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SHOE DICTIONARY: Answers to Your "What Is" Questions About Shoes

Alligator Skin
Type of reptile hide used to make shoes. Features a unique pattern that's usually wide and box-like.
Ankle Strap
One or more straps that wrap around the ankle and attach to the back of the shoe with adjustable straps and/or elastic.
Antiquing
To make shoes look worn, this type of leather finish is used for that rubbed-off look.
Arch
On your foot, it's the area between the heel and ball. In shoes, it's the raised, padded area that gives you support and comfort.
Back Seam
A stitched seam running vertically through the center at the back of shoes or boots.
Ball
Found between the big toe and arch, this area of the foot is padded.
Ballerina Flat
Originally worn by ballerinas, now women wear this flat-heeled, close-toed, low-cut shoe every day.
Balmoral Shoe
Known as an Oxford in Europe, this dressy shoe features a V-shaped panel that laces run through.
Bellows Tongue
Used in dress and athletic shoes, this tongue connects at top and sides of shoe, making it easier to slide the foot in.
Boot
Shoes that are ankle, knee-high or thigh-high, depending on where it stops. Most feature a distinctive heel.
Break
Shoe industry term for the line that forms from wear/walking at the front part of the shoe.
Brogue
Formerly worn in Scotland and Ireland, this oxford-type shoe features ornamental detailing/patterns along the seam.
Buckle
Type of fastener/device holding two ends together at the end of a strap. Commonly found on boots.
Built Heel
Built-up portion of a shoe or boot that supports the heel, made of multiple layers and resembles a stacked heel.
Burnish
To achieve an antiquing effect, this stylized buffing process is used to make the shoe look worn and/or broken in.
Calfskin
Hide of a calf or young cow used to make an ultra soft leather used in shoes.
Cap Toe
More commonly known as a tip, this additional, purely decorative piece of leather can be found across the toe of a shoe.
Carnaby Fit
A very comfortable shoe that fits rather loosely, giving you freedom of movement.
Cemented Construction
The upper of a shoe is attached to the sole with cement for a lighter, durable, more flexible shoe.
Chukka Boot
Very similar to desert boots, these ankle-high, lace-ups are made of suede or leather.
Circumference
Depending on the size of your foot, it's the measurement around the widest part of the shoe near the shaft.
Clog
Made famous in Holland and Sweden, this slip-on, close-toe, open-back shoe has a wooden heel.
Collar
For decoration and sometimes comfort, this piece of material is found at a shoe's opening or topline.
Continental
Type of sexy, platform heel 3 ½ inches or higher featuring flat and curved shapes on the heel.
Contoured Footbed
A memory foam insole that molds to your foot for extra comfort and support.
Cordovan
A specialized, tanned leather from a horse's backend that's a very dark cherry color.
Counter
To keep a heel's shape, this piece of material is added between the lining and upper.
Crepe Rubber
Used in the sole of shoes, this natural rubber has a crinkly texture similar to crepe paper.
Cuban
Made popular by Latin dancers, a chunky-heeled shoe with a rectangular design that tapers from top to bottom.
Cushioning
Extra padding that's added to the insole for comfort, protection and support.
Demi Boot
Covering the entire foot, this boot ends at ankle. Commonly referred to as a bootie or ankle boot.
D'Orsay
Revealing the arch, this pump style features one or both sides cut out.
Dressing
Layers of polish or gloss applied to shoes help keep their finish and look.
Elastane
Made from polyurethane and used in shoe uppers, this elastic synthetic fiber is stronger than rubber and adds stretch.
Embossed Leather
Process where leather is made into a pattern simulating exotic hides, like crocodile or snake.
Espadrille
These colorful flats or heels have the distinctive woven rope on the sole and canvas uppers.
Eyelet
Built-in rings or holes made of metal or rubber for shoelaces to be strung through prior to tying them.
Finish
A process done before a shoe is completed--can include a polish, gloss or rubbed off/antiqued look
Flat Foot
A military term to describe the condition when your foot collapses and the foot is flat with no height.
Footbed
Usually removable and replaceable, insoles are a lining or padding where the foot rests, providing cushioning and stability.
Forefoot
One of most cushioned parts of foot and first part of foot to hit the ground when running between ball and toes. Needs adequate cushioning in shoes.
Foxing
Usually found on athletic shoes, it's the rubber that joins the upper and sole of shoe.
Gait
Putting one foot in front of another and walking. Affects what type of shoe you wear and how your shoes will wear.
Galoshes
Oversized, knee-high, pull-on, waterproof rubber boots that protects your shoes and protect your feet from rain or mud.
Ghillie
A stylized type of shoe lacing where fabric, leather rings or material loops are attached to opening of shoe.
Girth
Measuring the instep, heel, waist and ball of foot, the widest part of shoe.
Goatskin
Most commonly used in boots, the skin of a goat that tanned leather is made from.
Gore
Elastic siding sewn into shoes to make them more comfortable and easy to take on and off.
Grain
Top layer of animal hide that has a visible pattern--each animal will have a distinctive hide and grain.
