Chapter 1 – How to Get a Good Fit

Shopping Tips
Getting to Know Your Feet
Determining Your Foot Type
Introduction to Pronation
Determining Foot Size

Mismatched Feet
Anatomy of a Shoe

Ever feel like one of Cinderella’s stepsisters trying to cram your foot into an impossibly-shaped slipper? Luckily there is no need to chop off your toes or heel—à la the original Grimm fairytale in order to make the shoe fit. But that does not mean that finding a shoe that properly fits your foot is easy! Not only do you have to search high and low for a quality product; you have to get to know your feet on a whole new level. In this section, you will discover how to:Putting on wedding shoes

  • determine your foot type
  • measure your feet
  • calculate shoe size
  • convert American sizes into UK and European sizes
  • identify the shoe’s shank, vamp and midsole

and much more! The skills you learn in this chapter will help you shop confidently the next time you decide to invest in a new pair of shoes. It is time to stop playing the part of the stepsister and embrace your inner Cinderella!

Shopping Tips

Like it or not, you are the ultimate authority when it comes down to determining which pair of shoes fit your feet best. One brand may work
miracles for your neighbor’s feet but leave you limping.

Luckily, there are some basic principles that can help you in your
quest to find a shoe that fits properly:

Buy shoes to fit your bigger foot. It is better to wear shoes that are slightly loose than shoes that are too tight (See Note 1). A loose shoe can be modified with special lacing techniques (see section titled “Loop It, Swoop It, and Pull!” in Chapter 8), thick socks, or inserts. If your feet are more than one size apart from each other, consider investing in shoes that are two different sizes.

Shop during the afternoon or evening. Most people’s feet become slightly swollen by the end of the day. This is because gravity causes blood and other fluid to collect in the feet. Shopping when your feet are at their most swollen will ensure that you purchase shoes to fit your feet’s maximum size.

Shop with socks, inserts, etc. If you plan on wearing orthotics or insertsTrying on shoes in store with your shoes, it is imperative to try on shoes with your inserts. They will drastically change the way the shoe fits. The same goes for shoes you intend to wear with thick socks or nylons.

Leave ample space in the toe box. There should be 3/8 to 1/2 of an inch of space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. Make sure that the toe box (the part of the shoe that contains the toes) is wide and deep enough for your toes to spread out comfortably.

Note 1:  It is prudent to follow Mr. Micawber’s advice in David Copperfield: “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.” With shoes: A little extra space, result happiness. Not quite enough space, result misery.

Back to top Back to Table of Contents

Getting to Know Your Feet

When was the last time you thought seriously about your feet? How high are your arches? Would you consider your feet wide? Narrow? When was the last time you tried on a shoe in a different size?

It can be easy to forget about our feet. As long as they are not hurting us, there is no need to worry, right?

Actually, when it comes to the health of our feet, knees, hips, and back, there is much to be said for preventative care. One of the best ways to care for your feet is to wear supportive footwear that meets the specific needs of your feet. In order to know what kind of shoes to buy, you first have to get to know your feet.

  • Know your foot type. Do you have high, low, or average arches? The answer to this question will determine the type of support you need inside your shoe. Read the next section for more information.
  • Know your size. Did you know that the size of your foot changes over time? Read How to Measure Feet below to learn how to accurately measure your foot.
  • Pay attention to width. Shoe length is not the only important factor. A shoe that is too narrow or too wide can also spell catastrophe for the health of your feet. Read How to Measure Feet – Step 3 (Foot Width) below to learn about determining the width of your feet.
    Back to top Back to Table of Contents

    Determining Your Foot Type

    The shoes you wear can have a dramatic impact on the health of your feet, ankles, knees, hips, and back. In order to find footwear that properly supports your feet, it is important to identify whether you have high, average, or fallen arches.

    The “wet footprint test” is one effective way of identifying your foot type. Simply dip your foot in water and place it on a brown paper bag or any other surface where your footprint will be visible.

