Tieks Fold-up Ballet Flats: An Answer for Female Backpackers?

Tieks are they worth it? Are they good for backpackers?

We’ve talked a lot about a different shoe options here on Her Packing List in the past year: Tieks fold-up ballet flats. Caroline just recently received her first pair, I’ve had my pair of matte black for a year, and I’m actually making my final decision on a second pair as we speak (disclaimer: I did receive a discount code from Tieks for it). Heck, I even bought a pair of cardinal red Tieks for my mom on her birthday! But, when I mentioned Tieks on Facebook the other day, I received a couple of emails and comments about how people would never spend that much money on shoes, or that expensive shoes like that probably aren’t the best idea for backpacking.

So, let’s discuss this a bit further. Are Tieks an answer for female backpackers?

Tieks: The Fold-up Ballet Flat

Tieks are durable leather (they have a vegan line, too) ballet flats that are designed to fold in half, making them a very packable addition to any female’s travel gear list. But, these flats also look great. Not only do they come in a couple dozen colors, they also have a bit of a classy edge, meaning they can go from casual to dressy with the right ensemble. You know how we love versatility around here at HPL!

Why I Love My Tieks

Tieks in a boxThe benefits of my Tieks go beyond travel.

Tieks are versatile. Since getting my pair of matte black over a year ago, Tieks have become my go-to shoes when doing anything that involves leaving the house and being social. This includes dinners, business related endeavors, drinks, or even attending weddings (we’re at 4 and counting on that one).

Tieks look and feel great. I have horrible feet these days. Long story short, shoes are a touchy subject. However, when it comes to flats, Tieks are the best ones I’ve found regardless of the fact it lacks arch support. I love that the leather structure sort of molds to your foot shape after a bit of wear. While my custom orthotics don’t fit in Tieks, some do. Instead, I opt for an extra cushion on the bottom for my heels. Of course, I wouldn’t wear this for an outing that involves walking or standing all day.

Another plus for the design is that, unlike some other ballet flats, Tieks doesn’t have elastic around the heel of the shoe, meaning you don’t have that uncomfortable digging and blister feeling.

Tieks are durable. I’ve been wearing my pair for over a year and they’re still going strong! No real signs of wear.

Tieks are packable. They fold in half and fit in a tiny pouch?!

The Price

Coming in at no less than $175 a pair, Tieks are not a purchase you should take lightly. If you’re choking on your coffee right now, apologies for that shocker – but hear me out. I have been wearing my Tieks quite regularly for the past year, and I’m certain they have a lot more life left in them. During that time, they have attended 2 conferences (that I traveled to) and 4 weddings (2 of which were international).

It’s important to look at the value of the product, and the cost per wear. Since Tieks can pass in a more dressy occasion, but also work beautifully with jeans and a t-shirt, you can potentially get a lot more use out of the one pair than a pair of dress shoes.

Oh, and did we mention they are quite packable? Their versatility for many situations and compact size means you could pack fewer shoes for certain trips – saving both weight and space (and money!).

Would I Recommend Tieks to Backpackers?

Now this is where it gets tricky. Some women backpack (quite fashionably) across Western Europe; others backpack the backroads of Central Asia. Not every trip or traveler is the same, so I can’t say they are the answer for female backpackers.

I personally wouldn’t pack them when planning to take the Trans-Mongolian train from China to Russia. I also wouldn’t take them if I have an extremely heavy backpack and plan to walk around a lot with it while wearing them. You need some proper walking/hiking shoes for that… However, I would pack them in the following situations:

  • You’re on a long-term backpacking trip and know you will be stopping in the middle for a friend’s wedding, a travel conference or other major event.
  • You’re backpacking from major city to major city. No real need for uber rugged gear there.
  • You’re taking weekend or short-term trips and want to travel carry-on only.
  • You’re a backpacker who loves to indulge in the finer things from time to time. Think splurge dinners and shows.

When it comes to taking valuable items on your travels, as one person pointed out on Facebook, it really depends on what you’re comfortable with. Backpacks and technical clothing (like a merino wool jacket) can cost just the same as these shoes, and items like laptops and cameras definitely cost more.

I think what it comes down to is this: Buy Tieks for your normal life. Take them traveling, on the right trips.

The Alternatives

There are a number of fold-up, roll-up and squish down shoes on the market these days, and they tend to be on the cheaper (or super cheap) side of the scale. Items like Spare Soles are an option for the backpacker that might only need a pair of shoes other than their Gore-tex soled hikers and Chacos on random occasions.

Those cheap pairs also have their downsides as they are definitely less nice looking, less comfortable, and less durable. In other words, you would buy those cheaper options just for their occasional purpose whereas Tieks act as a proper shoe on their own.

