Allbirds’ Eco-Friendly Shoes Take Silicon Valley by Storm

May 24, 2018 Last Updated: May 26, 2018

Allbirds, a startup shoe store founded four years ago, has found popularity in the Bay Area and beyond. Time Magazine named them the “world’s most comfortable shoe” last year, but they don’t stop with comfort. When company founders Joey Zwillinger and Tim Brown started their crowdfunding campaign four years ago, Zwillinger said they “wanted a company [they] were proud of.” For them, this also meant sourcing components thoughtfully, minimizing the impact on the planet. The shoes are made from merino wool, recycled plastic bottles, and castor bean oil, and packaging is made from 90 percent recycled material. The company now has stores in San Francisco and New York, and is opening a third in Toronto.

While sustainable and ecologically conscious products are popular in the Bay Area, Zwillinger believes their success doesn’t uniquely lie there. He stresses that their company and product are “not for the sake of sustainability but for the sake of making an amazing product.” They are also, following a trend of “casualization of the workplace. As things become less and less formal, you need a shoe that can keep up with that.” Their shoes, he said, “can transition through several different activities throughout the day.” This trend, he believes, exists in each of the cities where they have established a store.

Some expect the company to challenge major sneaker companies like Nike and Adidas, or believe that they are already doing so. Zwillinger says that “it is humbling to hear you frame it like that,” since Allbird’s scale of production and length of history is not yet comparable. While Allbird sold an impressive one million pairs of shoes in their first two years, Nike or Adidas typically make four million to five million pairs in only one year. But he also believes that every time people buy a shoe from Allbird “the planet is better off. We’re hoping to get as big as we possibly can.”