Shoe Terminology


The plastic sheath at the end of a shoelace which makes the lace easier to thread through the eyelet hole.

Ankle Strap
A strap attached at the rear of the shoe that encircles the ankle. Usually features an adjustable buckle or elastic.

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

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 the shoe, which is meant to pad and provide support for the arch of the foot.

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

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

Balmoral Shoe
A shoe construction featuring a laced “V”-shaped panel across the foot.

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

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

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

A clasp at the end of a length of fabric or leather that joins one end of the material to the other.

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

Leather created from the skins of very young cows. Calfskin is typically very supple and soft.

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.

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

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

A strip of material stitched to the opening of a shoe or the topline. The collar can be padded for extra comfort.

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.

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.

Crepe Rubber
A crude natural rubber with a crinkled texture, used in shoe soles.

Padding on the insole or outsole of a shoe for added comfort and stabilization.

A style of pump featuring one or both sides cut-out.

Demi Boot
A style of boot whose shaft is generally no taller than the anklebone.

Duty Shoe
A health care professional or service industry shoe.

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 simulated exotic skin – i.e., croco or snake. May also be a random pattern.

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

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

Imitation of the genuine article

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

Another term for insole.

The area of foot between the ball and the toes.

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

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

Pronounced “gil-ee”, this is 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.

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.

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.

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

“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 Height

Heel height is measured on a vertical line at the center of the heel, and goes from the bottom surface of the sole (where it meets the heel) to the floor. Heel height is traditionally measured in increments of 1/8th inches, so for example an 8/8 heel is 1″ 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.

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

The skin of a large animal that is treated, tanned or finished for use in boots, shoes, handbags, and clothing.

Imitation Leather
Any synthetic material made to look like leather.

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

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.

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

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

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

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

Leather created from the skin of young sheep.

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

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

The skin of an animal, typically with the hair removed and tanned for use.

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

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

Leather made from the skin of a lizard, typically with a specked, grainy appearance.

A slip-on shoe, completely without fasteners.

Trademark name of a type of acrylic resin/plastic consisting essentially of polymerized methyl methacrylate.

Lug Sole
A heavy-tread, rubber sole.

Mary Jane
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.

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

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.

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

Backless, closed-toe slippers or shoes.

A supple version of sheepskin leather.

A supple version of sheepskin leather.

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

An orthopedic insole designed to cushion and stabilize the foot.

The bottom outer sole of a shoe.

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.

Peau de soie
A soft satin weave of silk or rayon, with a grainy and dull luster.

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.

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

Pigskin Leather
Leather made from the skin of pigs. <BR>
Saw-tooth shaped edging applied to the trim of shoes for decoration.

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

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.

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

The inward rotation of the foot as it strikes the ground, causing shoes to wear on the inner line of the outsole.

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

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.

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.

The part of the shoe where the foot enters. Another term for collar or top line.

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

Safety Shoe
A shoe or boot designed specifically for wear in an industrial setting. This style of shoe often includes protective features such as steel-toe reinforcement and waterproof and oil-resistant materials.

A form of footwear, with an open toe and open back, that 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 heights of boots are measured from middle of the arch up the inside of the boot to the top of the boot shaft.

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

Skin from sheep, either with or without the wool attached.

Shoe Sizes
A variation between full sizes is one-third of an inch, while the difference between half sizes is one-sixth of an inch.

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

A slippery polymer material used to waterproof shoes. Silicones are also used as sealants, lubricants and insulation.

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

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

A shoe held on the foot with a strap at the back of heel. The strap is typically elasticized or buckled for adjustment.

Slip Last
A simple way to make shoes in which the last is forced into the upper and then stitched to the sole.

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

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

Leather made from the skin of snakes, with a rough, scaly texture.

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

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

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

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.

Steel Toe
Steel toes are most frequently found in industrial-style footwear that is meant to prevent injury in the workplace. Steel toes are tested by the A.N.S.I. (American National Standard Institute) for their ability to maintain a minimum clearance when compressed by different weights.

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

Leather with a soft napped surface.

The outward rolling of the foot while walking. The opposite of pronation.

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

Process of treating crude rubber, rubber latex, etc., by chemical means to improve its useful physical properties, like strength, hardness, elasticity. Also, a process for bonding outsoles to shoe uppers by means of heat and pressure.

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

A style of pull-on boots with no trim, often made of rubber for inclement weather.

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

Wing Tip
A wing-shaped toe cap.

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