Hammertoe
Abnormal bending of the toes putting pressure on them when wearing shoes. Corns and calluses form. Starts out mild and gets worse.
Heel
Part of shoe that attaches at back under your sole and can give you a lift.
Heel Breast
Part of the heel that faces forward.
Heel Height
Measuring from the bottom of the heel that touches the floor to where it connects with a shoe's outsole.
Heel Seat
The part of the heel where your foot rests.
Hidden Gore
Covered by the tongue, this is the elastic at the front of the shoe that gives comfort and helps you slide your shoes on.
Hide
Used in shoes and boots, this is the animal skin they are made of that's cured and tanned.
Hook & Loop
Instead of laces, a method to keep shoes closed using two pieces of fabric with hooks and loops.
Huarache
Originally from Mexico and Central America, a flat sandal with an intricatly woven leather upper.
Imitation Leather
Known as pleather, a cheaper, synthetic version of leather made of polyurethane.
Injection Molded Construction
Used in mass produced footwear to make them last longer, PVC is injected into the sole's mold.
Inseam
A thread stitching that holds the welt, upper, lining and insole together in shoes.
Insole
Separating sole and foot, this lining or padding can be removed and improves fit, performance and cushioning.
Instep
The arched part of your foot or part of the shoe that covers this part of foot.
Jelly Shoes
Also known as Jellies, these are inexpensive shoes made of plastic or PVC that resemble sandals.
Jodhpur Boots
Originally used for equestrian activities, these low-cut boots have elastic gore and can be pulled on.
Kidskin
Also known as kid, this soft, smooth leather comes from young goat hides.
Kiltie
Usually found on loafers and moccasins, this very decorative fringe hangs over the top of shoes.
Kipskin
From young adult cows, this soft leather is somewhere in between calfskin and cowhide.
Laces
Usually crisscrossed and in a variety of colors, these strings or cords will keep your shoes closed.
Lambskin
A fine-grade leather made from the hides of young sheep.
Last
The form used to mold the shape, side and other dimensions of a shoe's upper.
Lasting
Shaping the midsole to join the upper by fitting it around a last.
Leather
Used in the production of footwear, it's a quality material made from animal skins that are tanned.
Lift
Also known as a heel, this part attaches to the back of the shoe under the sole.
Lining
Material inside a shoe that surrounds foot--can be made of variety of materials, insulates foot and makes shoe more comfortable.
Lizard
Skin of a lizard used to make shoes that are a type of leather with pattern of small circles.
Loafer
Leather, close-toed, flat shoes that slip on and are quite plain.
Louis or French
Popular in the 17th century, a medium to high-heeled shoe that tapers at middle of heel and widens at bottom of heel.
Lucite®
Transparent type of plastic used in heels or as invisible straps or parts of uppers.
Lug Sole
Natural rubber soles with heavy tread and deep indentations for durability and traction.
Mary Jane
Classic American shoe with low heels, closed toe and buckled strap across top. Usually black patent leather.
Microfiber
Man-made material used in textiles that's soft, durable, flexible and easy to clean.
Mid-sole
Area of shoe between inner and outer soles made for proper stability.
Moccasin
A comfortable shoe made by Native Americans with deerskin or soft leather uppers, hard soles and sometimes decorations.
Mule
Casual or dressy and worn with bare feet or stockings, these are backless, closed-toe shoes that are flat or heeled.
Napa
A super soft version of sheepskin leather.
Nappa
Generally made from cowhide, it's a smooth, soft leather.
Nubuck
High quality leather from cattle that feels like velvet or suede used on the uppers of shoes.
Outsole
Also known as a sole, part of shoe that hits the ground and is usually made of rubber and/or synthetic materials.
Oxford
From Scotland and Ireland, a traditionally plain, low-heeled, leather shoe that's laced and sometimes has decoration.
Patent Leather
Leather made from raw cattle hide and a plastic coating is added for shine and a high gloss finish.
Pebbled Grain
Type of leather finish that's embossed with small circular shapes.
Penny Loafer
A loafer that slips on with a slit over the instep to place a penny for good luck.
Perforation
Patterns or decorations punched into a shoe's trim usually found on Oxfords, loafers or balmorals.
Pigskin Leather
Leather made from the skin of pigs and used in shoes and footballs.
Piping
A trim that's narrow and stitched in the seams or along the edges of shoes. Can be a contrasting/opposite color.
Pitch
How your body's weight lines up over the heel of a shoe.
Platform Shoe
Originally worn with flared jeans, these shoes have a thick sole that runs from the toe to heel.
Pointed Toes
Closed-toed shoes that come to an extreme point in front of shoe and have a tapered footbed.
Polyurethane (PU)
Used in midsoles, this durable material provides shock absorption and is used in athletic shoes.
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
Durable and flexible plastic material used in heels and outsoles.
Pump
Dressy or casual, open or close-toed, low to medium heels with thick heels that are comfortable to walk in.
Quarter
Back part of the upper that covers heels and sides join on back seam. Supports rear of foot.
