I don’t know about you, but May — even end of April — through October is sandal season for me. I assume my pedicurist is thankful, because my toes and heels get a thorough beating, and need very regular treatment as a result. But despite the wear-and-tear, and sometimes awkward nail polish colors (consider the recent turquoise), I wouldn’t give up my sandalwear for anything, even though it’s nearly impossible to put closed shoes on come autumn.
Thankfully, we live in a land of many sandals, and sandal makers. From Israel’s earliest Nimrod designs of the biblical sandal, to the penchant of some for wearing socks and sandals — pretty much a fashion non-starter at any time of year — there are sandals for all feet, high-arched to flat-footed, slides to straps. You can even make your own if you so desire. Just never say there aren’t enough strappy solutions out there.
1) Designer Shani Bar studied silversmithing at Bezalel Academy of Design, but found herself creating shoes while working in the theater world. She sought a certain look — elegant, spare, sculptural — and figured she’d have to design it if she wanted to wear it. There aren’t many sandals in Bar’s collection of ladylike pumps, but she finds herself reissuing a version of the Ana sandal each season because of customer demand. The original Ana was flat, and holds the foot quite solidly and comfortably within its many crisscrossed straps, but offers a more finished look to the foot than a standard one- or two-strap sandal. Look for the Mimi as well, a new slide from Shani Bar with a trendy yet subdued lizard skin look.
2) It’s either the global village or a really great idea that brings a new product to Israel, and in the case of the FitFlop, it’s probably the latter. It wasn’t long after the advent of the FitFlop, a thick-soled flip-flop with a wider, more embellished thong strap, that it arrived in Israel, and is now imported throughout the country by Avi Avidor, the man behind Original’s comfort footwear chain. Canadian Marcia Kilgore — now a resident of London — is the creator of the FitFlop, which is designed to offer a workout while walking, a selling point that isn’t actually proven, but doesn’t matter when you’re wearing your pair of ruffled Frou FitFlops. And guys, you may not have cellulite to worry about, but there are FitFlops for men as well.
3) It was a pair of Israeli hikers, Daniella and Yoram Gill, who designed Source sandals, seeking a pair of sturdy rubber soles with tough webbing that could withstand tough treks and water hikes. They turned Source into successful national brand, selling to the army as well as hundreds of thousands of young trekkers heading on their post-army tiyul, out of their Tirat Hacarmel factory. The Source Gobi Lady sandal recently won the Best in Test Award from UK outdoor magazine Country Walking, and in fact, it’s a better looking sandal than most of the stalwart Source styles. That said, Source is also the Israeli importer of the American Keens, that rubber-toed, webbed sandal that is a great option for kids, considering its sneaker-like sturdiness (and a price that is comparable to the popular, German-imported Elefantens). Hiking store Hametayel sells Source, Keens and Chacos (the more stylish, US version of Source, with an everything-goes-with black option as well as narrow strips of webbing that wind around the big toe), while backpack maker Steve’s Packs also sells Source as well as Keens, at a slightly lower price.
4) You can’t talk Sabra sandals without a mention of Teva-Naot, the kibbutz-made cork-soled slides that have been around since the 1940s, with a serious makeover in the late 1980s, as the kibbutz was facing foreclosure. Now with 66% ownership by the Shamrock Fund, the US investment arm of the Disney Group, Teva-Naot is flourishing, selling well in Israel and US. The sandals are modeled on yet another German sandalmaker, Birkenstocks, and are mostly cork- or rubber-soled, with a wide array of uppers, from their wide single and double straps to the popular suede slide that are often seen on the Israelis sidewalk. This summer, there are some appealing new options, including the chunky-heeled Dialogue style for those seeking some height, a few sporty looks that are Keen-like in design, as well as the more familiar two-strapped flat version, but in summery metallic shades.
5) Oded Arama launched his unisex shoe company, Arama, after graduating from Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, with a particular focus on oxfords, those properly laced-up shoes that are a far cry from the footlike freedom of a sandal. He lucked out with one specific collection of candy-colored suedes that were the shoe of choice in designer Dorin Frankfurt’s spring collection show at Tel Aviv’s Fashion Week back in November. But he does offer several classic summer slides for men and women, including a very fetching three-strapped version and one with an ankle strap, if you like your foot to be more securely held. What’s more, no need to head to a store; Arama shoes are available online.