Travel Tuesday: Baabuk Review — A Comfy Travel Shoe Option?
When you think about packing your suitcase for a trip, what are the top items that come to mind? While toiletries, chargers, and wardrobe essentials are all likely candidates, I’d argue that shoes actually play an underrealized role in travel. After all, if you’re like us, you probably do a lot of walking on a trip. Plus, on a long haul flight, the shoes you’re wearing as your feet swell can make a big impact on your time in the sky. That’s why I’ve taken an interest in finding a versatile travel shoe that can stand up to the many needs of my trips — and prevent me from having to pack multiple pairs. The latest potential option in this category to come to my attention is Baabuk, which offers a variety of shoes and styles.
So, what are Baabuk shoes and what features make them suited to travel? Let’s take a look at what they have to offer (and how they compare to Allbirds):
Before we jump into the review, I do want to mention that Baabuk sent me a pair of their shoes to try out. While I’ll be sharing my honest thoughts and experience regardless, I felt it was important to make this clear. With that, let’s take a closer look at Baabuk.
What are Baabuk Shoes and What Makes Them Different?
Baabuk is a Swiss company that is a certified B Corporation. If you’re not familiar, a B Corporation is “legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment,” according to the B Corp site. The company offers footwear made from sustainable wool among other materials. While they originally started with slippers, they now offer a variety of options, including sneakers — which is what this particular review will look at.
Since Baabuk is an international company, they do have a few market-specific sites. So, if you’re in the United States, you’ll want to shop using the US.Baabuk.com site.
As I mentioned, Baabuk offers a variety of footwear options — including the new Wool Ballerinas that launched just a couple of weeks ago. They also have slippers, slip-ons, and much more. However, the two styles I want to focus on for this review are the Urban Wooler “everyday sneakers” and the Sky Wooler high-top sneakers.
Within these two categories, Baabuk offers a number of color options, including seasonal selections. There’s also a special blacknose edition Sky Wooler featuring wool from the Valais Blacknose Sheep. Meanwhile, if you want even more color options, you can craft a custom Baabuk Urban Wooler by selecting from two wool colors, six eyelet colors, and eight lace colors.
The option I choose to go with was the high-top Sky Woolers in the Lemon Cream design (which is part of the spring/summer 2021 collection). FYI, the second choice was the same shoe but in Concrete Aqua. Meanwhile, if I were to go with one of the Urban Woolers, both the Lemon Navy and Fresh Cherry colors appeal to me. I guess what I’m saying is that I’m impressed with Baabuk’s styles and options overall.
Something else to know about Baabuks is that they are only offered in European sizes. Luckily, the site does include a conversion chart to help you find the right size for you. Personally, since I typically go with a U.S. 8 to 8.5, which put me between a size 41 and 42 for the Baabuk Sky Woolers. Ultimately, I opted for the latter.
Despite getting the larger size, when I first put on my Sky Woolers, they felt a bit narrow. It wasn’t that they were too small as my toes still had plenty of room, but they seemed a bit tight overall. However, after wearing them for a couple of walks, they definitely broke in. Thus, if you do plan on taking them on a trip, I’d advise getting a few laps in them beforehand to maximize your travel comfort.
Now we’ve come to my favorite part of Baabuk’s sneakers: the elastic laces. Thanks to this feature, I can slip on my shoes easily and wear them without needing to tie them — even with the high tops. It. Is. Awesome!
Yes, I really am that lazy but there are other benefits to the elastic laces as well. For one, they provide a unique comfort to the shoe as they can feel a bit looser while still avoiding the risk of falling off. This is something that I think really elevates them as a travel shoe, as well, since I could definitely see them being comfy on a long-haul flight. Of course, there’s also no need to worry about tripping over your laces or needing to stop to tie them. I also really like the sleek look that’s made possible by these elastic laces. This is especially true for the Sky Woolers as even the small nubs at the ends of the laces are tucked into the shoe.
If there’s a downside to this feature, it’s that you may need to make some tweaks to the laces to get the exact fit you want. I’ll also note that I found my right shoe to be noticeably looser than the left upon arrival. The good news is that there are several ways you can go about loosening or tightening your laces, from skipping holes to trimming and beyond. Baabuk also provides some tips for adjusting your laces if need be.
When Baabuk contacted me about checking out their shoes, one of the travel perks they pitched was the ability to wear the shoes without socks — thus giving you one fewer thing to pack. With that recommendation, I attempted to go for a sockless walk… and decided it wasn’t for me. Although I enjoyed the cool breeze on my feet, I did find that the interior wool was a bit scratchy on the tops of my feet. Therefore, I’ll personally be sticking to socks when wearing them.
That said, I do want to give another shoutout to the elastic laces here. Even though the lack of socks led to a looser fit, I never felt as though they were going to slip off. In fact, I was able to climb stairs without any slippage whatsoever. Given this experience, I can see how it would be possible for others to go sockless with these Baabuks even if I won’t be doing so myself.
Finally, I do want to mention Baabuk’s return policy. On their site, they boast what they call their “U-Turn” program. In the event you order the wrong size (darn you, Euro sizes!), you write to Baabuk within 30 days of your delivery and request a U-Turn. With this program, you’ll actually be able to keep the shoes you already have, gifting them to a friend or loved one. Then, you’ll get 50% off another pair of shoes — and hopefully get the right size.