Quarter Lining
Soft, inner lining at the back of shoe made of leather or fabric that insulates or cools your feet.
Retro
Footwear that resemble a past style in history, like Roman Gladiator shoes.
Riding Boot
Designed for equestrian activities, these knee-high boots have a low heels and elastic panels at the top.
Rim
Also know as the throat, the top part of shoe where your foot enters.
Saddle Oxford
Usually black and white, Oxfords with saddle in a contrasting color across the top near the laces.
Sandal
Worn in warmer months, these open shoes reveal most of foot and toes and are made of a variety of materials.
Scotch Grain
Leather that's decorated with a raised pattern to mimic pebbles.
Shaft Height
Measuring the middle of the arch inside a boot to the top of the shaft.
Shearling
Leather generally used in boots made from sheep or lamb hides with wool attached.
Sheepskin
Used to make shoes, leather from sheep hide with or without attached wool.
Shoe Sizes
A number in whole or half sizes that determines what size you should wear based on measuring your foot.
Shoe Width
A factor in determining shoe size based on letters to denote slim, narrow, wide or extra wide.
Slide
A backless, open-toed sandal that can be heeled or flat with a strap across the toes.
Sling-back
Backless, open or close-toed shoe with or without heels and a leather or elastic strap at heel or ankle.
Slip Last
Shoe is pulled over last and attached to midsole during construction. Makes shoe lighter and flexible.
Slip-On
Backless shoes that are easy to slide your foot into. Most are casual and can be slippers or sneakers.
Slipper
Warm and comfortable indoor shoes that can be enclosed, backless, open or close-toed and have rubber or suede soles.
Smooth Leather
Leather that's super smooth with no graining or designs.
Snakeskin
Scaly, sometimes rough leather that comes from snakes and has an oval-shaped pattern.
Sneaker
A casual shoe usually made of canvas with a rubber sole.
Sock Liner
A covering on the inside of the shoe to cut down on friction, give cushioning and remove moisture.
Sole
Not including the heel, the bottom part of a shoe that touches the ground.
Sole Leather
Heavy leather that bottoms of shoes and soles are made of.
Spectator
A stylish shoe with two different materials or colors with cut edging or holes punched in for contrast.
Split Leather
Lower layers of animal hide that have been separated from upper layers.
Stacked
Heels on shoes made of multiple layers of pressed wood, leather or synthetic materials.
Straight Lasted
Shape of a shoe that has a straight sole and is best for people who don't rotate their feet inward or overpronate when walking.
Suede
Leather with an extremely soft surface by repeated buffing.
Swarovski®
Designer lead crystal glass made in Europe that's sometimes used for decoration.
Synthetic Materials
Man-made materials and other natural fibers used to make a material that looks like genuine leather, but isn't.
Tap
Attachment made of metal that's attached to the sole underneath toes or heel used by tap dancers.
Tassel
An ornamental knotted rope that hangs from the top of a loafer or mocassin.
Thong
A backless, open-toed sandal with a "V" strap in the middle between the first and second toes.
Throat
In enclosed shoes, the part of the shoe you put your foot into before you lace it up.
Tip
Also called a cap toe, a piece of leather or other material at the toe of a shoe, usually in a contrasting color.
Tongue
Piece of material that runs vertically to the top center of a lace-up or velcro shoe under where laces would be.
Tread
Tread is the design or pattern on a sole that helps shoes grip the ground. Can also refer to how a shoe is worn in.
Tru-Moc
Also known as a moccasin. A flat, closed-toe, slip-on shoe made of soft leather.
Ugg ®
Why Ugg ® boots? They are made purely of sheepskin with the wollen are touching the foot and the outer covering reflect the outside of the skin
Unit Bottom
The sole of a shoe made from a single mold that can include a platform or wedge heel.
Upper
Upper part of the shoe that covers the foot and can be made of leather, fabric or synthetic materials.
Upper Leather
Leather made from the hide of any animal used to construct the upper part of shoes.
Vamp
The front portion of the upper that covers the toes and part of the foot. Tongue and eyelets are connected to it.
Vegetarian Shoes
Shoes made of non-animal materials or any synthetic material that isn't leather.
Velcro ®
Brand name for type of closure that's two pieces of fabric--one has small hooks and other has fabric loops.
Vinyl
Manufactured material made of shiny plastic used for shoe soles, heel counters and uppers. Also known as PVC.
Waterproof Leather
Leather shoes that are treated to keep your feet dry, no matter how wet it is.
Wedge
High-heeled shoe with a wide heel made of wood, rubber or plastic that slopes.
Wedge Heel
Type of heel the runs from the front to back of shoe that slopes.
Wellington
Known as galoshes, which some label as wellies, these pull-on, knee-high, waterproof rubber boots are used for snow or rain.
Welt
Piece of leather, plastic or rubber (or attachment point) between insole and outsole. Makes shoe stronger and more durable.
Wing Tip
Mainly for decoration, an additional piece of leather sewn over the toe area that makes a "W".


Find the definition for any shoe style or material in our glossary



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