    Compare your footprint to the images below:

    Fallen ArchesFallen Arches

    A person with fallen arches, or flat feet, will have an almost solid footprint with only a slight curve on the inside of the foot where the arch is located. People with this foot type tend to over-pronate. This means that their feet roll inward excessively with each step. Please see Introduction to Pronation below to learn more about pronation.

    Normal ArchesNormal Arches

    A person with normal arches will have a footprint with a moderate but noticeable arch. (You should see roughly half the width of your foot.) People with this foot type—the most
    common type of the three—enjoy the greatest flexibility when choosing shoes.

    High Arches

    A person with high arches will have a “scooped-out” footprint. The ball of the foot and heel will be connected by a thin line. People with high arches tend to be supinators, or under-pronators. This means that their feet do not roll sufficiently inward with each step. People with high arches generally require soft shoes with substantial arch supports and lots of cushioning. Please refer to the section on cushioned running shoes in Chapter 3 for more information about shoes designed to accommodate under-pronation.

    Note: The wet footprint test is an informal way of determining your foot type. Visit a salesperson at a quality shoe store or a podiatrist for an expert diagnosis. Wearing shoes that do not suit your foot type could lead to arch, heel, ankle or knee pain.

    Back to top Back to Table of Contents

    Introduction to Pronation

    Imagine your foot as it rolls through its stride, transferring your body’s weight from heel to toe. As the heel strikes the ground, the heel and ankle roll inward. This inward rotation is accompanied by the collapsing of the arch as the body’s weight crosses the middle of the foot. Together these two motions make-up “pronation.”

    Pronation is a good thing! It is nature’s way of providing the body with built-in shock absorption properties. However, some people’s feet roll inward excessively when they walk or run. These people are classified as over-pronators. Other people have feet that do not roll inward enough. These people are classified as under-pronators or supinators.

    Understanding the way your feet pronate is especially important when you are purchasing running or athletic shoes. Please turn to the section “The Basic Types of Running Shoe” in Chapter 3 (“What to Look For in an Athletic Shoe”) to learn more about pronation, over-pronation, and supination.

    Back to top Back to Table of Contents

    Determining Foot Size

    Believe it or not, your foot changes size and shape over time. After years of bearing the body’s weight, the arches gradually collapse and the foot gains length. People with high arches are particularly prone to increase in foot size as they age.

    This change in size over time means that it is important to periodically measure your foot size. Just because you have been a size 7 for the last 10 years does not mean you will be a size 7 for the rest of your life.

    For Accurate Results

    Before you grab your measuring tape, please read the tips that follow:

    • Measure your feet at the end of the day when your feet are the largest due to swelling.
    • Measure your feet wearing the socks you plan to wear with your new shoes, or without socks if you are planning to purchase sandals. (Unless you are one of those bold souls who rocks socks with your sandals.)
    • Ask someone to measure your feet for you. The most accurate measurements are taken when you are standing with both feet firmly planted on the ground. Bending over to take a measurement distorts foot size and shape.
    • Always measure both feet. It is rare to have two feet that are exactly the same size! This is true of both length and width.
    • Use the larger measurement when determining your shoe size. Note: If your feet are more than one size apart, you may need to purchase shoes that are different sizes. Please see below to learn more about mismatched feet.
      Back to top Back to Table of Contents

      How to Measure Feet

      In order to take an accurate measurement, you will need to measure tracings of your foot.

      What You Need: Two pieces of paper, pen or pencil, ruler

      What You Do:

      • Step 1. Stand with each foot on a piece of paper. It is helpful to tape the paper to the ground.
      • Step 2. Ask your friend to trace each foot with a pen or pencil. Make sure that the pen touches the foot at all times. Try to keep the pen as vertical as possible. If you do not have a friend to help you, measure your feet while sitting in a chair. This will produce more accurate results than standing.
      • Step 3. Once you have finished measuring both feet, get out your handy ruler. It is time to measure the tracings!
        Foot Length: To calculate foot length, measure from the back of your heel to the tip of your big toe (i.e., the longest part of your foot). Subtract 1/5 inches to account for the distance of the pen from your foot.
        Foot Width: To calculate foot width, measure across the ball of your foot (i.e., the widest part of your foot). Subtract 1/5 inches to account for the distance of the pen from your foot.
      • Step 4. Once you have calculated your foot length and foot width, look up these measurements on a standard shoe size chart.