For others, a pair of Toms might also work sufficiently as they squish flat and are fairly light.

My final thought: Tieks work great for me, and I find them to be a real asset on many of my travels, but they won’t come with me on every trip. I hope this information helps you understand better when and where they might be useful.

Update

I should have put these up sooner, but here are my first pair of matte black Tieks, received back in October 2012. Photo taken March 21, 2014. The only cleaning I’ve done is wiping down with a soft cloth, so imagine what these babies would look like with a wipe of some leather cleaner right now!

matte black Tieks ballet flats
My first pair of matte black Tieks, 1.5 years of wear and still going strong.
Metallic gold Tieks ballet flats
My new Metallic gold Tieks. I’m in love!

What about you? Do you own Tieks and travel with them? Would you take them backpacking? Let us know.

Written by Brooke

Brooke Schoenman runs the show at Her Packing List. Inspired from years of travel experience, Brooke decided there needed to be a travel gear site focused on the needs of a wandering female.

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Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

Sea to Summit – Of all the Sea to Summit products, our most recommended is the fits-in-your-palm, super packable Ultra-Sil Daypack.


Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Clothing

Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

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Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Hostelworld – For hostels, Hostelworld remains our number one source for booking stays. Choose from straight up hostels, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Jo R. says

    I splurged recently on my first pair of Tieks (matte black) and I LOVE THEM! I wear them every day for my admin job. I live in Australia and they arrived very quickly, with a lovely, hand written note accompanying the shoes. I have had issues with my feet in the past that was painful and took a long time to resolve so I’m very wary about buying shoes. My Tieks are super comfortable, even after wearing them all day, and I haven’t had a blister or painful arch. I’m thinking that Santa will be buying me another pair for Christmas!

    • Brooke says

      The customer service is quite fantastic! Sounds like we have similar foot/shoe issues. When you struggle with foot pain, you start to look at shoes totally differently. Yes, they are expensive, but if they work well, then it’s worth it, right?!

  2. Bec says

    If these are as good as they sound they would be the perfect shoe for evening outings. I’m still a big fan of Birkenstock sandals for long days of walking but at night Tieks would be perfect. I wasn’t a fan of spare soles & other flats I’ve bought didn’t handle the cobblestones of Europe for long before wearing out. Good quality leather is the way to go.

  3. Melissa says

    I bought my first pair of tieks after reading about them here and on a few other blogs. 9 months later, I have 3 pairs, and a pair that is currently under the Christmas tree to me, from me πŸ™‚

    I find them to be incredibly useful when traveling because I have pairs that go with everything (matte black, nude, the gold Starstruck print, and Red patents) and so they work for dressier events (i took the gold ones to slip into at a formal charity event this weekend), “going out”, easy to slip on and off at the airport when my TSA pre-chk isn’t available, and they take up minimal space. All while still being able to keep up an fashionable appearance when I want.

    • Brooke says

      Hi Emily – You don’t enter the code at checkout to get a discount. You have to visit the special page I linked to and use the code to enter. From there it is possible to get up to 20% off πŸ™‚ In regards to sizing, they have a page on their site all about it. Remember the leather will stretch and mold to your feet with wear. But, if you live in the States, you can order a pair and if it doesn’t work, they’ll send you a second pair so you can decide side-by-side before sending the other back! Let us know how it all works out!

      • Sara says

        I want to order these now but the coupon code isn’t working. I know this page is outdated. Any chance you can provide a new code? PLEASE, this would be amazing.

        Thank you!

  4. Vanessa F. says

    I found a similar brand of flats that fold up and will be looking into buying a pair in the very near future. They are Yosi Samra flats have just about the same style and function (they fold just like Tieks), and the price definitely beats them by far! They run around $50-$80 a pair! πŸ™‚

    • 33 says

      I just bought several pairs of Yosi Samra, too. As much as I would like to try Tieks, I just don’t want to spend that much for a pair of flats. Yosi Samra is so much more affordable ($20 to $30 on TJMaxx on line), uses the same material, and cute to boot.

      As for wearing them when traveling, Soft sole flats like Tieks and Yosi Samra are great for unevenly paved city streets and can minimize accidental ankle twisting (hard soles are not as good at handling unevenness). The reason why feet get tired is from joint pain and collapsed insteps (reason why flipflops are not good walking shoes). However, long term backpackers can walk longer and harder without tired feet because their feet got stronger from daily treks. Normal people who don’t walk/run often need hard sided shoes to hold in the feet so that they arches would not collapse after standing and walking.

      Feet need training to handle the load. With so many joints and tiny bones, feet are incredibly delicate therefore they need to ease into walking. With time, feet will become resilient.

