Parts Of A Shoe Guide – From Heal To Toe and Everything In between

You might be asking yourself why it’s important to know the various different parts of a shoe. I’ll tell you what happened to me that brought me to realize the value of this information. I was once like you, and I almost bought a knock-off pair of designer shoes for my grandson. Luckily, my friend knew what to look for, and she stopped me from completing the purchase.

When you realize all the intricate parts that go into making a high-quality shoe, you begin to appreciate the work that was put into designing and engineering a product that will last. However, it’s difficult to learn all the aspects of a product that has an intricate design, and there are so many types of shoes, so you’ll never be able to commit all that information to memory forever. That’s why we created a helpful list of various shoe parts to give you something to refer to when you need to remember important features of certain shoe types.

It’s especially helpful to have this information at your disposal when you’re buying a gift for someone who’s of the opposite sex. You might know how to spot an authentic shoe of your own style because you’re familiar with it. However, shopping for someone else is another story altogether.

A Comprehensive Anatomy of the Shoe: Your Guide to Every Part of Most Shoes

Before we get into terms describing the parts of shoes, let’s go over the various types of shoes that you’re likely to discover in a shoe store. These terms will help you in your search for the perfect shoes for a friend or relative. In addition, some types of shoes are designed for specific occasions, so it’s a good idea to have this information in mind when preparing your attire for an event.

Different Types of Shoes

  • Sandals:

The shoes that you might wear to the beach help protect your feet from sharp objects, and sandals allow for maximum airflow. Similar to sandals are flip-flops, but flip-flops don’t have the same type of support. Sandals come in a variety of styles, including expensive sandals made to be worn with formal attire.

  • Sneakers:

While it is not unusual to wear sneakers to the gym, these shoes aren’t designed for rigorous athletic training. Sneakers are comfortable, and they look great with any casual wear. Some people even buy high-quality sneakers to wear with formal attire. Sneakers are fastened with laces or velcro.

  • Athletic Shoes:

If you enjoy running or lifting weights, you need a good pair of athletic shoes. Athletic shoes give you support to play sports and engage in other high intensity activities. They often have a lot of cushion to provide padding for the bones of your feet, and your joints will last longer if you wear high-quality athletic shoes to perform high-intensity exercises.

  • Walking Shoes:

While it’s true that you could walk around in any of the shoes on this list, walking shoes are specifically designed with this activity in mind. These types of shoes provide protection for your joints, and the padding inside the soles of walking shoes will soften the blow for the bones of your feet. Walking shoes come in a variety of styles, ranging from rugged hiking shoes to slim flats. Some walking shoes could even be worn as formal wear.

  • Dress Shoes:

While dress shoes are the traditional formal footwear for men, there are various types of dress shoes made for women. Most dress shoes have thin laces. However, some dress shoes will slip on, and others have a buckle to keep them fastened. There are various trends in dress shoes, including shiny and dull materials.

  • Boots:

This type of shoe provides the best protection for feet and ankles. However, the airflow inside of boots is severely limited. A good pair of workboots will usually have a long pair of laces. However, there are some types of boots that slip on, and other boots require a strap. Don’t forget about combat boots and cowboy boots. There are boots for every occasion, and some people prefer to wear boots in formal settings.

  • Heels:

Heels are traditionally worn by women at formal occasions, and some women wear heels on a daily basis to work. Heels come in a variety of styles, and you choose from various heights as well. The length of a heel will make the individual appear that much taller than usual, but it’s difficult to find comfortable heels. Many women resort to paying a lot of money for a pair of heels that fit perfectly.

Parts of A Shoe (Listed Alphabetically):

  • Breast

This is a thick material that is designed to provide support throughout the shoe. The breast is located at the front of the heel. Most of the pressure from walking is delivered into this area of the shoe, so this material is usually durable. It is found on some dress shoes, heels, and boots.

  • Counter

In some dress shoes, boots, walking shoes, and sneakers, there is a piece of material inside the heel of the shoe. The counter is found between the lining and the upper in the back of the shoe. Its purpose is to provide protection, provide support for the heel, and maintain the shape of the shoe.

  • Collar

On sneakers and athletic shoes, there is a piece of soft material at the front of the upper. The collar is where you insert your foot into the shoe. Its purpose is to provide protection for your foot, and it provides structural integrity for the shoe.

In athletic shoes, the collar is responsible for providing support for the ankles as well. Dress shoes also have a similar feature, but it’s called a topline.

  • Eyelets

Most high-quality dress shoes and boots with laces have some way of reinforcing materials. The areas where the laces attach to the shoe are prone to ripping, so an eyelet is placed at each opening to provide protection. Eyelets may also be on hiking shoes, walking shoes, sneakers, and athletic shoes.