      You can find versions of Men’s, Women’s and Children’s shoe size charts below. If you would like to know how to calculate your shoe size yourself, please see Calculating Shoe Size. Note: Be prepared to adjust your calculated shoe size based on the fit of a particular shoe. Not all brands are sized the same.

      Back to top Back to Table of Contents

      International Shoe Size Conversion Charts


      Inches US UK EURO
      8.17 4 1.5 35
      8.33 4.5 2 35
      8.5 5 2.5 35-36
      8.67 5.5 3 36
      8.17 4 1.5 35
      8.83 6 3.5 36-37
      9 6.5 4 37
      9.17 7 4.5 37-38
      9.33 7.5 5 38
      9.5 8 5.5 38-39
      9.67 8.5 6 39
      9.83 9 6.5 39-40
      10 9.5 7 40
      10.17 10 7.5 40-41
      10.33 10.5 8 41
      10.5 11 8.5 41-42
      10.67 11.5 9 42
      10.83 12 9.5 42-43


      Inches US UK EURO
      9.33 6 5.5 39
      9.5 6.5 6 39
      9.67 7 6.5 40
      9.83 7.5 7 40-41
      8.17 4 1.5 35
      10 8 7.5 41
      10.17 8.5 8 41-42
      10.33 9 8.5 42
      10.5 9.5 9 42-43
      10.67 10 9.5 43
      10.83 10.5 10 43-44
      11 11 10.5 44
      11.17 11.5 11 44-45
      11.33 12 11.5 45
      11.67 13 12.5 46
      12 14 13.5 47
      12.33 15 48
      12.67 16 49


      Inches US UK EURO
      3.42 0.5 0 16
      3.58 1 0.5 16
      3.75 1.5 1 17
      3.92 2 1 17
      4.08 2.5 1.5 18
      4.25 3 2 18
      4.42 3.5 2.5 19
      4.58 4 3 19
      4.75 4.5 3.5 20
      4.92 5 4 20
      5.08 5.5 4.5 21
      5.25 6 5 22
      5.42 6.5 5.5 22
      5.58 7 6 23
      5.75 7.5 6.5 23
      5.92 8 7 24
      6.08 8.5 7.5 25
      6.25 9 8 25
      6.42 9.5 8.5 26
      6.58 10 9 27
      6.75 10.5 9.5 27
      6.92 11 10 28
      7.08 11.5 10.5 29
      7.25 12 11 30
      7.42 12.5 11.5 30
      7.58 13 12 31
      7.75 13.5 12.5 31
      7.92 1 13 32
      8.08 1.5 14 33
      8.25 2 1 22
      8.42 2.5 1.5 34
      8.58 3 2 34
      8.75 3.5 2.5 35
      8.92 4 3 36
      9.08 4.5 3.5 36
      9.25 5 4 37
      9.42 5.5 4.5 37
      9.58 6 5 38
      9.75 6.5 5.5 38
      9.92 7 6 39
      Back to top Back to Table of Contents

      Classifying Shoe WidthMeasuring Tape

      People tend to forget about shoe width when shopping for shoes, but it is just as important as determining an accurate shoe length. Cramming feet into shoes that are too narrow can lead to a host of common foot deformities and injuries such as bunions, hammertoe, corns, and calluses. Shoes that are too narrow also increase the likelihood of developing ingrown toenails and fungal toenail infections.

      Shoes that are too wide are not able to hold the feet securely in place and subsequently fail to provide your feet with the support they need. Loose shoes can also lead to blisters, calluses, and other irritations caused by the shoe’s rubbing against the foot.

