If you’re considering buying a pair of Atoms shoes, first read my honest Atoms shoes review.
I’ve always been the type of person who has a million pairs of shoes because I love style and variety.
But I also have lifelong foot issues that have kept me searching for a pair that will prevent the foot pain that I’ve grown accustomed to.
Luckily, there are more and more comfortable sneakers are on the market these days that boast advanced features, innovative materials, and sustainable practices.
One of those sneaker brands is Atoms, which markets itself as an incredibly comfortable shoe for everyday wear.
Atoms is the brainchild of the husband-and-wife duo, Waqas Ali and Sidra Qasim. What began as an improbable dream in Pakistan launched as a start-up in tech-centric Silicon Valley and is now headquartered in Brooklyn, NY.
After being featured on Humans of New York in early 2021, Atoms exploded to prominence.
But what is all the fuss about? Are they really as comfortable as they claim to be? What makes Atoms Model 000 so special?
I’m here to get to the bottom of these questions and more in this Atoms Shoes review. Read on to get the full scoop!
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Table of Contents
A Quick Look at Atoms as a Company
If you follow Humans of New York, the ongoing photography and human-interest project by Brandon Stanton, then you might already be familiar with the Atoms Shoes story.
Stanton has been using Humans of New York to tell long-form, multi-part stories about his subjects in recent years.
In early 2021, Sidra Qasim told her story in 11 installments on HONY. She detailed her upbringing in a conservative household in Pakistan, where strict cultural expectations repeatedly stifled her big dreams.
Her friendship with Waqas Ali began in their late teens, built on education and exchanging ideas. As young adults, their love blossomed as they founded a business together.
During that time, they faced enormous financial odds, initially trying to launch as a social media company with a single laptop running on KFC’s free WIFI.
After turning their sights on shoes, Waqas and Sidra launched the most extensive Kickstarter campaign in Pakistan’s history.
Soon afterward, they won a spot in a Silicon Valley-based start up accelerator program, where they first designed Atoms.
When their story ran on HONY, Atoms was a year old and enjoying a lot of success. They’d moved from Silicon Valley to Brooklyn and had already sold 500,000 pairs of shoes.
It was the type of rags-to-riches American dream story that captures hearts and minds.
Within 12 hours of the final HONY post, Atoms experienced a huge spike in sales, selling 500 times more shoes than on their previous top sales day and putting the sneakers on a 10,000-person backorder.
So, does the product match the story? Do these shoes live up to the hype? Let’s dive into my first-hand experience with these shoes.
What are Atoms Shoes?
Atoms currently has one model, known as Model 000, which comes in six different colors. Model 000 is an everyday sneaker that puts comfort as its top priority.
This sneaker gets antimicrobial odor defense from copper threads that run through the inner lining and insole.
It has a stretchy, mesh-like knit upper made from recycled yarn and elastic laces that you only need to tie once – after that, they’ll stay tied, and you can slip them on easily.
The insole and midsole use a proprietary foam that provides a super cushioned platform for standing, walking, and going about your day. And that copper lining works to kill bacteria and keep the shoes smelling fresh.
This flexible shoe molds around your foot, but the company’s commitment to a good fit doesn’t stop there – Atoms offers their shoes in quarter sizes.
So, if you’ve ever felt like your feet were in between standard sizes, Atoms’ quarter sizes might be the brand to help you finally find the right shoe size for your unique feet.
Lastly, Atoms manufactures its shoes in South Korea using sustainable practices and carbon offsets.
Atoms Shoes Review: My Experience With Atoms Model 000 Shoes
I’m not afraid of bright colors, and I’ve been particularly drawn to neon greens and yellows lately, so I ordered my Atoms in a color called Neon.
It’s a super vibrant highlighter green that’s monochromatic – the soles are just as neon as the upper.
My usual size is 8, and I feel satisfied with my normal shoe size, so I didn’t opt for a quarter size.
Aside from Neon, the Model 000 comes in Black, White, Black & White (black upper with a white midsole), Gray, and Navy. Except for Black & White, these colors apply to both the upper and the midsole.
The first thing that impressed me about these shoes was the packaging.
