We jumped feet first (and sockless) into Giesswein’s versatile Merino Runners

While a company like Adidas continues to incorporate ideas such as 3D-printing or salvaged ocean garbage into its running shoes, an Austrian-based footwear company named Giesswein decided to turn to tried-and-true Merino wool to bring unique innovation to the industry. Known primarily for its high-quality line of slippers, Giesswein took to the popular crowdfunding site Kickstarter to gauge interest in its first foray into running footwear. The result? A campaign that raised just shy of $85,000. In other words, its Merino Runners were a hit.

According to Giesswein, the small chambers relative to Merino wool provide ample temperature regulation in the shoe, allowing wearers to enjoy going on a run no matter the temperature outside. In theory, the wool helps cool feet down during hot summer days while warming them up as temperatures drop in the winter. The fact that they’re made from Merino wool lets runners sport the shoes with or without socks, with Giesswein promising no sweaty feet and zero smell. A tall task, no doubt.

To see just how well these Merino Runners hold up to everyday use — while also seeing if they live up to the no sweat, no smell claim — we took them for a spin around our hometown of Portland, Oregon, for a few weeks.

Lightweight and comfortable

Upon first trying them on (with socks, mind you), what was immediately clear was just how comfortable the shoes actually are. Not only are they relatively light in weight due to their mostly Merino build, but the footbed and surrounding wool hugged our feet pleasantly. Built with 3D Stretch wool — a fabric unique to Giesswein — the shoe stretched and tightened perfectly with our every step. While this makes even the simple act of walking a positive experience, running with them proved even more enjoyable (more on that below).

If there’s any knock on what it feels like to wear them, it’s perhaps the fact that the laces don’t ever feel truly tight. Apart from lacing them so tight our feet would barely be able to move, we experienced the hassle of retying the shoes more often than we liked. A different shoelace may remedy this issue, but during our time with them, the shoes would often feel a bit loose on our feet. Not a dealbreaker, though it would be a true nuisance for someone wanting to run long distances in them.

Lest we forget, we did, in fact, give the shoes a go without socks. To be fair, running without socks (to us, at least) always seems a touch strange — call us sock sympathizers if you will, we just prefer the comfort. However, Giesswein’s Merino Runners squashed this admittedly biased stance of ours, providing sockless comfort that had us wondering why we’d even tried them with socks on in the first place. This added versatility is more than a gimmick, as it seemed to help keep our feet cooler. Granted, the temperature didn’t get much higher than about 50 degrees (it’s spring in Oregon, after all) but our feet did stay cool, even in a gym setting.

Performance

Over the course of the few weeks, our Merino Runners proved to be a more than capable running shoe. As we spent time running outdoors, on treadmills, around a weight room, and simply commuting to and from work, there never appeared to be an instance in which the shoes weren’t a viable footwear option. Giesswein even refers to the shoes as a “stylish sneaker,” so they’re also a great fit for anyone looking to wear them as part of their casual attire — instead of pounding the pavement in them.

The loose laces problem popped up from time to time, though it never completely brought a training or running session to a complete halt.

The loose laces problem popped up from time to time, though it never completely brought a training or running session to a complete halt. If we were doing agility work in which we planted and changed directions quickly, stopping to tighten them up would have certainly been paramount — nobody likes a rolled ankle. Considering we simply ran on a treadmill and down a few Portland city blocks, the shoe feeling a bit looser didn’t do much to change our running style, even if it was a little annoying.

And what about Geisswein’s claims about being impervious to odor and sweat? Though a few weeks hardly comprise the life span of such a running shoe, our Merino Runners remained free of any funky smells (even after sockless sessions) post-run but we did still manage to produce a bit of sweat. It was never like we were sloshing in sweat but there was still a relatively normal amount present — more so when we wore socks with the runners.

Though it didn’t affect the performance of the shoe, the toecap started to separate from the wool after a few uses. It’s certainly something that’s easily fixable with super glue or the like — and somewhat expected considering it’s hard to affix rubber to wool — but worth mentioning, nonetheless.

Wool for the win?

As most athletic footwear brands look to the future to bring innovation to the industry, Giesswein’s preference for using Merino wool appears to have a measurable positive impact. Though its Merino Runners may not boast a 3D-printed sole capable of literally catapulting a runner through each step, they do provide a level of comfort and versatility that give them their own platform to stand on. Giesswein’s unique 3D Stretch wool allows the shoe to literally hug a wearer’s foot while simultaneously stretching and tightening with each step. This allows the shoe’s movements to feel natural while still providing the type of support native to quality running shoes.

Giesswein Merino Runners
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Priced at roughly $105, Giesswein’s Merino Runners carry a relatively average price tag for running shoes. Considering most Merino products (socks, sweaters, etc.) tend to cost a bit more anyway, the price likely won’t scare potential buyers away. The overall comfort coupled with the fact that the shoes just looked good on our feet had us enjoying our time with Giesswein’s Merino Runners. It may not necessarily appeal to hardcore runners but for anyone looking for a versatile pair of athletic shoes at a reasonable price, these are as good a choice as any.

Highs:

  • Incredibly comfortable
  • The 3D Stretch Merino wool stretches and tightens smoothly with each step
  • Versatile for any activity

Lows:

  • Laces didn’t always stay tied