In order to assist our customers with their shoe knowledge, we have included this glossary of shoe terms. Please feel free to read through the glossary so that you are able to inform your shoe salesman of the various features you wish to see in your shoe and it’s performance.


Achilles notch: Indent in the heel collar where the Achilles tendon touches so that the heel collar doesn’t rub on the Achilles tendon.

EVA: Ethyl vinyl acetate, a synthetic foam material containing air molecules, used in the midsole. The density can vary, depending on the amount of air in the EVA. The term “dual-density midsole” refers to EVA or polyurethane of varying densities. Some shoes have greater density below the heel or ball of the foot to increase shock absorption under these high-impact areas.

External stabilizing bar: A rigid plastic or foam bar extending from the midsole one-quarter to one-half inch into the upper, which works with the heel counter to help keep your heel in place.

Flared stabilizing bar: The width of the outersole under the heel should provide a good base for the foot when it lands. Outersole heel width in running shoes should be at least three-and-a-half inches. Other sports shoes should have an outersole heel width that protrudes at least one-fourth inch from the upper.

Flex point: If the outersole or midsole material wraps over the upper, there should be a dip in the material (often “U” or “V” shaped) where the toes bend. This allows the shoe to flex when you rise up on your toes.

Footbed: A cradle for the foot formed by the midsole material and sockliner. It is molded to the shape of a foot and curves upward around the edges, cupping the fool. This is a new design feature that greatly increases foot stability.

Grain-leather upper: Look for a good-quality firm-grain leather that will hold its shape and provide support. Soft leather may feel comfortable, but it is more likely to stretch with wear. Running shoes, however, should be made of lightweight, porous mesh and suede.

Heel collar: Padding on the top of the upper around the back and sides of the heel.

Heel counter: A hard plastic or cardboard surface around the heel (inside or outside the shoe) that keeps the heel centered during impact and steadies. your ankle. Look for a rigid heel cup that extends down toward the arch for even more support. Count out any shoes without a counter.

Heel height: The heel should be between one-fourth to three-fourths inch higher than the front of the shoe – any higher will compromise your lateral stability; any flatter will aggravate the Achilles tendon.

Heel wrap: The outer5ole material wraps up from the heel over the midsole and onto the upper tor more stability and durability.

Midsole: The layer of the shoe between the outersole and sockliner. Midsoles arc usually made of shock-absorbing matcrials such as EVA or polyurethane. Additional shock-absorbing materials which are often unique designs of the manufacturer (Nike’s Air, Asics’ Gel or Ryka’s special material, for example) may be encapsulated in the midsole.

Outersole: The bottom of the shoe including the treads.

Polyurethane: A synthetic-foam midsole material which is usually more durable and slightly heavier than EVA. Like EVA, it contains air and the density can vary depending on the amount of air in the foam.

Shock-absorbing material: Material, such as F:VA and polyurethane, that lessens the impact shock when the foot contacts the ground.

Shoe blowout: When the upper of a shoe stretches excessively or tears away from the outersole or midsole, eliminating the stability of the· shoe.

Sockliner: Sometimes called the insole, the best sockliner is made from molded polyurethane or EVA. Some high-quality sockliners have shock-absorbing materials under the ball and heel of the fool. They should he removable so they can be replaced.


  • D-ring: Sometimes called speed lacing, this is a setup of durable plastic lace guides shaped like the letter D, that spread pressure evenly over your foot.
  • Lace lock: An irregularly shaped eyelet at the bottom and/or top of the lacing eyelets designed to allow you to set the tension of your laces, then lock them in place.
  • U-throat: Eyelets are evenly spaced in a U-formation along the length of the lacing system. This traditional style of lacing does not allow you to fully adjust the tension to suit the width and height of your foot. If you have a particularly wide foot or high instep, try a shoe with variable-width lacing.
  • Variable width: This system allows you to adjust the shoes according to the width of your fool. For a tighter fit, lace through the outside holes If your foot is wide, lace the holes closest to the middle of your foot.


  • Last: A block or form shaped like a foot on which the shoes are made.
  • Board lasting: Method of shoe construction that uses stiff materials, making a more stable, rigid shoe.
  • Combination lasting: Combines the flexibility of slip lasting with the stiffness of board lasting construction. Shoes with this design have slip lasting from the midfoot forward and board lasting under the heel.
  • Inflare lasting: Look at the outersole – if it curves inward toward the big toe it was made on an inflare last and is suitable for a neutral foot or supinator.
  • Slip lasting: Method of shoe construction that creates a flexible shoe. Usually used in the front of the shoe to provide flexibility where the toes bend. Recent designs of completely slip lasted shoes are made more stable through technological improvements within the midsole.
  • Straight lasting: Look at the outersole – if it doesn’t curve inward toward the big toe it was made on a straight last and is suitable for pronators.

Stabilizing straps: Panels across the sides, back, or front of the shoe that stabilize the fool. They should run from the midsole and connect with the lacing so the shoe feels snug when the laces are tied.

Toe box: The area at the front of the shoe that houses the toes, which should be high and wide so your toes aren’t cramped.

Toe wrap: A sturdy panel of rubber or leather around the sole, extending from the outersole over the midsole onto the upper.  This reduces wear on the toe — very important for tennis shoes.

Tongue: For comfort, make certain your shoe tongues arc well padded.

Upper: The top part of the shoe that is sewn or glued to the midsole, usually in leather or mesh.

Variable-height tread: Shoes worn for indoor activities should have a smooth tread of varying heights. Outdoor shoes have a rough, more durable tread of varying heights. There may also be shock-absorbing material such as EVA or polyurethane under the ball of the foot and the heel.

Velcro straps: Hook-and-loop-fabric straps allow you to fit the shoe more securely.