Hagen Orthotics & Prosthetics
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Shoe Facts & Terminology

Hagen Orthotics & Prosthetics

Glossary of Shoe Terms and The Anatomy of a Shoe

The shoe is one of the single most important lines of defense for the patient at high risk for diabetic foot ulceration and amputation. However, it has been our experience that many patients and clinicians alike are not acquainted with the sometimes arcane terminology associated with these devices. The information listed below is intended to serve as a glossary for many of these terms. Additional questions regarding use of shoes and specific recommendations should be carried out by the physician and Pedorthist or your local shoe gear professional.

Back Strap

A tab or strip of leather/fabric extending above the top of the shoe upper at the back to assist in drawing the shoe on the foot


A front laced shoe in which the quarters meet and the vamp is stitched over the quarters at the front of the throat. The word is an abbreviation of Balmoral


The fleshy part of the foot just back of the toes (metatarsal heads). It also refers to the corresponding part of the last and is one of the most important points of measurement for shoe gear

Ball measurement

The line running completely around the foot intersecting the joints of the large and small toes


A shoe patterned after a half-boot designed by Field Marshal Blucher of the Prussian Army. It is distinguished from the Bal (Balmoral) shoe by the extension forward of the quarters over the throat of the vamp. The quarters are left loose at the inner edge (instead of coming to a  point) and made to lace across the tongue. This is generally the preferred style of shoe for high-risk feet, because it allows for more room in the forefoot and does not place as much pressure on that area when laced up.

Bottom (shoe)

The bottom part of a shoe sole. However, the heel is not part of the bottom. Only that part of the bottom face of the sole extending from the toe to heel breast is termed the bottom

Box toe

A stiffener used to maintain the shape of a shoe toe, preserve toe room within the shoe, and give reasonable protection to the wearer's foot. There are three types of box toes: rigid, flexible, and soft. Rigid toes include safety shoes. Flexible toes may be flexed by thumb pressure, yet have semirigid walls. Soft toes include those which are intended to merely preserve the toe form and give maximum comfort to the wearer.


The wrinkle formed in a vamp of a shoe across the ball when the shoe is flexed in wear. A properly fitted shoe will break so that the wrinkle is neither noticeable nor uncomfortable. An improperly fitted shoe will have a break that is either noticeable or irritating to the foot.


A piece of heavy leather or other stiffening material inserted between the outside and the lining of the upper at the back part of the shoe. The purpose of the counter is to strengthen the back part of the shoe and to prevent it from sagging and losing its shape.


An interlining placed between the toe lining and the vamp of a shoe. Its purpose is to provide additional plumpness to the forepart of the shoe and to preserve the shape of the shoe. Doublers are cemented to the upper parts with an adhesive before the lining is sewed in the shoe.

Double sole

An outsole consisting of two full layers of leather. Double soles are usually used for heavy duty workshoes


The back part of a shoe upper from shank to heel. This may include only the back part below the vamp line, as in a shoe having a three quarters or circular vamp; or it may include the entire back part of the upper from top edge to sole and from shank to heel, as in many types of low cut shoe.

Front strap

Shoes, usually "Chukkas", having one or more straps across the front at the instep


A woven rubber fabric inserted in the shoe upper as a side piece (gusset) to allow upper to stretch when inserting the foot


 The back part of any covering for the foot. Usually it refers to the solid part projecting downward from the back part of the sole of a shoe.

Heel Breast

The forward face of the heel

Heel Heights

Determined by measuring in a vertical line from the treading surface of the heel to the seat or top (front part) of the heel along the breast or frontline of the heel. Heel heights are specified in terms of eights of an inch (thus an 8/8 heel is actually 1 inch high at the measured point; a 12/8 heel is 1 1/2 inches high, etc.)


Leather (or a related material) which is cut to conform to the size and shape of the bottom of the last. The upper and welt and the outsole are attached to the insole


A measure of sole leather thickness. 1/48-inch thickness equals one iron. She soles are sorted according to the thickness measured by the number of irons-- thus a sole specified in terms of 12 iron is actually 12/48 (1/4) inch thick.


One of the most important operations in shoemaking. It is the shaping or molding of the upper tightly to the contours of the last


The perforated pattern punched in the center of the tip of many styles of shoes


The bottom sole of a shoe which is exposed to wear. Made of more durable graded leather than any of the other soles because of the wear it must undergo.


Any low-cut shoe that is held to the foot by means of a lace or other adjustment


Round, curved, square or diamond-shaped holes punched in the upper leather of a shoe for ornamental purposes


A serrated decorative edging applied to the vamp, toecap or quarter of the shoe


The part of a shoe upper above the vamp line. It may also be split into several component parts, such as foxing, etc.

Quarter Lining

The upper lining at the back part of the shoe extending forward to the vamp line. It may be made of leather or fabric

Safety box toe

A box toe made of special high grade steel which prevents injury to the toes from trauma


That part of the sole between the heel and the ball. It is usually reinforced with material of sufficient rigidity to support the weight of the wearer.


An ornamentation of various designs of the forepart of the vamp

Toe- plain

Distinguished by the fact that there are no seams or ornamentation of any type on the forefoot of the shoe


All the upper parts of a shoe stitched together and ready for lasting and bottoming. It includes the outside, the doubler, and the lining of the shoe


The complete forepart of a shoe upper

Vamp throat

The center part of a shoe vamp opening where it is seamed to the front of the quarter


A narrow strip of leather stitched to a shoe between the upper and the sole. The "Goodyear" welt is a construction in which the joining of the upper an sole is so done as to form a very firm attachment and a perfectly smooth insole.


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