Back to Nature: Every Shoe Has a Soul

Where old world craftsmanship meets modern times

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By Christina Pippin

Local Shopping & Fashion Blogger

Today’s green find takes us to Shoe Soko in Oak Park (111 N. Marion Street) where comfort is a priority and style is never compromised.

I’m sure you’ve seen the shoes. Their shapes are unnatural at best, and they’re actually made to be worn by women like me and you. So very pointy, so very high; they barely resemble the shape of a human foot.

Proprietress Takara Beathea, of Shoe Soko, understands our quandary and she has an attractive solution for us. She offers us an eco-friendly alternative, a visually arresting line of American-made shoes: CYDWOKs.

Rafi Balouzian is the originator of CYDWOQ (pronounced sidewalk) shoes, the only handcrafted shoe firm in America.

Like many Oak Parkers, Rafi loves to walk. According to Rafi, he walks everywhere.  

Long before it was considered recreation or a “green” alternative to commutes or cabs, Rafi would routinely walk 50 blocks to a business meeting—and still does.

Prior to founding CYDWOQ, Rafi found his shoes weren’t helping his epic strolls. Space-age materials, fancy padding, and air bubbles of all shapes and sizes impeded rather than promoted a healthy, efficient stride. And in this realization, his company was born.

From our friends at CYDWOQ:

Rafi designs in his head and not on a computer: he believes that breathtaking beauty and efficient functionality are not mutually exclusive concepts.

Natural choices dominate the “ingredients” of our products. Only the finest, vegetable-tanned leathers and custom-made components are used in CYDWOQ products.

Designs employ the fewest number of leather pieces possible to minimize stitching, and to improve comfort, quality, and durability. In shoe construction, the uppers are hand-lasted to the leather insoles using water-based, biodegradable glues.

Once inspected, the shoes are packed in our distinctive cotton bags and recycled cardboard boxes. We take inspiration from nature, and our efforts to preserve and protect the environment are our way of returning the favor.

From the very beginning, Rafi had no interest in outsourcing manufacturing operations to China or other sources of inexpensive labor. Instead, he employs dozens of skilled artisans passionate about their work and committed to the CYDWOQ cause. All CYDWOQ products are crafted by hand (from start to finish) in our factory in Burbank, California and have been since 1996.

You can find these styles and more at Shoe Soko at 111 N. Marion Street. For prices or store hours call 708.848.7656 or visit

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