Rafi Balouzian says he believes that “every shoe has a sole, and that's why I put my soul into each one.” It may be hokey, but once you wear his shoes, you'll think it's okay. The designer and owner of Cydwoq (pronounced sidewalk) is the grandson of a shoemaker, and his father manufactured shoe components. Put those together and you get the Cydwoq motto: Old-World craftsmanship for modern feet. “I have a very good understanding of soles and shoe components, and we make all of our components here,” he says. “Most companies don't.” Each shoe (or sandal or boot) is handmade to order and designed to aid walking, not hinder it. Comfort is paramount, but Balouzian's designs are often elegantly simple, particularly those of his women's sandals. (He says he likes women's feet and it shows.) We're not sure how he feels about men's feet, but Balouzian says his design influences come from nature — he's a mountain biker — and from cars, buildings, bridges. “I never listen to what trendy fashion people are talking about,” he says. “I just do my own thing. People who buy my shoes want to be different.” Cydwoq began in Burbank in the late '90s, and can now be found the world over. There's a dedicated store in New York and one opened this summer in Barcelona — look for Gaudi's influences in next year's designs, says Balouzian. Locally, we found them at Carole Young: Undesigned, 1252 ½ Hillhurst Ave., in Los Feliz. (323) 663-0088. Check the Web site for other retailers or visit the Cydwoq factory showroom in Burbank (but call ahead). 2102 Kenmere Ave., Burbank. (818) 848-8307, cydwoq.com.

—Tom Christie

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