      Brands with Extra-Wide Sizes Available: ASICS, Avia, Bostonian, Croft & Barrow, Deer Stags, Dockers, Keds, Mootsies Tootsies, Natural-Soul, New Balance, Nike, Nunn Bush, Reebok and Skechers.

      Brands with Narrow Sizes Available: Allen Edmonds, Clarks, Mizuno, Munro, New Balance and Trotters.

      Brands with a Spectrum of Widths: Brooks shoes offers widths that range from Narrow (2A) to Wide (2E). P.W. Minor also offers a wide range of widths, from Women’s Narrow (2A) to Extra Wide (4E) and Men’s Narrow (B) to Extra Wide (5E).

      Note: New Balance and P.W. Minor make shoes of varying depths as well as widths.

      Back to top Back to Table of Contents

      Size Standard Charts for Width


      Shoe Width in Inches
      Size Narrow Average Wide X-Wide
      5 2.81 3.19 3.56 3.94
      5.5 2.88 3.25 3.63 4
      6 2.94 3.31 3.69 4.06
      6.5 3 3.38 3.75 4.13
      7 3.06 3.44 3.81 4.19
      7.5 3.13 3.5 3.88 4.25
      8 3.19 3.56 3.94 4.31
      8.5 3.25 3.63 4 4.38
      9 3.31 3.69 4.06 4.44
      9.5 3.38 3.75 4.13 4.5
      10 3.44 3.81 4.19 4.56
      10.5 3.5 3.88 4.25 4.63
      11 3.56 3.94 4.31 4.69
      11.5 3.63 4 4.38 4.75
      12 3.69 4.06 4.44 4.81
      12.5 3.75 4.13 4.5 4.88
      13 3.81 4.19 4.56 4.94
      13.5 3.88 4.25 4.63 5
      14 3.94 4.31 4.69 5.06

      Note: Women’s widths are most often described as narrow, medium, wide or extra wide. Sometimes they are expressed on an alphabetical scale that ranges from A at the narrowest to E at the widest.


      Shoe Width in Inches
      Size C D E
      6 3.3 3.5 3.7
      6.5 3.3 3.6 3.8
      7 3.4 3.6 3.8
      7.5 3.4 3.7 3.9
      8 3.5 3.8 3.9
      8.5 3.6 3.8 4
      9 3.6 3.9 4.1
      9.5 3.7 3.9 4.1
      10 3.8 4 4.1
      10.5 3.5 3.88 4.25
      11 3.8 4.1 4.3
      11.5 3.9 4.1 4.3
      12 4 4.3 4.4
      12.5 4.1 4.3 4.5
      13 4.1 4.3 4.5
      13.5 4.2 4.4 4.8
      14 4.2 4.5 4.9
      14.5 4.3 4.6 4.9
      15 4.3 4.6 5

      Note: Men’s widths are traditionally scaled using letters so that C indicates a narrow fit and E indicates a wide fit. Sometimes B or A widths are also available for men.


      When a number is placed in front of a letter, such as 2E, it amplifies the characteristics of that letter. For example, 4E is wider than 2E, and 4A is narrower than 2A. Sometimes instead of placing a number in front of the letter, shoe companies simply write the letter multiple times. Thus 4A is the same width as AAAA.

      You will occasionally see the width marking “S” or “SS.” This stands for “Slim” and is equivalent to a Narrow sizing.

      Back to top Back to Table of Contents

      Calculating Shoe Size

      Whether you realize it or not, Americans measure their feet in barleycorns—the ancient Roman unit that equals 1/3 of an inch. The “barleycorn” represented the size of an average corn of barley. Edward II of Britain created a shoe sizing system based on the barleycorn in 1324, and we have been sizing our shoes in 1/3 inch units ever since.

