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Shoe Glossary

Shoe Glossary: Common shoe terms you need to know!

Aglet The plastic sheath at the end of a shoelace that makes the lace easier to thread through the eyelet holes of the shoe.

Antiquing A type of leather finish that creates a contrasting, rubbed-off appearance.

Approach Shoe A grip-soled athletic shoe meant to aid rock climbers on the path to and from the climbing area.

Arch The high, curved part of the sole of the foot, located between the ball of the foot and the heel. This term can also refer to the raised area of the insole of a shoe, which is meant to pad and provide support for the arch of the foot.

Athleisure Shoe Athletic-inspired, trendy footwear meant for casual, urban wear.

 

Back Seam The vertical seam at the center of the back of a shoe or boot.

Ball The padded area of the foot between the big toe and the arch of the foot.

Ballerina Flat / Ballet Flat A ballet-style flat meant for everyday wear.

Bellows Tongue A shoe tongue that is attached at both the top and the sides of the shoe.

Blucher A shoe construction featuring two side flaps of material that are joined across the foot with lacing.

Boot A style of footwear extending to the height of the anklebone and above. May extend as high as the thigh.

Brannock Device A device used to measure the length and width of the foot in order to ensure proper shoe fit.

Break The natural crease created across the vamp of the shoe from everyday wear.

Brogue A heavy, oxford-style shoe featuring pinked and perforated detailing.

 

Burnish The process of buffing a shoe surface to achieve an antiquing effect of the leather.

 

Cambrelle A durable, breathable, synthetic material that helps wick away moisture and gives added warmth.

Cap Toe An additional piece of leather covering the toe of a shoe. May be in several different shapes or patterns. Also known as a Tip.

Cemented Construction A shoe construction in which the upper of a shoe is cemented, rather than stitched, to the sole of the shoe. Cement construction results in a lighter, more flexible shoe.

Chukka Boot A boot style with laces, usually with a plain toe, and is the height of the ankle.

Circumference The measurement around the shaft of a boot taken at the widest part near the top of the boot shaft.

Climatrac A durable lining that is quick-drying and extremely breathable.

Clog A footwear style featuring a closed toe, open back and a platform sole traditionally fashioned from wood.

Combination Last A footwear last in which the heel is two sizes smaller in width than the widest part of the shoe, producing a shoe with a narrow heel and a wide toebox.

Contoured Footbed An insole that molds to the shape of the foot.

Cordovan Leather from a horse’s posterior. When tanned it becomes a rich black cherry color; so it has evolved into common usage as a color name.

d’Orsay (pump)a pump with a circular vamp and sides that curve downward sharpley, exposing the sides of the foot.

E.V.A. (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) A synthetic compound used for outsoles. E.V.A. provides cushioning to the foot and is easily shaped by heat and pressure.

Embossed Leather A design that is imprinted onto leather and often simulates exotic skin – i.e., croco or snake. May also be a random pattern.

Espadrille A shoe or sandal style that has a woven rope or similar material covering the wedge or sole.

Eyelet A hole through which a lace is threaded; may be reinforced with a metal ring or grommet.

Fiberboard A material made primarily of wood pulp which is used for counters, insoles and heel lifts.

Finish The process by which the final appearance of a shoe is created. The finish can include the application of polish to create a high-gloss finish, or a contrasting polish to create a rub-off finish like “antiquing”.

Finishing Room The area of a shoe factory where the shoe is finished, including the removal of the last, insertion of the insole, completion of the outsole and final application of polish.

Flat Foot A condition in which the arch of the foot is collapsed and the entire foot rests on the ground.

Footbed Another term for insole.

Forefoot The area of foot between the ball and the toes.

Foxing A strip of rubber joining the upper and sole of a shoe. Typically found on canvas sneakers.

French Heels Women’s shoes with a curved, medium-high heel. Also known as Curved Heels, Pompadour Heels or Louis Heels.

Gait An individual’s style of walking.

