Sneaker Glossary

A beginner’s guide to sneaker terms. These days, a lot of terminologies exist from countless abbreviations, slang, and codes. Learning the ins and outs of sneaker collecting, anatomy, reselling, and the industry can be challenging. This sneaker glossary covers design, anatomy, production, collecting, and business. Here are terms that every sneakerhead must know.

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  • 3M
    A reflective material in which retroreflection occurs when light rays are returned in the direction from which they came — usually catalyzed by a flash of light. Created by the company of the same name, this material is used as a design detail for running performance, lifestyle, and workwear.
  • Abrasian Resistance
    The ability of a material to withstand surface wear due to rubbing against another surface.
  • Aglet
    The plastic, gilded, or metal tips at the ends of sneaker laces. The primary purpose of the aglet is to bind the shoelace material in order to prevent it from unwinding and fraying.
  • Amortization
    Businesses often spread the cost of larger purchases over several years.
  • Back Part Molding Machine
    This machine is used to pre-shape the back heel of the shoe upper over a shaped mold. This machine can be equipped with hot and two cold stations to complete the molding process.
  • Beaters
    Sneakers that you wear on an everyday basis — not minding if they get dirty.
  • Bottom Man
    A person who assembles the bottom units to the uppers.
  • Bred
    Any sneaker (although usually in reference to Jordans) that has a black or red colorway. This term originated from Air Jordans and the team colorway of the Chicago Bulls.
  • Colorway
    The combination of colors found on a sneaker which differentiates it from other sneaker models.
  • Compression Molding
    The process of compressing a block of material (EVA or equivalent) inside a metal mold. Heat and pressure are applied to the mold to expand the material and fill the inside of the mold. Under pressure, the material takes on the shape of the mold cavity, including the design etched on its sides.
  • Cooked
    Sneakers that have been loved and overworn by its owner — usually falling apart.
  • Cop
    The action or longing a must-have sneaker to buy.
  • Cupsole
    Also: Cupsole unit. A shoe outsole type made of one piece of rubber in which the sole unit “cups” the upper.
  • Cutter
    A person who or a machine that cuts the upper materials.
  • Deadstock
    An old or vintage sneaker release that's brand new and unworn and still factory-laced.
  • Designer sneakers
    Sneakers that are designed and manufactured by luxury brands. Examples of known designer sneakers are Raf Simons, Rick Owens, Margiela, Balenciaga, Fear of God, and Dolce & Gabanna.
  • Die Cutting
    A cutting process, also known as clicking, that uses pressure on a sharp edged steel die (like a cookie cutter) to cut through the material.
  • Dubrae
    An ornamental lace lock or lace jewel that centers the laces once its threaded.
  • Ergonomics
    The study of improving human interactions with the environment, with the goal of providing optimum performance, comfort and health.
  • EVA
    “Synthetic rubber” (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) is one of the best shock absorption materials available and it offers both durability at a lightweight. Most sneaker brands use this material, due to shock absorption, light weight of the sole.
  • Eyelets
    Eyelets are the holes that the shoelaces thread through.
  • Eyestay
    The part of the upper used strengthen the lace openings.
  • Eyestays
    The eyestays run along the length of the shoe and house eyelets.
  • Factory laced
    When a sneaker still has the lacing given by the factory. This is usually an indicator that a sneaker has been unworn.
  • Fashion Footwear Association of New York (FFANY)
    A trade association dedicated to serving and growing the vibrant global footwear industry in NY.
  • Finishing Machine
    The machine used in the sneaker production process for a number of uses, including roughing the sole prior to cementing.
  • First Cost
    The direct cost of a shoe in terms of the materials and labor involved in its production.
  • Fit Trial
    The name of the step before production where the shoe is tried on, and the lines are inspected across a run of sizes, and to see if the shoe feels good and functions correctly.
  • Flyknit
    A Nike material technology made up of strong yet lightweight strands of yarn that have been woven into a one-piece upper, securing an athlete’s foot to the sneaker platform.
  • Footwear Distributor and Retailers of America
    (FDRA) A trade organization focused on the footwear industry. It serves the footwear industry supply chain and helps its members by providing resources, training, consulting on footwear design, development, sourcing, compliance, trade and customs, and advocacy. They also provide consumer analysis, sales trend analysis for retailers selling shoes around the world.
