Cariuma vs. Allbirds: We Tested 5 Styles To Find Out Which Eco-Friendly Shoe Is Best
The sad truth is that clothing and shoes have a massive environmental impact. According to one 2020 report1, 73% of clothing ends up in landfills and less than 1% of that clothing contains recycled materials. It's crucial that we start asking what our clothes are made of, where they came from, and where they'll go when we're done with them.
What is Allbirds?
Allbirds launched in 2014 with a focus on comfortable shoes made with eco-conscious materials. The brand now offers a selection of shoes, apparel, and accessories, all made with renewable resources such as merino wool, recycled nylon, and TENCEL™ Lyocell.
While many companies "greenwash" with marketing phrases that make them seem eco-conscious, Allbirds puts in the legwork. It's a Certified B Corporation, which means the brand adheres to a high standard of social and environmental transparency and is extremely transparent about where its products are made and how its factories operate.
What is Cariuma?
Cariuma hit the scene in 2018 when two boardsports fanatics set out to create a more comfortable, supportive, and eco-friendly version of the skateboarding shoes they loved. Flash-forward to 2023, and the Rio-based brand has taken off. It now makes a slew of sneaker styles, including collaborations with brands like Pantone, Avatar, and National Geographic—along with a few accessories like backpacks and T-shirts.
Another Certified B Corporation, Cariuma focuses on using renewable materials like rubber, cork, and sugar cane in their sneakers. The brand is committed to sustainable farming practices and has a strong reforestation initiative. In fact, Cariuma plants two trees for every pair of shoes sold.
Cariuma vs. Allbirds: Comparing sustainability efforts
Allbirds is currently on track to operate with 75% sustainably sourced natural and recycled materials by 2025. But the brand's biggest goal is to reduce its carbon footprint to zero by 2030 by focusing on regenerative farming. Currently, Allbirds offsets its existing emissions by funding projects that adhere to B-Corp and Carbon Neutral standards.
Similarly, Cariuma keeps sustainability top of mind in every area. The brand has solar-powered factories, energy-efficient warehouses, recycled packaging, and carbon-neutral shipping through DHL Go Green.
Cariuma vs. Allbirds: Comparing the materials
Allbirds shoes (and other apparel items) are made using the following sustainable resources:
- ZQ Merino wool from New Zealand sheep
- TENCEL™ Lyocell from Forest Stewardship Council–certified trees, which uses 95% less water than cotton
- Foam derived from sugar cane and castor bean oil, which is used in shoe insoles
- Recycled water bottles & recycled nylon
- Recycled cardboard for packaging
The brand also creates its own alternatives to petroleum-based synthetics and incorporates recycled synthetics (which tend to be more durable) whenever possible.
Cariuma makes high-quality designs with minimal materials. The shoes (and backpacks and T-shirts) are made using the below materials:
- Organic cotton
- Bamboo certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and OEKO-TEX
- Brazilian sugar cane certified by I'M GREEN
- Natural cork and rubber, which are used in insoles and soles
- Mamona oil, which is used as a plant-based alternative to petroleum to make foam
- Recycled nylon and recycled plastics certified by the Global Recycled Standard
- Recycled cardboard and paper for packaging
Cariuma vs. Allbirds: Comparing the sizing
Allbirds sizing is a bit tricky because most of the men's and women's shoes are only available in whole sizes.
I typically wear a 7 to 7.5 and felt comfortable in the 7.5 Tree Dasher. However, the Tree Runners and Wool Loungers come in only whole sizes—and I found the 7 a bit too snug. The 8 fit great, so I'd recommend going up one-half size (even if it's a size you don't typically wear).
Cariuma offers both whole and half sizes for both men and women. In my experience, they're mostly true to size. I got a 7.5 in the more structured SALVAS and NAIOCAS, and they fit great. The IBI Low (which has more elasticity thanks to the knit upper) ran a little big, so I ended up dropping down to a 7.
Cariuma vs. Allbirds: Comparing the cost and return policies
Allbirds shoes fall slightly higher on the price scale (between $105 and $170). However, the brand discounts certain styles and colors depending on the season.
Cariuma pricing ranges from $80 to $170, with the popular canvas design sitting at the lower end and a more intricate leather boot closer to the top. Both Cariuma and Allbirds offer free shipping within the U.S.
The return window for Cariuma is a bit longer (60 days), but the shoes must be unworn and in the original packaging.
