Let's get this out of the way right now: These shoes are only 50% wool, the rest is a synthetic mix. Which I didn't know until I'd ordered a pair, opened the box, put them on, and fallen in love.
The rest of what I say will be written from the perspective of a proud purist being forced to eat her words. Because these shoes have a lot going for them.
Getting the Bug
I discovered the Swedish shoe company Icebug while searching for studded shoes, which, yes, actually are a thing. When ice season arrives here in Maine, if you aren't prepared, you're basically house-bound for a month.
But my attention was quickly drawn to these shoes, with their inviting dark-gray felt fabric and the word "wool." Who needs to go outside anyway? The studs can wait. I ordered a pair, which made the voyage across the pond and soon arrived in a brown paper package.
A Distinct Style
Since Allbirds first appeared, we've seen a succession of other companies produce extremely similar iterations of basically the same design. But these have some distinct differences.
Their fabric is more felt, less high-tech engineering. In fact, it appears to be just a single, thick sheet of felt rather than multiple layers that have been glued or sewn together.
The sole tapers in at the heel instead of projecting out. And walking in these definitely does not feel like you're walking on marshmallows. They are solid and firm, with decent arch support, a generous toe box, and a heel that sits parallel to the footbed instead of being slightly raised.
What's in a Name?
The shoe gets its "Woolpower" name from the fact that it's made of recycled wool from the Swedish base-layer company Woolpower. Which also explains why Icebug's fiber content description is so vague.
With a little digging, I got this far: The shoes contain a "minimum of 50% wool content (mixed with synthetics)." Makes sense. If you're using blended leftovers from someone else, you can't be sure the ingredients will be the same each time. But since most of Woolpower's garments are 60% Merino, with the remainder being polyester, polyamide, and elastane, I'd bet there's more than 50% wool in here. I appreciate the conservative labeling.
Big Shoe, Small Footprint
The sustainability theme extends to the footbeds and soles, which are made of a potpourri of green goo: BLOOM EVA algae-based foam, recycled rubber, recycled polyethylene, and, get this, recycled fishing nets. In total, the shoes contain 23% recycled materials and 26% bio-based materials. They are made in Vietnam, but the materials came from a bit of everywhere, including Mississippi, of all places.
I paid $129.95 for mine on the Icebug website. Not all sizes are in stock anymore, perhaps because we're on the other side of winter. But I hope and trust that they'll continue the line, because these are great shoes. And who knows? That pesky synthetic content may help them last even longer than the pure wool ones. We'll see.