Galoshes Waterproof (typically rubber) overshoes or boots meant to protect the foot and footwear from inclement weather.

Ghillie (pronounced “gil-ee”) A style of footwear in which the laces pass through fabric or leather rings or loops attached to the front opening of the shoe, rather than eyelets.

Girth The circumference of a shoe last measured around the ball of the foot.

‘Goodyear Welt’ A shoe construction in which the upper and sole of the shoe are stitched together, resulting in greater durability. The resulting seam is visible and runs around the outside of the shoe, where the upper and outsole meet.

Gore An elastic panel stitched into either side of a shoe’s vamp in order to make it more comfortable and easier to put on and take off.

Grain The inherent surface pattern of leather, differentiated by the animal from which it came.

Heel “Heel” can refer to both the rear, padded area of the underside of the foot, as well as the solid part of a shoe that supports the heel cup. The standard measure for heel heights is as follows: an 8/8 (low heel) is 1″ high; a 16/8 (medium heel) is 2″ high; and a 24/8 (high heel) is 3″ high. Types of shoe heels include: Baby Louis – The same shape as a Louis heel but a 12/8 or shorter. Built Heel – Created from layers of leather or fiber with contrasting tones. Continental – A higher heel with a slightly curved back and flat front. Cuban – A thick, stacked heel with little or no curvature and tapered at the bottom; usually medium in height. Louis or French – Features a curved back and ranges in height from 16/8 to 24/8. Stacked – Similar to the built heel but typically can be created from synthetic and leather materials. Often found on spectator shoes. Wedge – A heel of any height that is as wide as the shoe itself and follows the shoes contour from toe to heel.

Heel Breast The forward-facing side of the heel.

Heel Height Heel height is measured on a vertical line at the breast of the heel, from the bottom surface of the sole where it meets the heel, to the floor. Heel height is measured in increments of 1/8th inches, so an 8/8 heel is one inch high.

Heel Seat The part of the shoe directly below where the heel of the foot rests and where the sole and the heel are joined together.

Heel Spurs Soft deposits of calcium that grow on the “plantar fascia”, a band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot and are typically painful.

Hidden Gore An elastic panel at the front of a shoe that is covered by the shoe’s tongue and provides added comfort. See Gore.

Hook & Loop A method of keeping something closed, using 2 pieces of fabric. One piece has small hooks, to attach to the other piece which has 2 loops.

Huarache A flat sandal or shoe with a woven leather upper.

Injection Molded Construction A type of sole unit construction created by injecting melted PVC or a similar material into the sole mold. Injection molded construction is an efficient way to mass-produce footwear.

Inseam The hidden seam of a welted shoe holding together the welt, upper, lining and insole.

Insole A lining that runs the full length of the inside of the shoe.

Instep The upper, center section of the foot, between the toes and ankle.

Jelly Shoes Shoes made entirely of PVC.

Jodhpur Boots A low-cut boot used primarily for equestrian activities. May be laced or a twin gore pull-on style.

Kidskin A soft, porous leather created from the hide of young goats.

Kipskin Middle-grade leather created from the skins of young cattle that are larger than calves, yet not fully grown.

Kiltie A decorative, fringed tongue over the vamp of a shoe.

Laces A strip of material strung through the eyelets of a shoe in order to pull the shoe closed and adjust its girth.

Last A metal, wood or plastic form used to create the shape of a shoe.

Lasting The process of pulling and shaping a shoe on a last.

Lift One of the several layers of leather or leather-board used make a heel.

Lining The inside material of a shoe. May be composed of leather, fabric or synthetic material.

Loafer A slip-on shoe, completely without fasteners.

Lug Sole A heavy-tread, rubber sole.

Mary Jane / maryjane The style of low heeled shoe with a strap across the instep. The strap can be attached with elastic or a buckle, making it easy to slip on and off.

Metatarsal Bones Five long bones in the foot that help to move the body forward when walking or running. They form the top slope of the foot, from the instep to the toes.

Mid-sole The layer of material between outsole and innersole used for reinforcement or cushioning.

