Parts of Athletic & Sports Shoes – Nomenclatures in English
Learn All About The Footwear & Shoe Technical Parts, Materials, Techniques, and Technologies.
My goal is to bring helpful information to all professionals involved directly or indirectly in the Footwear Chain. Whether you are from Marketing, Design, Technical, Industrial, Sales, or any other area around the footwear business and industry.
The Footwear Sector is very broad and composed of a wide variety of products, models, materials, technologies, equipment, processes, etc. But to facilitate our interactions I chose to present and apply around 3,000 footwear technical words.
You may be asking yourself, “Why 3,000 words?
Because we know that with this amount a person can communicate very well in English. Therefore, this is the purpose of our articles, to allow you to search, read, write, listen, and, finally, make yourself understood in English in the Global Footwear Sector.
Let’s do it then: in this article, we are going to talk about the main parts (pieces, areas) of the Upper and Outsole of Athletic & Sports Shoes.
Notice that Picture 1 presents these main areas: Upper + Outsole.
Upper = the upper or higher shoe portion.
The Upper is the part of the shoe that covers and protects the foot. The Upper is for shoes, more or less, what the roof and the wall represent for a house.
Outsole = also known as Sole.
It is a Unit Piece or a Set of Pieces that form the bottom of the shoe. The Outsole is also known as the Bottom.
Bottom = in the lowest position of a shoe.
The Shoe Bottom (Outsole, Sole) could be composed of One Single Piece (Unit Outsole) or Several Pieces (Assembled Outsole)
Additional Information: although less common, you can still hear someone saying Stock Fitting referring to the Shoe Outsole or Bottom. Stock Fitting is an Outsole Pieces Assembly Operation that is done away from upper assembly lines, sometimes outside the shoe factory or even in other regions and countries. I don’t really know the origin of this word, but I guess that is related to the way the stock fitting is done and afterward stocked while waiting to be shipped and/or used in the Outsole + Upper Assembly Lines. If someone knows the origin of it, please, share it with us.
Summarizing = If we could divide the footwear into four major areas, it would be like this (picture 1.1):
Back Area: ¼ part located in the rear of the foot.
Shank Area: ¼ part located in the arch of the foot.
Vamp Area: ¼ part located between shank and toe.
Toe Area: ¼ part located in the shoe front tip.
Keep this information in mind as it will be very helpful to better understand all the other 26 concepts listed and described below.
Picture 2 will serve as the basis for the parts that I will detail below:
1 – Toe Tip = also called Toe Cap. The shoe region covers the toes of the feet. The Toe Tip includes and encompasses all types of Toe Tips. For E.g. even a Flip Flop Sandal Style has a Toe Tip, but not a Toe Cap. It does not matter if the shoe has its Front Tip Covered (closed) as in Picture 2 shoes or it is a Peep Toe Style (Open Toe), both styles have a Toe Tip Area.
Toe Spring: the delta (angle) between the floor and the shoe toe tip height is called Toe Spring. Each shoe type has the correct toe spring height. If it is lower than the right delta the shoe user will tend to hit the floor when walking. If it is higher than the right measure it will look funny and could also hurt one’s foot forcing the toes upwards.
2 – Toe Box = like a shield, it protects the toe fingers from being hurt or damaged.
It has two main functions: maintaining the Shoe Toe Shape and protecting Toe Fingers.
Additional Information: the Toe Box, in general, is made of thermoplastic materials, Fabrics and Non-Woven or TNT (Nonwoven Fabric) used with Chemical Activation Resins, etc. This is one of the topics that I will detail later on when we talk about Materials as several materials could be used to make the Toe Boxes.
3 – Stitch & Sew = is there a difference between Stitching and Sewing? In a practical way, YES, but we will find any technical information about the footwear and shoe process mixing both terms for the same purpose. But, let’s try to separate them by saying:
Stitch / Stitching = is usually when done by hand or machine using thicker threads, Yarns, and Strings. e.g. when a Doctor fixes your skin after you had it cut, he is stitching it. Your skin is being stitched.
Sew / Sewing = usually when done by machine using a thinner thread.
But make sure you can use both and you will be understood what you want in the footwear-making process.
