3M Scotchguard – A treatment or coating that repels water, spills, stains and liquids that’s often added to water-resistant fabrics or shoe materials to help lengthen their life. Can be purchased separately and added to some shoes for extra protection.
ABS — Stands for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, a thermoplastic polymer that’s known for being tough and durable. It’s often used in soles, outsoles and heels to provide strength, abrasion resistance and extra stability.
AEGIS® Treated – An odor-control technology by Microban that protects footwear from the growth of bacteria. Helps combat lingering shoe odors that occur due to the buildup of bacteria.
Aglet – The metal or plastic tag, sheath or reinforcement added to the end of a shoelace that makes it easier to lace through the eyelet holes and prevents fraying or tearing.
Air Cushion – A type of cushioning made from trapped air, often in the heel or sole of the shoe, that provides extra support and protection without adding weight to the shoe.
Ankle Strap – A shoe strap that wraps around the ankle. In heels and sandals, the ankle strap provides more stability and a more precise fit.
Anti-Microbial – Any material, coating or agent that kills microorganisms or stops them from growing. These microorganisms contribute to foul odors that grow as a result of the presence of bacteria. Anti-microbial agents are often used in athletic shoes, work boots and other shoes where sweating is likely.
Arch – The arch is the high, curved part of your foot located between the ball of the foot and the heel. In shoes, the word “arch” sometimes refers to the part of the shoe or insole that hugs and supports the arch of the foot.
Arch Support – The rigid or flexible support system placed inside the shoe to support the arch of the foot. The proper arch support system will help provide a perfect fit and prevent strain, fatigue and pain, especially when standing all day.
ASTM — Stands for the American Society for Testing and Materials. ASTM sets out specific requirements for footwear (called ASTM approved footwear) to ensure that shoes are rugged, durable and well-tested for certain workplace environments. ASTM boots must meet certain standards with regard to impact, compression, electrical hazard, puncture resistance and other factors.
Backing – The back part of the shoe that provides support and protection at the back of the ankle and the top of the heel.
Ball – The portion of the foot between the toes and the arch. A better way to identify the ball on your foot is to stand on your tip-toes or raise the heel; The portion of the foot that’s still touching the ground (and supporting the foot) is the ball.
Bernie Mev – An American footwear manufacturer that traditionally sold only women’s shoes, but now makes shoes for men and kids as well. Bernie Mev shoes are known for their comfort and high-tech constructions.
Birkenstock – Comfort-focused German shoe manufacturer known for its iconic contoured cork, rubber and synthetic, leather-like sandals featuring two buckled straps. Birkenstock shoes also include comfortable clogs and boots.
Block Heel – A chunky, thick heel on high-heeled shoes that’s significantly wider and more supportive than a slim stiletto or pointed heel. Provides support to the heel and ankle.
Blown Rubber – A rubber compound that’s either expanded or mixed with air (hence the name “blown”) during the manufacturing process. Blown rubber creates a lighter, cushier outsole but is typically less durable than carbon rubber. Running shoes are typically made with either carbon rubber or blown rubber outsoles.
Board Lasted – Refers to a type of last construction (the manner in which the upper is attached to the midsole) that includes the addition of a firm board made of plastic or cardboard. This provides a more rigid or flat platform for extra stability.
Boat Shoe – A flat canvas or leather shoe usually featuring a lace-up top, threaded sides and non-skid rubber soles with a siping pattern that makes navigating slippery boat surfaces easier and safer. The Sperry Top Sider is an iconic example of a boat shoe.
BPU — A type of sole or outsole material that’s similar to PU (polyurethane) but features some modifications. It’s tough, durable, resilient and low-density. Many shoe manufacturers use the BPU sole to add water resistance as well.
Break – The break of the shoe refers to the natural crease that develops at the vamp from everyday wear. The break develops after the shoe becomes broken in.
Breast – The shoe’s breast refers to the part of the heel that faces forward. It is an important factor when measuring heel height.
Brogue – The decorative, perforated detailing usually seen on Oxford shoes, wingtips and saddle shoes. Brogue also refers to a type of shoe that features a low heel made of multiple pieces of leather.
Brooks – An American shoe brand that designs and manufactures high-performance men’s and women’s running shoes. Known for producing athletic shoes that provide the smoothest run possible.
Burnished Leather – A type of leather finishing that requires the bugging of the surface, creating an antique, contrasting or rubbed-off appearance. Burnished leather shoes often have a more varying (less uniform) color and finish.
Calf Circumference – This phrase refers to the size of the calf opening on a boot. You can take the measurement of your calf using a flexible tape measurer to determine whether a boot’s calf circumference will fit properly.
Calfskin – A type of leather created from the skins of young cows. This kind of leather is desirable compared to other kinds because it is particularly subtle and soft, offering more give and flexibility.
Cap Toe – The toe of the shoe that features a piece of material (such as leather or steel) covering the toe portion. A cap toe may either be decorative, such as with oxford shoes, or practical and protective, such as with steel-toed boots.
Carbon Rubber – Along with blown rubber, one of the most common types of rubbers used when producing the outsole of running shoes. Carbon rubber is solid rubber with carbon added for extra durability, making it more durable than blown rubber but a bit less flexible.
