Israeli shoe brands stand apart from other fashion brands because of their unique hand-made qualities. Many of these brands started from very humble beginnings, including flea market stands, single room workshops in farming communities, and passion projects by individual artists.
Even after growing and reaching the international fashion scene, many of these brands still retain the hand-made, small batch, artisanal quality that drew people to them in the first place.
Most of these brands make exclusively women’s footwear, and men’s fashion footwear needs in Israel are so far still largely served using imports from Europe, America, and other places that sell footwear internationally.
But if you are looking for women’s shoes that have that hand-stitched artisanal look, Israeli shoe brands are just what you’re looking for.
1.Naot – Best Casual Wear
Starting from a humble background before rising into the international market, Naot began it’s days in 1942, in Israel’s Hula Valley, where members of a small farming collective banded together to begin making shoes in a single room workshop.
But while Naot has grown to become a worldwide brand, it’s core philosophy, the idea that one is most beautiful when they are comfortable, has remained the same. In keeping with this core idea, the shoes offered by Naot are some of the most comfortable casual wear that you will find in an Israeli brand.
Naot has received the American Podiatric Medical Association Seal of Acceptance in recognition of how their footwear products have been proven to be good for foot health.
Naot also offers orthotic friendly shoes, which have a removable footbed which can be taken out and replaced with a custom orthotic footbed, or even just a regular replacement footbed if you aren’t ready to replace your favorite shoes just yet.
As one of the only Israel based brands to offer men’s shoes, Naot offers sneakers, sandals, slippers, boots, and many other shoe styles. The Galaxy is a lightweight sneaker that features a hand sewn strobel, a removable cork and latex footbed, and a breathable mesh backing.
The Maldive is a sandal with adjustable double loops and a sued lining for smooth comfort. The Leader is a lace up dress shoe, with a comfortable anatomic cork and latex removable footbed so that you can be comfortable while still projecting a professional look.
The Wisdom, the General, the Chief, the Pilot, and the Business are other sharp looking dress shoes, ready to be worn into the board room without compromising on your comfort or foot health. The Hiker is a rugged hiking boot that rides high to protect and support your ankles on rough terrain, and features waterproof padded lining and slip resistant Vibram soles.
Naot also offers extended sizes in several of their popular shoes, vegan shoe options that avoid the use of animal products, and other specialty shoes that reach the upper heights of comfort and foot health.
For women, Naot has a similarly varied selection. The Polaris sneaker is described as an “athleisure” sneaker, ready for either an intense workout or leisurely stroll around town.
This sneaker is one of the many American Podiatric Medical Association accepted shoes offered by Naot, and features a zipper for an easy on/off as well as laces for style. The Montana is a waterproof upper calf snowboot with a 4 layer weather tech lining rated for -4F/-20C, a slip resistant rubber sole, and a form fitting anatomic cork and latex footbed.
The Santa Barbara sandal has adjustable straps to fit you just the way you want, a suede wrap covering it’s cork and latex footbed that’s designed to sink in and mold to the shape of the user’s individual foot with time and use.
2.LAX Shoes – Best Dress Shoe
LAX shoes was founded in 2013 by founder and designer Shani Lax to revive the nearly extinct Israeli shoe scene. These dress shoes are characterized by sharp lines and clean silhouettes, made with timeless designs that outlast fleeting fashion trends.
Inspired by the eclectic history and cultural diversity of Israel, Shani Lax has striven to create designs that are both detailed and elaborate, as well as minimalistic.
In less than 10 years, the brand has grown from being a small local indie label, to being an internationally recognized brand carried in high end boutiques around the world. All LAX shoes are hand-made out of fine Italian leather in a small family run workshop.
LAX Shoes offers three different shoe collections, the Winter Collection, the Pardes Collection, and the Haifa collection. The Winter Collection focuses on closed shoe designs that offer warmth and protection in the harsher seasons, without losing their fashionable qualities.
Examples from this collection include the Linda boot, a buttery soft leather calf boot with a square toe, and the INEKE, a square toed, stitched leather ankle boot. If boots aren’t your style, the Winter collection also includes the Francis, a gold chain leather loafer, and the Jarvis, a classic leather strap loafer.
The Pardes Collection showcases Biblical-style leather sandals. All sandals in this collection include buckle straps, and they come in a variety of colors, and well as heeled and flat versions.
The Haifa Collection contains contemporary sandal designs. The Bat-Galim is a square toed fisherman sandal, with a modern and feminine look.
The Carmella is a Slingback woven sandal with a 5cm heel. The Stella is a low profile square toed flat mule with a gold chain.
Finally, the Franca is a mid height leather mule with a classic, timeless design. No matter what the season, LAX shoes can bring that hand-crafted look to your outfit.
3.Una Una – Best Slip-on Shoe
Una Una is a brand that started in a flea market in Jaffa in 2008. By 2019, the brand had grown to be recognized worldwide for their quality shoes. Una Una footwear is inspired by sculpture, with a desire to sculpt something that is as functional as it is beautiful to look at.