Atoms Model 000 Shoes come in a highly well-made and cleverly-designed box with a magnetic closure. It’s the type of packaging you want to keep and repurpose – it’s that beautiful.
Once I got over the packaging, I put on my Atoms, adjusting the elastic laces to fit perfectly. They were undeniably comfortable and supportive with their cloud-like cushioning.
Once tied, these shoes become slip-ons – something I appreciate because I’m not a huge fan of tying my shoes, and I like to shove my feet into a shoe and run out the door.
I appreciate these shoes from a style perspective. I wouldn’t describe myself as sporty, so other shoes similar to Atoms that have an athletic aesthetic often don’t feel like “me.”
The Atoms Model 000 design is neutral – not necessarily sporty, not necessarily causal. They are genuinely everyday sneakers.
And I proceeded to wear my pair of Atoms nearly every day for the next several weeks. Spring is just beginning to reach New York, so the weather has been somewhat tumultuous.
On the final day that we had snow, I took a chance and wore my Atoms out, but they got wet and soaked through pretty quickly. So, I learned right away that these are not necessarily good winter shoes if you live in a cold climate.
After only a few weeks of wearing them, mostly around my neighborhood in Brooklyn, I was disappointed to see that they showed a lot of wear.
The foam midsole began to crease and wrinkle, and the Atoms logo on the insole has already started to rub off. They also attract and show dirt very quickly – both on the midsole and the knit upper.
Admittedly, I chose a light and vibrant color that contrasts heavily against black and brown grime. But I was expecting more longevity from a shoe that costs well over $100.
Atoms recommends washing its shoes on the cold cycle (insoles removed) and allowing them to air dry. So, I decided to try to see how that would restore them.
As per the instructions, I washed them on the gentle cycle in cold water and put them in an old pillowcase during the wash. I then air-dried them.
While they looked a lot cleaner, a few scuffs remained, and the wrinkles in the foam midsole were still there.
The sole, however, is hardly worn down at all. So, if the midsole doesn’t crack, I’m hoping my Atoms will stay as they are for a while without wearing out.
The Model 000 has a lot of great things going for it! Let’s look at each of its advantages individually.
Atoms’ number one claim to fame is their comfort level. On this point, they deliver.
The insole and the custom foam midsole feel like super-firm memory foam – they conform to your foot without feeling squishy. And the shoes have a bounce to them when you walk.
The stretchy knit upper and elastic laces make for a shoe that doesn’t pinch anywhere. Plus, the laces never come untied, and they’re pliable enough that you can slip the shoe on and off with ease.
Atoms shoe sizes are innovative, and they’re the only sneaker brand I’ve heard of that offers quarter sizing.
While I didn’t need to try out these non-traditional shoe sizes because size 8 fits me well, it’s great that there are options for people who don’t fit the traditional mold to find the exact right shoe size for their feet.
Some people even have one foot that’s bigger than the other. At one time, Atoms allowed you to mix and match sizes, but, unfortunately, you can no longer do that.
But it would be possible to buy two pairs in two different shoe sizes and mix and match that way. If you have one foot that always feels cramped, this might be a good option for you.
While fashion is in the eye of the beholder, I find my neon Atoms to be cool and stylish shoes. I like that they’re monochromatic, and I like how simple the rest of the design is.
It can be challenging to find comfortable shoes that don’t look like running shoes or orthopedic shoes, but Atoms hit the mark in the style department.
Shoes can be a hotbed for foul odors caused by bacterial growth.
Atoms Model 000 has copper threads woven into the lining and insoles, which kill bacteria before they start to stink up your shoes and feet. That’s a big plus!
The weight of each shoe in a pair of men’s size 10s is only 9.5 ounces.
They not only feel very light on your feet, but they’re also suitable for traveling because they won’t pack extra pounds in your suitcase.
Atoms employs several strategies to make their business better for the environment. First of all, they have a completely waterless dying process that eliminates toxic runoff.
They also use carbon offsets for shipping, all-vegan materials, and Atoms shoes are 99% recyclable. They’re also working on a trade-in program to reduce waste further.
