I want to start out by being very clear that a truly wanted to love these shoes and I still want to love these shoes. I might even be able to have a few years getting them properly stretched out and worn in (yes, I said years and I mean that). Also, for my regular readers, this is probably a one-time thing. This blog is still about writing primarily.
I originally planned to not include the brand in the title because I wanted this review to be searchable, but not look like an attack on the brand. But then I was wearing my Tieks this week and someone asked me about them, and they too are a half-size and have trouble finding great shoes. I realized I want this to be easy information to find. I don’t want to disparage Tieks, because if you wear a whole size and have a standard-size foot, these shoes are amazing (according to everything I found online and two people I know personally). I just want to share with others my experience of trying to wear Tieks in a size 8 when I’m an 8.5-9 normally.
If you haven’t heard of Tieks before. They are leather ballet flats that are cushioned, comfortable, and long lasting. A quick google search let me know how much people raved about them. I discovered them when I was trying to find a comfortable all day (and I mean twelve to eighteen straight hours all day) dress shoe that looked good but I could also walk across campus in. I spent a lot of time researching them. I talked to people I saw wearing them, including a woman on my bus and the Physician’s Assistant at my doctor’s office (this recommendation was what sold me). I wanted to make sure I was going to love these shoes, because as of this post, the cheapest pairs are $175. Heck, the “Little Miss” ones are at least $120.
So when I decided to get my Tieks, I was going to work hard to love them. The color I originally wanted which was a sort of tan gray that looked good with blacks and browns was so popular it kept running out of my size before I could order, even with an email notification when they came back in stock. So I finally settled on getting purple ones because it’s my favorite color, looks good with black or brown, and matches a lot of stuff I own. (Fun coincidence, I have one dress that is an exact color match to them, it’s unreal.)
I read all the warnings and all the information about sizing, since Tieks only come in whole sizes. It said that if you occasionally size up or have a wide foot, that you should go up a size, but generally they recommend you go down a size. Half my shoes are size 8.5 and the other half are size 9. It varies by brand a lot. I also have very narrow feet, so I wasn’t sure what to do. But they have an amazing return and exchange policy, so I ordered a size 9 to start with.
It didn’t even take a full minute to figure out the size 9s were too big. I put them on and they gapped at the sides horribly. They didn’t look remotely right. I wish I’d taken a picture. But it was obvious that a 9 was too big for me, even though it fit well in length. So I returned them (super easy) so I could order an 8. I held out for the color I wanted at first, but then gave up and ordered the purple. They came very quickly and I started trying them out.
For the record, I’ve had leather ballet flats before. My typical experience is that I get them a little snug and then they stretch out over the first year of regular wear and become nice and comfortable. I was prepared for it to take a while to get these shoes comfortable. I did a lot of things to try to help. I wore them around the house for several weeks in the evenings and on weekends wearing thick socks to help them stretch. I applied gentle heat (via a hair drier) to help warm the leather so they would more effectively stretch and mold to my feet. I stored them flattened under a weighted shoe box to help stretch them lengthwise when I wasn’t wearing them. They naturally curl a bit as you can see from the photos. They’re designed to fold up and fit in a bag, which I thought was great.
So they seemed to be alright. I committed to paying for them and started wearing them out for short periods and then for a day at work. Things seemed to be going alright before that first day wearing them to work, which for me is a minimum twelve-hour commitment to being in the shoes, most of which is spent standing because I have a back issue that causes me pain when I sit.
So here’s what I do love about my Tieks:
- The soles are no-slip
- The insole is comfortable and cushioned
- The leather is excellent quality with great stretch, rich color, and supple feel
- They look awesome
- I get tons of complements (especially when I wear the matching dress)
- The bottoms of my feet don’t get as tired standing in these compared to almost all my other dress shoes
- The heel doesn’t slip off when I walk
- With tights or thin socks to cushion my feet where the shoes are tight, they are almost perfect
And here’s what the problem is with my Tieks:
They are just too small for my feet.
I have feet that are the width of an average 8 and the length of an average 9. That means that an 8.5 can often work great, especially if there’s a little give on the sides to make up for the lack of length. Tieks are not this forgiving. Your toes aren’t really supposed to hit the end of your shoes, but mine usually do in an 8.5, they are exactly long enough. It’s why more and more often I’m buying a 9, especially if I can find it in a narrower width or it has lacing to keep the shoe tight across my arch.
I’m including some pictures below (after less than an hour of continuous wear) to give you an idea of just how bad this is. A little tightness I can handle, especially in a leather shoe that will eventually stretch, but I’ve realized that this is more than that. These are tighter than any of the other ballet flats I’ve broken in before.
I don’t think there’s actually elastic in Tiek’s they’re just sewn in such a way that the leather wants to hug your feet, especially around the top edge. And this is where most of my problem is. It digs into my foot, which you can see in the pictures both at the toe area and at the heel, and a bit on the sides as well. I have a bandage on one foot in these pictures because despite using an anti-chafing balm where the shoes rub over the bone at the first joint of my big toe, I was getting a blister. This is the first time I’ve ever gotten a blister with my Tieks.
I’ve owned my Tieks for over a year now, and I’ve worn them fairly frequently. I wore them more over the winter because they are more comfortable with thin socks or tights to help lessen the pain of the tight top edge.
I was talking to my husband recently about how much I wish I could love these shoes and how much I wanted them to fit better. He said it shouldn’t have been that big a deal going down half a size because they stretch. Then I showed him how deep the shoes dig into my skin when I wear them. He was a bit shocked. Then I told him that the first time I wore them all day at work (I did take them off for lunch so I had them on for 7 hours, off for 1 then on for 4) they bruised the nails on both my big toes. It took me a couple days to realize that’s where the bruised toes came from, but there was no other explanation. The shoes compressed my toe nail down so hard it bruised me. Think about that.
I still wear my Tieks occasionally. I’ll wear them to work on a day I know I don’t have to do a ton of walking and I can take them off in my office and stand barefoot at my desk. I’ll wear them for a few hours going to a party or out to a nice dinner. But I don’t wear them when I know I need to be on my feet and in my shoes for more than four to six hours at a stretch.
Normally, I don’t post reviews, especially not negative ones, but when I was researching Tieks I looked and looked and I was only able to find a couple reviews from people with half-size feet. Everyone I met who had them on was a whole-size and most of the reviews online are whole-size. This may not be an easy post to find unless you are really looking hard for a half-size review of Tieks, but that’s exactly who I want to find it. I want them to know that how well their Tieks will fit will depend on their foot and how it relates to average. If I had a wide foot, I’d probably have been fine in the 9 and not had these problems. I want to advise new Tieks owners to wear them at home for a long time to make sure they are comfortable and to be certain they are willing to spend the money before they commit.
I’m not one of those girls who is obsessed with clothes or fashion, and comfort really does trump pretty much everything else in my opinion, especially when it comes to shoes. The fact that I’ve spent over 1,500 words talking about these shoes means I have a lot of strong emotions about them. I love so much about them, and I really wanted to love them completely. I just can’t love a shoe that will never truly fit right.
If anyone out there has tried Tieks, I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you’ve stumbled across this review and you’re also struggling to find half-size reviews of Tieks, add some links to the comments with where you’ve found such reviews so far. I didn’t write this post just to be negative, so I’d love an feedback on how well I’ve done at that as well.