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Shoe Terminology – Quick and Easy

2016 fashion heels tiffany blue yeg



Aglet  The covering on the end of a shoelace, cord or drawstring to keep the material from fraying and to make lacing easier. Today aglets are usually made of plastic or metal, but have been made of glass and stone in the past.
Aniline Leather  A type of leather that has been treated with aniline dye, a non-toxic dye that allows the natural signatures of the leather to be seen as well as produces a soft supple texture.
Ankle Strap  A strap that is attached at the back of the shoe and goes around the ankle to provide heel retention; usually fastens with a buckle or by tying.
Arch  A section of the foot between the ball and the heel that is curved to allow for the support of the body with the least amount of weight. This term is also used for the area of insoles that pad this section of the foot, which provides added support..
Athletic Shoes  This is the generic name for shoes designed for sports or other physical exercise.



Back Seam – A vertically stitched seam running down the center-back of shoes.

Ball – The padded section of foot found between the arch and the toes upon which body weight rests when the heel is elevated.
Brannock Device® – A measurement instrument used to measure the width and size of a person’s foot to ensure that shoes will fit correctly.
Break - The natural crease created across the front leather upper of a shoe resulting from everyday wear.




Cap Toe – Also known as a tip, a cap toe is a decorative piece of leather across the toe of a shoe marked by a straight stitch across the overlay.

Cemented Construction – A method of shoe construction where the shoe’s upper is cemented to the sole of the shoe to attach them. This method makes for a lighter more flexible shoe.
Collar – The piece of material stitched around the opening or rim of the shoe. The collar may sometimes be padded to add extra comfort.
Contoured Foot bed – An insole usually made of memory foam that molds to the shape of the foot for extra comfort and support.
Counter – A piece of material forming the back of a shoe to give support and stiffen the material around the heel.
Cushioning – Refers to a shoe’s ability to absorb foot strike forces usually utilizing inner out outer sole padding, also provides comfort and stability.



Dressing – The application of polish or gloss to a shoe to maintain its finish and appearance.




Eyelet – A small (usually round) hole through which aglets are threaded. They are often reinforced with a metal, plastic or rubber grommets.



Fiberboard – The material used for counters, insoles and heel lifts. It’s primarily made of wood fibers.
Footbed – Another name for the inside of the shoe where the foot rests, also known as the insole.
Forefoot – This is one of the most cushioned parts of the foot, located between the ball of the foot and the toes. This is also the first part of the foot to hit the ground when you’re running so make sure your shoes give it enough cushioning!
Foxing – A strip of rubber usually found on sneakers made from canvas. It joins the upper part of the shoe to the sole.




Grain - The surface pattern on a piece of leather from which the hair has been removed. Differs depending on the animal it came from.



Heel – Refers to the bottom of a shoe that supports the heel cup, or the back of the shoe that touches the ground and elevates the heel of the foot. Standard heel heights range from low (1” high), medium (2” high) and high (3” high and up).

Heel Breast – The part of a shoe’s heel that is forward facing.
Heel Counter – A piece of leather composing the hind part of the shoe used to strengthen the material encompassing the heel as well as to provide more support to the foot.
Heel Seat – This is where the sole and the heel of the shoe are joined together, this is also where the heel of your foot rests.
Hose – More properly known as hosiery and more commonly as pantyhose, this term refers to socks, stockings and tights as a collective. The British include underwear in this category.



Insole - A lining that adds comfort and arch support while separating the foot from the sole of the shoe.

Instep – The arched upper section of the foot found near the center between the toes and ankle.




Jelly – A clear or translucent rubber-like plastic used in soles and as a filler in heels to add cushioning.




Kidd Leather – A leather made from the skin of young goats. It’s very soft and mostly used for lightweight and casual footwear.





Laces - A cord that is strung through eyelets or around hooks of a shoe in order to draw the shoe closed.
Lining - The inside surface of a shoe, made from several different types of material.



Microfiber – Refers to a synthetic, extremely fine fiber that closely replicates the consistency and drape of natural fiber cloth.

Midsole – The layer of material located under the insole but over the outsole providing the shoe’s main support and cushioning components.






Nap or Napped – A soft and/or fuzzy surface texture usually associated with leather or suede.

Nubuck – A soft aniline dyed leather buffed to a suede-like condition. Easily susceptible to stains even after stain protection treatments.





Orthotic - An orthopedic insole designed to straighten, improve, and/or support the foot.
Outsole - The bottom of part of the shoe that is in constant contact with the ground.
Overlay – The embellishment on a shoe made by the layering of material over other material.




