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Anatomy of a Shoe

We use a lot of jargon when we describe running shoes in our review. Here’s how we break down the shoe in every review.

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The Upper

Parts of a shoe’s upper can include the vamp, the back, the tongue, the quarter, and the lining. Uppers can be made from a variety of materials, with the most popular being mesh, leather,satin, suede, and canvas.

Next • Knit, Mesh, Jacquard
The Upper

Knit, Mesh,

The part of the shoe that covers your foot. Wrapping paper for the feet. Materials and construction can vary based on use-case scenarios (i.e. race day uppers are lighter and breathable, trail uppers are more durable). Most running shoes are a variation of knit, engineered mesh, or jacquard.

Next • Laces & Eyelets
The Upper

Eyelets & Laces

Eyelets are the holes on the upper of a shoe in which the laces go through. They have terrible vision, though.

Laces are f-ing shoelaces. If you don’t know what they are, we're not sure how you got here.

Next • Vamp
The Upper


The vamp (toe box) is the section on the front of the foot from the front quarter to where the top ends. Doesn’t suck blood.

Next • Tongue
The Upper


The Tongue is a strip of material under the laces, providing cushion and protection for the top of the foot. Popular in truth or dare or spin the bottle

Next • Gusset
The Upper


A Gusset connects the tongue of a shoe to the inside of the upper and helps prevent the tongue from moving around in the shoe.

Next • U-Throat
The Upper


The throat is where the bottom of the tongue meets the shoe, generally where the shoelaces start (the mainstay). Does not approve of chain smoking.

Next • Saddle
The Upper


The Saddle is part of the shoe on the instep that helps to secure the midfoot area. Giddy up.

Next • Overlays & Underlays
The Upper

Overlays & Underlays

Overlays & Underlays can vary from synthetic material applied to the upper to improve structure to welded taping these added pieces provide extra structure and support in key areas of the upper.

Next • Collar
The Upper


The collar is the edge that goes around your ankle, i.e. where your foot goes into the shoe. Usually padded for comfort. We would pop it if we could, but we’re just not that cool.

Next • Insole
The Upper


Padded footbed on the inside of the shoe that provides an extra layer of cushion and protection. Oftentimes removable. Sometimes used by companies to mask a firmer midsole by providing an initial comfort on step-in, only to compress significantly after a few runs. Scandalous.