I never thought I’d do a negative review, mostly because it just felt ‘negative’ to me personally. But as we are now on a second pair of our Wildlings Shoes (more on how we happen to own 2 pairs is later in this post) and they are completely falling apart after just 2-3 months of use, just like our first pair, I felt it’d be a disservice to other parents willing to invest into best outdoor gear for their kids not to post this. And hopefully the owners of Wildlings Shoes come to hear of these issues and make much needed changes both with quality of craftsmanship and their customer service, as these shoes have all the potential to be amazing.
About 1.5 year ago I bought Alexandros a pair of Wildlings barefoot shoes, as he was going to be starting to attend a forest school and these shoes seemed just perfect for that. I was very excited having found this brand, as I wanted to find the shoes for my boys that were lightweight, had decent grip on the rocky terrain and were also flexible enough to climb trees. And these shoes seemed to check all the boxes.
I was looking forward to sharing this new find on my blog and IG, as it was the very purpose of creating this blog — to share with other parents the brands and especially small businesses that make non-toxic, sustainable and great quality products for children. Sadly, in this case I’m going to share a negative review, which is the first one for my blog.
After owning 2 pairs of Tanuki Keshi Wildlings Shoes and having had multiple interactions with the customer service of Wilding Shoes the summary of our experience is as following:
Summary of our experience
- Beautiful design, very comfortable, great for hiking and climbing trees and rocks
- Quality issues — won’t last through a summer
- ‘Fix it yourself’ kind of customer service
Quality issues — won’t last through a summer
In the video at the beginning of this post you can see all the quality issues we have encountered with both pairs of Wildlings shoes after about 2 months of use.
To rewind to our first pair — I noticed that after just 2 month of use the rubber sole at the bottom started pealing off. Ale´ was only using them 2-3 times a week for 4 hours at his forest school. This was his alternative pair of shoes, so he did not use them every day.
The seams on the red fabric of the top of the shoes also started to come apart in some places. On the photo bellow you can see our pink-ish stitching where we had to do some repair.
After about another month or so we noticed that the soles of the shoes started falling apart in multiple places. The thin canvas fabric used for the top of this Wildlings Shoes model is also used on some areas of the shoe sole where the shoe gets a lot of friction with the ground. Naturally this fabric gets destroyed quickly. Fortunately the same glue I used to fix the pealing of the soles of the shoes saved us here. In the reviews for this glue people commented that they’ve used it to repair their snow gear and wet suits. This gave me an idea to smear some of the glue over the bottoms of the shoes to create a protective seal for the fabric and prevent it from getting destroyed completely.
If we owned only had experience with 1 pair of Widlings shoes I would think that we might have gotten a bad pair, although there were clearly design flaws leading to shoes damage by the terrain. So this year we used our second pair and sadly it has deteriorated even faster than the first.
I also want to mention that last year when we were having all sorts of issues with our first pair Ale´ ended up using his Pololo sandals for his forest school, hiking on rocky trails, climbing, running around. He probably used his Pololo shoes more throughout his time at the forest school last year than the Wildlings Shoes. The Pololo shoes didn’t loose a stitch and remained to be as good as new (aside from getting scratches on the leather from all the rocks). And this year those Pololo sandals are still used by Eleon and they are still intact.
‘Fix it yourself’ kind of customer service
My first negative experience with Wildling Shoes customer service came when I first attempted to order the shoes. I had some questions and emailed their support through the website. I did not receive a response. After some time I emailed them again with a question about their sizing. This time I did receive the response and it was to consult their community on Facebook.
After some more research and following the instruction on their sizing chart I went ahead and ordered the shoes. The ordering process also wasn’t very smooth, as some of the website pages were in English, while others were in German and I had to Google-translate them to understand my options.
Faulty sizing chart
According to the sizing printout the shoes were supposed to be just slightly bigger than child’s foot, by about one finger width. When the shoes arrived the turned to be significantly bigger than my child’s foot, by about 2 finger width. You can see on the photos I placed the shoe over the sizing chart and it is noticeably longer.
I contacted Customer Service with this issue. I felt since the sizing chart was evidently faulty the Wildlings Shoes should have arranged the exchange of the shoes for a correct size and paid for the shipping cost. After multiple email exchanges with Wildlings Shoes Customer Service where they have requested from me the photos of the shoes, etc. (the very same used in this review) they have told me that somehow it was still my mistake, and my best bet to try and sell shoes to someone else.
This was very disappointing as a customer experience, as the photos clearly shown how the shoe exceeds in length the outline of the shoe on sizing chart for that size.
When the shoes started to fall apart
“I’d therefore like to suggest that you take the shoes to a cobbler, who will be able to glue the sole professionally.
“… Alternatively you can glue the sole yourself using conventional cobblers’ glue. In that case please note that we cannot be held liable for any traces of glue that may be left on the shoes.”
When the shoes started falling apart after just a couple months of moderate use I reluctantly contacted Wildlings Customer Service. I have provided them with photos showing the soles of the shoes pealing off. I’m pasting their response to me here:
Due to the high level of flexibility of minimal soles compared to normal footwear, they can sometimes start to detach a little bit. Our shoes combine two different materials while remaining flexible and supple overall. That’s the only way of achieving the unique barefoot feeling of our Wildlings.
I’d therefore like to suggest that you take the shoes to a cobbler, who will be able to glue the sole professionally. That way you can enjoy your Wildlings for a long time to come. Naturally Wildling will refund your costs for this, if you send us a photo of the receipt and your bank details.
Alternatively you can glue the sole yourself using conventional cobblers’ glue. In that case please note that we cannot be held liable for any traces of glue that may be left on the shoes.
Having traces of glue on our shoes is least of our concern when the shoes are completely falling apart. And while we would not hold the Wildlings shoes “liable” if we misapplied the glue while trying to put these shoes back together, we would like them to consider themselves liable for the shoes falling apart in the first place after just 2-3 months of use.
And if a shoe cobbler can “professionally” glue them together shouldn’t the Wildlings Shoes be able to do the same in the process of manufacturing?
I apologize for being a bit snarky here, but honestly, can this Customer Service response be any more unhelpful.
That was the last time I contacted the Wildings Shoes support. It was obvious that no matter how clear the evidence of company’s error is or that the product has quality issues their Customer Service would always hand the problem back to me to fix or deal with.
Back home in Kazakhstan shoe cobblers were everywhere, here in US finding one could be a challenge. Believe it or not, there are only 2 shoe repair services in city. So, I took the shoes there and had them repaired. But then just few weeks later we had new issues. And as the shoe repair was 30-40 minute drive each way I ended up finding a glue on Amazon to keep these shoes from completely falling apart on us, so we can at least make it through the summer in them.
In all my other experiences with small businesses and other quality brands the customer service always went beyond my expectations to answer a question or to help make up for a mistake, as mistakes happen and it is understood on both sides. And as a small business owner myself I have always done the same. But in the case of Wildlings Shoes it was always “solve it yourself” kind of approach any time an issue has arose.
And while the overall experience with Widlings Shoes has been very dissapoitning for us, what makes me most sad is that these shoes had such great potential. They really seemed like the perfect shoes for an outdoor loving child and would be worth the high price. If Wildlings barefoot shoes had a different approach to Customer Service they would had a valuable feedback on quality issues, address them and make these to be truly best outdoor shoes and have a very loyal customer for years to come.