Moccasin A shoe in which the bottom is a single piece of leather, stitched around a last. The vamp is usually attached by whip stitching to the bottom of the shoe so it encloses the foot. Also known as Tru-Moc construction.

Monk Strap A closed shoe, usually a blucher pattern, with a wide strap across the instep that buckles at the side. Also known as a monk strap.

Motion-Control Designs or devices found in athletic shoes that control the inward rolling (pronation) of the foot.

Mule Backless, closed-toe slippers or shoes.

Napa Leather A supple version of sheepskin.

Nubuck Lightweight, supple leather used on the upper of the shoe. Buffed to a suede-like appearance.

Ombre A type of shadow, but the word alludes to a sunspot, or a shadow cast on the sun by a planet. When used to describe a shoe, it is a detail (or entire shoe) that starts with one color and fades or blends into another.

Orthotic An orthopedic insole designed to cushion and stabilize the foot.

Outsole The bottom outer sole of a shoe.

Oxford A traditional term describing a low shoe laced or tied over the instep.

Patent Leather A glossy leather that has a shiny appearance. Patent leather is typically created from cattle hide.

Pebbled Grain An embossed-leather grain finish that resembles a pebble surface.

Penny-Loafer A slip-on style shoe with a slit over the instep where a penny traditionally was placed for good luck.

Perforation A pattern of small holes punched or bored into the trim of a shoe, for the purpose of decoration or ventilation.

Pinking Saw-tooth shaped edging applied to the trim of shoes for decoration.

Piping A decorative, narrow strip of leather that typically follows the seam of a shoe.

Pitch The angle of the back part of the heel where it meets the sole, compared to the front part of the heel where it meets the sole. On a high-heeled shoe the pitch should be at a larger angle, in order to stabilize the heel.

Platform Shoe A style of shoe featuring a thicker sole at the front; the heel is typically high to accommodate the higher height of the sole.

Polyurethane (PU) A synthetic material frequently used as an alternative to leather in the manufacturing of footwear. PU is light, flexible and durable.

Pump A low-cut women’s shoe, typically moderate in heel height.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) A semi-rigid plastic material, often used in heel counters and outsoles for added support

Quarter The rear portion of a shoe, covering the heel and sides and often joined at the back seam.

Quarter Lining The lining of the rear part of a shoe, typically made from leather or fabric.

RadianTex An insole that provides thermal reflection to keep your feet warm and cozy.

Riding Boot A boot designed specifically for equestrian activities. Usually knee-high, with goring and a low heel. This term can also describe boots that are designed to look like riding boots.

Rim The part of the shoe where the foot enters. Another term for collar or topline.

Saddle Oxford / Saddle Shoe An oxford-style shoe featuring a saddle across the vamp, often in a contrasting color.

Sandal A simple form of footwear where the shoe is held to the foot by strips of leather or fabric.

Scotch Grain The embossing of leather to create a heavy, pebbled look.

Shaft Height Shaft height of boots are measured from middle of the arch up the inside of the boot, to the top of the boot shaft.

Shearling Sheepskin or lambskin with the wool still attached. Used often as a lining for shoes and boots.

Shoe Anatomy A diagram depicting the parts of a shoe:

Shoe Horn A curved metal or synthetic device used to aid in slipping the foot into a shoe.

Shoe Sizes The variation between full sizes is one-third of an inch, while the difference between half sizes and full sizes is one-sixth of an inch. This system of sizes is based on a decree made by Edward in 1324.

Side Leather Leather from the sides of cattle, divided by the backbone.

Silicone A slippery polymeric material used to waterproof shoes.

Sipes A specific, razor-cut pattern in the outsoles of deck shoes that help to disperse water and prevent slipping.

Slide A shoe featuring an open toe and open back, with a band across the toe. Can be flat or heeled.

Sling-back A shoe held to the foot with a strap at the back. The strap is typically elasticized or buckled for greater comfort and adjustment.

