Buying shoes online can be complicated. Reading online shoe descriptions can sometimes make a shoe that would (without all the fancy, indecipherable shoe-talk) otherwise appear as a pair that 'you like and want' into a 'a pinked split toe'. A pinked split toe? But it looks black ... and 'square'.
But once you know the lingo, these descriptions—which you'd be hard-pressed to get from many department store shoe salespersons—can become invaluable ways of really coming to understand your personal footwear preferences and can help ensure that you consistently find the shoes that best fit your style and your foot.
This glossary is anything but exhaustive, and some terms may never appear on our site, but it includes nearly all of the terms that we could collectively muster and it should help you in most all circumstances.
Ankle Strap - A strip of cloth or leather that wraps around the leg where it meets the foot in order to secure the shoe to the foot.
All Terrain Sandal - Any sandal that is meant for use in rafting, hiking, and is often waterproofed and with an all terrain outsole.
Athletic Shoe - Athletic footwear meant for performance of a specific sport (Basketball, Golf, Tennis, etc.)
Ballet Flats - A soft, slipper-like, closed-toe shoe with no heel height, modeled after the shoes worn by ballet dancers.
Boat Shoe - A kind of casual shoe that can normally be slipped on and worn with or without socks. Boat shoes are typically made with non-slip soles (so as to avoid slipping on a wet boat deck) and they are often featured ornamental side-lacings.
Booties- A shoe that resembles a boot in style but does not have a shaft.
Boots - Footwear which covers the entire foot and extends to the height of the anklebone or up to the thigh.
Brogue - A 'heavy' balmoral, or oxford-style shoe that flaunts ample 'pinking' (perforations or zig-zag detailing) and 'perforations' in order to accentuate the look of the shoe's seams.
Buckle - A fastener that secures two straps to each other by allowing one strap to pass through a fitting, attached to the other strap.
Calfskin - A famously soft leather made (as the word suggests) from the skins of calfs.
Canvas- A closely woven, heavy cloth of cotton, hemp or linen.
Cap Toe - A decorative layer of leather adorning and reinforcing the toe of certain dress shoes, often highlighted by a line of decorative stitching.
Circumference -The measurement around the shaft of a boot/bootie taken at the widest part near the top of the boot/bootie shaft.
Clog- A closed toe, open back shoe with a platform sole. Traditionally with a wood heel.
Collar - The material sewn into the opening, or the topline, of the shoe. The collar can be padded to provide increased support or comfort.
Combat boots - Lace-up multipurpose boots originally designed for the military.
Cowboy boots - A boot with a chunky, moderately high slanted heel, usually pointed toe, and decorative stitching or tooling, extending to mid-calf.
D’Orsay - A style of pump featuring one or both sides cut-out.
Espadrille - A shoe or sandal that has a woven rope or similar material covering the wedge or sole.
Eyelet - A hole in leather or fabric--occasionally reinforced by metal, plastic, or stitching--through which one may thread a string or a lace.
Faux Leather - A leather-like fabric which, though man-made, resembles tanned animal hide.
Finish - The surface texture or patina of a material.
Flats - Shoes that do not have any heel height.
Flip Flops - A flat sandal which is held to the foot solely by a strap that runs over and between the toes.
Fabric - A type of material used on a shoe
Flats- Shoes that do not have any heel height.
Fringe- Suede fabric that is cut into strips to create movement.
Gladiator - Designed to resemble the shoes worn by ancient Roman fighters, gladiators are open-toed sandals, distinctive for a single strap that runs down the foot, and several others that run across it.
Grommets - The metal or plastic rings used to reinforce eyelets.
Heel height- Measurement taken on a vertical line that extends from the bottom surface of the sole to the floor.
Insole - The inner sole of the shoe, which is often cushioned for comfort or molded for orthopedic reasons.
Instep - The area of the foot between the toes and the ankle, or the top front part of a shoe
Kid Leather - Leather made from goat skin.
Kitten Heel - A low-heeled stiletto shoe, often between 1 and 2 inches in heel height.
Lace up- A string threaded through the eyelets of a shoe used for fastening the shoe.
Leather- The hide of an animal that has been treated and tanned.
Leather Upper - The bulk of the exterior of the shoe, everything except the sole and interior, made of leather rather than man-made materials.
Light Hiking - Athletic shoes that are ideal for day hikes or 'approach' hiking but are not ideal for long backpacking hikes or climbing.
Lining - The material inside a shoe or handbag, often different from the material which comprises the outside of the item.
Loafer - A low, step-in shoe without shoelaces or buckles.
Mary Jane - A shoe with a strap across the instep that is attached with elastic, Velcro, or buckle.
Moccasin - A slip-on shoe with visible stitching around the perimeter of the toe box, creating a gathered effect.
Moc Toe - Shoes that are fabricated in the simple manner similar to moccasins (or loafers), but which lace-up (instead of simply slipping-on).
Monk Strap - A type of shoe designed like an oxford, but with a strap closure across the instep rather than a lace up front closure.
Nubuck- A kind of leather with a slight 'nap' and otherwise smooth finish, which is achieved by 'bucking' (or sanding) the hide.
Oxfords - A low shoe with laces over the instep.
Outsole - The bottom-most part of the shoe's sole.
Patent - Various materials can be used to create a varnished hard and glossy finish.
Peep toe - A shoe with a narrow opening in the front that exposes the toes.
Platforms - A high heel shoe with a thick sole under the front part of the foot.
Pointed Toe Pumps - An enclosed shoe with a heel of any height, the front end of which tapers into a point.
Pumps - Women's dress shoes that are typically characterized by a medium or high heel. Styles are typically completely enclosed.
Running/Trail - Running shoes designed for running both on and off road, with increased stability and traction for irregular terrain
Sandals - An exposed shoe style that includes an open toe and open back. Slips on and is held in place with leather or fabric straps across the foot.
Sling back - A backless shoe that is held in place with a strap at the back of the foot. The strap is typically elastic or buckled for adjustment.
Slipper - A flat, casual shoe that slips on and is typically meant for use indoors. May be lined for added comfort.
Slip-On - A shoe which can go onto the foot without use of a lace or strap, and therefore theoretically possible to be put on without use of the hands.
Slouched:Shoes with a baggy, gathered design that 'slouches' down, usually found in boots
Sneaker - A rubber-soled casual shoe made of soft, often man-made, materials, and used often for casual wear and sporting events.
Sole - The outsole, or bottom part of a shoe.
Stacked Heel - A heel comprised of many layers of leather, laid one on top of another, in order to resemble a wood-grain appearance.
Stiletto - A very thin, very high heeled shoe, the heel of which tapers nearly to a point where it comes into contact with the ground.
Strappy Sandal - An open shoe comprised of multiple straps that secure the foot to the sole.
Studs - Decorative metal (or plastic) knobs or points, that stick out from the surface of the decorated item.
Suede - Treated leather that comprises a soft, napped surface.
Synthetic Materials - Materials which are man-made and not naturally produced.
Tassel - A knotted rope ornamental piece typically found on a shoe vamp.
Thong Sandals - A sandal that passes between the big toe and second toe with a v-strap that connects to the sandal sole at both sides of the foot.
Upper - All parts of a shoe above the sole that are stitched together.
Velvet - A fabric of silk, nylon, acetate, rayon, etc., sometimes having a cotton backing, with a thick, soft pile formed of loops of the warp thread either cut at the outer end or left uncut.
Wedge Heels- A heel that extends from the back to the ball of the shoe, laying flat on the ground.
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