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One size never fits all—a truth that the husband-and-wife founders of Atoms know all too well. When Waqas Ali and Sidra Qasim first launched the brand, named after their quest to achieve quality at an atomic level, they were intent on engineering the perfect everyday sneaker. Their journey’s taken them from Pakistan to Silicon Valley to Brooklyn, where Atoms is currently based. Along the way, the direct-to-consumer brand’s garnered its fair share of attention as a disruptor in the sneaker space and amassed devotees who claim Atoms makes the world’s most comfortable shoe. Eager to see if the Model 000 lives up to the hype, I recently tested a pair—and let’s just say Atoms’ fan club has scored a new member.
If The Shoe Fits, Wear It
Sleek, cool, clean, and minimalist, the unisex shoes are available in four colorways without any logos or branding: black, white, gray, and black and white. Inspired by a classic tennis silhouette, they’re simple, ultra-versatile, and clearly designed to serve as a blank canvas to style the rest of your look around—which explains why they’re equally popular with tech bros and fashion girls.
Of course, looks are nothing without substance—and Atoms has both in spades. What gives the brand such a unique position in the oversaturated sneaker market is its non-traditional sizing. The shoes come in quarter-size increments, which you’re allowed to mix and match for your left and right foot. As someone who often hovers somewhere between an 8 and 8.5, this approach is game-changing.
What gives the brand such a unique position in the oversaturated sneaker market is its non-traditional sizing. The shoes come in quarter-size increments, which you’re allowed to mix and match for your left and right foot. As someone who often hovers somewhere between an 8 and 8.5, this approach is game-changing.
To determine my best size, I filled out Atoms’ brief online assessment, logging my year of birth (since our feet change over time), feet width, arch, and more—discovering that I indeed fell into the quarter-size category of 8.25. But Ali and Qasim have taken their obsession with the perfect fit beyond just sizing, developing a proprietary foam midsole that adapts to your feet throughout the day and offers a personalized level of arch support, whether you have flat, normal, or high arches. In short, the more often you wear your Atoms, the more the shoes will perfectly contour to the shape of your foot.
The company’s still working on developing various widths to accommodate wide or narrow feet—a popular request from customers. Currently, Atoms uses an average D width, which fits me (and most people) well, but I’m eager to find out when Atoms gets even more granular with its fit.
Welcome To The Comfort Zone
So the shoes look great and fit flawlessly. But how do they feel? As someone who walks long distances as a regular form of exercise, I test-drove my kicks over a two-week period. The Atoms Model 000 is outrageously lightweight and comfortable with an unpretentious, unfussy exterior belying its luxurious feel. The key lies in the materials—starting with a pliable, breathable, temperature-resistant knit upper coated in TPU, which helps textiles resist abrasions, punctures, and extreme weather conditions. A custom foam midsole offers cloud-like cushioning, so every step feels soft, springy, and bouncy. Finally, the firm yet flexible construction is reinforced with an incredibly durable, non-slip rubber outsole, able to handle high mileage without breaking down easily.
The Atoms Model 000 is outrageously lightweight and comfortable with an unpretentious, unfussy exterior belying its luxurious feel.
Even better, the brand’s making huge strides in sustainability—using carbon offsets on shipments, forgoing environmentally harmful materials or chemicals, and developing a waterless dyeing process to eliminate toxic runoff. And since the shoes are 100% vegan, they create far less carbon emissions than yarn from animal-derived products, like wool.
At $129 a pop, Atoms’ shoes are slightly pricier than competitors like Allbirds (starting at $95) or Cariuma (starting at $79). But Ali and Qasim’s exacting attention to detail is present in even the many elements you can’t see. The insoles of each shoe are lined with antimicrobial copper yarn, which helps to kill bacteria and viruses, eliminate odors, and keep germs at bay. Plus, their superior stretch elastic laces only require tying once, turning the lace-up sneaks into easy slip-ons.
Since launching the Model 000, Ali and Qasim have released other products with the same extraordinary design ethos. Crafted with 75% organic cotton yarn and 22% polyester, their ultra-soft, cushioned socks are individually hand-dyed to achieve a two-color gradient. When the pandemic hit, they reallocated their South Korean production facilities to manufacture reusable masks, built with a copper-lined ionized quartz yarn inner layer that offers 84.6% filtration.
While I would have appreciated Atoms’ sleek, stylish simplicity on its own, I love how the brand has created a sizing solution that’s revolutionary in the footwear space. If Ali and Qasim keep innovating (for example, by creating styles designed to fit the width of your foot), they’ll continue to break ground—and I’ll be here for it every step of the way.
5 Reasons to Slip Into A Pair of Atoms
- This isn’t Ali and Qasim’s first foray into shoes. When they were living in Pakistan, they had the largest Kickstarter in the history of the country, raising $107,000 to make hand-crafted leather shoes with craftsmen from a small village.
- Qasim was recently featured in a heartwarming 11-part story on Humans of New York—which resulted in a huge spike in orders and a waitlist of more than 10,000.
- Atoms offers a risk-free guarantee, allowing you to try out their shoes for 30 days after delivery and return them if you’re not happy, as well as a one-year warranty from date of purchase that covers material and workmanship flaws (although since Atoms handcrafts all of its sneakers, the defect rate is far below the industry average at 5%)!
- Teachers, students, healthcare workers, first responders, military, and seniors receive 10% off all orders through a discount program.
- Atoms is committed to giving back to their community—donating more than 350,000 masks to organizations like the New York City Housing Authority, Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp, and many more.