Slip-On A style of footwear which is simply slipped on to the foot with no further adjustment.

Slipper A flat shoe that is easily slipped on, usually meant for indoor wear and lined for comfort and warmth.

Smooth Leather Any leather that is smooth on the surface, without pebbling, or noticeable grain.

Sneaker An athletic shoe, typically made of canvas with a rubber sole. The term “sneaker” comes from the wearer’s ability to walk in the shoe without making noise.

Sock-liner A sock liner is the insole in the interior of the shoe that the foot rests on.

Sole The bottom part of a shoe, not including the heel.

Sole Leather Any heavy leather (usually cattle-hide), used for the soles of shoes.

Spectator A shoe design that is characterized by 2 materials, often of different colors or materials, with an edge of the dominant color having a pinking edge exposed, and a perforated design on the toe.

Split Leather A type of leather used in shoes that is made from the lower layers of a hide that have been split away from the upper or grain.

Stacked Heel A wide high heel made of different colored layers of wood or material simulating wood.

Straight Lasted A type of last used to create a very straight shoe that helps to prevent severe pronation.

Suede Leather with a soft napped surface.

Synthetic Materials Materials other than genuine leather, but which are designed to look or function like leather. Also known as man-made materials.

Tannage The process of converting raw hides or skins into finished leather.

Tap The attachment of a leather or metal partial sole over the existing sole of a shoe.

Tassel A rope and knot ornament typically found on the vamp of a loafer or moccasin.

Thong A sandal featuring a V-strap that connects to the sole of the shoe between the big and second toe, and at the sides of the foot.

Throat The main opening of a shoe extending from the vamp to the ankle.

Tip An additional piece of leather covering the toe of a shoe. May be in several different shapes or patterns. Also known as a Cap.

Tongue A strip of leather or other material, sewn into the vamp of a laced shoe and extending to the throat of the shoe.

Thermoplastic Rubber (T.P.R.) A plastic material used by many manufacturers in the injection molding process.

Thermoplastic Urethane (T.P.U.) A plastic material that gives support through the midfoot or medial side of a running shoe.

Tread May refer to the design of a shoe’s sole, or the way in which a shoe’s sole is worn.

Tru-Moc A shoe in which the bottom is a single piece of leather, stitched around a last. The vamp is usually attached by whip stitching to the bottom of the shoe so it encloses the foot. Also known as moccasin.

Unit Bottom A single shoe bottom made from a mold of rubber or plastic. It includes the sole, platform heel or wedge.

Upper The upper part of a shoe, not including the sole. May be made from leather, fabric or synthetics.

Upper Leather Any leather used for making shoe uppers. The principal leathers used for shoe uppers are calf, kid, horsehide, goat, sheep, and leathers made from the skin of reptiles. All of these may be made in a wide variety of finishes, such as smooth, suede, patent, embossed, and glossy.


Vamp The front part of a shoe upper that covers the toes and part of the foot.

Vegetarian Shoes Shoes made of non-leather or synthetic materials.

Velcro Registered trademark of Velcro Industries BV Brand hook-and-loop fasteners are often used as straps to provide adjustable fits for shoes.

Vibram A type of durable, non-slip, outsole typically found on hiking boots. Vibram� is a registered trademark of Vibram S.P.A.

Vinyl Short for polyvinyl chloride (P.V.C.), vinyl is a shiny plastic often used for coating shoes.

Vulcanized Rubber Rubber that has been converted from its crude state to one of durability and strength.

Wedge Heel A heel which extends from the back of the shoe to the ball of the shoe, following its contour.

Wellington AKA Rainboot A Style of pull-on boots with no trim, often made of rubber, for inclement weather.

Welt A strip of leather sewn between the insole and the outsole to create greater durability.

Width The width of a shoe is typically measured in letters (AAA, AA, A, B, C, D, E, EEE, EEEE) and refers to the width of the shoe last as measured at the ball of the foot. Widths are defined in one-sixths of an inch.

Wing Tip A wing-shaped toe cap.

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