This is part of a new series on my blog all about my favorite travel accessories for the wanna-be-stylish female traveler. Also check out my reviews of Aroamas travel perfume sticks, Speakeasy hidden pocket scarves, and El Camino bracelets.
I often get asked (mostly by my female friends) about my “staples” when I travel. And, to be honest, up until the past year, I didn't have very many of them. I didn't have one pair of pants or pair of shoes or favorite sweater that always made every trip abroad with me. I just didn't CARE all that much about how I looked — at least, not when I was traveling.
At home, things like cute dresses and far too many pairs of shoes populate my closet. (I'm a woman, after all; I think it would actually be more surprising if they DIDN'T.) But it always seemed quite freeing to travel abroad without worrying about color coordinating or fretting about which shoes would best match my jewelry.
Until I went to Florence last summer.
Now, I may sometimes travel like a backpacker, but that doesn't mean I always spend like one. I've long since been over hostel dorm rooms, and I'm not averse to splurging every now and then, be it on accommodation or experiences. And, in Florence, I wanted to buy a leather handbag. The city is known for its leather, and I spied a shop selling bags with vintage map prints on them while sightseeing around the Duomo.
I went into the shop the next day — decked out in a slightly-wrinkled skirt, droopy tank top, and hiking sandals — and immediately was aware of how out of place I looked. I was actually afraid that they wouldn't sell me anything. (They did, though, don't worry; I bought a beautiful bag and use it nearly every day.)
Since then (and especially when I travel in Europe), I've found myself more aware of my outward experience when I'm traveling. I don't want to spend hours agonizing over my outfit every morning, of course, but I DO at least want to make sure I can make myself look presentable on the road if I need to. There's nothing worse than getting dirty looks from locals because of what you're wearing.
And thus the “add nicer pieces to my travel wardrobe” project commenced. The first thing I bought was a little black dress — a cotton one from Old Navy that doesn't wrinkle too much when folded and is really comfy, but can be dressed up with a nice necklace. I also bought a decent pair of very dark-washed jeans, a few comfortable-yet-cute drapey balck tops, and some chunky, colorful jewelry.
Then came the shoes.
I will probably never completely abandon my hiking sandals (pictured above) on my travels, but I admitted that I needed at least one pair of go-to shoes that I could wear both casually and to dress an outfit up. And my sandals were not those shoes.
I turned to Tieks by Gavrieli, which refer to themselves as “the ballet flat, reinvented.” Made of soft Italian leather, Tieks are designer flats that are all at once fashionable, wearable, and versatile — they fold right up to fit in a purse!
I've been coveting these shoes for years, and finally gave in and ordered myself a pair earlier this year.
What I love about my Tieks:
The quality. These shoes are STURDY. Which is crazy, considering you can fold them up and put them into a teeny tiny pouch. But nevertheless, they are high-quality shoes. I especially love the trademark Tieks-blue non-skid bottoms, which add both a solid feel and a grippy surface to the shoes.
The material and color. I went with the chestnut-colored shoes in Tieks' beautiful signature leather. I knew they would be good in all weather (and, in fact, I've even gone on an impromptu hike through a muddy forest in them), and also that the color would match everything — important for go-to shoes.
The lightness. Tieks weigh almost NOTHING, which is brilliant when you're trying to pack light.
The look. My Tieks make my feet look long and lean — in an attractive way. They also just look classy; I wouldn't feel self-conscious wearing these to a fancy dinner or upscale hotel (you know, if I actually went to those places).
What I don't love:
The breaking-in. When I first put them on, my Tieks were quite tight across the top of my feet. After wearing them for a while, though, this has completely gone away and they now fit my feet like a glove. (And, BONUS, they don't rub the back of my heel AT ALL like some other flats I own do because of the cushioned backs.) But you MAY have to wear them for a while before they fit correctly.
The arch support. I don't really expect a whole lot of arch support from ballet flats, so this isn't really a deal-breaker. While Tieks DO offer more support than most of the ballet flats I own, it's still not enough for me. I have terrible feet, so I could personally never wear Tieks as my full-time shoes.
Are they worth it?
That's the big question. Starting at $175, Tieks are NOT cheap shoes. But that's kind of the point. You can keep buying cheap flats over and over, or you can buy one pair of really good-quality shoes that will be appropriate for just about any trip you could want to take.
Before my Tieks, I would buy multiple pairs of flats each spring. I would get them from places like Old Navy and Target, and spend between $20 and $45 on each pair. How many pairs of those flats lasted me until the autumn? Very few, especially if I wore them a lot. They would get dirty and stinky and in some cases would just start to fall apart.
So far, I have had none of these issues with my Tieks. No scuffs, no smell. In fact, no real signs of wear even though I throw them on frequently.
And I haven't bought another pair of flats.
So, are Tieks the must-have travel shoe for women? Well, they could be. Ask me again in a year to be sure, but so far, after a few months, these chestnut beauties have worked wonderfully for me. They've been to the Canadian Rockies, to Niagara Falls, and on an Alaskan cruise so far (not to mention many, many walks around the neighborhood). And they have many more adventures ahead!
So what do you think? Would you get a pair of Tieks?