Additional Information: Single Stitch / Sew = Simple Stitch or One Single Stitch at the shoe edge or area. There are several types of seams: single, double, triple, etc. stitching or sewing, and they can be made by hand or by machine.
4 – Mudguard = a curved strip or cover over the shoe toe or vamp. In a car, the Mudguard covers the wheel, especially on a bicycle or motorcycle, to protect the vehicle and rider from water and dirt thrown up from the road. But in the shoe, its major proposal and function are related to the Design and Look.
5 – Overlapping / Overlap = extend over so as to cover partly. In the shoemaking and shoe pattern processes lots of overlapping parts and pieces are present. Notice that in a sports shoe, as well as in other shoe types and structures, almost all components arrive at the footwear industry in 2D shape and format (having or appearing to have length and width but no depth) and they leave the industry transformed in a shoe by stitching, molding, pressing, cementing, injecting, etc. in 3D shape (having or appearing to have length, width, and depth).
E.g. shoe parts overlap each other, ornaments overlap upperparts, outsoles and midsoles overlap each other, etc.
6 – Edges = boarders, extremities, fringes, margins, etc. Whether it is Upper Parts or Outsoles Parts Edges they are really relevant for the structural and visual design of the final product.
Dozens of techniques are applied to the footwear or shoe edges whether to enhance it or reinforce its performance. Sports shoes are specially put to the test in the market by consumers.
Try to imagine the necessary performance of a hiking shoe (trekking shoe) parts or a soccer boot.
All material’s edges play a significant role in shoe look, design, and strength, and they must stay like that for as long as possible. Otherwise, consumers will be very disappointed with it.
7 – Vamp = the vamp is the front and center part of a shoe’s upper that covers the top of the foot (Low Vamp Shoes). In some shoes, the vamp covers the entire surface of the foot from the toes to the ankle where straps or laces would be, while in other styles, like the stiletto, it covers the toes and exposes the entire top of the foot (Full-Length Vamp Shoes).
In short, we could have Low Vamp, ¾ Vamp, and Full-Length Vamp Shoes. Most Sports Shoes have Full-Length Vamps.
8 – Instep = the part of a person’s foot between the ball and the ankle. In footwear when we are talking about the Instep we are, usually referring to Sports Shoes we are talking about areas like Laces Area, Eyestay, and/or Shoe Throat.
9 – Throat = analogous to the human throat. The sports shoe’s throat is the U Opening located in the instep region. Shoe parts like the tongue, label and tags are attached to the throat area.
10 – Eyestay or Lace Stay = the part of a sports shoe into which eyelets and laces are inserted and used to adjust the fit.
11 – Shoelace = a shoestring passed through eyelets or hooks on opposite sides of a shoe and pulled tight and fastened. Shoelaces could have only a functional usage or even be part of their design in distinct colors, textures, shapes, etc.
12 – Outsole = the outermost layer of the sole of a shoe. In some cases, you will find the term Outersole instead of outsole or simply Sole.
Outsole Materials = there are several materials involved in the manufacture of soles (Outsoles, Outersoles), but we will look at this later in a new article only about materials.
13 – Midsole = a layer of material between the inner and outer soles of a shoe, for absorbing shock and/or for decorative or embellishing purposes.
Curiosity: in English, the midsole is called this way because the Midsole is positioned between the Outsole (Outersole) and the Upper. In short: it stays in the middle of both parts.
14 – Quarter = the quarter is part of a shoe’s upper. It covers the sides and back of the foot behind the vamp. The heel part of a quarter is often reinforced with sturdy material to better support the rear of the foot.
Additional information: In English, this side piece of footwear is called the Quarter because of the proportion that this represents in relation to the total size of the upper (upper). For example, the side represents ¼ (a quarter) of the total upper length.
15 – Tongue Logo = in reality, it can be done using lots of techniques, materials, and so on, like Silkscreen, fabric or laminate, a piece of metal, etc. The most important thing is that the Tongue Logo presents the brand of the shoe in a region of great prominence for the sight of consumers.
