I walked all over NYC in Tieks to see if they're worth the price.
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Tieks shoes are a really big deal. You just might not know it yet.
I first heard of them because a friend of mine, a second-grade teacher, told me about how people in her teachers’ groups on Facebook were, in her words, “obsessed” with them. Tieks are a ballet flat that are supposedly exceptionally comfortable, come in a wide range of colors and patterns, and—as a dual novelty and convenience—fold up into compact rolls to tuck into a bag.
They're also ludicrously (to my mind) expensive: Tieks start at $175 a pair for basic matte leather and can cost as much as $345 for shiny patent leather or printed, patterned styles. After my friend told me about them, I starting noticing them, too: First in a Facebook ad then, a few days later, on my Instagram feed. As someone with a skeptical interest in direct-to-consumer footwear and a general disregard for ballet flats (to me, they are far too flat), I decided to try them out to see if Tieks could win me over.
To test them, I walked around New York City for a week (resulting in about 75,000 steps, according to my iPhone step counter), evaluating their comfort, style, and my overall experience with them. How did they fare? Let’s get into it.
When you buy a pair of Tieks, you also buy into a community, that counts Oprah (who is a fan) among its ranks. I did some Facebook research and found several Tieks fan groups in which members produced hundred-comment threads about the Tieks they have, the Tieks they want, and posted photos of them wearing Tieks to momentous (sometimes heartbreaking) events, like a child’s graduation or long-time spouse’s funeral. There are also Tieks fan accounts on Instagram where fans post photos of their outfits of the day, which feature a pair of Tieks.
On the day the Tieks were set to arrive, I went down to the Greek restaurant beneath my Brooklyn apartment where my packages are delivered (please don’t ask, I don’t know why either). The manager first handed me Zappo’s box... bearing my roommate’s name, not mine. I was crestfallen, but then he leaned back into the storage closet and pulled out a much smaller box, one I would at first have assumed held a ceramic mug or figurine. Instead, it held my Tieks.
The shoes came packed tightly together, along with a nylon tote bag, carrying pouch, and a handwritten thank-you note (yes, handwritten, addressed to me, not just a good printer job to make it appear so). My box also came with a set of blank greeting cards, but I’m not exactly sure why, or if that’s standard with every order.
I'd struggled with what color Tieks to choose, mainly because Tieks bear a bright blue stripe down the center of the heel—which, to be honest, I don’t love. I opted for camel, as it seemed to be the color that worked best with my wardrobe and the unavoidable accent color. The shoes' appearance was as I expected, which is to say the website rendered true-to-color, at least on my laptop screen.
After years of dealing with tight, painful heels and boots, I have reached a firm conclusion on what I consider to be my pinnacle of podiatric comfort: compression socks and orthopedic sandals. Tieks do not feel like this (unrealistically high) standard. In fact, they were tight and downright painful on the first day I wore them, though I didn’t hold this against them, as most leather shoes require at least a day of breaking in. Once they stretched to fit—and I gave my feet a day in loose sandals to let my burgeoning blisters die down—they were, indeed, quite comfortable.
This is because Tieks evade the problem that flats often have of simply being too flat. In my past experiences, even if my flats had cushy insides and flexible soles, the thing that ostensibly carried their appeal—their flatness—didn’t translate for me into all-day comfort. But Tieks have a thicker sole and a soft leather interior arch support that molds to the feet, which make them feel more springy and supportive than other flats I’ve worn. Their back is also cushioned, not elasticized, so they don’t dig into your heels like other flats can. This meant traipsing around the city in Tieks felt better than it had in any other flat I’ve worn before. I also appreciated them as a transitional shoe for yoga class, where I’d roll them up and place them in my bag during class, then put them back on when I changed into my work outfit.
This part is more subjective than anything else, so make of it what you will. But to my eye, Tieks pretty much look exactly like any other ballet flat out there, save for their characteristic blue stripe and thickish sole. They are not the kind of shoes that garner enthusiastic compliments from friends and colleagues. In the week I tested the Tieks, I didn’t get a single comment about them until I stuck them in my friend’s face and asked her what she thought of them.
“They look like flats,” she said.
This isn’t necessarily bad—and besides, external validation is not all there is to live for (or so I’ve heard). One could argue that Tieks’ lack of notability is a boon for the shoe, which easily blended into outfits I put together for work and outings with friends, as well as the leggings-and-sports-bra combinations I wear to yoga without a thought.
Tieks are comfortable (well, once you break them in), and moderately-to-very stylish, depending on how you feel about their blue stripe and the look of flats in general. They are certainly not the most comfortable shoes in the world, nor are they the most fashionable, but they do offer a rare combination of style and comfort that is hard to find in other office-appropriate shoes. I also found myself reaching for them fairly regularly after my testing period had ended, particularly when I had to look presentable but didn’t have the will to put together an inventive outfit.
That said, Tieks are also expensive. Depending on your current shoe budget, it may not be worth it to make the investment. But, if you have a job that requires you to stand for long periods of time and wearing athletic or orthopedic shoes is frowned upon, or you want a flat with bright colors and supportive soles, they might just be the shoe for you.
Prices are accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.
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