Tuesday, March 16, 2010

the cure for the common sandal: Kiwi Sandals

by frédérik sisa

Ah, spring. A season that needs no introduction. While ladies get to enjoy a cornucopia of sandal options, like those gorgeous United Nudes I wrote about last week, we guys are offered a marvelous choice…of flip-flops. Or fisherman’s sandals. Woohoo.

But fear not, there is hope: Kiwi Sandals, based in Lucerne Valley, California. I came across the website about three years ago and really, really liked the styles and selection. Naturally, I bought a pair after much hemming and hawing over which one to get. Lee Risler has been handcrafting leather sandals since 1963 and, with his son, is still at it. Despite the low-tech website, ordering is very easy: send a tracing of your foot, choose your style, send payment (credit cards accepted). The foot tracing is really key, because Mr. Risler will customize the sandal to your foot. This, of course, ensures the best fit.

But it’s the selection of styles that really ask for attention. Classic, timeless, versatile – they dress up the casual and keep grounded a peacock’s ensemble.

Other than a simple thong, Kiwi offers a toe loop and single upper band sandal, one of my favourites of the bunch:

Or, the multi-strap sandals I’m wearing (like the ones at the top of this post):

After three years, they remain one of my most reliable and comfortable pair of sandals - and the style never fails to draw admiring comments.

The sandals come in black or brown leather, cushion or leather soles. Mr. Risler will even take special orders. And you may ask, how much does it cost for a custom-fitted pair of sandals? $74, except for the thong sandals ($59) and the back-strap sandal with two thick, separate bands for the upper ($78). That’s really good value. It’s also proof that men’s sandals don’t have to be boring flip flops. Given the amount of imagination that goes into women’s shoes, there’s no reason for designers to take the lazy way out with men and just stick a pattern on the footbed of a flip flop and call it a day. (I never really understood the point of sticking a pattern or print on the part of a flip flop that people stand and walk on.) Give us straps, I say! Give us interesting patterns! Gives us buckles and rivets! Lee Risler can do it at a great price, so what’s everyone else waiting for?

And just before I give the impression that Kiwi’s is for guys only, these sandals are really accessible to everyone – unisex, if you will. They have a universal style that is rooted in the general notion that men’s apparel and footwear requires a robust aesthetic, but women can get away with anything. As an added bonus, women who want heels can have them, although Mr. Risler doesn’t recommend going beyond 1”.

  • Unisex, but especially great for men.
  • Wonderful choice of styles.
  • Customized to fit your feet.
  • Reasonable price.
Awesome. I can’t believe I didn’t write about Kiwi Sandals sooner. Check ‘em out!

Note: With the exception of the photo of me (well, my feet), images are borrowed from the Kiwi Sandals website for illustrative purposes only.


Aqua said...

Frefie, love it! Yes, you should've posted on this before, it is so valuable, heaps of guys ask me for shoe makers. Well done.

Antoinette from the netherlands said...

I have bought some sandals a couple of years ago. They are great, fits perfect, still looking good after a lot of miles walking (and a lot of water)!

Anonymous said...

I bought a pair several years ago after the material that goes between the toes on an expensive 'brand' sandals seemed to stretch so much the sandals became unwearable (and unsafe because of the tripping hazard). Once broken in (about a week or two) the Kiwi sandals are the BEST I've ever owned hands down. I live near the beach, will turn 65 in a few months and know sandals (with the noted exception above ;-) John4surf

David said...

I have owned a thong pair for over 10 years. Last year I had them resoled by Lee and they are better then new as my footprint is already there. I also have a pair of the multi strap sandals which I use for dressier occasions.
I have recommended to many over the years.

Kris said...

I've been wearing Kiwi Sandals for 18 years. Had one pair lasted 13 (had resoled once) I currently own 3 different styles. I have converted my 69 yr old mom and my sister to love the sandals as well. I look forward to purcashing my next pair.

Anonymous said...

I want to purchase a new pair but mine just won't wear out. 4 years now

Sue Schwalbach said...

My sister bought all of us siblings a custom pair in 1985 in Jerome, Arizona. We all still have our sandals and I have her pair since she has passed on. They are so comfortable and well made that we have not had to have them resoled even! Lee's story is amazing and his son is carrying on the legacy. Check out their website and see for yourself! We will order more at our family reunion this June! http://www.kiwisandals.com/

Frederik Sisa said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone. I appreciate the extra viewpoints. Spot on!

And as for Anonymous @ 12:27's dilemma, well, the solution is to buy a new pair in a different style. :)

A-Ball said...

My husband and I both wear Kiwi Sandals. I'm not sure how many years it's been for us. I found them first, online I think, and then my husband tried them out, and now, the second the snow melts, that's all he'll wear. The first time he ordered them, he debated over all the patterns... and then unwittingly ordered the same ones I have. So we're kind of uncool twinkies, except the sandals look so great in big manly format versus streamlined female format that it doesn't really matter: we both get comments. And they do last ages!!! I'm frugal - we have to be - but forget buying cheapo sandals at the mall that last part of one summer. These will last you several seasons, especially if you can bear to part with them to get them resoled when the wear eventually does build up. And the final thing I love about them... Usually sandals give me blisters and hotspots and I'm miserable wearing them... But these were comfortable from the day I put them on. My husband says it takes him a little longer, maybe three days, but then he really owns them. My thanks to the Rislers, and I hope we can always wear their sandals!

Anonymous said...

I got my KIWI sandals in 1994 at the Sofa festival in San Jose, Ca. I have always loved them. I have worn them in wet and dry conditions and they are extremly durable sandals. A few years back a strap broke while vacationing in Disneyland. Keep in mind these sandals were almost 15 years old, worn extensivly, and were still kicking. The logo was worn away and it took me a while to find them and Lee's website, but when I did I immediatly was joyous over the idea acquiring another pair. They are worth the money and will last for years to come! I hope Kiwi sandals are around for as long as Im alive. My daugher, who is 12 yrs. old, loves my Kiwis and wants a pair of her own. My mother still wears hers from 1994 when we purchased them together.
Jill, Washington state

Anonymous said...

I have been wearing Kiwi's for YEARS and I love them. I have recommended them to just about everyone. Recently my sister, who had serious problems with her feet went back and tried a pair on and bought them immediately, she loves them. This is funny because she was the one who got me hooked on them in the 80's. Male, female, young, old these are the sandals to wear if you want a good looking sandal that is comfortable and will wear forever.

Anonymous said...

I have been wearing these thongs since the 70's and I love them. I bought my first pair at the Los Altos art and wine festival from Lee. My husband starting wearing them a few years ago and he is hooked, he has 3 pairs. I own 6 pairs all in different styles and colors and thats what I love is that I can order any style in any color. They are the best sandals you will ever wear. Rhett and Jessica are doing a great job. Thank you for all of your hard work.

Angela & Chris
Santa Clara, CA

John Thomas Switzer said...

Poor workmanship. Fake guarantee. Caveat emptor.
Bought their sandals at a street fair summer 09.
Delivery took about three months,looked good, felt good. But, the leather, between the toes thong, separated from the sole after about six months wear. Took them back to this years fair and was told "the guarantee doesn't cover the leather parts of my leather sandals."

Frederik Sisa said...

Hi John. That seems very unusual to me, as I've only heard good things about Kiwis and, personally, have only had good experiences. Still, I'm sorry the sandals didn't work out for you.

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