Unfortunately, the Model 000 is not without any drawbacks.
Quick to show wear and tear
My biggest qualm with Atoms Model 000 is how quickly they stopped looking new.
The proprietary foam is undoubtedly cozy and comfortable, but it also quickly creases and wrinkles and collects scuffs and dirt.
It’s unclear if they’ll continue to deteriorate or stay stable at the level of wear that they currently have.
Admittedly, I live in a notoriously dirty city, and it’s possible that wearing them in wetter weather speeded up the wearing-out process.
But on the other hand, I generally only walk about a mile or two a day, and I’ve been wearing my Atoms for less than a month.
If you opt for the all-black version, these issues will probably be less noticeable. And luckily, the non-slip rubber outsole seems to be pretty durable, but the other problems are a shame.
High price tag compared to their durability.
The Atoms Model 000 retails for $129, which is fairly pricey for sneakers. I was surprised that the foam began to crease so quickly for such a big purchase.
Atoms Shoes Sizing Tips, Fit & How They Should Feel
Now that we’ve covered my personal Atoms experience, let’s go over some facts and figures about the shoe and the brand itself.
How Does Sizing Work? Do Atoms Shoes Run Big or Small?
Atoms shoes run true to size – my size 8’s fit perfectly. And with their quarter sizing, you can get exact about finding the right size.
The size guide on their website even lists the inches that correspond to each shoe size and includes instructions on correctly measuring your foot, so there’s no guesswork.
Do Atoms Shoes Stretch?
While Atoms Model 000 are stretchy to conform perfectly to your foot, they won’t stretch out over time.
Atoms claims that its shoes will continue to feel just as comfortable as they did out of the box.
And while visually, they have started to show wear very quickly, they still feel just as comfortable and sturdy as they did initially.
Are Atoms Shoes Comfortable?
Atoms Model 000 Shoes are super comfortable. They have a very soft, bouncy, and supportive footbed, and the stretchy, breathable mesh upper fits my foot nicely.
While the insoles are somewhat thin, they still feel like they have good arch support. They’re also super lightweight, giving new meaning to the phrase “putting a spring in your step.”
How Long Does it Take to Break in Atoms Shoes?
Atoms shoes don’t require any breaking in. They’re comfortable immediately and seem to form to your foot instantly.
Atoms are not the type of shoe that will give you blisters on their first wear (and if they do, you probably have the wrong size).
How Should Atoms Shoes Fit When I Try Them on?
Atoms shoes should fit perfectly when you first try them on – if you picked the correct size.
Since they’re not going to stretch out or mold to a different shape over time, what you experience initially should be how the shoes will fit in the long run.
This means fitting snugly around your foot with enough room to wiggle your toes freely inside the toe box.
Do Atoms Shoes Provide Enough Support?
I was born with extra bones in my feet, making my feet weaker than the average foot. Still, I find my Atoms shoes to be quite supportive of my abnormal feet.
They don’t have molded arches, but the whole shoe conforms to your foot for a comfortable and supportive fit.
Are Atoms Shoes Good For High Arches?
Because Atoms hug your feet and conform to their shape, I find they provide good arch support.
But they don’t have pre-defined arches the way some shoes do. However, the insoles are removable, so if you prefer high-arch inserts, you can add your own.
Are Atoms Shoes Good for Wide Feet?
Atoms shoes do not have designated wide sizes. However, because they have some stretch and conform to the shape of your foot, they can accommodate a variety of shapes – even if your foot has a generous width.
I don’t have wide feet, so I can’t report firsthand on this, but I have seen some customer reviews from people who say they have wide feet and that Atoms shoes still fit them great.
Can You Wear Atoms Shoes With Plantar Fasciitis?
For people with plantar fasciitis, the best shoes will be supportive and have adequate cushioning.
Since that perfectly describes Atoms shoes, you can bet that they’ll be a good choice if you struggle with plantar fasciitis.
Can You Wear Atoms Shoes With Bunions?
The Atoms Model 000 shoe has a supremely stretchy knit upper, making it a solid option for people with bunions, as they’ll be elastic enough to fit some extra width.
