I Tried Ina Garten's Favorite Walking Shoes—Here's What I Thought

These sneakers saved the day when I had blister-covered feet, but I have one small complaint …

a photo of Ina Garten
Photo: Noam Galai/WireImage/Getty

I stepped inside an Allbirds store in New York City coming from a place of desperation. I was in town for a conference, and was enjoying Manhattan's best bites and sights by foot in the meantime. To kick off the long weekend of food and fun, I racked up a surprising amount of steps in one day. The innocent Thursday food crawl my friend and I embarked on the night before had all of a sudden escalated to a 25,000-step journey from charcuterie board to tapas to gelato (with a detour to soak up the sunset). Then Friday had started with a 15,000-step journey to brunch and across the Brooklyn Bridge.

By the time we arrived in Brooklyn and I looked down, I realized that my trusty classic Converse Chuck Taylors had worn substantial blisters and cuts into each pinky toe. This was more my fault than the shoes; I was wearing them sans-socks on a sweaty 90-degree day; not a wise idea.

With 2½ more days in the city and zero other pairs of shoes in my suitcase to turn to, my friend and I ordered a Lyft to drop us off at the doorstep of a brand I recalled being an Ina Garten favorite: Allbirds.

If you've been hanging out here at EatingWell for a bit, you know I'm a card-carrying member of the Ina Garten fan club. Before I was a contributor to EatingWell, I admired her trusted recipes, but found the Barefoot Contessa to be a bit fancy; asking for "good vanilla" and always having meticulous floral bouquets scattered throughout her Hamptons home. But the more I reported on her recipes and lifestyle—from her comically supersized martinis to her penchant for PB&J picnics and breakfast for dinner—the more I fell in love with the culinary icon. While I wouldn't trust her to garnish my tacos with the appropriate amount of cilantro, I most definitely gladly rely on and swear by her modern comfort food recipes, garden tips, culinary gear recommendations and style suggestions.

That latter detail is why I selected Allbirds from all of the footwear options in the area. Not only are they Garten's go-to kitchen kicks (they earned a spot in her 2018 holiday gift guide, and she told Glamour in 2020, "I think they are just fantastic"), but Allbirds are also marketed as "the world's most comfortable shoes." That's exactly what I needed if I didn't want to sacrifice the rest of my adventure time in the Big Apple.

What Are Allbirds?

Founded in 2014 by New Zealand native Tim Brown, Allbirds is a footwear company that focuses on "making better things in a better way," according to their company history. They're made with natural materials, constructed with a logo-free design and sold with a 30-day money-back guarantee. (Lightly worn returned shoes are donated to Soles4Souls, a nonprofit that helps individuals in developing countries launch or grow small businesses selling shoes and clothing.)

Allbirds' streamlined design was a favorite among Silicon Valley technology pros soon after their debut, which made sense since the startup was based in San Francisco. The footwear brand quickly picked up steam and made waves (and wishlists) globally, especially after celebrities like Garten, Jessica Alba, Blake Lively, Jennifer Garner and more were spotted wearing them.

On the Lyft ride to the store, I noticed on the Allbirds sustainability page that the brand is on a mission to cut their carbon footprint in half by 2025, then to zero by 2030. This made me feel even better about the investment, and the timeless style and low-energy production strategy eased my worries about supporting "fast fashion."

My friend and I arrived at the shop, and the associate helped me select from two walls full of options. The soles of Allbirds sneakers are made from low-density foam, which means they're extremely lightweight (most models are about 7 to 10 ounces, depending on shoe size), and the interior is so soft you can go sockless. That being said, I definitely snagged some Allbirds no-show socks to don on top of the Band-Aids I'd covered my toes in until they healed.

As I tried on a couple of pairs, including a brand-new plant-based leather model which looked slick but felt a bit stiff in the tongue area, the staff member told me about the moisture-wicking and odor-minimizing qualities of the interiors of all of their designs. Those designs, by the way, range from errand-friendly Loungers and office-appropriate Breezers to sturdy trail runners and wintery Mizzle Fluffs. For their versatility and similarity in style to my Converse (which meant they'd work well with the wardrobe I'd packed to go with my original pair of shoes), I selected the $110 Natural White Wool Pipers.

How Did Allbirds Perform?

Allbirds wasn't kidding with their assertion that they'll have you walking on cloud nine. I immediately felt better and lighter, and the flexible, breathable upper meant that I didn't even notice the raw, rubbed corners of my toes.

I wore them for the rest of the weekend, racking up another 27,000 steps or so, and felt like I could easily transition shoes like this to being part of my frequent walk breaks once back home. In fact, they struck such a dreamy balance between ample support and a lightweight, bouncy feeling, I considered ordering another pair of the SuperLight Trainers or Tree Flyers to be my sneaker selection for the marathon I plan to walk this fall.

However, there was one major detail I really didn't dig about my particular pair: the dirt. I should have known based on the white colorway, but even more so than a canvas shoe in the same hue, the white wool Pipers soaked up any hint of grime they came in contact with. True, you can machine-wash them (just don't dry them in the machine, the Allbirds team warns!). Yet after seeing their state after less than three days of wear while out of the office, I knew I'd be tempted to wash the soiled-looking kicks more than once per week back home in Iowa … which is a far cry from the once every six months the brand recommends. Beyond taking the shoes out of commission for the day, frequent washings would use a lot of extra water and would likely have the Pipers breaking down quicker than I'd like.

The Bottom Line

The Ina Garten-approved Allbirds saved the day that weekend and were extremely comfortable, and they're made with materials and practices I felt good about supporting with my dollars. Still, I ended up taking advantage of the 30-day return policy to swap the white wool Pipers for their less dirt-attractive siblings, the Clarity Pink Tree Dashers made with eucalyptus tree fiber. Although these clocked in at $35 more, I considered this money well spent to trim down on wash requirements and to inspire my upcoming walking workouts. (Because yes, ICYMI, walking is a workout!)

Up Next: Walking May Lower Risk for Depression by 18%, According to New Research

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