Chelsea Boot – An ankle-high boot featuring a plain toe, marked by its elastic side gussets (also known as a double-gore construction) that was popularized in the London neighborhood of Chelsea. A similar style called Beatle boots, made famous by the Beatles and other British rockers, features Cuban heels and pointed toes.
Chrome-Tanned Leather – A type of leather that has been treated using chromium in order to quickly prepare the material for use in manufacturing. Chrome-tanned leather is somewhat controversial because chromium is thought to be harmful to humans. Therefore, vegetable tanned leather is considered the safer and healthier alternative.
Chukka – An ankle-high leather or suede boot that usually features traditional lacing with two or three eyelets. Chukka boots are often made of suede or leather and are commonly worn in both dressy and rugged environments.
Cinchable Collar – A threading or drawstring system around the opening of the shoe that allows you to tighten or expand the opening for a more precise fit. Think of it like a drawstring waist, but for your feet!
Clarks – Originally known as Clarks of England, Clarks is a British shoe manufacturer that’s almost 200 years old. Clarks has a reputation for producing hard-wearing and comfortable shoes, including Clarks slippers, work shoes, flats, boots, heels and more.
Clog – Traditionally speaking, clogs are shoes that feature a thick wooden sole, a protective toe and an open back. Modern clogs — like Birkenstock clogs and Dansko clogs — are made of flexible, durable materials like leather, suede and rubber. Clogs are similar to mules but have some differences.
Closed-Cell Foam – A type of foam with completely closed pockets that provides extra strength and greater moisture resistance. Closed-cell foam is often used in the tongues of high-performance shoes to keep out moisture and debris.
Closure – A shoe’s closure refers to any kind of fastener used on the upper, straps, ankle or calf. Common closures include laces, buckles, zippers, and hook and loop (Velcro).
Cole Haan – An American footwear and apparel designer focused on producing stylish, high-quality dress shoes and fashion footwear. Most famous for its wingtips, men’s loafers and slip-on dress shoes.
Collar – The portion of the shoe that surrounds the ankle or the shoe&rsqursquo;s topline. Many shoes feature insulated, cushioned or padded collars for extra comfort and performance.
Combination Lasted – This refers to an athletic shoe that has been manufactured using a combination of board lasted and slip lasted methods. Usually, the shoe will have a board lasted construction in the back and a slip lasted construction in the forefoot. This allows for more control and support in the rear without compromising flexibility in the front.
Compression Molded – Compression molding is a manufacturing technique where the molding material is heated up and molded to form a midsole. Usually, EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) foam is heated and formed in a metal mold into a specific shape.
Contoured Footbed – A footbed that has been contoured usually has a more defined shape to provide extra orthopedic support. Birkenstock sandals are a good example of shoes with contoured footbeds; they feature four arches to provide more even weight distribution and better posture.
Cordura® – Cordura is a durable, synthetic fabric that’s known for being resistant to abrasions, scuffing and tearing. Most Cordura fabric is made of nylon, but it may be blended with cotton or other fibers. Some shoe manufacturers use Cordura uppers for additional durability.
Cork – A lightweight material made from the bark of a certain kind of oak tree. Cork is often used in soles and footbeds to provide more durability, better contouring and more breathability.
Counter – A shoe’s counter is the stiff piece of material at the heel of the shoe, in-between the lining and the upper, that helps provide shape and support at the heel.
Cradle – The cradle of the shoe refers to the medial to lateral curvature or any contouring in the sole or heel that cradles the foot or heel for better support.
Crocs – An American shoe manufacturer best-known for producing a unique foam clog made of a proprietary foam resin material. The trademark Crocs feature a breathable, perforated silhouette similar to a traditional clog but with a back strap.
Cushioned Footbed – Shoes with a cushioned footbed feature structural, supportive and comfortable materials that add extra support to the heel, ball and arch. Many times, cushioned footbed shoes feature footbeds made of EVA, memory foam or other synthetic or natural materials.
Cutouts – Shoes made from leather, suede and manmade materials may feature decorative, cut-out designs or holes to create a unique design or to make a pair of shoes more breathable.
Dansko – An American footwear manufacturer most famous for producing Dansko clogs, a type of modern clog inspired by traditional Danish clogs. Because they usually feature extra arch support, comfortable footbeds and slip-resistant soles, Dansko clogs are often used in professional and medical environments. Dansko also makes sandals, heels, flats, sneakers and boots.
Deck Shoe – Another word for boat shoe, a deck shoe typically features a short lace-up design, laced sides and a slip-resistant sole to provide extra traction on slippery surfaces such as a boat’s deck.
Desert Boot – Similar to a chukka boot, a desert boot features an ankle-high silhouette and an upper typically made from suede or leather. Modern desert boots often feature rubber soles, open laces and two or three pairs of eyelets.
Direct Injected – The direct injection process (DIP) is a manufacturing method used to attach certain elements of the shoe, usually the sole and the upper. In this process, the upper is placed into a mold and liquid polyurethane (PU) is injected to shape the midsole or outsole.
