For this year's Eurotrip, I was determined to have an extremely comfortable, versatile, well-made pair of shoes. This was particularly important for my relatively minimalistic approach to packing--only one small rollerboard suitcase and one Vera Bradley Weekender. In years past I've brought over a big 26"-er and at least 3 pairs of shoes and I decided that was just too much.
|This was all I'm taking for 2 weeks in Europe!|
|Hmm..She's thinking about throwing up on them later.|
Early in my search I found out about Tieks by Gavrielli, which are handmade Italian leather flats that Oprah is just in luuuuurve with.
Now...don't let the sticker shock put you off too much. They start at $175 a pair. We're talking hand crafted! Leather! And a vegan option if you prefer not to wear animal products.
The price was daunting, but I've reached a point in my life where I'm willing and able to invest more in quality footwear.
Eventually, I took the plunge and ordered a leopard print pair. I was so excited to have my "moment" opening that adorable teal box with the flower headband wrapped around it that I saw every other blogger write about. I took out the shoes and put them on and immediately thought, "Ahhh...they really do feel like clouds."
Then, about 15 minutes later, reality came crashing down on the big toe of my right foot. I have what I suspect to be a growing bunion problem. It's quite common in women--even women ilke me who don't wear pointy shoes and avoid ones with a narrow toe box in general. My mom just had surgery to remove one a few weeks ago, in fact. I had noticed this issue in ballet flats and my feet before, and with leather shoes I just powered through it until the shoe gave. This time I wasn't so sure--I had to have some shoes ready to walk Europe with me by the end of the next week.
I took to Twitter and contacted @tieks, and "Tieks Girl" responded almost immediately. I explained the issue and declared that I'd order the next size up to try them on. Tieks Girl suggested that walking around wearing the shoes with a thick pair of socks does wonders for bunions.
Hmm. Maybe she's on to something.
|LOVE the teal box and purple flower. My power colors!|
The next size up pair arrived in a matter of days, and I tried them on. I could tell right away that they were just too big. Having shoes that slip and rub against the back and sides of your foot because they're too big isn't good either, so I did as Tieks suggested. Every day for the few days left leading up to my trip, I wore those suckers with the thickest pair of hiking socks I own. The bunion still hurt, but I was determined to break in the shoes.
Long story short, I went off to Europe an found that wearing the Tieks was excruciatingly painful on the outer edges of my feet. I ended up MacGuyver-ing Band-Aids and ear plugs to cushion the tender spots. That worked brilliantly; I'm really glad I brought so many of them with me! The Tieks and I turned a crucial corner the day I went to Disneyland Paris and it poured rain all day. I knew my feet weren't going to stay dry, but I tried my best by putting on a pair of my running socks, and then wearing little plastic bags around my toes. I just didn't want my bandage-earplug-cushion contraption to soak off.
|What's a little rain?|
When we finally made it back into our hotel room, I of course took them off and stuffed them with paper to try and dry them overnight. The next morning when I went to put them on, they were still a little damp, but they fit amazingly well! I know leather and water aren't two things you normally want to put together, but I think some combination of that, the socks, and walking around like that all day really did the trick of getting those suckers to mold themselves to my foot.
For the last few days of my vacation, I just needed to wear Band-aids around the spots of my feet that were still tender and a bit raw. Otherwise, the Tieks finally fit me as comfortably as they should. Since I've been back home in the US, I wear them to work almost every day. In fact, I put myself on the waiting list for a black pair that go with everything. (I happen to think leopard print goes with everything too, but perhaps not every day...)
Pictured below are my feet as of yesterday. (Foot fetishizers, enjoy.) The dark spots at the base of my big toes and pinkie toes are where I was running into problems. I've had this happen to me in almost every pair of ballet flats that I've ever owned, so I'm not blaming this on the design and/or construction of the Tieks at all. I'm not blaming this on anyone; that's just what my feet are like and I have to deal with it accordingly.
Would I recommend Tieks for anyone else with bunions? Maybe. If you're willing to wear some sort of cushioning device until you can break them in to the point where you don't need cushions, by all means, go for it. I've read other gals on the Internet say that they do just buy the next size up in order to compensate for their bunions. It's all up to you, naturally. I like these shoes; they are versatile, comfortable (all of the above notwithstanding), and of quality construction. I was able to save so much room by only bringing them and a pair of running shoes.
Update October 2013: I did get the black pair, and had almost no issues at all from day one, and within a few wears they were totally broken in. I think the leopard pair was much tighter/had less give at first because it's a painted leather. I'll keep that in mind for future pairs.
Update December 2013: ...and then I got one of the vegan pairs, the Sunset Stripe. Hey, I got 20% off during their holiday promo--I had to! These are still in the break-in stage. Although, this time it's my toes that are doing the work. Bunion is a non-issue in this pair as well.
*I wasn't paid by Vera Bradley or Tieks to write this post at all...but I would totally accept any merchandise to test out. ;-)