Patient Education

Shoe Anatomy

Familiarizing yourself with the parts of a shoe is helpful when choosing footwear that accommodates your foot shape and size, as well as your activities.

Here are the basic parts of a shoe:

  • Counter: The counter is the stiff part of the heel area of the shoe that strengthens the back part of the shoe; it adds support and helps the footwear keep its shape.
  • Heel: The heel is positioned at the heel of the foot. It elevates the back part of the foot so it sits higher than the front. The degree of heel elevation varies, and higher heels place more pressure on the forefoot.
  • Sole: The sole is the bottom of the shoe that runs the entire length of the foot, from the toes to the heel. The insole is the layer of material that lines the inside of the shoe’s bottom, providing comfort and support. The outsole is the outside of the shoe’s sole that comes in contact with the ground when standing, walking, or running. It should be made of a material that is durable, waterproof and provides a good grip.
  • Toe Box or Toe Cap: The toe box or toe cap is the front upper portion of the shoe where the toes are positioned. There are different types of toe boxes, depending upon the activity at hand, ranging from open or decorative to solid or steel for extra protection. The toe box should have enough space to comfortably fit the toes without pressure or restriction. The shape of a toe box can be pointy, round, or square.
  • Upper: The upper is the top of the shoe area that covers the entire foot. It is attached to the sole.
  • Vamp: The vamp is the part of the shoe where the laces are placed. It covers the upper middle part of the foot and is connected to the toe box.
  • Waist: The waist covers the arch of the foot, as well as the instep. It curves in a way that accommodates most foot shapes. This curve distinguishes between a shoe for the left foot versus a shoe for the right foot.

Footwear can be made of a variety of materials for breathability, support, shock absorption, and protection. 

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