Our top picks from Cariuma & Allbirds:
- Timeless style
- Breathable canvas upper
- Less colors than the OCA style
- Higher heel bed might not work for everyone
Size run:5-13 (half sizes available)
Cariuma’s NAIOCA style is 100% vegan and made with organic cotton, recycled plastics, and natural rubber. The insoles use the brand’s plant-based memory foam and cork for a super bouncy, supportive feel. Style wise, this sleek pick looks like a classic skateboard shoe. The NAIOCA aren’t available in as many colorways as the brand’s popularOCA Low style (our executive editor's go-to), but if you’re on the market for a solid neutral sneaker, this one is a great pick.
What our tester says: "The NAIOCA style is easily my favorite everyday shoe of the bunch. With their classic style, comfy insoles, and cool cotton upper, I can wear them for long walks and never feel hot—in fact, they’re coming with me on my honeymoon to Portugal! My only negative is that the heel is rather high, so I need to pair them with socks that have a little more coverage." — Jamie Powell, mindbodygreen contributing writer
- Durable leather and suede design
- Ethically-sourced leather
- Not very breathable
- Not vegan
Size run:5-13 (half sizes available)
Much like the NAIOCA style above, Cariuma’s SALVAS are another skateboard style shoe with a sustainable twist. They’re made with ethically-sourced leather from Leather Working Group (LWG) Gold Rated tanneries (as opposed to cattle farms on deforested land).
The leather design gives these a touch more durability than Cariuma’s canvas sneakers—and the shoe still uses recycled plastics, cork, plant-based foam, and organic cotton.
What our tester says: "With the same memory foam and cork insole, these are just as comfortable as the NAIOCA, with a little more weight to them. I especially love the worn-in leather-and-suede look and elevated debossed logo. They’re a little warm for these hot summer months, but I will definitely rock them in the fall and winter." — Jamie Powell, mindbodygreen contributing writer
*The SALVAS are the go-to of our deputy editor who wrote a full review of this style and loves the wide design.
Cariuma IBI Low
- Breathable knit upper
- Toe may be tight for some
- May run a half size large
Size run:5-13 (half sizes available)
This is Cariuma’s most lightweight style, thanks to a bamboo knit upper and sugarcane EVA sole that’s lighter than rubber. The shoe is super breathable and padded, especially around the heel, and comes in a slew of fun colorways.
Unlike the other two Cariuma picks above, the IBI design is machine-washable! Just be sure to follow the care instructions.
What our tester says: "The IBI Lows were instantly comfortable when I put them on, but a little roomy due to the knit material. Once I sized down to a 7, though, they rocked. I especially love the dusty rose color and the comfy cushioned heel. Note that while the upper is flexible, there is a rigid front to keep your toes safe—I got used to it quickly, but it might be a little tight on some people." — Jamie Powell, mindbodygreen contributing writer
*The IBI Low is a favorite of mindbodygreen's commerce editor, who wrote a full review of her experience walking +12,000 steps per day in them.
Allbirds Tree Runners
- Super lightweight and breathable
- Machine washable
- May not have enough support for some
- Whole sizes only
Size run:5-11 (whole sizes only)
The Allbirds’ Tree Runners have the brand’s original style but with a breathable, TENCEL™ Lyocell upper. The insole is made from castor oil and sugarcane foam and the laces use recycled water bottles. This shoe is super flexible and soft and feels comfortable and lightweight during long days on your feet or traveling.
While they do still have decent arch support as is, if you need more stability in your shoes you can swap out the removable insole for custom orthotics.
What our tester says: "I’ve known about these shoes for so long and can’t believe I’ve been sleeping on them. They’re truly so comfortable and great for walking the dog, running errands, or just bopping around town. I’m typically a 7 or 7.5 and, because there aren’t half sizes, I did have to size up to an 8 to get a comfortable fit. Believe the brand when they tell you to size up!" — Jamey Powell, mindbodygreen contributing writer
Allbirds Tree Dasher 2
- Comes in half sizes
- Cushioned midsole for added support
- Not designed for longer runs
Size run:5-11 (half sizes only)
Allbirds’ Tree Dasher 2 is designed for light runs and more activity than their softer counterpart (the Tree Runners, above). With a grippy sole and a knit upper, they’re great for days when you need to be active on your feet.
Plus, the balance of padding and support through the midsole and ankle makes them feel cushioned without any sinking.
