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