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Anatomy of a Shoe

The following is a list of terms used to describe parts of the shoe. Some terms refer to parts that all shoes have such as the sole, while other terms may only apply to certain types or style of shoe.



Upper: The entire part of the shoe that covers the foot. The upper of a shoe consists of all parts or sections of the shoe above the sole. These are attached by stitches or more likely moulded to become a single unit then the insole and outsole are attached. The upper of the shoe consists of the vamp (or front of the shoe), the quarters (i.e. the sides and back of the shoe), and the linings.



Vamp: The section of upper that covers the front of the foot as far as the back as the join ot the quarter.



Toe (or Toecap): A piece of leather (or other material) that is stitched or glued to the toe of a shoe. This helps to reinforce this often strained area, but it can also make for a nice graphic accent.



Tongue: The flexible piece of material that sits underneath the laces and quarter of a shoe. This helps to spread the pressure of a shoe’s closure across the foot.



Collar: The top edge of the quarter, where you insert your foot (called the “topline” on a dress shoe). It is often padded for extra comfort.



Counter: A piece of material forming the back of a shoe to give support and stiffen the material around the heel.



Quarter: The back part of the upper, typically beginning where the vamp (see below) finishes, and wrapping around the heel. If the shoe is whole cut, the quarter and vamp will be the same piece of material. In most shoes, however, they are two separate pieces of leather.



Heel: The thick piece of leather or rubber that’s attached to the sole of a shoe to raise and support the back of the foot. Dress shoes tend to have a separate heel piece, which can be replaced if necessary.



Midsole: The layer of material located under the insole but over the outsole providing the shoe’s main support and cushioning components.



Outsole: The piece of hard material on the bottom of the shoe. This can be leather – which is more breathable but also more vulnerable to moisture and water damage – or rubber – which offers some protection against the elements, but is less formal.



Gentleman's Corner:Developed in the 1930s, this involved slicing off the instep of the corner of the heel to prevent men's trouser hems catching on their shoes. We colour ours for a distinctive Sweeney touch.



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