Commonly Used Shoe Terms
While you may hear these terms and words thrown around in regard to footwear and shoe fitting, here is a rundown of the mostly commonly used terms you should know and what you should know about them.
Arch: The curved part of the sole of the foot, located between the ball of the foot and the heel. When a shoe has an arch inserted in it, it is typically a raised cushioning intended to match the arch of the average foot and provide support and cushioning. Removeable arches are intended for the same purpose. You can insert them into any shoes. They can be molded to fit your personal footprint and provide maximum support.
Ball of the foot: Padded area of the foot between the big toe and the arch of the foot
Cap Toe: Additional piece of leather that covers the toe of a shoe
Collar: Strip of material stitched around the opening of a shoe that serves as a finish or trim
Contoured Footbed: Cushioned insole that molds to the shape of the foot
Counter: Stiff material placed at the heel of a shoe between the lining and upper that helps retain the shoe's shape
E.V.A.: Synthetic compound used for outsoles that provides extra support and cushioning and is comparable to rubber soles
Embossed Leather: A design, typically a grain or animal print, imprinted on leather and simulated exotic skin
Espadrille: Shoes with woven rope, jute, or similar material covering the wedge or sole
Eyelet: Hole through which a lace is threaded
Footbed: The insole of a shoe. The thickness and engineering of a shoe’s footbed has effects on both fit and support.
Gait: The manner in which a person walks
Gore: Elastic panel stitched into either side of a shoe's vamp
Grain: The surface pattern of leather
Heel: This refers to both the rear underside of the foot as well as the solid part of a shoe that supports the foot’s heel. Heel heights are typically: Low- 1-inch and under; medium- between 1- and 2- inches, and high- 3-inches or higher. Block heels refer to thick chunky, typically higher, heels. Stilettos are typically thin, higher heels.
Heel Height: Measured from the bottom surface of the sole to the bottom of the heel’s lift, typically in increments of 1/8 inches
Hidden Gore: A hidden elastic panel found near the front of the shoe and a panel or tongue, providing added stretch or comfort
Injection Molded Construction: Sole that's created by injecting melted PVC or similar material into the sole mold
Inseam: Hidden seam of a shoe that holds together the welt, upper, lining, and insole
Insole: Lining that runs the full length of the inside of the shoe; It also refers to an additional cushion that can be inserted into a shoe to make shoe fit smaller or more snugly
Instep: The top of the foot between the toes and ankle. A high instep is raised more than the typical foot and requires a deeper shoe to fit into.
Kiltie: Decorative fringed tongue over the vamp of a shoe
Last: The form used to create the shape of a shoe and typically refers to the shape of the shoe
Lift: One of the layers used to make a heel
Lining: Inside material of a shoe
Lug Sole: Heavy tread rubber sole
Napa: A soft leather
Nubuck: A leather that gives an appearance similar to suede
Orthotic: Orthopedic insole designed to cushion and stabilize the foot
Outsole: The sole of a shoe that lines the bottom
Oxford: A shoe that is laced or tied over the instep
Patent Leather: Glossy leather with a shiny appearance
Pebbled Leather: A leather embossed with a small round grain finish
Penny Loafer: Slip-on shoe style with a slit over the instep
Piping: Narrow strip of leather, often in contrasting color or fabric, that follows a seam
Pump: Low-cut women's shoe moderate in heel height
Riding Boot: A knee-high boot designed to look like those used during equestrian activities, typically with goring and a low heel
Rim: Part of the shoe where the foot enters, also called collar or top line
Shaft: The part of a boot measured from above the ankle to the top of the boot and typically goes around the calf. Due to varying calf sizes, it is important to ascertain the shaft has enough stretch or a wide enough circumference to fit the wearer’s calf.
Shoe Sizes: Variation between full sizes is 1/3 of an inch, while the difference between half sizes is 1/6 of an inch
Slingback: A shoe that's secured on the foot with a strap at the back of heel
Sock Liner: Insole of the interior of a shoe
Sole: Bottom part of the shoe not including the heel
Suede: Leather with a soft napped surface
Synthetic Materials: Also known as man-made materials; not genuine leather. P.U. is typically used to imitate leather
Throat: Main opening of a shoe extending from the vamp to the ankle
Tread: Refers to the design of the sole or the way a sole is worn
Upper: Upper part of the shoe not including the sole
Vamp: Front part of a shoe upper that stretches anywhere between the tip of the shoe to the ankle. In a loafer, this would also be referred to as the tongue.
Wellington: Pull-on boots with no trim often made of rubber
Welt: Strip of fabric sewn between the insole and outsole, many times in contrasting colors or fabrics
Width: 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, defined in 1/8 inch increments