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SHOE REVIEW: Allbirds Tree Dasher

Allbirds has introduced the company's first running shoe, and it's made from natural materials

The Tree Dasher is Allbirds’ first performance shoe made from natural materials, and it is made from merino wool, eucalyptus and sugarcane. This neutral, lightweight shoe is incredibly comfortable, but it doesn’t sacrifice performance to provide an agreeable fit. The Dasher is offered in four different colours, and with its simple, sleek design, you won’t only feel fast on your morning runs, but you’ll look stylish, too. Plus, the Dasher’s carbon output is 30 per cent of that of the average running shoe, so you can feel good about your choice while feeling extra comfortable on your runs.

Category: Neutral cushion

Drop: 7 mm

Weight: 10.6 oz (300.5 g) for men’s size 9

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Where to buy? www.allbirds.ca

Colours available: Geyser (white and light blue), Cyclone (light green), Flame (orange and red) and Thunder (black and white)

MSRP: $175.00

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The upper

This might sound silly, but the knit upper is my favourite part of this shoe. I wore my usual shoe size, and it had a perfectly snug fit. The upper is stretchy and breathable, and it doesn’t chafe at all, which earned it extra points from me. When I went for my first run in the Dashers, I realized I was wearing ankle socks about a kilometre in. Normally, I’d pay for this and have to shuffle home with angry red blisters rubbing against my heel, but to my pleasant surprise, I didn’t feel anything—no chafing, no blisters, just a comfy run. That’s thanks to Allbirds’ merino wool that lines the heel, which isn’t just an eco-friendly material to use, but a super soft and comfortable one, too.

One potential downside of the Tree Dasher is the limited number of eyelets. There are four sets of eyelets per shoe, none of which are at the top of the upper to help lock your fit in place and prevent slippage. I personally didn’t have an issue with this, but that might not be the case with every runner.

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The midsole

The midsole is made from sugarcane, and it is incredibly cushy. Allbirds calls this sugarcane sole SweetFoam, and when I first felt this material, I had some doubts. It was so soft (I could push my finger into it pretty far), and although the shoes looked comfortable, I assumed they’d be less stable than my other shoes and that I’d lose a lot of energy into the SweetFoam with each step. I was right that the SweetFoam would be comfortable, but wrong about the lack of stability and loss of energy. I feel great when running with the Dashers—fast, efficient and steady.

The outsole

The outsole performed well in all conditions, including on wet pavement after rain. I even took them out for a run after last weekend’s ridiculous snowstorm in the GTA last weekend, and they held up. Like the midsole, the outsole is made of the Allbirds SweetFoam. It also uses natural rubber traction pads, which help increase stability and control.

Low carbon output

In addition to my doubts regarding the SweetFoam sole, I wasn’t sure if I’d like this shoe. I thought it was great and important to make eco-friendly shoes, but I really didn’t think the Dashers would have a chance to compete with more “serious” shoes. I was wrong. This is a great shoe that performs well, and you get the added bonus of helping the environment when you buy a pair. The Tree Dasher comes with a label under the insole that lists its carbon output of nine kilograms of CO2 per pair. That’s almost 30 per cent lower than the average running shoe’s carbon output.

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Final thoughts

I took the Dasher for a fast 5K one day and a long run on another, and it felt great in both scenarios. It’s great to have such a comfortable and well-cushioned shoe, specially on long runs, because when you’re pounding for 15 to 20 kilometres, you need that extra support. This shoe is a bit on the heavier side compared to other runners on the market, but in the past I’ve made the mistake of going for lighter shoes with less cushioning and stability, and I’ve paid for it.

Another great thing about these shoes is their style. Personally, when I retire running shoes, I use them for everyday wear. Sometimes this just doesn’t work, though, unless I want people staring at my bright yellow shoes everywhere I go. With the Dasher, I won’t have that problem. In the words of Lisa Halbower-Fenton, head of product development at Allbirds, the Dasher has “the right amount of nothing.” They’re not a loud, ostentatious shoe, but they aren’t plain, either. They’re the perfect mix.