Both Allbirds and Adidas make running shoes. In a lot of ways, they are directly competing companies. It’s refreshing in this regard that the two were able to come together for a common good. The Adizero x Allbirds 2.94 Kg CO2e running shoes mash together one company’s extensive experience in performance running with another company’s mastery of sustainable materials. The result is a pair of running shoes that requires less than 3 kilograms of carbon emissions to produce—the lowest ever for Adidas.
The goal is top-notch and worth celebrating, but the shoes also need to be good for running. Does it matter how much carbon emissions are being diminished if no one wants the product? Making poor shoes that no one buys is still putting more stress on the planet than it’s saving.
Luckily, the Adizero x Allbirds 2.94 Kg CO2e shoes work well—on the whole. I have some hesitations about their long-term durability. These running shoes are definitely firm and primarily meant for quicker-paced runs, but in that context, I like what they offer.
- Comfortable fit in all aspects
- The midsole offers a balance of bounce and rigidness
- The laces feel fragile
- The thin upper might not survive as long as the midsole
Buy at Adidas.
Overall, the shoe is very standard, with a regular fit, lace closure and textile upper. The midsole is made with 17 percent material derived from sugarcane, and the upper includes recycled materials.
The rubber outsole is a bit curious. It appears smooth, but it doesn’t feel smooth or slippery while running. The most noticeable specification for me was the 5.4 ounce weight.
After trying these shoes, I think the most interesting part is their materials. If you didn’t already know that lowering carbon emissions was the their goal, I don’t think there’s much that gives that away—these running shoes don’t feel compromised. But still, some of their material choices might stand out as unique.
The upper, for example, is very thin. There are plenty of thin uppers on shoes out there. Typically they’re in service of a cooler, breezier feel on your foot. In this case, the upper is thin for cutting back on the amount of material used. It’s flexible enough that it doesn’t stay upright on its own.
Out of the box, these shoes are noticeably lightweight—slightly unbelievably actually. The tongue is a puffy foam that feels nice but looks cheap, like it was a second thought. The midsole is firm but bendable. The laces are the most delicate I’ve ever put my hands on.
Seeing the shoes from a distance, it’s less obvious that there’s not much between your foot and the pavement. Up close, however, it’s much easier to see that excess has been cut from the product.
The minimal material is less of a concern for support, or even comfort, and more of a worry when it comes to durability. I’ve had plenty of running shoes develop holes in the toe area. So, that gives me pause here.
When the rubber meets the road, the most important aspect is how these running shoes perform. Out of the gate, the incredible lightweight feel really helps to give them their boost. My legs, unencumbered by almost any weight, seemed to move higher than normal. That initial, slightly unexpected sensation mostly wore off after multiple runs, but I never stopped feeling nimble with these shoes on.
In my experience, it takes at least 10 miles to get a feel for new running shoes. Most have a honeymoon phase, which was true for the Adizero x Allbirds 2.94 Kg CO2e shoes, as well. I felt speedy with almost no side effects during that first phase. After those 10 miles or so, across three runs, the balls of my feet did experience some discomfort that hadn’t been present when running in other shoes.
After 25 miles, I mostly became accustomed to the minimal cushioning the midsole foam provides. I’m not familiar enough with barefoot running to make the comparison here, but these shoes are the closest my feet have felt to the road. This forms a real connection to the cement under your feet that helps encourage keeping a faster pace.
If you travel regularly, these might be perfect to pack along. The shoes don’t take up much room and won’t add much weight to a bag. Likely you won’t be running far distances while on a business trip.
Personally, I found 3 to 4 miles to be the most I really wanted to run in these shoes at one time. I had no problem putting them on day after day and doing it again: That 30-plus minute length run edged close to peak time without becoming uncomfortable.
Should You Buy the Adizero x Allbirds 2.94 Kg CO2e?
Even without the context of trying to produce more sustainable running shoes, I do think the Adizero x Allbirds 2.94 Kg CO2e provide enough performance to warrant their creation. You won’t want to run a half-marathon in these, and probably not even a 10K, but they are incredibly light and work well for fast-paced runs at shorter distances.
My biggest hesitation is that the combination of premium price and thin materials might wear out much sooner than other similar running shoes. Needing to produce twice as many shoes because the materials don’t hold up doesn’t seem smart for the planet, either.
To be clear, durability hasn’t been a factor in my more than 25 miles with these shoes. Every time I lace them up, I do hold my breath in anticipation of the laces’ snapping, but they haven’t yet. Maybe they won’t ever break. The mission is great here, and the product is worthy of consideration. I only hope this is simply the start of the project and not the finish line.
Buy at Adidas for $120.
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