Atoms’ quarter sizing could also come in handy if you have bunions, giving you the option to get a slightly larger size. Again, Atoms doesn’t offer different widths, but they have a generous stretch.
Atoms Shoes Durability
How is the Quality of Atoms Shoes?
One of the things that Atoms advertises is the superior quality of their materials.
Despite my complaints about how quickly the Atoms Model 000 shoes started to look worn, my issue isn’t with the manufacturing quality.
They still feel like high-quality shoes. The rubber outsole hasn’t worn down and the stitching remains sturdy.
It’s just that the foam midsole is quick to wrinkle and attracts dirt easily. That’s not necessarily a quality issue but rather the nature of the material.
Are Atoms Shoes Waterproof?
No, Atoms shoes are not waterproof, nor do they claim to be.
I tested this out myself! And indeed, when I wore them during a quick walk during a “wintery mix” (that’s weather-channel speak for a horrifying mixture of snow and rain), they soaked through quite quickly.
According to the Frequently Asked Questions on their website, they did create two water-resistant colors (Coral and Ocean Blue).
However, those colors don’t seem to be available for purchase at the moment, so there currently aren’t any waterproof Atoms.
If you’re looking for better rainy day shoes, read our guide to the best waterproof walking shoes for women.
How Long do Atoms Shoes Last?
My Atoms shoes are a bit scuffed one month in and the foam has wrinkles and creases. These wrinkles appeared very quickly, so they don’t stay looking brand-new very long at all.
However, because the outsole hasn’t worn down and all the fabric and stitching are still perfectly intact, it feels like they will last in this state for a long time.
One reviewer reported replacing their pair after around seven months, which seems very fast for a shoe of this price range. But perhaps this reviewer was responding to the same visual wear and tear I’m describing.
Part of what Atoms’ design aims to do is ensure that the fit and feel of the shoe don’t change over time.
Even though they have some visual deterioration, I can attest that they still feel as comfortable and sturdy as ever.
How to Take Care of and Clean Atoms Shoes
Atoms recommends spot cleaning specific stains. But when spot cleaning no longer cuts it (which didn’t take long for me!), they are machine-washable.
You just need to remove the insoles and wash them in cold water on a gentle cycle.
They also recommend placing them in a delicates bag or an old pillowcase (which is what I used). My Atoms came out looking much cleaner, but a few scuffs remained.
It does feel like the Atoms sneakers collect dirt quicker than other shoes, particularly the foam midsole.
I don’t usually have to clean a pair of sneakers this early into owning them. So I would recommend being diligent about spot cleaning regularly to keep them looking fresh.
Atoms Return & Exchange Policy
You can either return or exchange your pair of Atoms for up to 30 days after you’ve received them.
To do this, you’d need to enter your order number and zip code onto the Return & Exchange page on the Atoms website to get the process started.
Atoms is also working on a trade-in program to reduce waste once the shoes wear out. But as of yet, they haven’t launched this.
Atoms Discounts & Coupons
There are several ways to get a discount on the Atoms Model 000 Shoes.
First off, Atoms offers a $20 discount on your first order when you enter your email address to subscribe for updates and exclusive deals.
You can also get $20 off if you visit their referral page and tell a friend about Atoms (both you and your friend will receive the discount!).
Beyond that, Atoms gives a 15% discount to teachers and a 10% discount to healthcare workers, first responders, seniors, government workers, and the military.
If you fall into any of these categories, click the green ID.me button during checkout. From there, you’ll make an account to verify your information and then receive the discount automatically.
Other Atoms Products
The Atoms Model 000 is currently the only shoe design that the brand offers, but they do sell a couple of smaller accessories.
Atoms offers their elastic laces individually for $12 per pair in case you want to switch out the color or add these laces to a different pair of shoes.
They come in a broader range of colors than the shoe itself – there are 12 to choose from and four different sizes ranging from short to extra long.
It makes sense that Atoms would take their scientific approach to materials and apply it to face masks. After all, masks have become a staple in the average wardrobe.
New evidence shows that conventional cloth masks don’t offer a lot of protection against airborne viruses.
