What You Need To Know
- Weighs 9.7 oz. (275 g) for a US M8.0
- First running shoe from Allbird, the kings of comfort (and clever marketing)
- Sustainably-sourced materials include eucalyptus upper, partial sugarcane midsole, and castor bean liner
- Runs surprisingly well for a first shoe from a lifestyle brand. Excels at dashing from tree to tree during “hide-and-seek” or from terminal to terminal during “I almost missed my flight”
ADRIENNE: When I saw that I was assigned the all-new Allbirds Tree Dasher for review, I didn’t even know it was a running shoe– I thought BITR was just getting into the casual shoe game. For the record, I’m okay with that; I could get behind an eco-friendly, infinitely comfortable shoe that could maybe get me from one terminal to another if I had to dash across an airport.
To be honest, the extent of my Allbirds experience prior to the Tree Dasher was my observation of Dan, a dude who used to work in my building who always rocked them at his standing desk. While I’m not 100% that his name was actually Dan, I was fascinated that his favorite shoe brand took the leap into the running world.
All that to say, when a simple-yet-sophisticated box showed up at my door containing an Allbirds running shoe, I was excited to see if they could pull it off.
Looks-wise, my first impression was that I can get away with working in these all day and hit the paths later in the evening. The truth is, even as a practicing sport psychology consultant, I still sadly have to dress in regular clothes. Unlike many running shoes on the market, these have an understated style and they definitely have the comfort that Allbirds is famous for. My initial run was a short jaunt on the beach, then to dinner, and then some easy runs after that. This is also a shoe, like the Topo Ultrafly 3, that are just as good to walk around in as they are to run in.
Besides a more understated, sophisticated look, what makes the Dasher different? Let’s start from the ground up. How about a midsole containing materials from sugarcane mixed with negative green EVA? Really? Yes. Absolute trickery there because it feels like a (heavier) version of Nike’s React to me. It’s also affably named Sweet Foam. The shoe feels soft walking around, but firms up nicely for a pretty fun and energetic ride. I guess it’s that sugar rush (pun totally intended). Actually, it feels like a lively EVA, which is fine with me. Generous rubber coverage in the forefoot and adequate in the heel will likely give this shoe some longer life. As a forefoot striker, I am always pleased to see a lot up front because the front half of the shoe is gonna take a beating from me.
I was surprised to see that the king of casual may be onto something here. The drop on these is 7 mm (official stack height specs weren’t available), but it all appears about typical for a daily trainer; not too thick, not hovering right over the pavement. The knit upper is made of recycled materials and eucalyptus and has a generous stretch to it. The heel collar is made from Merino Wool (so the shoe isn’t totally vegan) and is semi-firm– just enough to get the job done holding the foot in place.
Instead of eyelets, Allbirds cleverly places 4 porthole (or Cheerio-like loops) on each side of the shoe. The toe box has decent breathability, however, expect this shoe to be somewhat warm. Lockdown is okay, and I’ll explain later why. Step in feel is awesome as I expected, and this is a shoe that can do it all.
Enough about what it looks like– how does it ride? I’ve never run in the HOKA ONE ONE Hupana Flow, but Robbe raves about the shoe and expected the Dasher to ride similarly. Whatever it is, the Dasher lives up to its name as it is quite lively underfoot. I took it up to most of my paces, and the ride felt the best at easy-moderate and during post-run strides. Yes, these things like doing strides. There’s decent pop to the midsole, but not so much I want to push the pace like other models, like the FuelCell TC and such. I was impressed with the transition from soft upon walking to a firmer (but still well-cushioned ride). Nature’s trickery, I guess! Things get a little squirrely when it comes to the upper and socks are a must for me otherwise, I get a distracting heel slip, otherwise these are fun to run in.
What is the Dasher best used for? Daily runs, and maybe fartlek work. Given the new Pandemic running boom, this is a great ‘gateway shoe’ for those who are still on the fence of being fully committed runners and rocking neon everywhere you go. Robbe and I both agree that this is a great travel shoe, and I imagined myself jaunting through Europe while on a 5-miler in these things. If only travel were still a thing…
ROBBE: Welp, Adrienne covered most everything except her family genealogy in that intro, so I’ll be short. Yes, I expected these to be much like the crossover running/lifestyle HOKA ONE ONE Hupana Flow, one of my most favorite under-the-radar shoes. I also gave this shoe full potential to suck, because of course I started getting an avalanche of Facebook ads from Allbirds and they all featured models running on a beach through deep sand, which usually tells me one thing– you know nothing about running.
Because the only people who run in non-packed sand are people who are attached to the romanticism of beach running and detached from the actual reality of it. The reality of running on a beach is that it’s f**king horrible. (Sore calves, the sun punching me in my face like Super Mario 3 angry sun, and shoes disguised as sandbags? Sign me up!) A shoe like the Tree Dasher would be full of sand and a half-pound heavier after about 20 yards. God bless those models, that had to be the worst video shoot of their short fashion career.
But guess what? We didn’t run in sand because we’re actual runners who actually review shoes. And the rest of the review isn’t as scathing as the above Facebook ad review. So carry on to see how the Tree Dasher performed IRL.
