathable sock. Usually, you notice when your foot is in a new shoe. Putting on the Tree Flyer, my feet felt like they were coming home.” Another bonus with the Tree Flyer, according to Amy: “They’re cute—technical-looking without being too overt about it . . . I’m looking at you, Hoka Bondi X. I’ll likely wear them not just for running, but also as go-to-walking and standing-desk footwear.”
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