Distressed Leather – Also referred to as antiqued leather, distressed leather has been finished to create an aged or antique appearance.
Driving Shoe – Also known as a “driving moc,” the driving shoe is a type of casual, slip-on shoe featuring a more flexible upper and a grip sole that’s ideal for wear while driving.
Dual Density – The phrase “dual density” is attached to soles, midsoles and footbeds, especially PU soles. It refers to a material that uses two densities of cushioning foam, with denser foam in places that will see more movement and wear. Dual density shoes are often lighter and provide more stability and cushioning.
Ecco – A Scandinavian footwear brand from Denmark that primarily produces high-quality leather shoes. Ecco is best known for its collection of practical, comfortable and stylish men’s dress shoes, but the company also makes women’s shoes, sneakers, golf shoes and leather accessories.
Elastic Inserts – Any type of insert in the upper, such as goring and gussets, that helps make a shoe more flexible and form-fitting.
EVA – EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) is a material commonly used in manufacturing a shoe’s soles and footbed. EVA foam is employed in comfort- and sport-focused shoes because it offers more shock absorption, water resistance, insulation and cushioning and is lighter-weight than other footbed and sole materials.
Eyelet – The eyelet is the small hole used for threading laces through the shoe.
Fabric Lining – Also referred to as textile lining, fabric lining is a soft, fabric layer inside the shoe that separates your foot from the construction materials of the shoe. Soft, fabric lining is often used in comfort shoes and slippers.
Feather – Otherwise known as the feather edge, the shoe’s feather is the part where the upper meets the sole. Shoes may either have a soft, rounded feather edge or a hard, cornered feather edge.
Flat – Flats refer to shoes that do not have a significant or any heel height. The most common types of flats are ballet shoes (similar to the slippers worn by ballerinas), but flats may also refer to flat boots, flat sneakers and flat clogs.
Footbed – The shoe’s footbed is the insole of the shoe or the inside part that lines the entire bottom, providing cushioning, comfort and arch support to the feet. Often, footbeds are cushioned, contoured or breathable to provide orthopedic support and to keep feet dry and odor-free.
Full-Grain Leather – Full-grain leather is the best quality of leather available and usually refers to leather that has the entire grain intact. This kind of leather has few imperfections and blemishes but has not been buffed, sanded or snuffed. Full-grain leather is desirable because it’s thicker and more durable.
Gait – A person’s gait refers to their manner of walking. This is important when considering shoe sizing and support, as one person’s gait might require extra support in one area of the foot, while another’s might require extra support elsewhere.
Goodyear Welt – A Goodyear welt is a strip of leather, rubber or plastic that lines the perimeter of a shoe’s outsole. It is the oldest and most durable welting construction and allows a shoe to be re-soled multiple times, which means shoes with Goodyear welts could last a lifetime.
Gore-Tex® - Gore-Tex is a waterproof, breathable fabric membrane made of PTFE (Teflon). Shoes made with Gore-Tex keep your feet drier and more comfortable in wet conditions or extreme temperatures. Gore-Tex membranes are often used in work boots, hiking boots and winter boots by brands such as The North Face.
Goring – The word goring refers to the usually triangular piece of stretch material that allows the upper, calf or ankle to expand, creating a more precise and comfortable fit.
Gusseted Tongue – A shoe or boot tongue is designed to prevent any kind of debris — pebbles, dirt, water, sand and more — from getting into your shoes. This kind of tongue is often used on hiking boots, athletic shoes and military boots where waterproofing is required.
Gussets – Gussets refer to the specific fabric pieces used to create goring, such as the stretchy or elastic fabric piece that’s inserted into a seam to reduce stress from tight-fitting footwear.
Heel – The heel of the shoe is the back of the shoe or boot that supports the heel of the foot.
Heel Cup – The portion of the insole that cradles the heel. Heel cups are often added with removable insoles to provide extra protection and support for people who suffer from heel pain.
Heel Height – The vertical line measured from the breast of the heel or the heel seat — where the bottom surface of the sole meets the heel — to the bottom of the heel where it touches the floor. Heel height is measured in eighth inches.
Heel Pull Tab – Pull tabs are often added to the top of the heel on the back of shoes to make putting on tight shoes or boots easier. They may be also added to the sides of riding boots or knee-high boots as a decorative or practical addition.
Heel Seat – The heel seat is the part of the shoe’s outer sole where the heel is attached.
Hidden Wedge – Hidden or concealed wedges are shoes that provide a gradual incline towards the heel but that don’t necessarily display the incline on the outsole. Hidden wedges add length to the legs without creating the look of a wedged shoe.
High Top – A kind of shoe that features a higher topline or ankle height, such as Converse All-Star High Tops. High top shoe silhouettes are common in athletic shoes, especially basketball shoes.
High-Abrasion Rubber – A type of rubber often used in a running shoe’s outer sole that provides better cushioning and grip on a greater range of surfaces, including wet surfaces. High-abrasion rubber is more durable when constantly abraded during impact.
Hook and Loop – Hook and loop closures and Velcro closures are fasteners that use two types of fabrics — a hook side and a loop side — to create a secure closure. Shoes with hook and loop closures are ideal for children, people with dexterity issues and anyone looking for an easy off-on solution.