ADRIENNE: This shoe was well-thought-out and has sustainability at the top of its priority list. I love that concept, especially given that I’m pretty sure most/all shoes don’t decompose very well. The ride is fun and protective, and more stable than I anticipated. Stability comes from the nice broad forefoot, allowing you to naturally plant through the gait cycle.
I run with a fairly high cadence and tend to work best with a shoe that has a bit of firmness and rebound, so these worked well with my biomechanics, as there was no lag in my gait cycle. This was an issue I ran into with some of Brooks’ models (sorry, Brooks). The Dasher also lived up to its name when I wanted to go fast. I did a few sets of strides and was surprised by the response I got from them. This is one versatile shoe. Oh, and I got a lot of compliments and questions about them– so that’s always a bonus. You know what? This is a legit running shoe.
ROBBE: Like I mentioned before, I loved the crossover HOKA Hupana Flow, and from the initial description of the Tree Dasher, it seemed like it’d be similar. And for the most part, it is. It’s a comfortable shoe with a slightly firm midsole that can transition between a variety of activities, namely walking, everyday life, and shorter runs in the 3-5 mile runs.
Allbirds is known for its comfort, and yes, this is a comfortable shoe. I routinely slip these on just for errand running or everyday use. Also, I can’t explain why, but I really love the thick lacing structure. It’s fun, like jumping in a ball pit with large balls as an adult. (That’s probably enough ‘balls’ for one review). Like Adrienne said, they’re soft just walking around, but firm up pretty hard on the run, which I was surprised by. That said, I was fine with it because I like a firmer shoe. But for those who love a slab of soft cushion in their landing, you’re not gonna find it here. I do worry that their target market will expect that from such a comfortable shoe and will be disappointed when they don’t find it.
But because of that firm ride, you do get a decent responsiveness from it and it picks up the pace pretty well even though it’s not the lightest shoe out there. I took it on a bunch of runs in the 4-7 mile range and had no problems with the overall ride (especially for the first running model from a shoe company).
The wide base formed by the outsole inherently provides nice stability, which is good because a knit upper always lacks a certain amount of structure. This shoe will certainly accommodate those with wider feet as well, even though I thought it was a little roomy (see more below).Shop Allbirds
ADRIENNE: The upper and the midsole seem to have a bit of a disconnect and didn’t feel as secure as I would have liked (note I like a tight-fitting shoe). A nice ride is interrupted with a bit too much play up top for my liking. Add some sort of midfoot sleeve, etc., this shouldn’t be a problem in future iterations. This also made cornering a tad dicey because of a bit of slippage. Like I also mentioned before, the heel and construction of the upper could use to be a little more robust. I tried these sockless and it was a no-go because of heel slip. Besides the top of the toe box, a little more ventilation would be nice, especially for us who live in warmer climates. Lastly, as much as I dig the innovation of the sugar cane midsole, it is pretty bottom-heavy and heel strikers may find the heel a bit clunky.
ROBBE: I had some of the same concerns as Adrienne. If you’re going to make a knit upper with a set amount of eyelets and no extra holes for heel-locking, it better be snug. And the Tree Dasher upper is not that, at least for my foot (which is admittedly narrow). If you’re looking for an upper like, say the Nike Epic React, this ain’t it. It’s fine for walking or general use, but there’s a lot of movement there and I also got some heel slip.
This shoe is terrible in the rain. It grips about as well as a tadpole climbing up whatever that thing Alex Honnold did. I mean, you can see that there’s no actual grip structure on the outsole, so it shouldn’t be that surprising. And the rubber sections do nothing for actual traction in wet conditions.
The weight isn’t exactly inspiring, even though I will say it wasn’t as noticeable as I thought it would be. I feel like you can reign in that outsole a bit to cut some ounces off, and seriously throw away the rubber pads because they’re functionally useless.Shop Allbirds
Allbirds Tree Dasher Conclusion
ADRIENNE: This shoe caught me totally off guard with its introduction; however, it has a lot of potential and I’m curious to see what else Allbirds brings in the future. While not perfect, the Tree Dasher will likely check a good number of boxes for runners, especially those new to the game or fancy a shoe they can pound the pavement in and then promptly head to brunch. If you’re in the market for something different, lively, and eco-conscious, you may want to check out the Allbirds Tree Dasher. Dashing from tree to tree probably not recommended unless you’re on the ground. Just sayin’.
ROBBE: If you’re a runner whose typical weekly mileage is in the 15-20 range, someone who’s eco-conscious, or just an Allbirds fan, you’re really going to like this shoe. Or, if you’re someone who travels a lot, this is a great choice for packing down, walking around, and going on a run in your destination city that you’ll also be living in because now you’re quarantined there indefinitely. Other good news is that you can eat the shoe if the world food supply chain collapses and the grocery stores go bare.
You can pick up the Allbirds Tree Dasher for $125 by using the shop link below.Shop Allbirds
Oh and check out the video review if this wasn’t good enough:
Robbe is the Senior Editor/Review Manager for BITR. He lives in Baltimore with his wife and two sons and runs with the Faster Bastards when he’s not MAF training. His favorite race distance is the marathon and his favorite beer is anything but Blue Moon.