      King Edward’s foot was 36 barleycorns long; at the time, this was graded a size 12. Today we use a different formula to calculate shoe size.Women's and men's shoes

      For Men: 3 × length of foot – 22 = shoe size

      For Women: 3 × length of foot – 20.5 = shoe size (See Note 2)

      For Children: 3 × length of foot – 9.75 = shoe size

      It is helpful to examine the above formulae with an example. Let’s imagine we are determining shoe size for a foot measurement that is 10 inches long. If the measurement belongs to a man, then the calculated shoe size would be 8. If the measurement belongs to a woman, then the calculated shoe size would be 9.5.

      Man’s Size: (3 × 10) – 22 = 8

      Woman’s Size: (3 × 10) – 20.5 = 9.5

      The discrepancy between men’s and women’s sizes is the result of the constant(Note 3). Why the constant is different for men and women is a mystery. At least, no one is sure historically who made the call, or why it was important to distinguish between the sexes. You will note that children’s sizes in the U.S. system are the same for both genders. Likewise, the European and UK systems do not have separate women’s and men’s sizes.

      Note 2: This number is sometimes listed as 20 and 21 in addition to 20.5.

      Note 3: A constant is any number in a mathematical equation that is independent of measurement. For example, 22 in the men’s formula is a constant. It is always 22 no matter the length of the foot.

      Back to top Back to Table of Contents

      American System and International Conversions

      The need for a uniform shoe sizing system arose during the American Civil War when mass-produced left and right shoes were manufactured for the first time in order to provide soldiers with boots that fit. Twenty years later, Edwin B. Simpson revolutionized the mass production of shoes by developing a more detailed sizing system that included half sizes and varying widths. In Simpson’s system, half sizes were 1/6 of an inch apart and width was measured in 1/4-inch increments. This system was adopted by American and British shoe manufacturing companies in 1888.

      Union JackThe UK System. The UK system is similar to the American one. Both measure full sizes in 1/3-inch increments. However, the UK system starts with size 0, while the US system starts with size 1. The result is that there is roughly 0.5 size difference between UK and U.S. men’s shoes. For example, a U.S. men’s size 8 would be approximately a UK men’s size 7.5.

      This is not true for women’s sizes. Unlike UK sizes, American sizes differ with gender. Therefore there is a difference of 2.5 sizes between UK and U.S. women’s shoes. For example, a U.S. women’s size 8 would be approximately a UK women’s size 5.5.

      EU FlagThe European System. The most commonly used European system is the Paris Point system. Each size is roughly 2/3 of a centimeter. Converting U.S. sizes into European sizes is complicated. You can do an approximate conversion by adding 30 to an American women’s size and 32 to an American men’s size.

      Note: Continue to the next section for a convenient conversion chart.

      Back to top Back to Table of Contents

      Other Common Conversions

      Athletic Shoes. It is normally a good idea to purchase athletic shoes that are slightly bigger than your everyday shoes or dress shoes. This is because the foot swells during physical exercise. It is also important not to cram the foot into athletic shoes. This could lead to injuries such as ingrown or bruised toenails and infections such as athlete’s foot and fungal toenail infections. Most people find that purchasing a pair of athletic shoes 1/2 size bigger than their normal size provides an appropriate fit.

      Gender Conversions. As mentioned above, men’s and women’s shoes are not sized the same in the American system. To convert from a women’s size to a men’s size, add 1.5 to 2 sizes to the women’s size. To make a conversion in the opposite direction, you will need to subtract the same figure.

      The charts below are intended as a quick reference for common
      shoe conversions. Note: These charts help you approximate the correct shoe size. Use the International Shoe Size Conversion Charts for more accurate conversions. Or better yet, try on the shoes in question.

      Women’s US


      Subtract 2.5


      Add 30


      Add 0.5

      Men’s US

      Subtract 2

      Men’s US


      Subtract 0.5


      Add 32


      Add 0.5

      Women’s US

      Add 2
      Back to top Back to Table of Contents

      Mismatched Feet

      It is easy to look to the body as an example of perfect symmetry. Everything comes in twos—two eyes, two ears, two arms, two hands, two legs, two feet. We expect these “partners in crime” to work together in a way that makes life easier. Your left eye may not see 20:20, but perfect vision in your right eye can make the overall picture clearer. Different sized feet, unfortunately, make life more complicated. Not only do differences in foot size and shape make it difficult to purchase shoes, they also can throw your body’s alignment out of whack.