While Una Una does offer some laced shoes (such as their selection of Oxford squares), the brand really shines in their selection of slip-on shoes. With their sculpture-like design, they simply don’t need many laces, straps, or buckles to remain securely on your foot.
For example, the Knight is an androgenic chic style slip-on shoe, whose smooth dark leather top makes it’s gold metal corners stand out. The Envelope Megaphone is another popular Una Una model, an elegant and timeless design without any zippers to distract from it’s folded design.
4.Kobi Levi – Best Designer Shoe
Kobi Levi are Israel’s best designer shoe. Each shoe is designed to be as much a piece of art as much as a functional piece of footwear. The company got it’s start as a passion project by founder Kobi Levi, who designed, created, and uploaded pictures and stories of his artistic shoes on his personal blog, which steadily grew in popularity over time.
The brand exploded into the public consciousness when Lady Gaga, a popular singer, used his Double Boot in her famous music video “Born this Way”.
Since then, worldwide demand for these unique designer shoes has led to the opening of Kobi Levi’s design studio in Tel Aviv, where unique and expressive shoes are produced in limited edition batches for the delight of designer shoe aficionados around the world.
The Kobi Levi website has a “behind the scenes” section for the curious who want to know what went into the making of such expressive shoes.
Some of the shoes available from Kobi Levi as of the writing of this list include the Chewing Gum Oxfords, a humorous high heel designed to look like Oxford shoes stuck to the ground with a bright pink piece of chewing gum, and the Flat Stilettos, a reversible shoe that can be worn as a high heel one way, or turned upside down and worn as a flat.
There are themed shoes based on animals, including orcas, cats, swans, elephants, and more. Musically themes offerings are designed to look like harps, xylophones, and violins. Food themed heels look like champagne bottles or spilling pitchers of coffee.
The Blow and XXX Pump are for the daring and risque, and the Heart and Silhouette feature cut out shaped images using the empty space between the heel and the rest of the shoe. Specific hobby related shoes such as the Sing, the Cheerleader, the Painter, the Write, the Carpenter, and the Baseball all carry specific designs to appeal to what you find to be important in life.
New designs are always being released, so if you are a fan of unique designer shoes Kobi Levi is a brand to watch.
5.Tamar Shalem – Best Sustainable Shoe
Tamar Shalem is the best sustainable Israeli shoe brand. Located in Tel Aviv, Tamar Shalem’s shoes are all hand sewn in their small local workshop.
No mass production is used in the development of these shoes, utilizing instead the skills of seven different craftsmen, who working together can produce a quality pair of shoes in just 36 hours, without contributing to environmental hazards and economic inequality that comes with international mass production.
Many of their shoes are made from 100% genuine leather, but Tamar Shalem has also begun to develop a vegan line of substitute leather shoes for their customers who aren’t comfortable using animal products.
Despite it’s small company size, Tamar Shalem carries a wide selection of high quality and sustainably made women’s shoes. The Gilly sandals are one of their best sellers, a comfortable and classic lightweight sandal made of leather who’s asymmetrical design is pleasing to the eye and goes well with many different summer fashions.
Their pointed toe oxfords and Grace shoes are designed for both comfort and a professional look, and come in several different leather colors and patterns. Polly Jean lace up boots and zip up Kim boots retain their fashionable look, while projecting a more down-to-earth attitude.
From their new vegan collection, the slip on Stella flat is a hot seller, popular for maintaining it’s supple leather look without using any animal products.
6.Norman and Bella – Best Sandal
Norman and Bella was founded in 2012 in Tel Aviv, after founder Tal Arbel had studied at the International Shoe School in Italy and trained under master shoe maker Enzo Bonafe.
Norman and Bella shoes are manufactured out of high quality Italian leather using traditional manufacturing techniques, with a special attention paid to ensuring that the brand produces high end footwear with an uncompromising eye for detail, all while maintaining fair trade work conditions.
Norman and Bella make many different styles of shoes, but their unique look stands out the best in their selection of hand-crafted sandals. The Bermuda flip flop brings high fashion to the world of everyone’s favorite summer sandal style, and carries an elegant and understated look.
On the opposite side of the spectrum is the FEMMI Zebra Stripe heel, whose zebra strip satin pattern and funky bright orange block heel project a playful, loud, and outgoing personality. The Helena, a feminine Infradito leather slide has a timeless Middle-Eastern look, and is comfortable enough for everyday wear.
The Jade is a classic strap sandal featuring an elastic strap and puffy toe panel that comes in both bold orange and clean white colors. The ONDA mid block heel sandal has a city chic look, while the CROCE flat slides will look right at home on the sandy ocean-side beach of your choice.
Israel has a budding shoe scene set apart by their hand-crafted qualities. In a world of mass-production, these small scale shoes have a look and feel that just can’t be replicated by machines and assembly lines, and the underdog stories that accompany the brands are just the icing on the cake.
While there is still lots of room for the Israeli shoe scene to grow in the men’s fashion scene, for women’s shoes Israel has a well deserved reputation for high quality and unique designs.
Israeli shoe brands have that special human touch that makes them well worth seeking out in a mechanized world.