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Anatomy of the Shoe


Shoe Anatomy with labelsTerminology

The following is a list of terms used to describe parts of the shoe. Some terms refer to parts that all shoes have such as the sole, while other terms may only apply to certain types or style of shoe.

Breast: The forward facing part of the heel, under the arch of the sole.

Counter: A stiff piece of material at the heel of a shoe positioned between the lining and upper that helps maintain the shape of the shoe. The counter helps strengthen the rear of the soe.

Feather: The part of the shoe where the upper’s edge meets the sole

Heel: The heel is the part of the sole that raises the rear of the shoe in relation to the front. The heel seat is the top of the heel that touches the upper, this is typically shaped to match the form of the upper. The part of the the heel that comes in contact with the ground is known as the the top piece.

Insole: A layer of material that sits inside the shoe that creates a layer between the sole and the wearer’s foot. A la The insole adds comfort for the wearer, while hiding the join between the upper.

Linings: Most shoes include a lining on the inside of the shoe, around the vamp and quarter. These linings improve comfort, and can help increase the lifespan of the shoe.

Outsole: The exposed part of the sole that is contact with the ground. As with all parts of the shoe, outsoles are made from a variety of materials. The properties the outsole need are: grip, durability, and water resistance

Puff: a reinforcing inside the upper which gives the toe its shape and support. Similar in function to a toe cap.

Quarter: The rear and sides of the upper that covers the heel that are behind the vamp. The heel section of the quarter is often strengthened with a stiffener, which helps support the rear of the foot. Some shoe designs use a continuous piece of leather for the vamp and quarter.

Seat: Where the heel of the fit sits in the shoe. It normally matches the shape of the heel for comfort and support.

Shank: A piece of metal inserted between the sole and the insole lying against the arch of the foot.

Sole: The entire part of the shoe that sits below the wearers foot. As opposed to the upper. The upper and sole make up the whole of the shoe.
It is usually constructed of several layers:

The insole is the part of the sole that sits directly beneath the wearers foot. Its purpose is to provide a comfortable layer above the joining of the upper to the sole.

A mid-sole can be found on some shoes, and is a layer between the in-sole and the out-sole.

The outsole is the layer of sole that is exposed to the ground. Due to the amount of wear and stress this part of the shoe receives it is usually made of a very durable material. It is also important that it provides enough friction with the floor to prevent the wearer from slipping.

Throat: The front of the vamp next to the toe cap. For shoes were the vamp and quarter panels are one piece the throat is at the eye-stay.

Toe cap: Shoes may have a toe cap in the front upper of the shoe. Toe caps can take various forms, but the distinct types are: complete replacements for the front upper of the shoe; stitched over toecaps that add an extra layer to the upper; solid toe caps for protection, such as steel toe caps. Stitch over toe caps may be decorative in nature. Toe caps help add stength to the upper front of the shoe, an area that receives a lot of stress and wear from use.

Top Piece: The part of the heel that comes in contact with the ground. Made of a durable material that helps maintain friction with the ground.

Topline: The top edge of the upper

Upper: The entire part of the shoe that covers the foot.

Vamp: The section of upper that covers the front of the foot as far as the back as the join ot the quarter.

Waist: The arch and in-step of the foot.

Welt: A strip of material that joins the upper to the sole.


Don’t forget that if you want your shoes to feel comfortable, and stay clean, it’s important to choose the best socks. Try bamboo socks for a great feel (you can check out lots more bamboo products at our friends BestBambooGuide.com).


    • Hi, thanks for leaving a comment!

      It depends on what type of shoe you are looking for, but something like the Skechers Sure Track is a good option for a basic non-slip work shoe.

      The thing to look out for is the letter or letters after the size. It varies by manufacturer but, in general, N = narrow, M = medium, W or D = wide, XW or 2E = extra wide and 4E = extra extra wide. In general Wide are quite easy to find, and 2E are pretty common as well. If you need the 4E then you’re going to have to hunt around a bit, I’m afraid. I don’t have a go to source for that.

      Let me know if that helps!

  • Thanks, a very useful guide but… What is the name of the piece that joins the side of the tongue to the upper (next to the lace) to stop water getting into the shoe through the part of the shoe above the throat line and between the rows of lace holes?

    • Hi, thanks for the question!

      We’re not sure that there is a name for that, though I know the style you are talking about. It’s pretty common in hiking boots for keeping water, pebbles, etc out of your shoe.

      If we had to put a name on it, we’d call it a “closed seam” tongue construction, but we don’t have any clue if that is standard terminology or not, if such a standard terminology exists.

      Sorry we’re not more helpful on this one!

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