Footwear Anatomy

Elements of the upper part of a shoe

The upper of a shoe is everything above the sole. Let’s take a closer look at each element.

Probably the first thing you pay attention to if you look at a shoe is its toe. The toe is an important footwear element that covers the toes. When shoes are being worn, the toe is subject to a large amount of physical impact. The toe should be resistant to big loads like bending and friction. It can be a part of the vamp or a separate element. It is the toe we owe the great variety of shoe styles. There are several types of toes:

• Plain toes — toes which are parts of the vamp and aren’t separated from the rest of the upper of the footwear with any seams.

• Cap toes — toes which are separated from the vamp with a seam or several seams stitched very close to each other.

• Wingtip toes — wing- or W-shaped toes.

• Apron toes — toes with a circular seam, which ideally should be hand-stitched.

• Split toes — toes which are split in two and have a circular seam.

Some shoes and boots have a pattern of blind perforations on their toes, which is called a medallion. Decorative perforation which can be both on the toe and along the seams is called broguing.

The part of the shoe between the toe and the lacing is called the vamp as mentioned above. The quarters and, in case with oxfords, the facing with eyelets are sewn to the vamp. When it goes to derby shoes and boots, the eyelets are situated on the quarters. There is a flexible tongue beneath the lacing and then the throat — the opening you put your foot into.

The foot put into the shoe presses against the heel counter and is in contact with the insert sole and the lining. The inserts for classic shoes are as a rule half-sized, and if this is the case, the front part of the foot adjoins the insole. There can be a midsole and an outsole under the insole; sometimes there is no midsole. Between the insole and the outsole there is a metal or wooden shank which makes the lower part of the shoe harder and keeps the area where the shoe doesn’t bend when you walk from deformation. Besides, the space between the insole and the outsole is filled with a special cork filler (also called footbed filler) for providing more comfort. When a person starts wearing the shoe, the filler takes the shape of their foot.

Elements of the lower part of a shoe

If we speak of Goodyear welted footwear, then, in addition to the sole and the upper elements mentioned above, it has a welt — a narrow stripe of leather connected to the outsole with one stitch and to the upper and the insole with another one. The seam that connects the welt and the sole is called welt stitching. Sometimes it’s visible both from above and from below, but sometimes you cannot see the stitching from the outside because it is hidden in a closed channel. This technology is called closed channel stitching.

The heel of classic shoes or boots usually consists of several heel lifts and is attached to the sole with a few heel nails. If the lowest heel lift is made of leather, usually it also has a small rubber tip which increases durability of the shoe.

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