Throwdown: The Best Sneakers

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I’m a sucker for shoes. And now that I’m a mom in my 30s, my shoe preference has transitioned from the stiletto to the sneaker.  

Over the years, sneakers have morphed from an athletic accessory to a fashion-forward piece of footwear. With so many to pick from, I wanted to find the sneakers making the biggest splash in the shoe market. 

Taking into consideration style, comfort, ease of use, cost, and return policy, I tested out three internet favorites to find the best and most versatile. Here’s what I learned…  

The Players 

First up, Allbirds, the OG of DTC sneakers. From a variety of styles to a shoe in every color of the rainbow, this sustainable brand offers something for everyone. I opted for the Wool Runners, the style that made the company a household name. Second is Atoms, a sneaker kicking the traditional sizing model to the curb. These are my husband’s go-to sneakers, so I wanted to see what his obsession is all about. Finally, I took Kizik sneakers for a spin, as I’ve recently noticed them dominating my Instagram feed.

Test No. 1: Style 

The sneaker that started it all
Credit: @allbirds

Allbirds: Allbirds offers five styles of sneakers for men and women. I went for the style Allbirds launched with, the Wool Runner. Each style comes in classic colors that include whites, grays, and blacks, and limited-edition colors that pop.  You can wear the Wool Runners with everyday street clothes or workout clothes, but they aren’t meant for working out. While these are more of a stylish sneaker, Allbirds does offer workout styles as well. 

Atoms: Atoms are a newer brand and only available in one unisex style. The single style comes in seven colors giving you some variety, though not a ton. You also have the option to spice your shoe up with different color laces, as the brand offers an elastic shoelace in 12 colors.  These are best paired with an athleisure outfit or a tee shirt and jeans, for a cool casual look. 

Kizik: Men and women can pick from five different styles of Kizik shoes. Each style comes in neutral and colorful options. Kizik offers both street styles that are delicate, and light and ones that look more like your standard, bulkier athletic shoe.  I went for the Athens style, which reminds me of a classic cross-trainer. While you could wear these sneakers with street clothes, I’d recommend keeping them for that cute tennis skirt! 

Winner: Allbirds. With five styles, dozens of colorways, and options for athletic wear and streetwear, these shoes are extremely versatile. 

Test No. 2: Comfort 

Atoms is doing things differently
Credit: @atoms

Next, I’m looking at what everyone really cares about—comfort! Here’s how the three options played out. 

Allbirds: I take comfort very seriously, so I tested out my Allbirds with and without socks. The shoes pass both tests. My feet stayed warm yet didn’t feel sweaty when I went sockless. And with socks, just as cozy! Keep in mind that these are only available in whole sizes.  

Atoms: These are pillows for your feet. So light and airy you almost forgot you’re wearing shoes. That’s not surprising considering fit and comfort are Atoms’ top priorities. Unlike any other sneaker on the market, Atoms offers quarter sizes, allowing your shoe to fit like a glove. Even better, the brand offers the option to order different shoe sizes for each foot. Gone are the days of trying to make your foot fit the shoe – Atoms makes a shoe to fit your foot.

Kizik: These are very comfortable, but bulkier and heavier than the other two pairs – like a more classic running shoe than an everyday fashion sneaker. They’re worn best with a no-show sock and are sneakers I’ll sport all summer with my tennis skirt and tank!

Winner: Atoms. These shoes really feel like you’re walking on clouds. Honestly, these are one of the most comfortable pairs of shoes I own. 

Test No. 3: The Slip-On Test

Hands-free sneakers are here!
Credit: @wearkizik

I’m busy and often have my hands full! Convenience and ease is crucial to getting out of the door on time, so I wanted to see which shoes have my back. 

Allbirds: Allbirds take the longest to put on. You need to sit down, untie the shoes, and tie them up with each wear. If you’re going for a pair of Allbirds, you better have that loop, swoop, and pull ready. Or were you a bunny ear type of person? 

Atoms: These come with elastic lace that stay tied. Atoms prides itself on these laces – part of the brand’s proprietary process to make your shoes easy to pull on and off. While Atoms are easy to slip on, you do need to use your hands to ensure the tongue and back of the shoe don’t get bunched. 

Kizik: These are marketed as “the fast shoes you’ll ever put on.” It’s not just a slogan to sell, it’s a true statement. No bending down or untying is required. All you do is slip your feet into the shoes and you're ready to go. The backs are designed to make this possible, so you don’t risk ruining your sneakers with laziness. It’s the perfect shoe for anyone constantly on the go or who has their hands full. Parents, I’m looking at you! 

Winner: Kizik blows the other options out of the water. Designed to slip on hands-free, these shoes are beyond easy to put on. 

Test No. 4: Cost 

Allbirds Wool Runners, which I’m wearing here, start at $110

We know how these sneakers fit and feel, let’s see how they stack up in price. Are they reasonable or do they break the bank?  

Allbirds:  The Wool Runners range in price from $110 to $120. They’re a good middle ground in terms of price.   

Atoms: Atoms are a bit pricier than Allbirds, coming in at $129 for a pair. It makes sense since you have such customizable capabilities with sizing. 

Kizik: Kizik Athens sneakers cost the same as Atoms, $129. But the brand has other styles on the less expensive end of the spectrum— its “Prague” style is under $100.  

Winner: Allbirds wins out, as each style comes in at a very reasonable price for sneakers. 

Test No. 5: Return Policy 

Taking my Atoms for a spin to make sure they are as comfortable as they look. They are!

Everyone wants the option to return shoes bought online. There is nothing worse than getting a pair of shoes you love style-wise but are so uncomfortable they sit unworn in your closet. Can you return these brands?  

Allbirds: Like most companies, Allbirds offers free returns and exchanges. You have 30 days to make your decision and can return them either by mail or in store.  

Atoms: Not a fan of the shoes you got? No problem. You can return Atoms with the company’s prepaid return label anytime within a 30-day period. Here’s the best part: Atoms will take the shoes back at any point in that time frame, regardless of whether they’ve been worn or not. The brand’s website gives you permission to wear the shoes outside to make sure they work for you in real life, and everyday situations. 

Kizik: Kizik shoes are as easy to exchange or return as they are to put on. You have 30 days to decide if Kizik’s aren’t the shoe for you. Shoes must be unworn and return shipping is free with the Kizik provided shipping label. 

Winner: Atoms wins. Who doesn’t want to be able to take their sneakers for a test run before fully committing to keeping them?! 

And the Winner Is… Atoms!

It was stiff competition. But after taking all the tests into consideration, Atoms emerges the victor. What the brand lacks in variety, it makes up for in comfort. But the fact you can test these shoes out at home and in the streets puts them over the finish line. No wonder these are my husband’s go-to sneakers. Now they are mine too. 

Shop Atoms here.

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