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If there’s a shoe I consider essential to my daily life, it’s a canvas-colored plimsoll lace-up. It’s comfy, casual, and has a classic look that blends well with a variety of outfits. Lots of brands make these shoes: Vans is arguably the most popular option, SeaVees is another good pick, and I’ve even worn a pair made by Toms.
No matter where I source them, however, each pair seems to last about a year before I wear a hole in the upper or the outsole and I have to toss them. Discarding a set of shoes annually amounts to a lot of wasted material, so after my last pair hit retirement earlier this year, I jumped at the chance to try the Juntos AlpaKnit Lace-ups, a more sustainable take on the iconic plimsoll shoe.
Juntos offers two AlpaKnit shoes, a slip-on and a lace-up, and both are made from an array of natural materials along with some recycled plastic. The main highlight is the use of alpaca fleece in both the upper and insole—the fleece is soft, comfortable, breathes well, and it makes the shoes washable, too. With its sleek, minimalist design approach and emphasis on sustainability, Juntos fills a similar niche as Allbirds, but the brand isn’t a carbon copy: Although Allbirds has a much larger product lineup, it doesn’t utilize alpaca fleece. I’ve had a pair of Allbirds Wool Runners for years, and I only wear them when I absolutely do not care what’s on my feet (I find their styling really bland).
I was curious how the AlpaKnit would stack up against my Wool Runners, and more importantly, if they’d fill the plimsoll-shaped hole in my shoe lineup. After a few weeks of wear, I can say I prefer them to my Allbirds, but they’re not perfect—read on for a more detailed breakdown.
At a Glance
Juntos AlpaKnit Lace-Up Sneaker
Sizing: 8-13 | Upper: recycled cotton/alpaca/banana tree | Midsole: coconut/sugarcane | Machine-washable: Yes |
Juntos Review: Design and Materials
The AlpaKnit Lace-up is a simple laced shoe made from both natural and recycled synthetic materials. Starting from the top, the upper is constructed from a blend of recycled organic cotton and alpaca fleece; it feels super soft and has a subtle texture that adds some visual interest to the exterior of the shoe. On the inside, it’s lined with a fabric derived from cotton (recycled and organic) and banana tree fibers, a waste product from banana farming. This interior textile creates a smooth, soft surface that feels comfortable against the skin. The foot rests on an insole with a top layer of plush, fuzzy alpaca fleece and a lower layer of squishy foam created from coconut fiber.
Below that, there’s a sugarcane-derived ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) midsole. Other brands, including Allbirds, have also experimented with this sustainable cushioning foam, and together with the insole, it cushions each step you take in the AlpaKnit. Finally, there’s some plastic in the mix, too: The outsole, the piping on the upper, and the toe cap are made from recycled thermoplastic polyurethane.
I’ve had my pair of Juntos for a little over two weeks, and I’ve been wearing them nearly every day since I received them. From walks around the neighborhood with my dog to running errands and grabbing groceries, they’ve been my go-to shoes for casual wear.
What We Like
- Low Weight: The AlpaKnit Lace-up is notably light. My size 10 pair weighed in at 7.1 ounces per shoe—over an ounce lighter than my Allbirds Wool Runners, and those are a size 9. When walking, the AlpaKnit never felt clunky or cumbersome. It was more like wearing a slipper than a full-on sneaker.
- Flexibility: The AlpaKnit has a thin sole with excellent flexibility, and the shoe easily bent with the motion of my foot. Other plimsoll shoes I’ve worn in the past had much stiffer soles, especially where they met the upper—so stiff that the sole actually cracked at the flex point on the forefoot. Not so with the AlpaKnit: It glided easily through my stride, and the upper and sole showed no signs of stress. The streamlined sole felt especially nice when driving, as it allowed me to easily feel the pedals and didn’t dull their feedback.
- Comfy Premium Fabrics: The alpaca fleece-cotton upper is a highlight on the AlpaKnit. It has a soft, sock-like feel, and the subtle fabric texture gives it a natural look I really liked—it’s similar to what you’d find on a knit sock. Compared to the plain wool upper of my Allbirds, the AlpaKnit had more visual appeal, and I especially appreciated the contrast between the upper fabric and the toe cap. It doesn’t completely shed the minimalist, tech-bro vibe, but it has more character.
- Sustainability: The use of natural materials throughout the shoe is a big win, especially for a type of footwear that I tend to burn through quickly. Juntos sources its wool from a single farm in Ecuador, and according to the brand, the banana and coconut fibers used in the upper and insoles are waste products that would otherwise be thrown out or burned. Although there’s still some plastic involved, it is reassuring to know that significant portions of the shoe are made without petroleum, and they’ll (in theory, at least) biodegrade when my pair wears out.
What We Don’t
- Minimal Cushioning: Looking for a plush, well-cushioned sneaker? The AlpaKnit is not that shoe. While the fleece-lined coconut fiber insole has some squish, the sole beneath it is firm, with very little give or support. During my testing, I was always aware of the concrete beneath my feet. Cushioning is a matter of preference—some people love a firmer sole—but I would definitely choose a softer, more supportive shoe for long days of walking or standing.
- Not Exactly Barefoot-friendly: The Alpa-Knit is advertised as being so comfortable on the inside, you can wear it without socks. At first, this seemed to be true: The cozy fleece insole felt great under my sockless feet, and the soft upper didn’t irritate my skin. On a morning walk with my dog, however, my toenails kept getting caught on the edge of the toe cap inside the shoe—a very uncomfortable experience that made me scurry home ASAP for some socks.
- Bright White Colorway: The Alpa-Knit is available in three colorways: white, dark blue, and a garish light blue that I can’t imagine looking good on anybody. I chose the white thinking it would be the easiest to style. Not exactly: Out of the box, these shoes emerged a bright, pure white that reminded me of silky ballet slippers. After a few days of wear, the color seemed to mellow out a bit as the shoes picked up specks of dirt (or maybe I just got used to it). Even so, the white colorway, rather than being neutral, seemed to constantly assert itself, and I felt the shoes didn’t quite blend in with my usual late-summer uniform of light-wash jeans and a T-shirt.
The Verdict: Should You Buy Juntos AlpaKnit Lace-up?
Will the Juntos AlpaKnit Lace-ups replace your beloved Vans? I don’t think so: Style-wise, they don’t measure up to the timeless look of cotton canvas uppers and rubber waffle soles. They’re too minimalist to make much of a style statement, especially in that iconic footwear category. But they do serve a purpose: As a pair of knockaround shoes for short walks or errand running, I think they’re a solid choice, especially if you prefer a firmer, thinner sole. You’ll feel light on your feet, and you’ll tread a little more lightly on the planet, too.
Juntos AlpaKnit Lace-Up Sneaker
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