  • Feather

The feather of the shoe is located between the sole and the upper. It’s technically part of the upper. The feather provides durability for the shoe, and it helps keep the shape of the shoe.

  • Foxing

This is another name for the feather. The foxing provides structural integrity to the shoe. It’s common to see foxing on athletic shoes and sneakers.

Dress shoes have a similar part called a welt.

  • Heel

This is the back portion of the shoe. The part of the shoe that makes contact with the heel of the person wearing the shoe is also called a heel. Although, the heel usually refers to the thick material under the back of the shoe.

  • Heel Counter

A heel counter does exactly what the name dictates. It counters the stress that your foot places on the heel. It’s often found in athletic shoes and sneakers to provide lasting durability.

  • Heel Cup

Since the heel and toe receive the most severe pressures, it’s common to see a cup placed around either area. The heel cup is sewn into the material that surrounds the heel, and it provides structural integrity for the shoe.

These are commonly seen on dress shoes, but similar designs exist on athletic shoes, walking shoes, and other types.

  • Heel Tab

In some cases, a heel tab is placed on the back of the shoe for decoration. In other cases, the heel tab is a functional feature to help the individual pull their shoes onto their feet. In the latter case, the heel tab will protrude upward from the back of the collar (near the heel).

Tabs are most common on sneakers and athletic shoes.

  • Inner Sole (Insole)

This material is the part of the shoe that touches the sole of the foot. The insole is usually made of padding to provide comfort to the person wearing the shoe.

All types of shoes have insoles. The only exceptions are sandals and some heels. In many cases, the insole is attached to the midsole or outsole of the shoe.

  • Lace Guard

This part is often found on athletic shoes. Its purpose is to keep the laces protected from dirt and debris by providing a shielded area.

  • Lining

A lining goes on the inside of the shoe to provide comfort to the individual. It’s the part of the shoe that makes contact with the sock, excluding the inside of the tongue.

  • Midsole

This material is the middle layer of the sole. Boots will often have a midsole to provide more protection.

  • Outer Sole (Outsole)

The sole may be composed of one, two, or three parts. The outsole is the lowest layer. Hard material provides durability and support when touching the ground.

  • Padding

Padding is essential for adding comfort to the insides of walking shoes, sneakers, and athletic shoes.

  • Puff

This part is a toe cap that goes on the inside of the shoe. It provides reinforcement for the material surrounding the toe.

  • Quarter

This material is part of the upper of the shoe. The upper is composed of two parts. The quarter is the piece of material that protects the heel.

  • Seat

This part gets its name from being the actual seat for your heel. It provides comfort to the individual.

  • Shank

The shank is a resilient part of the shoe. It’s a piece of metal that has been inserted between the outsole and insole, providing protection and durability.

  • Sock Liner

Athletic shoes may have foam material inside as a sock liner. This is a type of padding that protects the foot.

  • Sole

The sole is sometimes layered. It’s the part of the shoe that makes contact with the ground. These provide protection for the bottoms of the individual’s feet.

  • Throat

This is the material that aligns with the front of the vamp. This upper part of the shoe may be next to the toe cap. Its purpose is structural integrity.

  • Toe Cap

This is a piece of material that shields the toe from damage. The toe cap is located at the front point of the upper. It may be decorative, or it might be made of a hard material.

  • Tongue

The tongue of a shoe is a thick, flexible piece of material under the laces. The tongue helps provide balance, and it helps to spread pressure throughout the shoe.

  • Topline

This is where you put your foot into a dress shoe. It’s the upper part of the back quarter. The topline supports the ankle.

  • Top Piece

This material is at the bottom of the heel. This is the part of the heel that touches the ground. Top pieces provide support and create friction with the ground.

  • Upper

This is the material that covers and protects the foot from above. The upper makes up the most aesthetically appealing part of the shoe.

  • Vamp

This material is part of the upper. The vamp is at the front of the foot. This part provides protection and maintains the structure of the shoe.

  • Waist

This is the part of the shoe that receives the least impact during use. The waist is located at the arch and instep of where the bottom of the foot makes contact with the shoe. The waist cushions the foot during walking and strenuous activities.

  • Welt

This is a thin piece of material on the outside of the shoe. It’s usually found on the sole of dress shoes. The main function of a welt is to keep the sole attached to the upper.



1) The Journal by Mr. Porter: Shoe Terms You Need to Know

2) Andy Riddle’s Shoe Guide: Anatomy of the Shoe