Shoe Anatomy 101: Our Guide to the Important Shoe Parts You Should Know

Written by Jessie Sebor — February 28, 2020

It’s Saturday afternoon. You’re on the hunt for a new pair of shoes—but where do you begin? If you’re searching for a pair of the most comfortable heels or flats, it’s helpful to know the basic parts of a shoe to make an informed decision. 

We’ve compiled a list of essential shoe parts to familiarize you with a few common shoe terms. So the next time you’re out shopping for a new pair of pumps, you’ll know exactly what to look for. 


PARTS OF A SHOE: THE BASICS

Shoe Last 

If you’ve ever worn a pair of heels that give you blisters or squish your toes together–you know why a shoe’s shape is important when it comes to comfort and wearability. Enter the shoe last. This is the most fundamental part of a shoe. The common knowledge in shoemaking is that you “begin first with the last.” A shoe last is a three-dimensional mold that is used to create any type of shoe, and most definitely, the sleek high heels you’re eyeing on the shelf. The term originates from the Old English word “laest,” which means footprint.

Every shoe last is made with a plethora of things in mind, such as foot shape, heel height, instep, and design. A different shoe last must be created to develop heels and flats that vary in height, shape, and structure. Before any part of a shoe is constructed, a shoe last must be made. 

 

Upper 

The upper is everything that covers the top part of your foot in a shoe–it includes the toe box, heel area and the sides of the shoe. 

 


Girth

Do you have wide feet? Then you’ll want to look for shoes with an appropriate girth. The girth of a shoe can be another term for the width, but it really signifies the “volume” of the foot. The girth is measured by taking the circumference around various parts of a shoe last.

Having trouble finding fashionable heels in wide sizes? You might want to look for a pair that comes in a variety of widths.

 

Heel Counter

If you’ve ever experienced your heels slipping in your shoes—the heel counter is probably to blame. The heel counter is a piece of supportive material placed in the back of the shoe to stabilize and tighten the back of the heel that shapes around the Achilles tendon of your foot. Not only will a firm-fitting heel counter potentially reduce your risk of getting blisters, but it will also provide ample support.  

Pro tip: When trying on your next pair of shoes, look for a snug-fitting heel counter. An easy test is to push your thumb on the back of the heel. If it easily collapses, the heel counter probably isn’t very strong. When developing Antonia Saint New York’s signature Victoria High Heel, special attention was given to placing key strips of their SoftSurround System at the back and sides of the heel. This was so that the shoe could be held in place on the foot, and also provide strategic cushioned support where it’s most needed. 

 

Toe Box Height 

Any shoe that pinches your toes is not a shoe that you want—period. That’s why the toe box is so important. While the term is pretty straightforward—the toe box of a shoe is the area that covers your toes and gives enough, or too little, room for them. Toe boxes come in an array of  widths and heights, and depending on the shoe’s design and personal toe shape, they may or may not accommodate your toes well. 

 

Vamp or “Topline” 

The vamp is the top part of the shoe–it covers the toes, and all the way to where the shoe ends on the front part of your foot. For example, in a pair of heels, the vamp would cover the toe box to right above the beginning of your toes, where the shoe breaks to wrap around the sides of your foot. Typically, the vamp is made with flexible material to enhance comfort, but also provide support. With Antonia Saint NY, we have added something very special to our vamp - the addition of a layer of SoftSurround System technology that cushions and surrounds the tops of your toes and sides of your foot. You can see it in this photo above as a special foam-based layer underneath the upper material. Finally, no hard shoe to hit your toes! 

 

Heel Tip or “Top-Lift” 

This is placed at the very bottom of the heel post, and is the part that wears down quickest the more you walk in your shoes. It typically has a harder squared-off shape that securely holds a metal post that gets hammered into the heel post itself. A strong heel tip is essential to keeping a heel post looking new and also preventing that ‘click-clack” sound that can happen when the base of the heel tip of worn down to the metal post. That sound means you are definitely due for a repair! The good news is that with Antonia Saint NY, your top lifts will last 5-7 times longer than the rest because we have made ours with a special formulation that makes them endure better over time.

 

Insole board

The insole board is the part of the shoe that supports the entire foot and the sicklier, and gives either a good amount of flexibility to the shoe, or hardly any at all. With Antonia Saint NY, we have carefully created a flexible insole board with raised sides so that you can have a good ability to move and still feel supported.

 

Sockliner, or Insert 

These two terms are synonymous for the area of the shoe that goes underneath and directly touching the foot. Most high heeled or flat shoes have a very simple, thin sockliner, and if there is any padding provided, none comes near the triple-layer and dual-layered foam support that you can find in an Antonia Saint NY shoe. And don’t be fooled by the inserts commonly available in every department store. You can’t simply place inserts inside of shoes because then the entire fit of the shoe will change and lead to other potentially painful issues even though you’ll have improvement with cushioning under foot. The best shoes include an insert built within the shoe as a holistic system to support the entire foot, and give arch support for all three of the arches - transverse, medial and lateral - just like the inserts that are built into each and every Antonia Saint NY shoe.  

Now that you know the basics parts of a shoe—you’re ready to find the perfect fit! Happy hunting!

Experience the superior construction of Antonia Saint New York’s classically beautiful heels that feel soft like sneakers inside today. 

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