Hunter Boots – A 160-plus-year-old manufacturer of classic rubber wellington boots and traditional rain boots. Hunter boots are made of natural rubber and are waterproof, usually featuring a textile liner and an adjustable strap. They come in a wide range of colors and heights.
Huarache – The word huarache refers to a type of leather-thonged sandal that was originally worn by native Mexicans. It may also refer to any kind of flat or low-heeled sandal with an upper made of interwoven leather strips.
Impact Resistant – A classification that signifies a material’s ability to withstand a high amount of force or shock. Impact resistant uppers and soles are important for safety in work environments and are required for ASTM footwear.
Injection Molded – Like the phrase compression molded, injection molded refers to the manufacturing technique used to create the midsole. Injection molded midsoles are usually made of EVA that has been injected into a mold that’s a portion of the size of the final midsole. When it’s released from the mold, the midsole expands to its final size.
Insole – The insole is the lining that runs the length of the inner shoe. Unlike the footbed, the insole is usually built into the shoe (it is generally not removable) and is designed to add support and comfort.
Instep – The upper part of your foot between the toes and the ankle or the part of the shoe that fits over it. You may see the phrase “instep strap” to refer to a strap that crosses the top portion of the foot, such as with Mary-Janes.
KEEN – An American footwear brand that primarily produces rugged footwear, including hiking boots, hiking shoes and lifestyle shoes. They’re famous for their hiking sandals and kids’ lace-less shoes featuring bungee cords and hook and loop closures.
Kevlar® - A lightweight, durable para-aramid fabric produced by DuPont featuring a high-strength weave. Kevlar is often used to make ropes, jackets, cables, sails, bulletproof vests and more. In shoes, Kevlar is sometimes added to the arch shank for lightweight yet strong performance.
Kiltie – A shoe featuring a fringed tongue that flaps over the vamp, used for decorative purposes or to conceal some of the lacing. Kiltie fringe may also refer to a flap of fringed leather that’s added to the vamp or toe of the shoe.
Kipskin – A type of calfskin prepared from the skin of a young cow. It is considered an intermediate grade leather between calfskin and cowhide.
Lace-Up – Refers to any shoe that features shoelaces and eyelets. Lace-up closures are popular on sneakers, boots and sandals.
Laces – Thin, rope-like strips of material that are strung through the shoe’s eyelets to pull the shoe’s opening closed and to create a snug, comfortable fit. Laces may also refer to bungee (non-tying) closures.
Lambskin – Lambskin is like calfskin in that it’s also produced from the hide of young cows. However, lambskin is more supple and flexible than calfskin, but calfskin tends to be more durable and abrasion-resistant. Both are used in shoes, but lambskin brings more insulation and protection.
Laser Cut – Some shoes, handbags and accessories have decorations or holes cut into them by laser beams that provide breathability.
Last – In shoemaking or repair, a last refers to a form made of metal, plastic or wood that’s used to create the shape or silhouette of a shoe. Shoe lasts are often mechanical in form to identify points of stretching or stress.
Lift – The heel of the shoe is made up of several different layers of leather or wood. Each of these layers is called a lift. Extra heel lifts may be used in one shoe to compensate for leg length discrepancy.
Lining – The lining is the material that lines the inner part of the shoe. Many shoes feature fabric or textile linings, but others may have leather or synthetic linings depending on the type of shoe and its purpose.
Loafer – A type of shoe with a low or flat heel, usually featuring a slip-on style and a moccasin-style silhouette. However, loafers may also designate any kind of flat shoe with no straps or laces. Loafers come in many styles, including penny loafers, kiltie loafers, moc loafers and apron loafers.
Low Top – The opposite of high top, low top shoes feature a short upper that stops at or near the ankle.
Lucky Brand – An American denim company offering an extensive line of apparel and footwear. Lucky Brand makes men’s and women’s boots, dress shoes, sneakers, flats, heels and sandals. Some of the most popular Lucky shoes are the Lucky Brand Emmie Flats.
Lug Sole – A type of sole made of rubber that features deep grooves and heavy tread for extra grip. Lug sole shoes are often ideal for work boots and hiking boots because they improve traction and stability.
Lugged Outsole – An outsole made of rubber that features deep side grooves, indentations or lines for additional durability and traction.
Manmade – Also referred to as synthetic material, manmade refers to any material that’s not found in nature. Popular manmade shoe materials include EVA, nylon, polyester, acetate, Kevlar, Gore-Tex and acrylic.
Mary Jane – A popular style of shoe that features a low or no heel, a rounded toe and an instep strap that’s usually fastened with a buckle or elastic. May also be called bar shoes or doll shoes.
Medial Post – Refers to a device placed in the midsole of the shoe that’s firmer than the rest of the midsole to provide additional stability in order to control arch pronation. When the medial post is made of EVA and the rest of the midsole is made of another material of a different density, it’s called a dual-density midsole.
Memory Foam – A kind of foam made of polyurethane that’s sensitive and reactive to pressure and temperature. Often used in insoles or footbeds to create a more custom support system.