Tongue: it is a strip of the material located under the laces of a shoe. The tongue sits on the top center part of the shoe on top of the bridge of the foot (Instep Area). It’s attached to the vamp and runs all the way to the throat of the shoe. Tongues are found in most sports shoes with laces.
16 – Cushioning / Cussing Effect = soften and/or mitigate the effect of an impact. All sorts of Foam Materials are applied to the shoe Upper, Midsole, and Outsoles for this effect. Tongues, Collars, Quarters, and Sock Linings are padded with Foam to offer to consumers more comfort and softness.
Midsoles are embedded with Foam Effect Components for comfort, flexibility, Lightness, Energy Returning to boost the performance of Athletes, etc.
17 – Shank Area = in the dictionary it means a person’s leg, especially the part from the knee to the ankle. But in the footwear terminology, we refer to the Shank Area as the inner part of the foot, but in reality, it is the middle part of the shoe corresponding to each of the lateral curvatures of the foot (internal and external) that extends, more or less, from the heel mouth (Heel Breast) to almost the flexion area (Flex Point).
18 – Upper Lining = literally all backing (lining) materials used to cover, protect, enhance the design or performance, pad, etc. of the reverse side of upper (inside out) of Upper.
19 – Collar Lining = several pieces or parts that may form part of the shoe collar. In addition, it depends on the type of shoes to say where the collar starts and ends. In the case of sports shoes, we can say that, just like a necklace, that is around a person’s neck, the shoe’s collar, is the part that is around the user’s heel and/or shin. So, naturally, the Collar Lining, as well as the Upper Lining, is all backing (lining) materials used to cover, protect, enhance the design or performance, pad, etc. of the reverse side of the upper (inside out) of Upper.
Additional Information = as we are talking about the type of Linings, we can also have Innersole Lining and Sock Lining.
20 – Sock Lining = a thin piece of material inserted in a shoe over the innersole (Insole) for Cushioning Functions as well as for Decorative reasons. Other nomenclatures are Sock Liner or only Shoe Sock. Literally, Sock that Lines (protect or back) the Insole.
21 – Innersole = the dictionary says that it is a piece of material inside a shoe on which your foot settles the shoe or a piece of material that you put in a shoe to make it warmer or more comfortable. In fact, in the Shoe Industry, we have very distinct names for each layer inside the sports shoe: Innersole or Insole is the layer that has a more structural role (usually made out of Paperboard or Fabric Strobel System). While the Sock Lining, most of the time, lays down and gets comfortable on the top of the Innersole and is made of a Soft Foam designed to give comfort and performance to the Foot Bottom/Sole.
22 – Heel Stabilizer = the stabilizer can be made out of rubber, plastic, metal, fibers, etc. The stabilizer can have structural, functional, and/or design functions.
Additional information: this piece could be placed outside the outsole, inside the midsole, and outside or inside the midsole. It all depends on the shoe type and construction you are working on.
23 – Heel Counter = the heel counter refers to a little plastic (or any other compound) insert used to reinforce the heel cup of a shoe and increase support. A firm, thick heel counter cradles the heel and arch and reduces over-pronation or supination. A good firm heel counter helps lock the foot into the shoe and anchors it to the mid-sole.
24 – Heel Notch = a U-shaped or V-shaped indentation in the collar of a shoe that is designed to lessen the pressure that the shoe puts on the wearer’s Achilles tendon An Achilles notch in shoes or mid- and low-top boots will accommodate the Achilles tendon in plantar flexion.
Another common name for this shoe part is Heel Tab. A Tab of material that extends from the top of the heel counter of a training or running shoe. If the material is hard and extends too far up the heel, it can damage the Achilles tendon. Another way of seeing it is as a small flap or strip of material attached to or projecting from something, used to hold or manipulate it, or for identification and information.
25 – Mustache = it is a mustache-shaped piece very common on the backs of sports and casual shoes. While decorating the collar, it also helps to give a better finish to the back of the collar, while making this area more resistant, which is very active when we put on and take off our sneakers and shoes protecting our foot and reinforcing the shoe back seam.
26 – Backstay = a piece or strip of any material covering the back seam of the upper. As at the back area, the upper is seamed with a sewing system the backstay piece covers the seam reinforcing the back area and giving a much better look and design to it.