  • Footwear Distributor and Retailers of America (FDRA)
    A trade organization focused on the footwear industry. It serves the footwear industry supply chain and helps its members by providing resources, training, consulting on footwear design, development, sourcing, compliance, trade and customs, and advocacy. They also provide consumer analysis, sales trend analysis for retailers selling shoes around the world.
  • Foxing
    A strip of material, separate from the sole and upper, secures the joint where the upper and sole meet, usually attached by a vulcanization process.
  • Friends and Family
    A very limited sneaker release that is dedicated and gifted to "friends and family" of the collaborator or employees of the sneaker brand.
  • Gait
    A manner of walking, stepping or running.
  • General Release (GR)
    General Release or GR is a sneaker that is released to the general public.
  • Ghillie Lacing System
    A system of webbing loops or rings is used to secure shoe lacing.
  • Grail
    A sneaker that a collector will do anything to get. This sought-out sneaker and usually hard to get because they are very expensive or hard to find.
  • Gum Sole
    A light brown rubber or gummy sole.
  • Heat Setting Machine
    This machine heats the upper and the outsole once they have been prepared with primer and cement. Once the adhesives have been thoroughly dried in the heating tunnel, the two pieces are joined together.
  • Heat Tunnel/Heat Setting Machine
    This machine heats the upper and the outsole once they have been prepared with primer and cement. Once the adhesives have been completely dried in the heating tunnel the two pieces are joined together.
  • Heel Counter
    The part of the upper covering the heel.
  • Heel-Toe Drop
    The difference between (midsole + outsole) heel height and (midsole + outsole) forefoot height (sometimes called "offset" or "differential").
  • High-top sneakers
    Sneakers that cover the ankle. These sneakers are relatively heavier or bulkier in construction, although newer, lightweight technology is used for performance basketball shoes.
  • Injection Molding
    The molding process where a hot liquid mass of material (EVA or equivalent) and blowing agent(s) is injected into a mold.
  • Insole
    The layer of material inside a shoe that provides cushioning for comfort where the foot rests.
  • Instacop
    A sneaker that is trending or subjectively thought of as good that you want to buy it ASAP.
  • Last
    A form that has a shape similar to the human foot that is used in the manufacture and repair of shoes. Lasts are made from metal, wood or plastic.
  • Laster
    A person who or a machine that lasts the uppers of the shoes.
  • Lasting Machine
    This machine is used for the lasting operation of the shoe upper seat/heel part. It pulls the heel area of the upper over the last and the insole removing any wrinkles. Modern lasting machines are hydraulic and computerized.
  • Lateral Side
    The side of the sneaker that is facing the opposite of the medial side.
  • Lineapelle
    Textile shows where top producers of leather, textile, synthetics, and other materials show their options.
  • Lining
    The material used inside the shoe.
  • Low-top sneakers
    Sneakers that do not cover the ankle. These sneakers are relatively lightweight and slim used for lifestyle or casual wear, walking, or running.
  • MAGIC
    A trade show or fashion marketplace covering footwear, apparel, accessories, and manufacturing. The shows at MAGIC showcase the height of advanced contemporary luxury brands, and the latest trends in apparel, footwear, accessories, and manufacturing.
  • Maquette
    Also: Wooden model. A small scale model or mock-up of a shoe in 3D.
  • Medial Side
    The side of the sneaker that is facing the middle of your body.
  • Metatarsal Head
    The part of the metatarsal bone that is closest to the toe.
  • MICAM
    The leading international footwear fair, promoted by Assocalzaturifici Italiani, the Association of Italian Footwear Manufacturers.
  • Mids
    Mids or mid-top sneakers are sneakers that have an ankle height between a high-top sneaker and a low-top sneaker. In popular opinion, mids are not favorable to sneaker collectors associating them with the lack of hype.
  • Midsole
    The component of the shoe between the upper and the outsole that contributes to comfort and support.
  • Milling Machine
    A tool that uses computer numerical control (CNC) to execute pre-programmed sequences of commands to automate cutting or milling.
  • Milling Machine (CNC)
    A tool that uses computer numerical control (CNC) to execute pre-programmed sequences of commands to automate cutting or milling.
  • Molds
    A hollow form or matrix for giving a particular shape to something in a molten or plastic state.
  • Mudguard
    The side of the sneaker that runs along the upper.
