Shoe Terms: Glossary

This comprehensive glossary provides detailed definitions for a wide range of terms related to shoe anatomy, design, and construction. From common components like the “Aglet” to specialized terms used by brands like Brooks and New Balance, this guide offers a deep dive into the language of footwear.

ABZORB: ABZORB midsoles are responsive and absorb impact through a combination of cushioning and compression resistance. This combination allows great comfort and cushioning without being overly soft and squishy. ABZORB can be found on a variety of New Balance lifestyle and performance models.

Aglet: A small protective covering or sheath, typically made of plastic or metal, located at the end of a shoelace. This component aids in preventing the lace from fraying and makes it easier to thread through the eyelets of a shoe.

Airport Friendly Shoes: These are shoes designed with no metal components, allowing the wearer to pass through airport metal detectors without triggering the alarm.

Aniline Leather: This is leather that has been dyed with aniline, a soluble dye that retains the natural appearance of the leather, enhancing its aesthetic appeal.

Apron Toe Shoes: This refers to shoes that feature a distinct overlay or stitching that forms a sort of apron-like appearance over the front of the shoe.

Arch: This term refers to the curved, raised part of the foot located between the ball and the heel. In the context of footwear, it can also refer to the raised area of the shoe’s insole that provides padding and support to the foot’s arch.

Arch Cookie: This is a foam insert placed beneath the insole of a shoe, specifically designed to provide support to the arch of the foot.

Arch Spring: This refers to the upward curve of a shoe’s arch or the arch of a last (a form used in shoemaking).

Arch Support: This is a stiffening effect applied to the area of a shoe’s insole that is built up and strengthened to support the arch of the foot. It can also refer to a separate support insert that can be placed into the shoe.

Back Seam: This is the seam that runs up the back of a shoe.

Ball: This refers to the padded area of the foot between the big toe and the arch.

Ball Girth: This is the measurement of the circumference of the foot around the ball.

Ball Line: This is a line drawn across the widest part of the foot.

Bellows Tongue: This is a type of shoe tongue that is attached at both the top and the sides of the shoe.

Blucher: This is a shoe construction that features two side flaps of material that are joined across the foot with lacing. This design is preferred for its adjustability and suitability for individuals with a high arch.

Bevelling: This is the process of reducing the thickness of certain components of a shoe’s bottom by skiving, such as insole seat bevelling.

Board Lasting: In board lasted shoes, a sturdy insole board runs the entire length of the foot bed, providing maximum stability.

Boat Shoes: These are shoes originally designed to be worn on a boat. They typically feature a siped, non-slip outsole and side lacing details.

Boot: This is a style of footwear that extends to the height of the ankle bone or higher.

Brannock Device: This is a device used to measure the length and width of a foot to ensure a proper shoe fit.

Break: This refers to the natural crease that forms across the vamp of a shoe due to regular wear.

Brogue: This is a heavy, oxford-style shoe that features pinked or perforated detail.

Buckle: This is a clasp that connects one end of a material to another. It can be functional or decorative.

Calf Leather: This is leather made from the skin of very young cattle, offering a fine grain, suppleness, and exceptional durability.

Calfskin Leather: This is leather made from the skins of very young cattle. It is considered among the highest quality of all leathers.

Calluses: These are firm, rough patches of skin that develop due to overuse or irritation.

Cemented Construction: This is a shoe construction method in which the upper part of the shoe is cemented, rather than stitched, to the sole of the shoe. This results in a lighter, more flexible shoe.

Chukka Boots: These are men’s low boots with cap-less vamps and high-cut quarters that cover the ankles. They typically have two holes but no more than three eyelets.

Cleaning Nubuck Leather: Nubuck leather should be cleaned by wiping with a cloth dipped in slightly soapy warm water.

Cleaning Patent Leather: Patent leather should be cleaned with a damp cloth or a good quality proprietary patent leather spray.

Cleaning Suede Shoes: After removing all dry dirt, the nap of suede shoes should be brushed up using a rubber or stiff-bristled brush.

Clog: This is a style of footwear featuring a closed toe, open back, and a platform sole, traditionally made of wood.

Combination Last: This is a type of footwear last in which the heel is two sizes narrower than the widest part of the shoe, resulting in a shoe with a narrow heel and wide toe box.

Contoured Footbed: This is an insole that conforms to the shape of the foot.

Collar: This is a strip of leather stitched around the outside of the top of the shoe. It is sometimes padded to provide a more secure fit for the heel and to help prevent debris from entering the shoe.