      When it comes to mismatched feet, it is important to care for each foot in turn. One foot should not have to suffer in order to make the other one more comfortable. Forcing a foot into a shoe that is too tight or too large, or one that does not provide the proper orthopedic support, will only lead to additional foot maladies. Unfortunately, shoes come in perfectly matched pairs (unlike our imperfectly matched feet). Purchasing two pairs of shoes in order to acquire one pair of shoes that meets the needs of your feet is a frustrating and expensive experience. And it is one familiar to all too many people. Some studies suggest that upwards of 60 percent of Americans have feet that are two different sizes.

      Keep these simple rules in mind when shopping for shoes for
      mismatched feet:

      • Don’t sweat the small stuff. Few of us have feet that are identical in size. If your feet are only 1/2 size apart, or even a full size, you may be able to wear the same size shoe on each foot with a few minor adjustments.
      • Let the big dog lead. You should always purchase shoes with your larger foot in mind. It is easier to tighten a slightly loose shoe using inserts or special shoe tying techniques (see section titled “Loop It, Swoop It, and Pull!” in Chapter 8) than it is to make a too tight shoe stretch.
      • Shop around. Although Nordstrom (Note 4) is a notable exception, most department stores do not have easy solutions for people who need right and left shoes in different sizes. You may be forced to buy two pairs of shoes in order to have one pair that fits your mismatched feet. Instead, buy shoes from online retailers or specialty stores that will let you mix and match sizes. We may be a little partial, but you may want to check out, where users with mismatched feet can find mismatched shoes posted by others, post their own pairs of mismatched shoes (left over from buying one pair for the size of each foot), and even find their “sole” mates – users with complementary foot sizes.

      Note 4: Nordstrom department stores have long offered mismatched pairs of shoes for those with feet at least two sizes different from each other. The policy is attributed to the store founder’s wife, a polio survivor.

      Reviewer’s contribution to subject: Baltimore podiatrist Neil M. Scheffler, DPM, FACFAS, author of 101 Foot Care Tips for People with Diabetes, adds that “[y]ou may also be aware that many podiatrists supply their patients shoes in their offices. Most often these are for people with diabetes under the Medicare Therapeutic Shoe Program, but others purchase them as well. For a small additional fee ($5) one of our suppliers, Dr. Comfort shoes, will split sizes, but only on some styles. Your readers should ask their podiatrists for more information.”

      Back to top Back to Table of Contents

      Anatomy of a Shoe

      In addition to knowing the ins and outs of your feet, it is important to understand the basic anatomy of a shoe. Whether a sports shoe is advertised with an EVA midsole, or a dress shoe is described as having a full leather upper, understanding the various parts of the shoe and why they are important will help you to become a confident consumer who makes smart choices when purchasing shoes.

      Use the handy glossary to look up definitions of a shoe’s major parts. Following the glossary, you will find pictures of shoes with the parts labeled.

      Back to top Back to Table of Contents

      Shoe Glossary

      Aglet: The plastic casing on the end of a shoelace that makes it easier to pass through the eyelet.

      Arch Support: Support for the arch of the foot. Arch support features are usually incorporated into a shoe’s footbed or insole. The insole is built-up so that a firm ridge lies immediately below the foot’s arch. Arch supports can also be inserted separately into the shoe.

      Back Seam: The vertical seam at the back of the shoe that runs from the bottom of the heel up to the Achilles tendon.

      Collar: Material that is stitched to the rim of the shoe (see topline). Collars are often padded for comfort.

      Eyelet: The hole that the lace passes through. Eyelets are usually rimmed with plastic, metal, cord, leather or some other material that makes it easy for the lace to pass through.

      Feather: The part of the shoe where the upper meets the sole.