Merrell – An American footwear manufacturer specializing in hiking boots, sport boots, moccasins, slides and sandals made for outdoor applications. Most famous for its collection of high-performance hiking boots.
Mesh – A material made of netting, wire or thread that’s exceptionally breathable. Many shoes use mesh in their uppers or linings to encourage airflow and keep feet dry.
Microfiber – A fine, synthetic material that’s typically made of polyester. Microfiber is used in apparel, cleaning cloths, upholstery and more because it’s lightweight and easy to clean. Some shoes feature microfiber lined footbeds for comfort and breathability.
Microfleece – A soft, flexible fabric made from synthetic materials. It’s similar in construction and feel to regular fleece but usually refers to a material that’s thinner and more pliable. It’s often used as a liner or footbed cover in winter boots for comfort and insulation.
Midfoot – Refers to the central area of the human foot between the forefoot and hindfoot, encompassing the arch of the foot and its bones, tendons and ligaments.
Midsole – The layer of material in-between the inner and outer soles of the shoe or the portion of the shoe between the outsole and the upper. Midsoles often provide extra shock absorption and protection from impact forces, making them important for athletic shoes.
Mid Top – Refers to the height of the shoe’s topline and usually marks a height that’s in-between a high top and low top shoe, often falling at the middle of the ankle or slightly above.
Milled Leather – A type of leather that has been put through a milling process — placed in a large drum and tumbled — in order to create a softer, more pliable feel. Milled leather may often have a pebbled or textured appearance.
Moc Stitching – Short for “moccasin stitching,” this refers to the type of exposed stitching usually found on the toe of moccasins.
Moc Toe – A shoe design featuring moc stitching around the top of the shoe’s toe. Commonly refers to the toe on a moccasin but may also be used on boots and loafers.
Moccasin – A heelless or low-heel shoe traditionally made entirely of soft leather or suede, similar to those worn by some Native Americans. Often features a moc toe with exposed stitching around the top and sometimes has a vamp, fringe, embroidery or beading. Moccasins often feature a single, threaded leather or suede lace.
Moisture-Wicking – A characteristic of certain fabrics or materials that wick moisture away from the skin to keep the wearer dry. Moisture-wicking insoles and linings are often used in footwear to keep feet dry from sweat.
Motion Control – Some footbeds will be marked “motion control” if they are designed to keep the foot from shifting around in the shoe.
Mule – A type of shoe similar to a clog with a rounded toe and no back or constraint around the foot or heel. Mules are always slip-on shoes, but unlike clogs, they typically feature a heel.
Nappa Leather – A soft, smooth and matte leather that’s typically been chrome-tanned for extra suppleness. This kind of leather is popular in shoe-making because it can be easily broken in for instant comfort.
Natural Grain Leather – Refers to a kind of leather that hasn’t been sanded to remove the top, natural grain of the hide.
Natural Rubber – Rubber made from harvested trees grown on plantations. Compared with synthetic rubber — which is produced using petroleum-based materials — natural rubber is eco-friendlier, but still strong and wear-resistant.
Non-Marking – A characteristic of a shoe sole that won’t leave behind marks that damage floors. Non-marking shoes are often required in medical settings, sports and other situations where uniforms are required. Non-marking soles and outsoles are typically made of rubber.
Nubuck – A type of leather that’s surface has been buffed and brushed for a soft and velvet-like feel. Similar to suede but made using the grain (outer side) of the hide rather than the inner side that’s typically used to make suede.
Oil-Tanned Leather – Also known as oiled leather, oil-tanned leather has been treated with natural oils, usually fish oil. The oil makes the leather softer and more pliable, which is easier to work with in shoe-making. This kind of leather is water-resistant and low-maintenance, so it’s highly desirable for shoes.
OrthoLite – A brand of high-performance, comfort insoles made of foam that provide long-term cushioning, breathability, moisture management and lightweight performance. OrthoLite insoles are also machine washable.
Orthotic – Generally refers to any device that can be used to support, align, prevent injury or correct moving parts of the body. In terms of shoes, an orthotic refers to a cushioned insert that stabilizes the foot.
Outsole – The outermost layer of the sole of a shoe, or the part of a shoe that makes contact with the ground. The outsole is generally made from leather or rubber but may be crafted from various other natural or synthetic materials.
Overpronation – Overpronation occurs when the movement of the foot rolls inward more than the ideal 15 percent, causing the foot and ankle to destabilize and preventing the shoe from absorbing the right amount of shock, especially when running. Often, people who overpronate have flatter feet (shallower arches), which can be corrected with the right kind of shoe or insole.
Oxford – A type of men’s dress shoe featuring a lace-up closure and a low heel. Oxfords often feature eyelets attached beneath the vamp for “closed lacing” and are typically made of leather, patent leather or suede. They often feature a wingtip design or brogue detailing.
Padded Tongue – A tongue made with extra cushioning or material to provide extra comfort and padding during movement.
Patent Leather – A type of leather that has been coated to create a sleek, high-gloss finish, usually in black. Contrary to popular belief, patent leather is indeed real leather, but modern versions often feature a plastic coating over real leather.
Peep Toe – A shoe that has the toe or tip cut away to expose part of the toes. Peep toes are common in heels and sandals for women.