Compression Molded Ethylene Vinyl Acetate Foam: Also known as CM-EVA, this material is used in the midsole of shoes for cushioning.

Cordovan Leather: Cordovan is a shoe color and the leather is most commonly taken from a horse’s posterior. When the leather is tanned, it becomes a rich black cherry color, and as such has evolved into common usage as a color name.

Corn: This is a small, hard formation usually found at the toe. A corn is usually the result of continuous friction or pressure in one place.

Counter: This is a stiff piece of material placed at the heel of the shoe between the lining and upper to help maintain the shape of the shoe.

D-ring: These are plastic or metal eyelets placed along the eyestay to aid in easy lacing, support, and secure fit.

Dorsiflex: This is the action of flexing the foot upward so that the dorsum (upper surface) approaches nearer to the leg.

Dual Density: This term is used to describe some midsole or sole designs where one layer is denser than the other. The denser layer provides stability and the softer layers provide cushioning. In running shoes, the denser foam is used where the foot would roll.

Duty Shoes: These are shoes worn by healthcare professionals or service personnel.

Elastic Gore: This is an elastic fabric panel inserted into shoes to provide stretch.

Embossing: This is a method of decorating leather by pressing a heated die onto the surface.

Energy Return: In running and athletic shoes, this is the response after the foot strikes the ground, providing propulsion that helps maintain an effective “gait” or stride.

Eyelet: This is a hole for the laces to pass through.

Eyelet Tab: This is the front part of the quarters, overlaying the instep, carrying the eyelets.

Eyestay: This is the reinforcement around the eyelet holes.

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

Fisherman Sandals: This is a type of sandal with woven or stitched vertical or horizontal straps, often with a closed toe.

Footbed: This is another name for insole, the part of the shoe your foot lies directly on.

Forefoot: This is the area of the foot between the ball and the toes.

Flare: This refers to the width of the heel at the bottom of the outer sole in relation to the width of the heel at the top of the outsole. It increases stability.

Full Grain Leather: This is leather where the entire thickness of the hide is used to increase durability.

Full Sock: This is a piece of leather or fabric pasted or kept on the insole of the shoe to cover any grindery and stitching inside the shoe.

Gait: This refers to an individual’s style of walking.

Ghillie: This is a style of footwear in which the laces pass through fabric or leather rings or loops attached to the front of the shoe, rather than eyelets.

Goodyear Welt: This is a shoe construction in which the upper and the sole of the shoe are stitched together, resulting in greater durability.

Gimping: This is a saw-toothed edge to leather resembling pinking fabric.

Grain: This is the pattern of pores and other surface characteristics of the animal concerned, visible on the outer surface of a hide once the hair has been removed.

Grain Leather: This is any leather on which the original natural grain has been processed.

Graphite Rollbar: This is a lightweight flat or molded piece of graphite material biomechanically positioned in the midsole to maximize rearfoot stability.

GuideRails: A holistic support system by Brooks that goes beyond just foot pronation to stabilize the movement of your knees and keep you moving comfortably by keeping excess movement in check.

Half Bellows: This is a full-length tongue attached to the vamp and all the way up on both sides of the quarters.

Hallux Ridge: This is a slightly pronounced ridge between the base of the toe and the ball of the foot on the shoe’s footbed. The Hallux Ridge enables natural hold by the big toe, preventing the foot from slipping forward and improving the foot’s hold on the shoe.

Hammertoes: This is a condition in which the toe is bent in a claw-like position, occurring most frequently in the second through the fifth toes, usually caused by muscle imbalance.

Hallux Rigidus: This is a painful affliction of the great toe with restriction of movement, the toe being held in the extended position, with very little dorsiflexion.

Hallux Valgus: This is a sideways deviation of the great toe towards the midline of the foot. It is associated with the development of a prominence on the inner side of the joint which then develops a protective bursa.

Heel: This 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.

Heel Height: This 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 Seat: This is the part of the shoe directly below where the heel of the foot rests and where the heel and the sole are joined together.

Heel Spurs: These are soft deposits of calcium that grow on the plantar fascia, a band of tissue that grows along the bottom of the foot.

Heel Pitch: This is the angle between the axis of the heel and the base line.

House Shoe: This is another name for a slipper.

Huarache: This is a flat sandal or shoe with a woven leather upper.

Hyperidrosis: This is a condition characterized by excessive sweating of the feet.