      Footbed: The part of the shoe that runs along the bottom of the foot. When footbeds are designed to fit the natural curvature of the foot, they are often described as “contoured.” Often referred to as the insole.

      Foxing: A strip of rubber that joins the upper and sole of a shoe. Commonly found on canvas sneakers.Parts of a dress shoe

      Goring: A small, triangular insert of stretchy material that joins two pieces of the upper. Gorings are often found on slip-on shoes that lack laces.

      Heel: The part of the shoe that protects and sometimes elevates the heel of the foot.

      Heel Breast: The part of the heel that faces forward when a shoe is worn.

      Heel Counter: A rigid element (often made of plastic) usually concealed within the fabric of the shoe at the back of the heel. The heel counter cups the heel and provides extra support. To find out if a shoe has a heel counter, press your thumbs against the back of the heel. If the heel bends easily, there is no heel counter.

      Heel Seat: The part of the sole where the heel seats.

      Hook and Loop Fasteners: A type of fastener that uses two pieces of fabric, one piece which has “hooks” and the other which has finer “loops” that get caught in the hooks. Velcro® is a well-known brand of hook and loop fastener.Parts of a women's dress shoe

      Inseam: A hidden seam that holds together the welt, upper, sole, and insole.

      Insole: The part of the sole you see when you look inside your shoe. Insoles are often curved to provide arch support. They are also often removable.

      Laces: A thin piece of material that is threaded through the eyelets. When tightened, laces secure the shoe on the foot.

      Last: The form on which a shoe is constructed. Lasts can be straight, curved, or semi-curved; they determine the inside shape of the shoe.

      Lug Sole: A rubber outsole with deep indentations that increase a shoe or boot’s traction.

      Midsole: The part of the sole concealed between the insole and the outer sole. Midsoles vary widely in weight, support, and flexibility. Technological advances related to cushioning, support, and flexibility are often located in this area of the shoe.

      Outsole: The part of the sole that comes into contact with the ground.Parts of a boot

      Quarter: The part of the upper that covers the sides and rear of the heel. The quarter is located between the heel and the vamp.

      Seat: The part of the insole that holds the heel in place.

      Shank: A thin piece of metal or other rigid material that runs from the heel across the arch of the foot and provides shape to the shoe and support to the foot. The shank is concealed between the insole and the outer sole of the shoe.

      Sipes: Thin channels made with a razor on a rubber sole. Sipes are designed to dispel water and prevent slipping. Although sipes are a familiar feature on most boat shoes, rumor has it that they were first invented for shoes worn in slaughterhouses.

      Sock Liner or Lining: A thin piece of material that lies directly beneath the sole of the foot and is attached to the shoe’s insole.

      Sole: The combination of the insole, midsole, and outsole. Sometimes the term sole is used to refer to the outsole only.Parts of an athletic shoe

      Throat: The opening of the shoe where a foot enters.

      Toe Box: The front part of the shoe that contains your toes. Toe boxes sometimes have toe caps that are stitched over the material of the upper. Toe caps can be decorative, or they can provide protection for the toes.

      Tongue: A strip of material that sits on the top of your foot and is designed to protect your foot from rubbing against the shoe’s laces.

      Top Piece or Lift: The part of the heel that comes into contact with the ground. The top piece is usually made of a hard, durable material.

      Topline: The upper edge of the shoe.

      Tread: The grooves on the bottom of a rubber sole.

      Upper: The part of the shoe that covers the top of the foot. Together, the upper and the entire sole (insole, midsole and outer sole) make up the basic building blocks of a shoe.

      Vamp: The part of the upper that covers the front of the foot. The vamp usually contains the shoe’s laces, buckle or whatever device is used to fasten the shoe.

      Waist: The “skinny” area of the shoe near the arch or the in-step. Where the shoe curves inward.

      Welt: A strip of material that covers and reinforces the area where the upper meets the sole (the feather).

      Back to top Back to Table of Contents

      Go to CHAPTER 2 – What to Look for in Sandals, High Heels, and Dress Shoes