Silicon Valley’s favourite wool shoe may have some durability issues, according to a new report in Yahoo Finance.
Allbirds are a unique kind of running shoe that uses a special wool to make it “the most comfortable shoe ever,” in the company’s own words.
Called the Wool Runners, the shoes have become a bit of a darling in Silicon Valley circles, and customers are “obsessed” with the shoe’s combination of style and comfort, according to Business Insider’s Melia Robinson. The cosy wool upper prevents stink, while the fuzzy style is generally deemed cool and office-appropriate (for Silicon Valley, at least).
First-year sales of the $US95 sneaker beat projections five-fold, the company said. The Wool Runners have recently come under scrutiny for their durability, however.
“Silicon Valley’s favourite sneaker has a wear-and-tear problem,” the Yahoo report reads. A half-dozen tech workers complained to the website that they have to buy a new pair every 2-3 months.
One anonymous startup founder told Yahoo that they go through a pair every 4-6 weeks because they wear so quickly. AnyRoad CEO Jonathan Yaffe told the website that the inside liners wear quickly with repeated use. Even the writer of the article, JP Mangalindan, said that it’s an issue he has personally experienced.
“While the Wool Runners may be the most comfortable shoes they have ever worn, they just don’t last. It’s an issue I learned with a pair of my own after wearing them nearly every day for just six weeks,” Mangalindan wrote.
Allbirds wearers in the Business Insider office could not corroborate the claims in the Yahoo story, however. One reporter who has been wearing theirs since August has not noticed any durability issues. Another, who owned the shoes for 10 months and wears them 2-3 times a week, had zero issues apart from a slightly misshapen toe box.
An Allbirds representative told Business Insider that Mangalindan was wearing an older version of the shoe, which has since been strengthened and reinforced based on customer feedback.
It’s possible that the alleged longevity problem referenced in the Yahoo story could be blamed on too-frequent wear. Other causes could be failing to allow the wool to dry out from the previous day’s sweat, or wearing the shoe in inclement weather. Wool and moisture don’t mix, even in footwear.
The company released a statement in response to the Yahoo story’s assertions:
Allbirds is committed to making better shoes in a better way and a key part of that is listening to the customer to create continuous improvements and upgrades to the Wool Runner — our signature style. Specifically, Allbirds frequently sends its customers a survey to gather feedback that supplements the information that the customer service team (which is based in the San Francisco headquarters) receives on a daily basis. Since the launch, Allbirds has made a number of improvements that include:
- Reinforcing the tongue to reduce tearing and curling
- Reinforcing the toe lining
- Improving the insole
- Redesigning the sole for flexibility and to reduce waste
These upgrades are reflective of Allbirds’ philosophy of being responsive to the customer and we plan to continue to make changes to increase comfort and durability while reducing waste.