If you’re looking to add new shoes to your wardrobe, you shouldn’t overlook pieces from some of the best Japanese shoe brands. Not only do they have unique designs, but they are also of high quality. Whether you’re on the hunt for a fresh pair of sneakers or just want to mix up your usual ensembles by wearing a one-of-a-kind shoe, you’ll be able to find the right piece with the wide array of selections offered. Ready to do some shopping? Here are five Japanese shoe brands that you should have on your radar.
Retro designs: Onitsuka Tiger
Perhaps one of the most internationally recognised Japanese shoe brands, Onitsuka Tiger has a rich history that spans seven decades. It was named after its founder, Kihachiro Onitsuka, who started the company in 1949 with the help of only four employees. By 1966, the brand expanded to the global market. It was also in the same year that their most iconic shoe, the Mexico 66, was created. Even if you’re not a sneakerhead, you’ll immediately recognise this shoe with its smooth white leather upper embellished with red and blue overlays — or the so-called “tiger” stripes.
The company has grown to become ASICS though the brand Onitsuka Tiger remains and its retro styles are still available and also much beloved to this day.
Our pick: The Mexico 66 in Birch/Indian Ink (USD100). This pair retains the classic silhouette that made its predecessor famous but is updated with a new, elegant colourway that will pair well with any casual look.
Sporty picks: Mizuno
Mizuno is one of those Japanese shoe brands that have a reputation for offering top-notch sports footwear. Looking at the brand’s history, it’s easy to see why it’s managed to gain such a prestigious status. The label started in 1906 as an assorted goods store selling imported products but began to make made-to-order athletic wear a year after.
Eventually, Mizuno began to manufacture sports equipment as well including baseballs, gloves and golf clubs. Along the way, their shoes became more tuned to enhance sports performance with innovations in cushioning and silhouette.
If you’re looking for a sporty shoe for your weekly badminton sessions or daily jogs, you definitely have to check them out.
Our pick: Mizuno Wave Rebellion (~USD176.39). This lightweight, bouncy footwear will make your morning runs more fun. It has cushioning throughout the midsole and features a new grip feature for stability. What’s more, is that it comes in different stylish colourways.
Comfy and casual: SUICOKE
Want something that’s casual to go with your loungewear looks? Japanese shoe brand SUICOKE has a lot of stylish options to choose from. You’ll be surprised to know that the label actually started with creating small accessories but pivoted to creating footwear. It was a good move as their products became instantly popular among the fashionable crowd, making appearances in fashion week and landing high-profile collaborations.
The brand's Global Managing Director Jinichi Leung shared in an interview that their most popular pieces are their “fashion-sport sandals”, a type of footwear that’s worn in Japan during the summer season. It’s a new concept in the global scene but is slowly gaining momentum thanks to its comfortable silhouette and stylish design.
Our pick: The ZAVO Beige (USD250). These cute and comfy “fashion-sport sandals” are as versatile as they come. You can wear them at home with your loungewear or even with athleisure wear at casual gatherings.
Chic and eccentric: Hender Scheme
Can a shoe be chic and eccentric at once? Hender Scheme says yes. This Japanese shoe brand by Ryo Kashiwazaki gained popularity through its handmade recreations of popular sneaker silhouettes like the classic Nike Air Force 1 using premium, raw leather. But these days, Hender Scheme has been producing original, timeless designs that have also been positively received. The brand’s pieces have an interesting mix of elegance and subtle flamboyance which makes them truly one-of-a-kind.
Our pick: These moccasins from the Hender Scheme x Tod's collab collection (~USD1,062.90). They have a tan leather upper with eye-catching fur and suede features. Any outfit of yours will be elevated when you have these on.
Elegant heels: mamian
Not into sneakers or sandals? Those who are searching for dressy footwear would find nice selections at Japanese shoe brand mamian. The Kobe-native label started as a custom-made shoe shop in 1978 but is now producing original designs across Japan and beyond. They are all about creating a wide range of beautiful shoes with a feminine design, from ballerina flats to stilettos. But make no mistake, their shoes aren’t just nice to look at, their craftsmanship also ensures that each piece provides comfort as well as style. A win-win!
Our pick: These versatile and durable pumps from their iCoN collection (~USD77.04). The crisp design and simple pointed cap make them a perfect match for any outfit that you want to dress up. Plus, they have a comfortable cushioning that’s perfect for heeled pieces.