However, Atoms makes an everyday mask with a copper-lined, ionized quartz yarn inner layer that gives you 84.6% filtration, plus the antibacterial effects of copper (goodbye maskne!).
Their masks retail for a reasonable $12 and come in 14 different colors and four sizes.
You can also purchase socks from Atoms, which come in ankle and crew designs, and both come in three different ombre gradients.
They use a blend of organic cotton and polyester and have extra padding on the bottom to add to the Atoms Model 000’s cloud-like cushioning.
Allbirds vs. Atoms Shoes
Atoms and Allbirds frequently get compared. Many Atoms Shoes reviews say that Atoms are the next Allbirds, and it’s easy to see why.
Each sneaker company has ties to Silicon Valley, they both feature a design that prioritizes comfort, and they both use innovative antimicrobial materials with a sustainability-forward business model.
In terms of sustainability, Allbirds wins out thanks to their status as a certified B-Corp.
Allbirds shoes are also moisture-wicking and antimicrobial, so you’re encouraged to wear them sockless.
By contrast, you aren’t supposed to wear the Atoms Model 000 Shoes without socks, although the copper threads will fight foot odor.
From a stylistic point of view, I prefer the Atoms Model 000 over Allbirds, although that’s a matter of personal preference.
Another advantage of Atoms shoes is their quarter sizes. Some styles of Allbirds don’t even come in half sizes, but with Atoms, you can find the perfect fit.
Additionally, Atoms doesn’t use animal-derived products and they have a waterless dyeing process. This means their manufacturing practices save more water than Allbirds, which uses merino wool and eucalyptus fibers.
I haven’t worn Allbirds sneakers (although our editor-in-chief, Mimi, has tested out the Allbirds Wool Runners, Tree Runners, and Tree Dashers), but I own a pair of the Allbirds Wool Loungers, an all-wool slip-on shoe.
I find the Allbirds Loungers to be highly – even shockingly – comfortable thanks to the temperature-regulating qualities of the wool.
They really feel like a pair of slippers that I can wear outside. So, while my Model 000’s are very comfortable, the Loungers are on another level of comfort.
With that said, I’m more inclined to reach for my pair of Atoms Model 000 when I’m putting an outfit together because I prefer the way they look.
Where to Buy Atoms Shoes
Atoms is a direct-to-consumer brand, so they’re not available in a lot of different stores or from any third-party sources. You can purchase a pair of Atoms from their website.
They’re also available on Zappos.com, although I’d recommend ordering them directly to make sure you can take advantage of the many discounts.
FAQs About Atoms Shoes
Where are Atoms shoes made?
Atoms launched in Silicon Valley and now has its headquarters in Brooklyn, NY, where they design the shoes.
They manufacture their shoes in Busan, South Korea, where their team hand sews each pair.
Do you wear socks with Atoms shoes?
The copper threads in the Model 000 shoes kill bacteria and prevent odor and the knit mesh upper provides breathability.
But despite these two features, Atoms still recommends that you wear socks with them.
The design of these shoes is supposed to prevent odor with everyday use, but they can’t guarantee that they’ll work on sockless feet.
However, if you must go sockless, you’ll be better off doing it in a pair of Atoms over a conventional sneaker.
Atoms socks’ design specifically complements and enhances the Model 000, so if you’re looking for the ultimate Atoms comfort experience, try them with a pair of Atoms socks!
Are Atoms shoes washable?
Yes, the Atoms Model 000 is machine washable. You’ll need to remove the insole, use cold water, and run it on the gentle cycle.
A delicates bag or an old pillowcase is also a good idea to prevent damage and prevent the shoes from banging around inside the machine.
I washed my pair of Atoms and they came out considerably cleaner than they were before, although a few scuffs remained on the midsole and one stain on the toe of the knit upper.
Are Atoms shoes slip-resistant?
The Model 000 has a non-slip rubber outsole, which has a pretty good grip in an everyday situation.
The rubber sole is flat with small recessed circles, so it’s not a super rugged tread. I would be hesitant to wear them while walking over ice, but the Model 000 isn’t a winter shoe anyway.
How long do Atoms take to ship?