  • Natural Rubber
    The advantages of natural rubber are that it is very soft, offers very good flexibility, and is suitable for all kinds of sports. But it lacks the durability of synthetics.
  • New Old Stock (NOS)
    New Old Stock or NOS are sneakers that are unworn deadstock sneakers. A term coined by sneakerheads, these discoveries are usually made in family-run sportswear shops that didn't realize the value of these sneakers in stock.
  • New With Box (NWB)
    New With Box or NWB is an unworn sneaker that's in its original box. This is also known as Brand New In Box (BNIB) or New In Box (NIB).
  • On Ice
    A sneaker that is kept unworn and in storage because you are saving them to wear in the future. Usually, when you keep sneakers on ice, you have also bought another pair that's already in wear.
  • Opening A Mold
    Once a prototype has been made and approved, a metal mold is made or 'opened' for production.
  • Or Best Offer (OBO)
    Or Best Offer (OBO) is a term usually listed in a reseller's sneaker listing that means they are willing to accept the best offer made.
  • Orthopedist
    An orthopedic surgeon treats injuries to the bones, is a physician who also corrects congenital or functional abnormalities of the bones with surgery, casting, and bracing.
  • Outsole
    The exposed bottom component of the shoe that touches the ground.
  • Pack
    Sneakers that are released as a group or pack.
  • Pattern Grading
    Once the sample size or standard pattern has been produced, a set of patterns has to be made. Every pattern in the set must reproduce the features of the standard to fit the last sizes larger and smaller than the standard.
  • Patterns
    A paper model used to cut and sew the materials for a shoe upper. A pattern translates the dimensions and curves of a design and ensures that the upper fits the last it’s meant for.
  • Performance Footwear
    Shoes designed with materials and technologies that are innovative with the aim of improving athletic performance.
  • Phase of Gait
    An eight part sequence of what happens to each foot when we walk. A single gait cycle is also known as a stride.
  • Plimsoll
    The line on the shoe created by the canvas upper and rubber bottom that mimics the line painted on basketball courts.
  • Plug
    A slang name for the guy who has early access to key products, he's the connection for all the new or hard-to find releases.
  • Podiatrist
    Specializes in the surgical treatment of conditions affecting the foot, ankle and related lower extremity structures of the body.
  • Polyurethane
    One of the most common polymers, Polyurethane or (PU) is used widely in shoes – it’s lightweight, durable, and waterproof.
  • Polyurethane Cement
    The adhesive used to adhere the upper to the cupsole of a sneaker.
  • Primary Market
    Consumers buy directly from the sneaker company through retail stores.
  • Pullover
    A prototype sample shoe upper for checking pattern and fit.
  • Quality Control
    Checking to ensure the new sneaker is free from defects and meets the needs of the customer.
  • Quick Strike
    Quick Strick (QS) is a virtually unannounced release that hits the stores quickly and was in limited quantities.
  • Quick Strike(QS)
    Refers to a virtually unannounced release that hits stores quickly and in limited quantities. Hyperstrike.
  • Reseller
    A person who purchases sneakers to flip them or sell them to make a profit.
  • Retro
    A sneaker release that is an homage to a retrospective release. This release is just like the original, including colorway, but can have minor changes in its updated design.
  • Roughing Machine
    The finishing machine is used to rough the bottom of the shoe before the outsole is put on.
  • Sample
    A prototype sneaker created by footwear designers and their team for testing or promotional purposes. These sneakers never make it into mass production.
  • Sample Run
    The last step in development prior to production where the factory produces all sizes needed for a new sneaker to approve the design.
  • Seat/Heel Lasting Machine
    This machine is used for the lasting operation of the shoe's upper heel part. It pulls the heel area of the upper over the last and the insole removing any wrinkles. Modern lasting machines are hydraulic and computerized.
  • Shank Plate
    The shank is a part of the supportive structure of a shoe between the insole and outsole. It's a very important part in the design of basketball shoes, and it is crucial to the functionality of mountaineering boots.
  • Shell Pattern
    The shoe pattern that fits the surface of the last with no details. Designers draw the shell pattern.
  • Shoe Last
    A form that has a shape similar to the human foot that is used in the manufacture and repair of shoes. Lasts are made from metal, wood or plastic.
  • Shoe Tariffs
    A tax or duty that must be paid to the US government on imported shoes.