Perforations — Cutouts in the upper of the shoe added to improve breathability or to create a unique design.
P.E.T. – Stands for polyethylene terephthalate, a material used to make plastic bottles. Some shoe manufacturers use 100 percent recycled P.E.T. plastic or P.E.T. Ripstop to make more environmentally friendly and durable uppers, laces and linings.
Pig Suede – Suede made from the underside of a pig’s hide.
Pigskin Leather – Leather made from the outer side of a pig’s hide.
Platform – A thicker sole that’s used to add height to the shoe or the wearer. Platform shoes may feature subtle platforms or dramatic ones, such as with creeper sneakers.
Pleats – Material that is gathered to create a pleated or textured appearance. Pleats are sometimes added to the uppers of flats or loafers for extra detailing.
Polyurethane-Coated Leather – Leather that has been coated with a layer of polyurethane to protect the leather and help it last longer. Poly-coated leather features more shine than uncoated leather and makes it more resistant to moisture and abrasions.
Pronation – Refers to the natural, inward movement of the foot as it rolls over the ground you walk or run on. Proper pronation helps ensure that the shoe provides adequate shock absorption and weight distribution, especially during running.
Protective Toe – Shoes that feature an extra insert or layer at the toe to protect from drops, stubs or kicks. Work safety shoes are often finished with a plastic, steel or leather toe to protect the top of the foot from impact damage.
Pull-Up Leather – Not to be confused with PU or polyurethane-coated leather, pull-up leather is a type of leather that’s been colored with aniline dye, wax, grease or natural oils instead of being coated with paints or pigments. It gets its name because these dyes and oils “pull up” the natural color of the leather, and because the color changes are more dramatic in areas where the leather is physically pulled or stretched. Pull-up leather is often more rugged in appearance, and quickly ages to a desirable patina.
Pump – Also referred to as a “court shoe,” the pump is a type of moderate-heeled women’s shoe that features a low-cut foot opening, exposing the majority of the top of the foot. Pumps vary significantly in design, and may feature peep toes, ankle straps or platforms.
PU – You often see the letters “PU” next to certain shoe components, especially the outsole and sole. PU signifies that the sole is made from polyurethane materials. This material is preferred in some shoe applications because it’s waterproof, slip-resistant and easily absorbs shock.
PVC – Stands for polyvinyl chloride and is one of the most common types of plastics in the world. PVC is used in the production of soles and outsoles as a more affordable alternative to leather. The material provides excellent insulation properties and shock absorption.
Quarter – Part of the shoe’s upper. Specifically, the quarter marks the rear and sides of the shoe’s upper, or the part of the upper that sits behind the vamp. The heel part of the quarter is generally reinforced with a stiff or sturdy material to provide some extra support to the back of the foot.
Quarter Lining – The interior part of the quarter, which is often made from fabric, leather or another kind of textile. In some cases, shoes will have a leather quarter lining and a textile lining on the rest of the shoe.
Reinforced – Refers to any material or component that has been strengthened with the use of additional materials or strengthening techniques. For example, some shoes feature reinforced stitching that uses smaller length stitching to make seams stronger.
Removable Footbed – A footbed that’s not sewn or glued into the shoe and can be removed. Choosing shoes with removable footbeds is a good idea for anyone who wants to be able to add their own insoles or orthotics, or for those who want to be able to put in replacement footbeds as theirs wear out. Some footbed manufacturers even make machine-washable, removable footbeds for easier maintenance.
Riding Boot – A low-heeled, high-calf boot traditionally made of leather and worn during horse riding. Today, riding boots are popular for lifestyle wear as well. They typically feature a high calf height (to prevent the leathers of the saddle from injuring the rider) and sleek, smooth heels (for easier gliding into the stirrup). Some riding boots feature side pull tabs at each opening.
Ripstop - A nylon fabric that’s tightly woven using a special reinforcing technique that prevents tearing and ripping. Ripstop fabric may be used to make or reinforce the shoe’s upper to ensure that it doesn’t tear or rip over time.
Rocker Bottom – A thick sole with a rounded heel designed to prevent the foot from lying flat, creating pressure points or straining certain joints. Rocker soles may feature a forefront lift or a heel-to-toe rocker design. Different types of rocker bottom shoes can be used to address or prevent different foot and leg issues.
Rockport – An American shoe manufacturer focused on producing casual and dress footwear. The company is credited with the invention of the walking shoe, but also produces comfortable dress shoes, loafers and slip-on shoes.
Seam-Sealed – The phrase “seam-sealed” is usually attributed to waterproof shoes or garments. It simply means that the seams have been treated with a seam sealant, tape or glue to ensure that moisture doesn’t leak through the seams.
Shaft Height – Relates to the height of boots measured in inches, usually taken from the middle of the foot’s arch up to the very top of the boot.
Shank – A supportive structure usually found in work boots that sits between the insole and outsole, extending the length of the arch of the foot. Not only is the shank important to arch support, but it’s also important to giving the shoe its shape. A shoe’s shank may be constructed from any number of supportive materials, such as plastic, steel or fiberglass.