    • Tanisha says

      I bought this show after reading this blog; however, the hefty $195 I paid resulted in the instep to toe box unraveling a mere 30 days later. The exchange policy? A hoax! After sending across pictures of the obviously defective shoe, I was told that it’s only the decoration and that they need essentially a week to repair them. But isn’t the decoration part of why the “ballerina slipper” costs so much? Then they offer me 25% off my next pair for the inconvenience. I will NEVER buy another pair! My first pair hasn’t lived up to the “standard” and their exchange/return policy is misleading. It should read “If you have never worn this shoe, we will exchange or refund you if you don’t like it. If you have, tough luck!” I expect more from a company that charges high-end pricing. Going forward, I will stick to true luxury stores that do not hassle you if your shoe falls apart in 30 days. My advice – for $195, get 3 or 4 pairs of flats that will last longer than 30 days. I officially hate this place and their service is horrible!

      • Brooke says

        Hi Tanisha, Sorry to hear you had this experience. We recommend Tieks at HPL because we have them, love them and know many others who have had wonderful experiences. What model shoe did you get? Also, did they offer to repair them for you (I think that’s what you wrote)?

  5. Steph T. says

    I had the same initial sticker shock, but I bit the bullet and bought the clover green. I put them on and my feet fell in love. I have horrible problems with my feet…too many years of cheap shoes and being overweight. I always get blisters when I start wearing new shoes…not these, they fit like a glove from day 1. I now own three pairs and I’m about to buy a 4th. They have been with me to Germany and all over the US. If I’m hiking or walking long distances, I still wear my running shoes or Chacos, as I need the arch support, but these are my everyday shoes.

    • Brooke says

      Hi Steph –

      Sounds like we have similar foot issues and experiences with Tieks! Love them, but if I’m doing major walking, I will wear a fully supportive shoe.

  6. April says

    I am considering these shoes for my 12-day tour of Europe. I will be on a school guided tour so there will be a lot walking, and a lot of traveling (flights, buses and trains) I wanted to know while I won’t be back packing, if you think these shoes will be a good ballet flat option for all the potential walking I will be doing?

  7. Susan says

    I looked into these but a friend told me that she’d read a blog written by a woman who was trying to only buy quality products to see if she saved by having extended use per cost. The review wasn’t good.
    Do you have photos of your year old Tieks? I can see that if you were asked to give a review by Tieks and they gave you a pair you might feel obligated to promote them. Or you may have other reasons.
    Sorry to be so skeptical.

    • Brooke says

      Hi Susan!

      No worries on being skeptical. These shoes are not cheap, so it makes sense πŸ™‚

      First off, Tieks never asked me to review their shoes. I genuinely love Tieks (I also bought a pair for my mom last year who also loves them now), and when I contacted them in regards to a different project, they ended up giving me a discount on my next pair. That’s all πŸ™‚

      Secondly – I’ve updated the post with a photo of my shoes.

      Hope this helps!

  8. Kate says

    These seem like they would be exactly what I’ve been looking for since I tend to wear ballet flats most days anyway. However, I’m curious about the smell factor. I typically wear my flats barefoot, and they can get stinky pretty quickly. How have these held up over the past year? Do you wear socks/inserts with them to keep them fresh, or do they breathe well enough on their own that you can get by barefoot without having toxic feet?

    • Brooke says

      Hi Kate –

      They seem to breathe pretty well. The only time mine have become smelly is when I put these cheap little foamy inserts in (I have overall picky feet and sometimes the bottom of my heel is sensitive). The foam inserts soaked up the sweat/smell, but when I removed those, vaccumed out any remnants and let sit in the sun – all become normal. πŸ™‚

  9. Allison says

    Hi Brooke,

    How are these for walking outside (on sidewalk/pavement)? I live in NYC and therefore walk A LOT. I usually have to buy a new pair of flats every summer because I walk right through the bottoms. If these are very durable, they will probably save me money in the long-run!

    Thanks!

  10. Karla says

    Awesome write up, thanks πŸ™‚ . How do they run sizewise? True to size or.. I’m an 8 and know they don’t do half sizes so I’m hoping to hear they’re true to size. Like most, I’ve been thinking about getting a pair, I love to travel and walk, walk, walk everywhere, these sound like the pair for that.

    • Nancy says

      I wear an 8 so bought an 8. The length is right but I see a very long breaki in period because they squish my big toe. I’m reluctant to purchase a 9 because my foot is extremely narrow.

  11. Raphaelle says

    Well, I have a pair of the Gold Tieks, and they are the most comfortable shoes I own. However, after wearing them very occasionally for a couple of months, my big toe nail poked through the lining and the gold is coming off where my big toe hits. I would purchase more of them in other colors because they are so cute and comfy, but I’m weary of doing that because of my experience with the gold ones. Can anyone share their thoughts on how well their Tieks age? Should I get another pair? (considering the red patent, fuchsia or yellow classic ones)

    Thanks!!