Atoms processes orders within two days, and if you’re in the US, the package generally arrives within two to five business days from when it’s processed. International orders take five to 10 business days.
My Atoms order arrived very quickly, just a few days after ordering, and the company had great communication around when they were arriving.
Do Atoms shoes get smelly?
Atoms uses bacteria-fighting copper threads to prevent odor-causing germs from thriving. On top of that, they’re machine washable, so they shouldn’t ever get stinky.
In my own experience, they’ve entirely resisted any bad smell.
With that said, my feet aren’t very prone to odor. I generally have to work pretty hard to make my shoes smelly – although it does happen when I wear a pair repeatedly without socks in hot weather and dirty environments!
I haven’t tried wearing my Atoms without socks and I sent them through the wash within the first month of owning them, so they still smell perfectly fresh.
Are Atoms good walking shoes?
If you’re planning on doing a lot of walking, a pair of Atoms would be a solid choice.
Atoms has designed these shoes to be super comfortable and supportive for everyday use, including walking.
Why are Atoms so expensive?
Admittedly, Atoms are pretty pricey, especially for a sneaker.
They do have a custom foam midsole that uses a material they’ve specially developed. But since this midsole is the part I have the most doubts about, I hesitate to say it’s the caliber of the materials that account for the price.
However, there’s an excellent reason for their high cost outside of the materials. Each pair of Atoms is handmade, including hand stitching on the uppers.
Because of that, Atoms has higher quality control and a much lower default rate than the average shoe.
But that’s also what makes this shoe so pricey. Skilled labor costs more than machine manufacturing.
Atoms initially cost $180 when they launched, so the price has fallen since then. Perhaps, as they grow as a company, they’ll be able to reduce the cost further.
Conclusion: My Overall Thoughts on Atoms Shoes
As I wrap up this Atoms sneakers review, it’s time to reach a final verdict. Are Atoms shoes worth the cost (and the hype?)
I admit that I’m a bit torn. There are a lot of things I like and appreciate about these sneakers.
First of all, I like their style. I love the bright neon color, how the upper matches the midsole, and the versatile minimalist design.
These shoes are also quite comfortable and my feet feel supported and cushioned while wearing them.
Comfort is Atoms’ main claim and they definitely live up to those claims. I feel like I could walk all day or even hike a trail in these shoes without experiencing my usual foot pain.
The sneakers themselves are also exceptionally lightweight, and I’d feel good about packing them in my suitcase without adding much extra weight to my luggage. So, for an avid traveler, that’s a definite plus.
I’m also a big fan of elastic laces. With any other shoe, I find my laces come untied often, and people are always stopping me on the street to tell me to tie my shoes. Very annoying!
The elastic laces haven’t come untied once, not even when I sent them through the washing machine. Their stretchiness also makes them easy to slip on, which is good because I’m impatient and always on the go.
The antimicrobial copper lining and the availability of quarter sizes are extra advantages that sweeten the deal.
I like the idea that bacteria will have a hard time growing in this shoe because clean, sweet-smelling footwear is never bad.
As for the quarter sizes, I don’t personally have a strong need for these different sizes, but I think it’s neat for the company to do.
The brand itself is another reason to love Atoms. The story of how Sidra Qasim and Waqas Ali faced enormous odds and built the company from the ground up (and fell in love in the process!) is hard to discount.
Reading their story on Humans of New York made me want to support their company, and I’m not alone in that feeling.
With all of that said, it’s an undeniable drawback that the wrinkles, creases, and scuffs form so quickly – especially when you consider what they cost.
I live in New York City where grime and dirt are plentiful and I do a lot of walking, so perhaps my environment was tough on my Atoms.
But I do wish Atoms would continue working on their proprietary foam to improve this one issue.
In the meantime, I’d suggest taking advantage of every discount available, choosing the black color, and being diligent about spot-cleaning them.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Elina Ansary is a writer, visual artist, and avid traveler. She grew up in San Francisco, CA, and spent her childhood camping up and down Northern California. These days, she visits artist residencies around the world and has lived in Amsterdam, Australia, and now Brooklyn, NY.
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