Guest Post: Knowing Your Anatomy


Note from Elle: The other day, I was messing around on a shoe site, and saw the most amazing pair of shoes… I wanted to tell everyone about them! I wanted to describe them, doing them justice to my super-educated, shoe-obsessed friends. I opened my mouth to speak and realized… I had no idea what I was talking about! I don’t know what anything on a typical shoe is actually called – and that’s a problem! I called upon my friend and blogger, Princess Poochie, to help me and, in turn, help us all learn about the anatomy of a shoe!

One of the main reasons I love shoes is the infinite variety of designs that are out there. Simply through making minute changes in curve of the heel or the depth of the topline, you have a totally different shoe. Just compare the photos of a Louboutin to an imposter. Even without feeling the material or seeing the red sole, you can see the difference between the two pieces. A heel that’s a shade too thick, the way the curve of the vamp is just a bit too high…

There is a lot to learn when talking about shoes. Here is a terminology primer:


Some terms refer to parts that all shoes have such as the sole, while other terms may only apply to certain types or style of shoe.

Breast: The forward facing part of the heel, under the arch of the sole

Counter: A stiff piece of material at the heel of a shoe positioned between the lining and upper that helps maintain the shape of the shoe. The counter helps strengthen the rear of the sole.

Feather: The part of the shoe where the upper’s edge meets the sole.

Heel: The heel is the part of the sole that raises the rear of the shoe in relation to the front. The heal seat is the top of the heal that touches the upper, this is typically shaped to match the form of the upper. The part of the the heel that comes in contact with the ground is known as the the top piece.

Insole: The layer of material laid inside the shoe that serves as a layer between the wearer’s foot and the sole of the shoe. It is often padded for comfort.

Linings: Most shoes include a lining on the inside of the shoe, around the vamp and quarter. These linings improve comfort, and can help increase the lifespan of the shoe.

Outsole: The exposed part of the sole that is contact with the ground. As with all parts of the shoe, outsoles are made from a variety of materials. The properties the outsole need are: grip, durability, and water resistance.

Puff: a reinforcing inside the upper which gives the toe its shape and support. Similar in function to a toe cap.

Quarter: The rear and sides of the upper that covers the heel that are behind the vamp. The heel section of the quarter is often strengthened with a stiffener, which helps support the rear of the foot. Some shoe designs use a continuous piece of leather for the vamp and quarter.

Seat: Where the heel of the fit sits in the shoe. It normally matches the shape of the heal for comfort and support.

Shank: A piece of metal inserted between the sole and the insole lying against the arch of the foot.

Sole: The entire part of the shoe that sites below the wearers foot. As opposed to the upper. The upper and sole make up the whole of the shoe.

Throat: The front of the vamp next to the toe cap. For shoes were the vamp and quarter panels are one piece the throat is at the eye-stay.

Toe cap: Shoes may have a toe cap in the front upper of the shoe. Toe caps can take various forms, but the distinct types are: complete replacements for the front upper of the shoe; stitched over toecaps that add an extra layer to the upper; solid toe caps for protection, such as steel toe caps. Stitch over toe caps may be decorative in nature. Toe caps help add strength to the upper front of the shoe, an area that receives a lot of stress and wear from use.

Top Piece: Located on the very bottom of the heel, this is the piece that makes contact with the ground and is made out of highly durable material.

Toebox: Section that contains the toes in the front of the shoe.

Topline: The top edge of the Upper.

Upper: Consists of the entire top portion of the shoe which covers the foot including the vamp, toebox, and quarter.

Vamp: The section of upper that covers the front of the foot as far as the back as the join ot the quarter.

Waist: The arch and in-step of the foot.

Welt: A strip of material that joins the upper to the sole.


Once you know the terms, you can start comparing all the versions of my favorite element – the heel. I’m a sucker for certain heel shapes. From a squared off stiletto to a 1960’s wiggly pump, certain heel shapes catch my eye every time. And when you start learning what are the authentic shapes for different eras you can better evaluate good pieces from knock-offs and real vintage from fakes.

Or you can just chat me up and we’ll compare shoe designs.

Here’s a quick quiz to test you out

How many did you get right?

Thank you to and Running With Heels for illustrations and definitions.

For more Princess Poochie, and anything & everything shoes, go visit her at Shoe Daydreams!

Probably watching Netflix.

6 thoughts on “Guest Post: Knowing Your Anatomy

  • July 29, 2009 at 8:08 am

    Excellent post, Poochie! And thank you, Elle, for sharing this– it’s great to have such an easy to understand post that breaks down the anatomy of a shoe….
    .-= Ashe Mischief´s last blog ..OMG Shoes! FLUEVOG FLUEVOG FLUEVOG Edition =-.

  • July 29, 2009 at 10:19 am

    Wow, fantastically comprehensive! I’m filing this one away for reference. Thanks, Princess Poochie … and Miss Elle for a great guest poster.
    .-= Sal´s last blog ..Reader Request: Great Glasses =-.

  • July 29, 2009 at 11:47 am

    Ah awesome! Great post, very useful. I can see this being quite helpful in some future posts I have lined up.

  • July 30, 2009 at 9:28 am

    I knew every word except for “puff” and for some reason I’m very amused by that.
    .-= WendyB´s last blog ..We Have Company =-.

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