The wool shoe market is sizzling, thanks in part to the skyrocketing success of Allbirds, which launched in 2016 with a line of sustainably chic New Zealand-sourced merino wool sneakers and slip-ons. But the San Francisco-based startup isn’t the only success story in this scalding hot shoe category. There are plenty of other woolly footwear options for environmentally woke consumers who want to do right by the planet but also maintain a sense of style.
Below, we’ve rounded up a few of the most popular wool shoe brands. All offer breathable, odor-controlling, moisture-resistant comfort for those with a flair for green fashion.
Allbirds’ newest sustainable shoe model, the Tree Topper, is made of eucalyptus fibers brushed with merino wool and features foam soles produced from sugar cane (called SweetFoam). (Photo: Allbirds)
This list wouldn’t be complete without including the folks who made wool cool, thanks, in part, to a coterie of celebrity and Silicon Valley devotees. In the two years since its meteoric kick-off, Allbirds has not only raised $50 million from investors, bringing its valuation to $1.4 billion, but it has also expanded its sustainable shoe selection beyond wool to include flip flops made of EVA foam derived from sugar cane; sneakers made of eucalyptus fibers; and its newest offering, a high-top sneaker called the Tree Topper, shown above, made from all three of its preferred sustainable materials. Allbirds footwear is available online and at the company’s three stores in San Francisco, New York and London.
Begun by the Giesswein family in 1954 and still located in the Austrian Alps, this enduring company produces several shoe and slipper styles made out of boiled “3D Stretch” merino wool from sheep raised in New Zealand, Australia and South America. In 2017, Giesswein (pronounced geese–vine) got in on the sneaker act with a Kickstarter campaign that helped launch its new Merino Runners. You can buy Giesswein shoes online and from selected retail stores in the U.S. (listed on the company’s website).
The Glerup family began making felted boots as a hobby in 1993 using wool from their own Gotland sheep. Today, this powerhouse Danish brand offers not only cool felted wool boots but open-heel slippers and shoes. All Glerups come with soles made either of natural calfskin or rubber. Shoes are available online.
Launched via a Kickstarter campaign in 2013, this Swiss startup has continued to soar with its unique wool footwear inspired by traditional Russian winter boots. Using sustainably sourced wool from Portugal and New Zealand, Baabuk offers stylish wool slippers, wool sneakers and its latest, a high-top sneaker called the Sky Wooler. Baabuk shoes are handcrafted in Nepal and Portugal and are available online and in dozens of retail stores throughout Europe.
Felts Health Shoes
This Fair Trade newcomer is literally just getting off the ground, but has already garnered attention. The company’s 100 percent organic merino wool shoes with nettle fabric outsoles are handmade in Nepal. Currently, they can be pre-ordered on Kickstarter. The campaign reached its financial goal early on, and the company plans to begin shipping in December 2018 or January 2019.
Worth a mention
The following wool shoe brands fall short of being 100 percent pure, but they merit consideration for their attention-grabbing style.
Le Mouton. These unisex wool sneakers may not have a marquee name yet, but they’re starting to be noticed. Launched in 2017 by South Korean manufacturer Oozootech Co., Ltd., Le Moutons contain 84 percent organic merino wool (the rest is polyester) and come in a handful of heathery textured colors. They’re available online.
Mahabis. This London-based shoe and clothing brand launched in 2014 with a wool-blend slipper that morphs into an outdoor shoe via an attachable rubber heel. The two-in-one concept quickly developed a cult following. Mahabis wool slippers no longer come with removable soles and now sport a permanent sneaker-like sole. They’re available online and at select Nordstrom stores in the U.S.
Xero Shoes. Located in Broomfield, Colorado, and known for its “foot first” designs, Xero Shoes recently launched a wool-blend casual shoe with moisture-wicking lining called the Pacifica. It’s available online in men’s and women’s styles.