Obviously, while clever, this U-Turn program won’t make sense for every situation. Thus, Baabuk has a traditional return program as well, allowing you to request a return within 30 days of your delivery. There are certain terms to this policy that you can review on their site, and customers will be responsible for the cost of return shipping to Baabuk’s U.S. warehouse.
How Baabuk Shoes Compare to Allbirds
When I first heard about Baabuk, it was nearly impossible not to think about Allbirds — another purveyor of wool sneakers that I’ve previously written about as a potential travel shoe. Given this connection, I thought it’d be helpful to see how the two compare in a few different fields. Here’s what I found:
Starting with the largest part of the shoe, despite both options being made of wool, I noticed a bit of a difference in this department. I found that the Baabuk wool was a bit courser whereas the Allbirds were a tad smoother to the touch. I will note, however, that I only have the Allbirds Mizzles, so the water-resistant treatment may also be a factor here.
In any case, I didn’t really have a preference between these two styles. But I will say that I think the Baabuks have more of a wool look, if that makes any sense.
While the wool differences were fairly slight, the sole styles between my two high tops are more pronounced. On the Sky Woolers, I’d describe the soles as a Converse-esque style. This rubber, while comfortable, also has a solid feeling and makes a nice sound when walking on certain surfaces. As for the Allbird Runner-Ups, the sugarcane midsole makes for something completely different. These soles feel significantly softer and “foamier” for lack of a better term.
To me, the difference in material didn’t really affect the comfort I felt while walking. Instead, what stood out to me was how the two compare in height. Put side by side, you can see that the Allbirds sole is much thicker (at least on the heel) than the Baabuk. Thus, if you’re wearing baggy or long pants, you may find yourself stepping on your cuff more with the latter.
It’s important to point out that the Allbirds I have aren’t the standard issue sneakers but, instead, their water-repellent Mizzles. I actually choose these specifically since I’ve been stuck in the rain a time or two while traveling, which is always miserable. So, while Baabuk notes that wool is a naturally water-repellent material, I figured that the lack of additional treatment would mean a huge difference in performance when it came to water. So I did what any good reviewer would do in such a situation: I stuck my Baabuk shoes under my faucet and cranked it up.
To my surprise, the Baabuks held up quite well while under running water. Nevertheless, the moisture did manage to seep into the shoe after about 15 seconds of being under the tap, with a few drops present. Still, giving the tops a quick wipe with a towel brought them back to nearly completely dry status. This test would lead me to believe that the shoes could stand up to a light rain, but probably wouldn’t perform nearly as well as the Mizzles would in a downpour or in the snow (I tested the Mizzles in the latter condition and was blown away by the results). Maybe I’m wrong and I’d love to try it out someday — but that’s my theory.
When it comes to laces on these two shoes and which I prefer, there’s really no contest. The ability to slide on my Baabuks is really my favorite thing and it makes me irrationally happy. Meanwhile, although I can kind of get away with keeping my Allbird Wool Runner Mizzles tied and trying to slip them on and off, it’s a definite no-go with the Runner-Ups.
That said, the Allbirds laces do have some nice features of their own. For example, I really like the rounded design of the laces and especially appreciate the coated tips.
Alas, the laces on the Allbirds just don’t make the shoe the same way that Baabuk’s elastic laces do. And while this may seem like a small thing, when it comes to travel, I think that the unique fit and low-maintenance aspect of the Baabuk make them stand out. Plus, did I mention that you don’t have to tie them?!
At first glance, I’d say that Baabuk and Allbirds are in the same general range in terms of price. But, taking a closer look, it does seem as though the former may be a bit more expensive. For example, while the standard Allbirds Wool Runners go for $95, the Baabuk Urban Woolers fetch $115. It is a different story in the realm of high tops though as the Baabuk Sky Woolers are $125 compared to $135 for the Allbirds Runner-Up Mizzles (Allbirds doesn’t make a non-Mizzle high top at this time).
I do also need to mention shipping. By default, Allbirds offers free shipping on orders over $50. Baabuk also offers free shipping, but only on orders over $150. That said, Baabuk does occasionally offer special promotions where the free shipping is extended to orders over just $65 instead.
Despite these differences, I’m still inclined to say that the two brands are priced in the same ballpark as one another. As a result, it’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons on price and consider any active promotions or coupons that may be offered for either option.
Final Thoughts on Baabuk Shoes
Overall, I’ve really enjoyed wearing my Baabuk Sky Woolers for the past few weeks and will definitely be taking them on future trips. Between the fun colors/styles and the functional features such as the elastic laces, I’m definitely a fan so far. Furthermore, while not as water resistant as my Mizzles, I was impressed with how the Baabuks held up to water.
Given the experience I’ve had, I’m already looking forward to adding another pair of Baabuks to my collection down the road. To that point, however, I can’t yet speak to how the shoes will hold up overtime. But, the construction does seem pretty solid, so I’m not exactly concerned.
Ultimately, if you’re looking for a comfortable and stylish shoe that you can wear on your travels, Baabuk may have a good option for you.
Also published on Medium.