Footwear Glossary

Footwear Glossary Of Terms

We have combined the knowledge of our expert team to provide definitions of terms used when it comes to all things footwear. All contributors to our glossary are fully qualified shoe fitters from the Society of Shoe Fitters.

A – Footwear Terms

Arch Support

Orthotics and arch supports are regularly recommended by physiotherapists, podiatrists, and orthotists for the relief of foot pain, heel pain, shin pain, knee pain and back pain. Not only can arch supports help alleviate pain but they also provide support to your arches which prevents them from collapsing. Once they collapse, often the plantar fasciitis stretches out which could lead to painful foot conditions such as plantar fasciitis. Arch support can also help when someone is suffering from aches and pains caused by, for example, standing for long periods, hillwalking or running

B – Footwear Terms


A bump on the side of your big toe may be a bunion. This condition, in which your big toe bends toward your other toes, can make it painful to walk. It may cause inflammation and irritation on your big toe and second toe. Bunions may be the result of the foot structure you inherited, and tight- or ill-fitting shoes or standing too long may aggravate them. Proper-fitting shoes and pain relievers may be a simple solution to help bunions, or you may need the advice and treatment of your doctor. Read about our recommendations for the best shoes for bunions.

Ball & Socket

When the Hallux Valgus joint or another toe joint becomes so pronounced it can rub against the shoe causing irritation and pain.  The Ball & socket can be used to help stretch the leather in this area to accommodate the protrusion.

The Brannock

C – Footwear Terms


Corns are small circles of thick skin that usually develop on the sides and tops of your toes or even on the sole of the foot but they can occur anywhere. Corns appear wherever the foot is receiving a repetitive shock such as the rubbing on footwear or bones striking the ground unusually. It should be noted that a corn may only be the symptom of a larger problem and not the cause.


Calluses are similar to a corn, these are hard, rough areas of skin that are often yellowish in colour.

Cement Construction

Cemented construction is widely acknowledged as one of the simplest, quickest and cost effective means of making shoes so for our customers, it means the shoes will cost less. That doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be a great pair of shoes as the majority of shoes sold in the UK are made using a cemented construction.

The downside of cemented construction is that sole bond failure is a common issue if there are any problems with the adhesive. Another practical reason to glue the sole unit to the upper is that it allows manufacturers to make shoes in lower volumes and therefore the designs can be spectacular!

F – Footwear Terms

Flat Foot

Flat foot refers to the lack of arch in your foot when standing. There is debate as to whether it is always a genetic condition (or caused by poorly fitted shoes).  It can be troublesome when exercising or standing for long periods. If the condition bothers you, see your doctor for a diagnosis. Treatment may include orthotics/arch support, pain relievers, or changes in your lifestyle.

H – Footwear Terms

Hammer Toe

Hammer toe results in a curved toe that points down rather than outward. Like many foot conditions, mallet toe can be the result of genetics, footwear that doesn’t fit right, or other foot problems like high arches or bunions. Arthritis or a toe injury may also be the cause of a mallet toe. This condition may be painful when walking or stretching your foot, and you may not be able to wiggle your toe. Wearing shoes that are the right fit and using foot cushions and pads may help your symptoms.

Heel-to-ball Measurement

Heel-to-ball measurement is the measurement taken from the back of the heel to the centre of the big toe joint. Very few people working in the footwear industry have learnt or even heard of heel-to-ball fitting. It is the traditional way to fit ladies’ court shoes in particular, but is relevant to all other shoe fittings -with the exception of an infant.

Heel Spurs

A heel spur feels like a hard rock in your heel. If you suffer or are at risk of getting a heel spur an orthotic will help to alleviate the pain that comes with a heel spur. Orthotics help to evenly distribute pressure and doing this will also help to lower your risk of the heel spur getting larger.

L – Footwear Terms


The first essential of any well-fitting shoe is the last on which the shoe is made. The last is the block or shape upon which the shoe is formed and has a direct bearing on how the shoe will fit. Lasts used to be made from wood but are now made from plastic, often using 3D printers after the last has been designed on a computer using specialist software. If the last is incorrect in any way, then obviously the shoe which is made on it will perpetuate any fault in the last. The design of the shoe, the method of manufacture, and the market for which the shoe is intended, all affect the shape of the last.  This will change the girth measurements the last designer uses across different areas of the last.