Ingrown Toenail: These are nails whose corners or sides dig painfully into the skin. They may be caused by improper nail trimming, shoe pressure, injury, fungus infection, heredity, or poor foot structure.

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

Insock: This is a thin layer of materials put into the shoe after manufacture to cover the insole.

Insole: This is the cushioned part of the shoe the foot rests upon.

Instep: This is the area of the foot between the toes and the ankle, or the top front of the shoe.

Instep Girth Measurement: This is the girth measurement of a last or foot taken at the waist through the instep point.

Kiltie: This is a decorative fringed tongue over the instep or vamp of the shoe.

Lace Stay: This is a strip of leather applied to the front of a laced boot or shoe to strengthen and reinforce the eyelets or eyelet holes.

Lace Up Shoes: These are any low cut shoes fastened by lacings such as an Oxford or Blucher.

Laces: These are strips of material strung through the eyelets of the shoe in order to pull the shoe closed and adjust the girth.

Last: This is a shape or form, usually made of wood, that represents the space inside the shoe. It is used to construct the shoe and give it shape.

Lyrca/Neoprene: This is a blend of stretch fabric and neoprene rubber, ideal for a waterproof and sporty soft lining.

Mary Janes: This is a type of women’s shoe characterized by a strap across the instep.

Metatarsal Bones: These are the 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.

Medial: This term refers to the inner side (arch) of a shoe.

Medial Post: This is a denser CM-EVA foam, TPU device, or a combination of both on the inside edge of the shoe to curb pronation.

Mesh: This is a woven nylon used in upper construction, has excellent breathability.

Metatarsalgia: This is an extremely painful condition of the forefoot, starting with a burning sensation in the fourth metatarsal head region.

Midsole: This is a cushioning layer between the outsole and the upper. Materials may include EVA, PU, compression molded EVA, that absorbs shock and provides stability.

Moccasin: This is a loafer in style with more distinctive stitching, usually flat and made of suede.

Monk Strap: This is a style of shoe with no lacing, closed by a buckle and strap.

Motion Control: These are designs or devices found in athletic shoes that control the inward rolling of the foot.

Mule: This is a slipper or shoe without quarters, held onto the foot by the forepart only.

Nap: This is the velvety surface of leather or cloth.

Nappa Leather: This is sheepskin leather typically less than two years old, more supple than other sheepskins.

Negative Heel: This is popular in comfort footwear, a type of footwear with a lowered heel area designed for more natural foot placement.

Nubuck: This is grain leather that has been slightly brushed on the surface to create a very fine velvet-like appearance.

Onychogryphosis: This is a gross overdevelopment of the nail, usually the great toe, caused by trauma or infection.

Orthotic: This is a corrective device made primarily of leather or plastic which is placed in the shoe to correct biomechanical insufficiencies.

Outrigger: This is a part of the shoe’s outsole that flares out on the lateral side to increase stability.

Outsole: This is the very bottom of the shoe, the part that contacts the ground.

Overpronation: Overpronation is when the foot rolls inward excessively when walking or running, which can cause the arch to collapse and put stress on the ankles, knees, and hips. Shoes with arch support and stability features can help to reduce overpronation and prevent injuries.

Oxford Shoes: This is a man’s style with a closed front, that is with the quarters stitched under the vamp.

Padding: This is a thin cushion-like mass of soft material used to fill, to give shape, or to protect against jarring, scraping, or other injury.

Patent Leather: This is fine grain leather that is specially treated with polyurethane to create an exceptionally glossy finish.

Pebbled Grain Leather: This is leather embossed to resemble a bumpy “pebbled” surface.

Perforations: These are holes punched or bored into the shoe, often for decoration or breathability.

Pes Cavus: This is a foot deformity characterized by a greater than normal degree of arching of the foot.

Phalanges: These are the toe bones; two in the great toe, and three in the others.

Plantar: This is the lower surface of the foot.

Plantar Flex: This is the action of flexing the foot downward so that the forefoot moves further away from the leg.

Platform: This is a raised sole (usually ½” or more) within a heel.

Polyurethane Sole: This is a lightweight, flexible, hard-wearing sole with shock-absorbing qualities.

Pronation: This is the inward rolling of the foot during running or walking.

Pull Tab: This is a loop of material at the back of the shoe used to pull the shoe onto the foot.

Quarter: This is the complete upper part of the shoe behind the vamp line covering the sides and back part.

Quarter Lining: This is the lining of the rear part of the shoe, typically made from leather or fabric.

