The tongue, an upper, a mid-sole and an overlay. A sneaker has many parts, which can sometimes make it very complicated. To get you started, we explain step by step how a sneaker is built.
Blueprint of a sneaker
A sneaker consists of many different parts and materials. The blueprint of a sneaker differs per brand and model, which sometimes makes it difficult to understand a shoe.
A Nike shoe has other parts than an adidas shoe and a Puma sneaker has a different structure than a Reebok sneaker. Yet there are many names and parts that are similar.
We start from the top with the upper. The upper is the upper of the sneaker and sits on your entire foot. The upper can be divided into the middle and the back. The nose and toe box on the front of the sneaker are also part of the upper.
You can best describe the upper as the base of the sneaker. The material of the shoe differs per silhouette. Most winter sneakers have a leather upper, while summer pairs often have an upper of textile or mesh.
The quarter or middle panel is part of the upper. This part of the sneaker sits on the sides of your foot in the middle of the shoe. The part often serves for decoration and keeps the sneaker flexible.
On this part of the sneaker, the logo of the brand can often be found as well. Think of the Swoosh of Nike or the N-logo of New Balance.
The toebox is the front part of the sneaker. This part is located around the toes and can sometimes be confused with the term "nose". The toe box is the part that sits on top of your toes and often has perforation holes. The material of this part can be leather, mesh or textile.
The tongue is the flap on top of the sneaker. The laces and the brand's logo often run across these.
The tongue runs across your instep and is often softer than the rest of the sneaker. This is for comfort and flexibility.
The mudguard is also part of the upper. This element is the lower part of the sneaker that sits above the sole. The mudguard is meant to reinforce the shoe and often serves as decoration as well. Because the mudguard is just above the midsole, it is often made of leather, suede or other waterproof material.
The toe cap is the front part of a sneaker. Unlike the toebox, the toe cap is in front of your toes and not on top.
The toe cap often has the same solid material as the mudguard. This element is the lower part of the sneaker and sits above the midsole.
The collar is the upper part of the inside of the sneaker. This is where your foot goes into the shoe. A collar is often made of soft material on the inside to give your feet a comfortable feeling.
The collar is above the heel and provides reinforcement at the ankles. On the collar is the 'eyestay', the hole where the lace goes through.
The overlays are the parts on the upper of the sneaker. They give the shoe extra sturdiness and often serve for decoration. Overlays differ per model or brand and are often made of leather or suede. The colours and decorations on the overlays determine for a large part the design of the sneaker.
The heeltab is the part under the collar on the heel of the trainer. This part gives the shoe strength and therefore often consists of hard material.
On the heel tab you can often see the logo of the brand. This element does not move with the rest of the sneaker.
The soles of sneakers are made up of several parts. To start with, there is the insole. This is the sole that is inside the sneaker and on which your feet rest. This part can sometimes also get the term midsole.
Often, the insole has an imprint with the logo of the brand or model. The insole serves for comfort and can also be changed. Unlike the other soles of a sneaker, this element is not fixed.
The midsole or mid-sole is the largest part of the sole. The midsole is located under the mudguard of the sneaker and above the outsole. Often, the midsole is white, but this can vary per model. On the midsole, sometimes the logo or model of the sneaker is printed.
The component serves for comfort and decoration. Midsoles can differ from model to model, such as a platform sole or an Air Max sole with an air unit in it.
Below the midsole is the outsole. This component provides grip and comfort. In some models, the outsole can have the same colour as the midsole, but this is not always the case. Often, the logo of the sneaker is printed in the outsole. The outsole is almost always made of rubber.
The air unit is the 'air bubble' in the mid-sole of sneakers. Not every sneaker has an air unit. Especially the Air models of Nike have this part. Think of the Air Max 1 or Air Max 90.
The air unit is often transparent in colour, but this does not always have to be the case. The part of the sneaker is mainly meant for comfort but also serves as decoration.
Stitching is the stitching of the sneaker. It is about how the shoe is stitched together and what stitching techniques are used. In one model the stitching can be very prominent and a part of the design. With another model you won't even see the stitching and it mainly serves to keep the sneaker together.
The piping can sometimes be confused with the stitching of a sneaker. Piping is the edge that is on the sides of the shoe. A piping is mainly meant for decoration and in contrast to the stitching, this part is not essential.
The lining of a sneaker is the part that is located on the inside of the collar. This part often consists of mesh or textile and ensures that the shoe is comfortable. The colours of the lining can differ a lot per model.
With one sneaker, the lining can be an important element of the design with a striking colour. With another sneaker, this can be different and the lining shares the same colour as the rest of the shoe.
Lacing and eyestays
The laces also include the lacing panel. Sometimes there can be several of these, so that the sneaker has an upper and a lower lace. The laces are mainly used to keep the laces together. In addition, it can also serve as decoration and it gives the sneaker a nice detail.
The eyestay is the sneaker part through which your laces are threaded. This part is on the upper of the model and has mainly a functional task. However, the eyestays on some sneakers can also serve for decoration and have, for example, a striking design.
Finally, the laces. These are probably self-evident and serve mainly to keep your feet fitting snug inside the sneaker. Besides that, the laces also serve for decoration. At the end of the lace is the lacetip or nestel. This is the hardened part of the lace that makes it easier to thread through the laces.
Sneaker from head to toe
Now that you have a better idea of the parts of the sneaker, you can better understand your next pair. Below you have a full floor plan where all parts are named one by one.
If you would like to read more of these items, follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook and stay informed about all news and updates regarding sneakers. Also don't forget to download our Sneakerjagers app and don't miss a single release.