Shearling – The skin of a sheep with the wool left on, featuring a suede surface on the underside and a soft, fur surface on the top side. Most often, shoe manufacturers use shearling as a comfortable, warm and soft lining, especially in slippers and winter boots. Shearling may also be made from synthetic materials, in which case it’s referred to as faux shearling.
Shock Absorption – Refers to a shoe’s ability to absorb impact. Shoes with better shock absorption will dampen or reduce sudden impact and motion, which can reduce damage to the joints, bones and muscles in the feet and legs. Any kind of athletic shoes or hiking boots should feature shock absorbing soles and midsoles.
Side Leather – Leather that’s commonly used to craft shoe uppers. This kind of leather is made from a single side of a full hide. In other words, it’s the leather tanned from just one half of the whole hide.
Silicone – A smooth polymer material that’s often used to make shoes waterproof. It may also be used in socks to create grips that prevent slipping.
Sipes – Grooves or slits that have been cut into the sole or outsole to create a tread pattern in order to improve traction and prevent slipping. They’re often used on work shoes and boat shoes to help disperse water that can cause slips and falls.
Slingback – A type of women’s shoe featuring an open back with a strap or sling surrounding the heel of the foot. The strap may be used to provide stability and keep the foot in place or to add a decorative element to the shoe.
Slip Lasted – Refers to a last construction (the manner in which the upper and the midsole are attached to one another) where the upper’s fabric is wrapped under the foot without a board (like the boards used in board-lasted shoes). This provides a more flexible base, which is ideal for athletic shoes.
Slip-On – Any kind of shoe that has no or few fasteners, allowing the wearer to easily put them on or take them off quickly. Slip-on shoes may be sneakers, sandals, slippers, loafers, moccasins or any other kind of shoe that doesn’t have laces.
Slip-Resistant – A characteristic of a shoe that prevents the wearer from slipping on smooth or wet surfaces. Slip-resistant shoes are often required in work and safety applications. These shoes usually feature a rubber sole and siping to add traction and grip and may also be referred to as “skid-resistant” shoes.
Sock Liner – A thin piece of material, usually leather or a synthetic, that’s placed over the insole.
Sole – Refers to the entire bottom of the shoe or boot that doesn’t include the heel. It’s also the anatomical name for the underside of a person’s foot.
Sole Leather – Any kind of leather that’s used to produce the soles of shoes. Often, soles are made of a heavy leather from cattle to add durability and abrasion resistance.
Sorel – A Portland-based footwear manufacturer specializing in producing durable and warm winter boots. Sorel has long been the producer of the world’s best-selling cold-weather boots, but it now makes a range of lifestyle footwear, including wedges, heels, slippers and work boots.
Spat – An old-fashioned footwear accessory for outdoor use that covers the instep and the ankle. The term may be applied to modern shoes to indicate an extra piece of decorative or reinforcing fabric at the ankle or top of the foot.
Sperry – An American footwear brand known for creating the world’s first boat shoe, the Sperry Top-Sider. Now, Sperry produces a range of nautical and lifestyle footwear and clothing, including boots, sandals, sneakers and slip-on shoes.
Split Leather – A bottom layer of a leather hide that has been divided into several layers. The top layer is referred to as “top grain leather,” and is generally considered better quality. Split leather usually has a suede-like appearance but may have an artificial layer applied to the top that can be embossed or textured to look like natural leather grain.
Stacked Heel – Sometimes referred to as “built heels” or “stack heels,” stacked heels have several visible layers of heel (lifts). This type of heel is most often made of wood because it shows the layers more distinctly, but it may be painted or covered in fabric to match the rest of the shoe.
Stain-Resistant – A characteristic of any kind of material or component that’s less likely to stain due to constant exposure to moisture, dirt and the elements. Usually, stain-resistant fabrics are treated with chemicals or coatings (such as 3M Scotchguard) that help prevent stains from penetrating or resting on the surface of the material.
Steel-Toe Boots – A type of boot featuring a protective, reinforced toe area to protect the toes and feet from falling objects, compression or injuries. Most often, steel-toe boots feature a steel or metal plate on top of or within the boot’s toe. They usually also feature a metal or steel midsole plate to prevent punctures from below the sole.
Suede – A soft, velvet-like material made from the flesh-side of a cow’s hide.
Synthetic – Refers to any kind of material that’s not found in nature, including most polymers, vinyl, nylon, elastic and some kinds of rubber.
Textile Lined – Designates a shoe or boot that features an inner lining made of fabric or another textile.
Thong – A kind of sandal held onto the foot by a strap that fits in-between the toes. Some thong sandals may feature a single strap (like a flip-flop) while others may have an ankle strap and an instep strap. Typically, thongs feature a low or no heel, but may also feature a wedge, platform or heel.
Throat – The primary opening of the shoe, usually extending from the ankle to the vamp, where the foot is placed. This may also be referred to as the “throat line.”
Toe – The top portion of the shoe that covers the toes. The toe is often marked by its shape or material.
Tongue – The strip of fabric or leather that’s located beneath the laces of the shoe and is attached to the vamp, usually resting on the bridge of the foot. It’s designed to protect the top part of the foot and prevent the laces from rubbing on the skin.