M – Footwear Terms

Morton’s Neuroma

N – Footwear Terms


Nubuck is top-grain leather that has been “sanded down”/”buffed” to change the appearance of the leather. it is generally more fashionable nowadays than plain leather and to many look better. Nubuck leather is beautifully soft to wear, requires less “wear” to soften the material and has all the standard benefits of leather.

P – Footwear Terms


A Patten is wooden with a metal sole ‘over-shoe’. They were used to slip over existing shoes to keep shoes clear of filthy London streets – fundamentally a flip­ flop for shoes!

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar Fasciitis is a common foot health problem.  Typically it causes pain in the bottom of your heel or in the lower part of your middle foot. This happens when the plantar fascia ligament becomes strained because of soft-soled footwear with poor arch support, frequent standing, long-distance running, weight gain, or other foot conditions. It can develop over time, and pain can range from dull to sharp. You may experience more pain when your feet have been resting for prolonged periods.

Those suffering from plantar fasciitis will often experience pain underneath the foot and heel, especially first thing in the morning or after sitting for a period of time. On occasion, this may improve after a few minutes of walking but after prolonged periods of standing, walking and/or running the pain will return.


Pronation refers to the foot’s natural way of moving from side to side when a person walks or runs. Overpronation is when the arches of the foot roll inward or downward when walking and is often caused by someone having flat feet.

PU Injection Moulded

At really high temperatures polyurethane melts into liquid form and can be injected using a high-tech machine that clamps a metal mould around the upper of the shoe. The shape of the metal mould determines the shape and appearance of the sole unit. Nowadays, PU injection technology is so advanced that the shapes & styles of shoes that can be made are remarkable. Historically, it was accepted that shoes can only be made using PU injection moulding if they are flat but nowadays they can make shoes with a heel. They can make them look like traditionally welted shoes or even have a phased-in colouring that is really eye-catching.

In our view, at least on a practical level, injection moulded PU shoes are a must-have for anybody. They will provide long-lasting comfort and last for much longer than a cheap pair of shoes. Another added benefit is the bond between the upper and the sole unit is rarely if ever broken which means your shoes are highly unlikely to fall apart and the water penetration is reduced

S – Footwear Terms

Stitched Construction

Stitch construction has become a really popular style for comfort shoes and involves stitching the side wall of the sole unit to the upper using a specialist stitching machine. Stitch construction is strong, flexible, comfortable, looks good and allows air to circulate around the foot making for a most comfortable wearing experience. However, if wet, the stitch holes and the leather need to be protected as they will let water in.


Supination, also known as under pronation, is the name for the movement that occurs when your foot rolls outward at the ankle while you walk or exercise. Some supination is completely normal. However, excessive supination should be corrected and addressed, since it can lead to pain, injury, and tissue damage.

T – Footwear Terms


Tanning is the chemical process of treating the skins and hides of animals into a stable material called leather. Before tanning, the skins are de-haired, de-greased, de-salted and soaked in water over a period of six hours to two days. Hides can only be tanned if they are at less than 8 degrees Celcius so they are normally cooled with ice before tanning.  The tanning process takes around 6 months in most cases and has around 15 different stages. It is scientifically complex and involves chemical and organic compounds.


A tannery is a place where the skins are processed. There are still a few tanneries left in the UK, in the past British tanneries were regarded among the best in the world, supplying all manner of industries. Most hides are now tanned abroad.

Tex Membranes

Tex membranes refer to a lining in some shoes to make them waterproof or water resistant.

V – Footwear Terms

Vegetan Leather

Vegetan or Vegetable Tanned Leather is always appreciated for its looks, its touch and natural smell. It is 100% natural and contributes to the health of the feet. When used in shoe making it reduces the accumulation of moisture caused by sweat and prevents the proliferation of bacteria, fungus and irritation as well. It does this by having the ability to soak up large amounts of perspiration quickly without feeling damp or wet and then passing the perspiration to the outside where it can evaporate. This keeps the foot dry and comfortable in a way not yet possible with substitute materials.

Additionally, due to their natural origins and characteristics, articles made of vegetable-tanned leathers do not offer a risk to the environment when disposed of after a long useful life. In the same way, during use, vegetable-tanned leathers do not offer any risk to the health of the users. They are totally safe to wear and to handle.