Commonly Used Shoe Terms

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