Pump – A low-cut women’s shoe usually found without fastenings and typically moderate in heel rise.




Quarter - The rear portion of a shoe comprising the part that covers the heel and is often joined at the back seam.
Quarter Lining – The soft, inner lining of the rear part of a shoe, typically made from leather or fabric to insulate or cool your feet.




Rim – Another term to describe the portion of shoe where the foot enters, also known at the collar.




Safety Shoe – A shoe or boot accentuated by protective designs such as heat-resistant soles, metal insoles and steel-toe reinforcement as well as waterproof and oil-resistant materials made specifically for wear in an industrial setting.
Sandal - A form of footwear worn mostly in the warmer months featuring an open design that reveals most of the foot and toes and uses straps or strips or material to hold the shoe to the foot. 
Shank – The supportive part of the shoe connecting the heel and the wide part of the sole. It sits under the arch of the foot and gives the shoe structure.
Sheepskin  A type of material used to make shoes and boots made from the leather of sheep hide. Comes with or without the wool attached.

Shoe Horn – A device used to allow a user to slip the foot into a shoe more easily. Received its name from the original material used to make the device, animal horn. Most shoe horns today are made from plastic and metal but those made of bulls’ horn are still available in some areas.
Shoe Sizes – An alphanumerical variation indicating the fitting size of a person’s foot. Normally consists of only the number, which indicates length, as most providers carry only the standard width due to economic reasons. Width is indicated by letter.
Shoe Tree – A device resembling the shape of a foot. It is used to preserve the shape of the shoe and to stop it from developing creases by placing it into the shoe.
Shoe Width – The width of a shoe is typically measured in letters such as AAA, AA, A, B, C, D, E, EE, EEE, and EEEE, 4A, 3A, 2A, A, B, C, D, E, 2E, 3E, 4E, 5E, and 6E, or N (narrow), M (medium) or R (regular), W (wide). These letters refer to the width of the shoe as measured at the ball of the foot.
Sipes – A razor-cut pattern in outsoles of shoes, specifically deck shoes. These help to disperse water and prevent slipping, much like the sipe on a car tire.
Sole - The underside of the shoe. The term is also used to describe the bottom of the foot.
Steel Toes – A reinforced toe frequently found in industrial-style shoes designed to protect the foot and prevent injury in the workplace. Usually combined with a sole plate to protect against punctures from below, and tested by the American National Standard Institute to ensure a minimum clearance of the toe when compressed by different weights.
Stilettos – A type of high heel featuring a narrow, often rounded heel. Also known as a “spike heel”.
Suede – A type of leather with napped surface, but may also indicate fabrics of a similar nap or brushed finish. The word originates from the saying “gloves of Sweden”, translated from “gants de Suède” in French.




Tap – A small partial sole normally made of metal or leather that attaches to the existing toe or heel or a shoe. These are usually used because of the rhythmic clicking sounds they make which are favored by tap dancers.
Thermoplastic Rubber (T.P.R) – A type of plastic material used in injection molding processes. It’s commonly used to sole safety shoes. 
Thermostatic - Maintains or has an unchanging temperature.
- The spot where you put your foot in, not to be confused with your mouth! The throat goes from the vamp to the ankle.
Tip – Also known as a cap, a tip is another piece of material, usually leather, enclosing the toe of the shoe. Tips come in a variety of shapes and patterns.
Toe Box – This is the term used to describe the portion of the shoe that holds the toes. It is the forward tip of the upper and provides space and protection for the toes.
Tongue - A strip of leather or other material found under the laces of a shoe. The tongue is sewn into the vamp and extends to the throat of the shoe.
Tread – The part of the shoe that is in contact with the ground. The tread provides traction to the bottom of the shoe, but the term may also be used to describe the design of the sole or the way the shoe’s sole is worn.




Upper – The upper part of the shoe made from a piece of leather to form the part that encases the foot, but does not include the sole. Uppers come in a variety of styles, some made from leather, fabric or synthetics.




Vamp - The fore part of a shoe upper, normally a piece of leather that partially envelopes the foot and all of the toes.




Waist – The part of the foot or shoe located between the ball and the instep, also known as the shank of the shoe.




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Zero Drop  refers to the thickness of the sole which features a heel that is less than a half inch in height, allowing the forefoot and heel to be the same distance from the ground. This allows for natural running experience in which footfalls are in the mid to forefoot area instead of the unfavorable heel strike.



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