We know what you’re thinking. Unless you’re someone who designs/makes shoes, what’s the point, right? Well, the answer is relatively simple – understanding the different parts of a shoe can go a long way when it comes to deciding what type of shoe is right for you and what’s best for your feet and individual needs.
The material that a shoe is made of lends a lot to its stability. For instance, leather shoes tend to be sturdier than mesh shoes. When it comes to the actual construction, shoes are divided into two main parts – the upper shoe and the lower shoe.
The “upper shoe” consists of:
Toe Box – This is the front of the shoe where your toes go and can be one of several shapes (square, round, pointed). The deeper the top box is, the more room there is for your toes. Having a deep toe box is especially important to those individuals who have hammertoe(s) or crossover toes(s).
Counter – The heel counter is the back portion of the upper shoe that holds your heel in place. A shoe with a “stiff” counter will offer greater stability and control. Individuals with flat feet should definitely be looking for shoes with a stiff counter.
Vamp – The vamp is the portion on top at the midsection of the shoe – this would typically be where laces would be found. The vamp should fit snug so that the shoe is held in a comfortably firm manner on your feet. A too-loose vamp can cause heel slippage; a too-tight vamp can cause pain – and even numbness – in the toes.
The “lower” of the shoe is comprised of:
Insole – the insole is the inner part of the shoe where your foot rests. If you are someone who has orthotics, look for shoes with a removable insole so that you can insert your insole/orthotic of choice without taking up any extra space in the shoe.
Midsole – The midsole of the shoe is the portion that is between the top section of the shoe and the outer sole. The amount (and material type) of a shoe’s midsole can vary depending upon what the shoe was designed for.
Outsole – The outsole is the bottom sole of the shoe and is usually made out of leather or rubber. Always check the shape of the outsole to make sure it matches your foot shape – remember, the shoe is supposed to conform to your foot, not the other way around.
Shank – This is the part of the shoe that’s under the arch. The stiffer the shank, the more support is provided to your foot.
Hopefully, this guide will help you to understand the makeup of shoes a bit more and, in turn, help you to make more informed choices when out looking for new shoes. Happy shopping!