Rim: This is the part of the shoe the foot goes in. It holds the shoe providing lateral stability. Also known as the collar or topline.

Rocker Bottom/Rocker Soles: These are shoe soles that gently propel you through the gait cycle, decreasing lower body fatigue as your feet flow through each step.

Ruched: This is a type of detailing characterized by gathered or pleated material with stitching accents.

Sandal: This is a simple form of footwear where the shoe is held to the foot by strips of leather.

Safety Boots: These are footwear with a built-in steel toe cap designed to prevent crushing injuries.

Scotch Grain: This is the embossing of leather to create a heavy, pebbled look.

Shank: This is a strip of steel, fiber, wood or leather inserted between the outsole and the insole at the waist to maintain the curvature of the sole and to keep the heel from going under.

Shearling: This is lambskin or sheepskin with its wool still attached.

Shoe: This is either of a pair of foot coverings of leather having a sturdy sole.

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

Shoe Last: This is the form on which a shoe is constructed, may be straight, curved, or semi-curved.

Shoe Sizes: The variation between full sizes is a third of an inch, between half sizes is a sixth of an inch.

Shoe Tree: This is wood or plastic inserted in the shoes when not being worn to maintain shape.

Slide: These are shoes with an open toe and back, with a band across the toe.

Slingback: These are backless shoes with a strap that goes around the upper heel.

Slip Lasted: These are shoes constructed without an insole board. This provides the greatest flexibility and lightest weight.

Slipper: This is a light, loose, comfortable indoor shoe.

Sockliner: This is the inner sole of the shoe, which is usually removable.

Sole Leather: This is leather used for the soles of shoes and boots, usually buffalo or ox.

Straight Lasted: This is a type of last used to create a very straight shoe that helps correct pronation.

Stability Running Shoes: These are shoes characterized by a high degree of stabilizing elements, designed for runners in need of gait control.

Stiffner: This is usually of leather board or fiberboard placed between the lining and upper material at the back of the shoe to improve shape retention of the quarters.

Straights: These are shoes designed without distinction of right and left so that each can be used on either foot.

Stobel: Lasted shoes are constructed with a thin material acting like a sock liner stitched around the perimeter, provides excellent blend of stability and flexibility.

Supination: This is the rolling of the foot outward to the side while running or walking.

Supportive Cushioning Running Shoes: These are running shoes with a combination of support and cushioning.

TPU Post: This is a stability device made of thermoplastic urethane placed under the heel of the midsole. If on the medial side it aids pronation, if on the lateral side it aids supination.

T-strap: This is a type of shoe with a single vertical strap linking the toe and heel area.

Thong Sandals: These are any sandals that have material that fits between the toes.

Throat: This is the central part of the vamp just proximal to the toe box.

Toe Ridge: This is a horizontal ridge added to the footbed of some sandals to anchor and provide support and cushioning for the toes.

Toe Cap: This is a piece of material added to the toe box of a shoe, often for reinforcement or decoration.

Toe Spring: This is the upward curvature of the sole at the forefoot.

Tongue: This is the part of the shoe that covers the instep and fills the gap between the sides of the shoes created by the opening for the foot. The tongue is often attached to the vamp and moves with the lacing system.

Tread: This is the design on the shoe’s sole to enhance traction.

Trusstic System: This is a technology used by some shoe manufacturers (like ASICS) to reduce the weight of the sole unit while retaining the structural integrity of the shoe.

Upper: This is the part of the shoe that covers the top part of the foot, from heel to toe.

Vamp: This is the front center part of a shoe’s upper.

Vibram: This is a type of durable, non-slip, outsole.

Waist: This is the section around the feet, last or shoe between ball and instep.

Wedge: The heel is joined to the sole of the shoe, creating a triangular effect.

Welt: The welt is a strip of leather that is sewn to the outside of the bottom part of the uppers and then bent outward and sewn onto the top outside of the sole.

Width: The width of a shoe is typically measured in letters (AAA,AA,A,B,C,D,E,EE,EEE, etc.) and refers to the width of the shoe last as measured at the ball of the foot. Each width increases only 1/8″ in the actual shoe.

This extensive glossary serves as a valuable resource for anyone seeking to deepen their understanding of footwear. Whether you’re an avid shoe collector, a footwear industry professional, or a consumer aiming to make well-informed buying decisions, this guide empowers you to traverse the complex landscape of shoe design and construction with confidence. Here’s to your future footwear adventures!