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Why Shoe Startups Are Making Sneakers From Wool

The economics of all-natural ingredients is helping new sneaker brands get a toehold in Nike's market.
Photographer: CHRISTIAN BRUNA/AFP/Getty Images

The perfect airport shoe is hard to come by. It should be stylish, cushioned but not overly sporty, and slip on easily. Tim Brown, a former professional soccer player from New Zealand, thinks he has the killer application for such a shoe: wool.

Today, Brown launched allbirds, an e-commerce sneaker brand selling one simple model: a foam and rubber outsole stitched to a single piece of merino wool. Dubbed The Wool Runner, the kicks come in four colors and are available only on the allbirds website for $95. It’s a shockingly spare shoe, but it passes the airport test. It’s sleek and cozy. It goes on and off with the ease of a slipper. And as feet swell, it gives without pinching, because the wool breathes and stretches a bit.