It’s as close as to perfect as a shoe can get. Minus a few quibbles. But we’ll get to those.
The Allbirds Tree Breezers is Allbirds’ take on the classic women’s ballet flat, further popularized by other millenial shoe brands like Rothy’s. Rocking in at a cool $95, it’s the same price as the Allbirds Tree Runners and $30 cheaper than its main competitor brand's most similar style, The Square.
For us, it is our favorite shoe out of the three, and the perfect spring-summer-fall shoe, ideal for temperate and slightly hotter climates. Save for winter, this is the shoe for all year round.
(If you’re not familiar with the Allbirds brand, the New Zealand shoe company began manufacturing merino wool shoes in 2016. They are also now expanding into apparel, but for now, we’re sticking to the shoes, which are kinda generally awesome. The running shoes are the most interesting out of the bunch, but that’s another article.)
The Tree Breezers are aptly named, since they are made from eucalyptus tree fiber, and stem from the same materials the Tree Runners are comprised of. The Tree Breezers are essentially a ballet flat with a fitted collar, complete with the brand's signature merino wool insoles.
Basically, if you have never put your feet on top of an Allbirds insole, it’s basically like walking on top of a cloud. It’s the only reason to go with Allbirds, and what really separates the brand from other shoe brands.
The Tree Breezers have been in our walking repertoire since December 2019, so we’ve had 16 months to really put it through the paces (or 65.7 years if we’re talking in pandemic light-speed time). It’s our educated guess that we were in these shoes for 548.67+ miles of walking at the very least.
Setting expectations about what it is... and isn't
Let’s start with what this shoe is not. It is not a hiking shoe. Nor is it a beach shoe.
This is a city shoe. It is a walking-in-the-city shoe. The kind of shoe when you know you are going to be running around the city, dipping in out and out of cafés, perusing the local bookstore and finishing it up with dinner with a friend.
It is a shoe for all of us who have picked up a few gray hairs along the way, more than we really want to admit to, but really, we still want to be très chic and youthful. This is a shoe that keeps us old folks feeling young.
Though it seems like the Tree Breezers may be an easy shoe to care for, it is relatively deceptive in some aspects (especially for light colors!).
Easy to keep clean in Los Angeles, where we're running around in a car all day? Probably. In New York, where we're dodging street trash, coffee spills and pet debris? Hmmm.
The Allbirds website simply states to wash the shoes on the gentle/delicate cycle in cold water, followed by air drying. Though that is correct, that is pretty much where the similarities end with other brands that use materials less susceptible to picking up dirt and color.
However, the one place where the Tree Breezers does live up to the hype is that there is very minimal odor: In fact, I can't say that well over a year of wearing the shoe have we ever noticed any foul odors coming from the shoe. This may be due to the fact that we were regularly maintaining and washing the pair of shoes about once a month.
In that regard, it's a great, casual shoe that can hold up to heavy duty use.
Pay attention to sizing and care of this shoe
If we’re going to be literal, perfect has to mean perfect. These are almost perfect.
That said, the Allbirds Tree Breezers does pick up a few of the other flaws inherent in some of its other lines like the Allbirds Tree Runners.
Mainly in the fact that the shoes are still not waterproof and remains hard to clean.
This comes down to the fact that both products are made with eucalyptus tree fiber, though it seems like the Tree Breezers and Tree Runners are made in different locations (and factories).1 Nevertheless, the properties of eucalyptus tree fiber remain the same no matter what: It isn’t as water-wicking as a pair of Rothy’s and has a tendency to retain stains and dirt if they aren’t immediately treated.
It’s a lot of maintenance to keep the Tree Breezers looking cute, quite frankly.
(If you’re the type of person that doesn’t like to maintain their shoes like moi, it would be wise to opt for a darker color. In my opinion, shoes were made for walking, not constantly cleaning!)
Regardless, it seems like we aren't the only one with this issue. In a similar review on the website, one customer notes this:
I ordered the beige/cream one for work and they get dirty easily. I rest my left foot on its side while driving and it’s got a black smudge from that and I’ve only worn them a few times. I still recommend the shoe because I’m pretty sure they’re washable ( I haven't tried yet). Just an FYI - there seems to be a bit of maintenance required to keep the shoe looking nice.
There is also one other thing, but we literally love this shoe so much that we are loathe to mention it, though it’s important to note for those that have particular feet.2
The flats definitely run small, so be prepared to size up as a default setting. Our normal shoe size is normally a 6.5 in US shoe sizing (37 Euro), and we still needed to swap up half a size to a 7.
Even then, there are still issues. Basically, be prepared to not only go up half a size, but even a full size in case. Luckily, Allbirds has a pretty flexible policy for 30 days.
Even in our half-size upgrade, the toebox remains relatively tight toward the pinkie toe. This becomes more noticeable (and more uncomfortable) after two or three hours of solid walking, which roughly comes in around 4-5 miles. In fact, it is and can be a little painful at times after a while on the feet. Needing a few minutes to let my toes stretch—and breathe—after I take off the shoe has not been unusual.
Overall, they still rank higher in comfort than a pair of Rothy’s.
Rothy’s are a little bit easier to care for, but the Allbirds are more comfortable overall. Pick your poison, because you can’t have it both ways.
The inevitable Allbirds comparison against Rothy's
The most interesting thing about business is that sometimes two brands, who at the offset do not look like anything like each other initially, inadvertently end up being direct competitors in the same customer base.
It's a simple story at first: Each individual brand finds great success, and slowly begins to expand its product offerings, until they start slowly looking alike.
Enter the case of Allbirds, the wool sneaker, and Rothy’s, the sustainable flat, two brands at opposite ends of the [shoe] spectrum that now compete for the ultimate millennial women's flat. Enthralling!
(Rothy's has also been part of our shoe collection since 2018.)
Perhaps I have less tolerance for discomfort than I used to, but in our opinion, the Allbirds Tree Breezers are the clear winner if you are going to pick between the two. It's more than a clear choice, taking into account all the variables.
Maybe we're just getting older, and I'm on my feet constantly, so I place an innumerable value on comfort. In this regard, the Tree Breezers fit the bill. Sure, the Allbirds aren't as cute and as fun as Rothy's, but the aesthetic difference is minimal (the Square is $30 more expensive than the Allbirds version; though only $10 more with a referral, lol).
Since the Tree Breezers made their grand debut, though, we have switched over almost exclusively to the Tree Breezers, except for in situations where some more pizzaz is needed (and it might rain), in which case the Rothy's often win out.
Rothy’s definitely make for the better all-weather round pick, given how quickly they dry out after washing (often in 12 hours) compared to the Tree Breezers (often around 18-24 hours).
If sustainability, versatility, and ease of care rank a little bit higher on the list, then Rothy’s would certainly make for the better option.
Truthfully, the differences between the two are marginal and ultimately the best choice comes down to what you value in a shoe and how high sustainability versus comfort plays in your walking life.
Here's how we looked at it, even though it could be deemed slightly subjective:
|Allbirds Tree Breezers||Rothy's The Square|
Maybe this is just a long-winded way of saying follow your heart's desire, but I also know what camp I'm going to be hanging out in.