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20 . 4 . 2022

Handcrafted Shoes

Shoe Anatomy

Understanding shoe anatomy is one important step to take in order to improve your expertise in the field. Imagine you are about to make an investment in a new pair of premium quality shoes – wouldn’t you like every single detail about how they were made and constructed?

What are the parts that make up a shoe, after all? Shoe anatomy helps you understand how a shoe comes structurally together. But, perhaps more than that, it helps you choose wisely when deciding on a new pair of shoes.


What is the Shoe Anatomy

Shoe anatomy is the expert terminology used to break down every single part of a given shoe. In this case, we will focus our attention on the details concerning the dress or the casual shoe. 

As you might imagine, there are dozens of different parts that can be a part of the shoe anatomy.

They can be well over thirty! But not to worry, in this article, we will be focusing on the essentials: 12 integral parts of the shoe anatomy that you must know today. 


Shoe Anatomy: Parts of a Shoe

To make the subject easier to present and understand, we begin by dividing shoe anatomy into two main parts: the upper and the sole.

The sole of the shoe anatomy is exactly what you know it for: the underside of the shoe or the part that truly contacts and touches the floor.

However, what you may not yet know is that the sole can actually be divided into four different parts: the outsole, midsole, and the insole, as well as the heel.

On the other hand, the upper is the exact opposite of the sole, being comprised of everything that stays on top of your feet, which can also be divided into five parts, according to shoe anatomy: the quarter, the vamp, the tongue, the cap toe, and the counter.

Below, we briefly describe each of the parts we have just mentioned, so you can know the essentials about shoe anatomy from top to bottom.



In shoe anatomy, the upper is made entirely of everything that covers your foot, from the sole up. All these parts are molded or stitched together, so as to transform all the single pieces into a coherent unit, to which the sole is then united. 

The Quarters, the Vamp, the Tongue, the Cap Toes, and the Counter are what can be considered essential to the upper of the shoe anatomy. 


The Quarters

In a nutshell, the quarters are what make up the sides and the back of the shoe anatomy, up until where the laces can be found and including the leather wrapped behind the heel. 

How they’re made can actually be the difference between two different shoe styles and influence the lacing system, which can be either opened or closed.

In shoe anatomy, what complements the quarters is the vamp.



The vamp is a section of the shoe anatomy that is part of the upper and connects with the quarters. In short, the vamp is what covers the upper part of the front of the foot, between the Toe Cap and the Tongue.

When we walk, this is the part that bends with the movement. Therefore, this is also one part of the shoe anatomy that requires more care and attention through the years. 

Although some creasing is inevitable, investing in a pair of quality shoes made of premium leather will help, as will storing them with a shoe tree to keep the vamp stretched when not making use of them.


Toe Cap

In front of the vamp, we find the Toe Cap. In shoe anatomy, this is where every shoe covers the toes of the feet. Toe Cap shape can vary wildly from square to round to pointed ends, which greatly influences the end design.

Naturally, this part of the shoe also tends to be reinforced with an extra layer of leather, or even steel to help protect the toes from different circumstances. Toe caps can be plain or have decorative features such as the perforations on finds on Wingtip Brogues. 



The tongue in shoe anatomy is the piece you can find under the laces. You will quickly recognize it by its flexibility which helps to distribute the pressure made by safely attaching it to the feet or, in other words, tying the laces, while also protecting the foot.



Last, but not least: the counter. The counter of shoe anatomy is the back of the upper and, usually, the continuation of the heel.

Normally, this is also a reinforced piece of leather since its main purpose is to support not only the feet but also the weight of the body while walking. 

These are the fundamentals of the upper. This takes us to the sole of the shoe.


The sole of the shoes is most probably the most recognizable part of the shoe anatomy. It is also the most common as it is present in every single type of shoe, from sandals to boots to running sneakers. 

As we have seen, the sole is also one of the two main parts of the shoe anatomy, the other being the upper. By itself, the sole complies with two purposes: protection and comfort. 

This is made possible by mastering the craft of the insole, the midsole, the outsole, and the heel.



As the name suggests, the insole of shoe anatomy is where our feet rest and feel comfortable when wearing a pair of quality shoes.

Soft leather is a common material to use here, but many more can be used, as long as they provide comfort to the feet. 



In between the insole and the outsole comes the midsole of shoe anatomy.

This midsole is rarely seen by the use as its main function is to provide an extra layer of comfort between what touches the ground and ultimately protects the foot and what actually touches the foot. 

At Carlos Santos, we use cork to create this midsole.

Cork is a very light material that helps cushion and protects the feet, while molding it to the shoe, improving wearability time and time again.



To the untrained eye, the entirety of the sole is made up exclusively by this outsole. However, in shoe anatomy, the outsole is merely the part of the shoe that touches the ground while we wear them. 

The thickness of the outsole varies from model to model and protection above all else is what this part of the shoes needs to provide, above all else. This is also why the outsoles are usually are very resistant, as well as waterproof. 


The Heel

Finally, there’s the heel. Like the outsole in shoe anatomy, many materials can be used to create the heel. The heel supports the back of the foot, but it also plays an important role in establishing a relation between the rear and the front.


Shoes for Men Online

Now that you are acquainted with the fundamentals of shoe anatomy you are also more equipped to evaluate what it means to acquire and own a pair of quality shoes designed by Carlos Santos