    • Sarah Thompson says

      The same thing happened with me and the metallic Gray. All of the non metallics wear better, I have yellow, chestnut, fuchsia, leopard, red, and now I own the gold. (i realize it might have been silly for me to buy another metallic pair, but I am hoping now that I own 7 pairs rotating them will make them last longer)

  12. Caroline says

    For those of you still on the fence, I have another word of praise for them. I got my pair back in December, but developed bunions the past four months, meaning they no longer fit well. The folks at Tieks kindly switched them out, no questions asked. You’re also paying for the quality customer service! The reason doesn’t have to be a good one, you can just have changed your mind about size or color.

  13. Djm says

    Just back from vacation and wore my tieks in venice for two hours and my left foot started to hurt and was shocked to see had a huge blister/cut right by the rounded two part! Seems the leather was digging Into my skin! Did email tieks and they suggested should of stretched them out before hand by wearing them in the house with thick socks!? Really!!! Did wear them before vacation and have narrow feet and believe if stretched them they probably would fall off my feet!!! Expensive and I’m so bummed

    • Brooke says

      Sorry to hear Debbie. Everyone’s feet are different so obviously no shoe will be perfect for everyone. If you do decide to stretch out the toe area a bit more, and then feel like the heel is too loose, I recommend getting some leather heel liners to stick in the back. I did that with one of my pairs and they fit me so perfectly. Roomy on my toes and the heel doesn’t slip. But only get the leather heel liners (like Dr. Scholl’s brand) as those work best. Alternatively, depending on how the leather is digging into your skin, you can get different leather pads that can stick to the inside of the shoe around the toe area that might help with your issue. Don’t give up yet πŸ™‚

      • Christyn says

        I’m curious if you stretched out the toe area on yours? If so how did you do so. I just received a 9 and thought they fit okay and then tried 8s. The 8 look so much better but as I’ve been wearing them the only area that bothers me is my toes.

        • Brooke says

          I wore really thick socks in them around the house for a while and that helped a bit. You could probably also get some of those leather shoe stretchers (for width)? Never tried them.

  14. Kelsey says

    How do they fair with water? I am considering purchasing them for going to Scotland at the end of the month. I have some concerns regarding lots of walking on cobblestone streets. As well, I’m worried that the rain could ruin them or that if it rains in the morning I could be walking around with squealchy feet all day.

  15. Emma says

    Hi love your site.
    We are saving for an around the world trip in 2017 so was very excited i found your page.
    I also have crappy feet which makes shoe shopping difficult, do you know if tieks have any retailers in Australia. Id love to be able to try them on before i bought them.
    Thanks

  16. Carrie says

    I just got my first pair of Tieks, and I love how soft the leather is, but I’m worried about it wearing out! Does anyone have any tips on leather protectors/cleaners/conditioners? I’m worried about the area at the base of the heel, just above where the upper leather meets the sole, as that’s where most of my flats show the most wear.

  17. Heidi says

    Hi – I work in a physical therapy clinic and I walk on my feet about 3 miles a day. Do you think tieks will be able to support that? Also, do they get smelly after a lot of use? Thank you!

    • Brooke says

      Hi Heidi- There is no arch support in the Tieks, so if that’s what you mean by support, then no. It really comes down to your feet and what they can handle. For long days of walking, I try not to wear Tieks, but more a walking shoe. They do tend to get less smelly than most other shoes I own!

  18. deanna says

    I got my fist pair for Christmas in.my usual size, an 8. They are very snug and uncomfortable. I’ve worn them around the house with a thick sock but can’t imagine how long it would take before I would be able to comfortably wear them for the day. I did get a 9 to compare and they definitely fit more comfortably, but a much looser fit. They don’t slide off or anything but I’m worried they would stretch out over time and be too big. Any thoughts?

    • Brooke says

      That’s tough and something only you can decide for yourself. I have both 8 and 9’s in Tieks. I ended up stretching out the 8’s enough to wear, but there was always a little pinch. The 9’s are slightly too big, but I added in some heal slip patches to the backs and they fit much better. You can also get some Sugru and add it to the back of the heal area to make them fit better. I will only get 9’s from now on.

  19. Amanda says

    I would love to get a pair of these, but I have really crappy feet. I was wondering, has anyone put a support in their Tieks? How did it work out? Did you have to order a size up?
    I have a full orthotic because of flat feet. Anyone else?

    Honestly I keep looking at them, they seem so buttery….

    • Brooke says

      My full orthotics do not fit in them unfortunately. They are too wide and raise the foot up too much for the heel to stick on. Perhaps if you have the kind that are made for dress shoes, but I wouldn’t know.

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