What our tester says: "I really like the Tree Dasher 2’s. They’re comfortable but supportive and I’ve mostly been wearing them to walk the dog or go to physical therapy. The one piece knit upper makes them really easy to slip on and go and they’re definitely breathable thanks to the knit top. I didn’t love running in them because they’re a little heavier than my current Brooks and I like a little more security on top versus the knit material. But running shoes are super personal and I haven’t strayed from my chosen style in a few years, so take that with a pinch of salt!" — Jamey Powell, mindbodygreen contributing writer
Allbirds Wool Lounger
- Uses warm and breathable New Zealand wool
- Lightweight and cushioned
- Not great for warm weather
- Whole sizes only
Size run:5-11 (whole sizes only)
This laceless, loafer-style shoe is almost more of a slipper. With a soft and breathable QZ Merino wool upper, a sugarcane EVA midsole, and an insole made of castor bean oil, they’re as sustainable as they are comfortable. Because they’re made with wool, the loungers are more suited for cold weather than hot. But if you end up loving the style, Allbirds also makes Tree Loungers, which uses the brand's eucalyptus-derived TENCEL™ material.
What our tester says: "Ok, these are awesome. I almost don’t want to wear them outside of the house to keep them as clean and comfortable as long as possible! This was another Allbirds style where I ended up sizing up to an 8 (I started with a 7, which was too snug) and they fit perfectly. Two considerations: they are warm, so they’re a better winter shoe. Also, I can spot my big toe a bit at the front and, because the wool is so soft, I wonder if that will impact their durability over time." — Jamey Powell, mindbodygreen contributing writer
Cariuma vs. Allbirds
Cariuma vs. Allbirds: Our verdict
What they have in common:
Sustainability: If your priority is finding a shoe that prioritizes the environment, Cariuma and Allbirds are both great options. They're certified B-Corps, meaning the brands are making an outstanding effort in a troublesome industry—and both have the receipts to back their sustainability claims. Sure, you could try to nitpick each sustainability mission to determine who is "winning," but in today's climate (pun intended), these two shoe brands are doing more good than most.
Comfort: While comfort is subjective and style is personal, Cariuma and Allbirds aim to make shoes that are well cushioned, lightweight, and supportive. The shoes do feel very different from each other, but both are more comfortable than many other shoe brands we've tested. Our team is continuously surprised by how a shoe that feels so light on your feet can also be so supportive.
Where they're different:
Price: Both brands offer free shipping, and the pricing isn't too dissimilar, but if you're looking for a shoe that's under $100, you'll want to look at Cariuma. Alternatively, you can keep an eye on Allbirds' markdowns or check out the brand's Rerun program for a lightly worn pair at a discount.
While Allbirds do have decent arch support, if you're someone who needs a more structured shoe (say, for custom orthotics), you may not find them supportive enough. Cariuma, on the other hand, has a removable insole in each shoe, so you can use custom orthotics if needed.
Materials: Both Cariuma and Allbirds use sustainably sourced materials. However, if durability is a concern for you, Cariuma's leather styles might be your best choice. Of course, if you're vegan, Cariuma's (ethically sourced) leather styles will be a turnoff. Luckily, the brand does have plenty of vegan options to choose from.
Maintenance: One huge pro of Allbirds is that the shoes are all designed to be washable. While Cariuma's IBI styles are machine-washable, the canvas and leather styles are not—so they might be a little trickier to keep clean.
Do Cariuma shoes have good arch support?
Cariuma's insoles offer moderate arch support to keep folks with normal arches feeling comfortable and, well, supported.
If you have super-high arches or flat feet, you may need to swap out the original insoles with custom orthotics. Luckily, that's easy to do.
Is Cariuma a U.S. company?
Cariuma is a direct-to-consumer company based out of Brazil. The brand is not based in the United States but is available online and shipping is free.
Which is more comfortable Allbirds or Cariuma?
Whether you find Allbirds or Cariuma shoes more comfortable will depend greatly on your feet and the activities you like to do. In general, most Allbirds styles are flexible and soft, while Cariuma's are a bit more structured (with the exception of the IBI styles). Still, both have cushioned insoles that provide great pressure relief for casual everyday activities.
When testing and comparing Cariuma vs. Allbirds, we were extremely impressed by both. Not only was shoe after shoe comfortable, supportive, and stylish, but the brands each make great efforts to prioritize eco-conscious initiatives. Want to play a small part in moving the fashion industry in a more sustainable direction? You can't go wrong with styles from either brand.