Top Piece – Refers to the part of the shoe’s heel that meets the ground. It’s often made of a durable, abrasion-resistant material, like rubber or leather.
Topline – The top edge of the upper. For example, the topline could refer to the very top edge of a pair of knee-high boots or the edge of a pair of sneakers that fall below the ankles.
TPR – Stands for thermoplastic rubber and is a material that’s regularly employed in the manufacture of soles and platforms. TPR is desirable because it’s fully recyclable and more lightweight than other synthetic sole materials.
Traction Sole – Refers to any kind of sole designed to improve traction and grip. Usually features extensive siping to provide better tread and slip-resistance and is usually made of slip-resistant rubber. In highly slippery areas, slip-on traction soles may be added to an existing pair of shoes for extra safety.
Tread Pattern – Refers to the specific pattern or siping on the bottom of the shoe, most often to improve grip. The pattern, depth and size of the tread pattern may add additional slip-resistant performance in certain environments.
TRP — Stands for thermoplastic rubber, a type of rubber patented in 1975. TRP is often used in the production of soles and outsoles due to its slip resistance and shock absorption. Some manufacturers use TRP made from recycled car tires for an eco-friendlier approach.
Tuck Board – Also referred to as fiber board or shank board, the tuck board is a piece of sheet material that’s used to produce insoles and heel lifts.
UGG – An American footwear manufacturer best-known for its production of suede and sheepskin boots. UGG has expanded its footwear offerings to include slippers, loafers, sandals, sneakers, slip-ons, driving shoes and more.
Underpronation – Occurs when the foot doesn’t roll inward enough after landing during running, or when it rolls outward at the ankle during movement. People who have highly arched feet often underpronate, which can cause joint and muscle issues, including iliotibial band syndrome. The right kinds of shoes can help correct underpronation or provide extra support to the joints and muscles.
Unit Bottom – The bottom of a shoe made from a rubber or plastic mold that includes the platform heel, sole or wedge of the shoe.
Upper – The entire top portion of the shoe that covers the top of the foot, from heel to toe. The upper comprises the majority of the shoe above the sole, including the vamp, back, tongue, quarter and lining.
Vamp – The front and center part of the shoe’s upper that covers the top part of the foot. The vamp varies widely based on the type of shoe. For example, it might include just the part of the shoe that covers the toes or it might encompass the entire part of the shoe covering the whole top of the foot, like an Oxford.
Vegetable Tanned Leather – A type of leather that has been tanned using a vegetable process rather than dyes or chemicals. Vegetable tanned leather is a good choice for people who have allergies or skin sensitives to certain chemicals.
Vibram® Rubber – A branded, Italian rubber that’s licensed to different shoe manufacturers in the use of soles and outsoles, especially on boots. Vibram rubber is durable, abrasion-resistant and slip-resistant. It’s often employed in heavy-duty footwear such as hiking boots or military and law enforcement shoes. High-quality lifestyle shoes may also use Vibram rubber.
Vulcanized Rubber – Rubber that has been put through the vulcanization process, which converts natural rubber to more durable material by combining it with sulfur and other additives in the presence of heat and pressure. Vulcanization makes rubber stronger, more resilient and more resistant to heat and other environmental factors.
Waist – The part of the shoe that lies between the heel and ball. Also sometimes called the bridge of the shoe.
Water-Repellant – Water-repellant is the second-highest classification of water penetration protection, in-between water-resistant and waterproof. These materials are not easily penetrated by water but aren’t totally impervious. They’re usually treated with a surface coating to block moisture.
Water-Resistant – A characteristic of a material that allows it to resist the penetration of water to a certain degree, but not entirely. Water-resistant materials are less durable in the face of moisture than both water-repellant and waterproof fabrics. They should not be used to make shoes that are meant to be put in regular contact with moisture, such as hiking boots or boat shoes.
Waterproof – The most impervious materials are considered waterproof. They are entirely impenetrable to water and therefore won’t allow any moisture to penetrate the surface. Waterproof materials should be employed in winter boots, hiking boots, rain boots, work boots and deck shoes.
Wedge – A heel that features a gradual incline, allowing the foot to rest at an angle. Wedge shoes, sneakers and boots are popular because they provide equal height as regular heeled shoes but offer extra stability and comfort.
Welt – A strip of leather, rubber, plastic or another material that runs along the shoe’s outsole. Also referred to as a Goodyear welt because it was invented by Charles Goodyear, Jr.
Western Boot – The type of boot commonly worn by cowboys, featuring a lower shaft with a flared top and a rounded or medium-rounded toe. Western boots often feature elaborate leather designs and pull tabs on both sides of the calf opening.
Wing Tip – A toe cap that features a perforated or brogue design that’s often elaborate in nature but may be dialed down or even a plain option called a “blind brogue”. Wing tip shoes are traditionally made entirely of leather and are considered men’s dress shoes or formal shoes.
Work Boot – Any kind of durable boot designed for safety and comfort on the job. Work boots are typically protective in nature, often with a steel toe and reinforced sole to prevent injury due to impact or penetration. They usually feature non-slip soles to prevent slips and falls on the job.