The structure of a shoe can be divided into two parts: an upper and lower (or bottom part). Sections of the upper are made up of the vamp, quarter, toebox, throat, insole board, and topline. The sections of the lower shoe consist of an outsole, shank and heel.
The Upper of the Shoe
The upper of a shoe consists of all parts or sections of the shoe above the sole. These are attached by stitches or more likely moulded to become a single unit then the insole and outsole are attached. The upper of the shoe consists of the vamp (or front of the shoe), the quarters (i.e. the sides and back of the shoe), and the linings.Uppers are made in a variety of different materials, both natural and synthetic. Leather became the obvious choice because it allowed air to pass through to and from the skin pores (breath) keep feet at a constant temperature. Ironically synthetics used as uppers display elastic properties, which mean shoe uppers never quite adjusts to the foot shape in the same way as natural leather. Synthetics are cheaper to mass-produce and are now found in most footwear. Synthetic surfaces provide waterproofing and most leather today has synthetic components.
The vamp covers the top of the foot (includes the tongue piece) and superior aspects over the toes. The toe puff is reinforced and serves to give the shoe a shape as well as protect the digits. The vamp is often made of more than one piece creating a decorative pattern. There are various types of vamps suited to different styles of shoes.
Quarters are the complete upper part of the shoe behind the vamp line covering the sides and back part of the shoe. The top edge of the sides and back of the quarter describes the topline. In athletic shoes the topline is usually padded and referred to as a collar. The medial and lateral sections join in a seam at the posterior end of the shoe. In Oxford style lacing shoes, the eyelet section is formed by the superior part of the quarter (while the underlying tongue is part of the vamp). The heel section of the quarter is frequently reinforced with a stiffener to help support the rear foot. In boots the quarter is referred to as ‘top’.
The counter is a component of the quarter that stabilises the hind foot in the shoe and retains the shape of the posterior portion of the shoe. Counters are usually made from fibre board or heat moulded plastic.
Many shoes incorporate a toecap into the upper of the shoe. Toecaps are either stitched over or completely replace the distal superior aspect of the vamp and can be made into a decorative features referred to as toe tips. The toe box refers to the roofed area over and around the part of the shoe that covers the toes. The function of the toe box is to retain the shape of the forefoot and allow room for the toes.
In quality shoes the quarters and vamps are lined to enhance comfort and durability. Linings may consist of various materials i.e. leathers, fabrics, and manmade synthetics. The lining on the insole segment is called ‘the sock’ and may be full-length, three-quarter or just the heel section. Many linings are made of synthetic material and are usually confined to the quarters and the insock.
The Sole of the Shoe
Insole (inner sole)
A layer of material shaped to the bottom of the last and sandwiched between the outsole (and midsole) and the sole of the foot inside the shoe. The insole covers the join between the upper and the sole in most methods of construction and provides attachment for the upper, toe box linings and welting. The insole board is necessary in shoes that are constructed using cemented or Goodyear welt techniques because it is the attachment for upper and lower component
This is the outer most sole of the shoe, which is directly exposed to abrasion and wear. Traditionally made from a variety of materials, the outsole is constructed in different thickness and degrees of flexibility. Ideal soling materials must be waterproof, durable and possess a coefficient of friction high enough to prevent slipping. Leather has poor gripping capabilities and synthetic polymers are much preferred. There are also an infinite variety of surface designs. Extra grip properties can be incorporated in the form of a distinctive sole pattern with well-defined ridges. Alternatively they can be moulded with cavities to reduce the weight of the sole. These cavities need to be covered with a rigid insole or can be filled with light foam to produce a more flexible sole.
The shank bridges between the heel breast and the ball tred. The shankpiece (Rossi 2000, p154) or shank spring can be made from wood, metal, fibreglass or plastic and consists of a piece approximately 10cm long and 1.5 cm wide. The shank spring lies within the bridge or waist of the shoe, i.e. between heel and ball corresponding to the medial and lateral arches. The shankpiece reinforces the waist of the shoe and prevents it from collapsing or distorting in wear.
The heel is the raised component under the rear of the shoe. Heels consist of a variety of shapes, heights, and materials and are made of a series of raised platforms or a hollowed section. The part of the heel next to sole is usually shaped to fit the heel, this is called the heel seat or heel base.