  • "Shrink it and Pink it"
    The strategy of creating campaigns for women by making products smaller and pink because marketing execs thought they would be more appealing to women that way.
  • Shrink It or Pink It
    The strategy of creating campaigns for women by making products smaller and pink because marketing execs thought they would be more appealing to women that way.
  • Sidewall Stitcher
    A machine that attaches the upper to the outsole of a sneaker.
  • Size Grading
    Once a shoe sample has been approved, patterns need to be graded across the complete size run of shoes.
  • Size Run
    The number of pairs of sneakers that will go into production. This is an important part of the manufacturing process and quantities depends on whether a sneaker is a general or limited release.
  • Skate shoes
    Skate shoes typically have a durable construction with thick soles — made for wear and tear. These shoes are typically lightweight and made of canvas or leather.
  • Skiving Assistant
    A person who assists in skiving leather pieces.
  • Skiving Machine
    Cuts material like leather to thinner dimensions and can split a thick material into thinner pieces.
  • Sneaker Anatomy
    The key parts of sneaker anatomy are shown in this image.
  • Sneaker Boutique
    A small independent shop that sells a special selection of merchandise like fashionable shoes, clothes or accessories.
  • Sneaker Endorsement
    A financial deal for a product to be worn or recommended by an athlete, celebrity, or authoritative figure. it is called product endorsement. Endorsing a product generates brand awareness, significant sales revenues and is an extremely effective marketing tool.
  • Sockliner
    The part of a sneaker sole that your contact makes in contact with directly. The sockliner can be made from foam, rubber, or leather.
  • Sole
    The bottom part of the sneaker. This can be separated into three subparts: the outsole, the midsole, and the insole.
  • Sole Press
    This machine applies pressure to the lasted upper and outsole to ensure there is full adhesion between the parts.
  • Sole Unit
    Also called the bottom unit. The complete molded sole, midsole and outsole included or single piece (like a cupsole).
  • Stabilizer
    The material bonded to the upper for functional support.
  • Stack Height
    A measure of how much material in the sole is between the bottom of your foot and the ground.
  • Stitching
    The row or series of stitches made with thread.
  • Stock Replenishment
    Restoration of the amount of sneaker stock available in stores to a former level.
  • Strike Zones
    The part of the sole that strikes the ground when running.
  • Stroble Stitching Machine
    A machine used to add personal details (like custom text) to custom shoe uppers.
  • Swoosh
    Nike’s iconic branding symbol. The logo was first introduced in 1971 and created by Carolyn Davidson.
  • Tear Strength
    The force required to tear a sample divided by the sample thickness.
  • Tech Pack
    A set of documents created by a designer that inform the manufacturer of all the necessary components needed to construct a product.
  • Texon board
    A high quality, high performance, insoling material which maintains appearance, does not deteriorate, is dimensionally stable with good flex endurance. It does not shrink or grow due to perspiration, Is scuff resistant and has high stitch / tear strength.
  • Toe Laster
    A machine that lasts the toe of the upper.
  • Toe Lasting Machine
    A toe lasting machine holds the upper on the last, grips and pulls the toe area of the upper around the last and insole. Modern lasting machines add cement during the lasting process.
  • Toe-Off
    (verb) The point in a person's walk (gait) at which the foot rises from the floor.
  • Toebox
    The top panel of a sneaker that protects the toes. The toe box flexes and creases, and when constructed from leather, it’ll tend to form crease marks.
  • Toecap
    The part of the upper covering the toe.
  • Tongue
    A strip of leather or other material under the laces of a shoe. It runs from vamp to the throat of the shoe.
  • Tongue Stay
    The slot, loop (sometimes even a label) on a tongue that the laces go through to prevent tongue slippage.
  • Tooling
    The process of automated cutting by a milling machine.
  • Trade Show
    A professional exhibition of goods or services strictly dedicated to buyers, press and fashion industry professionals.
  • Tread
    The pattern on the bottom of the shoe, the outsole.
  • Two Ten Footwear Foundation
    Is the national charitable foundation of America's footwear industry. the organization provides financial Assistance, Counseling, Community Resources and Scholarships to those working working or seeking to work in the footwear industry.
  • Un-DS
    When you first wear a sneaker for the first time.
  • Upper
    The top part of the shoe that covers the foot, usually made from fabric, leather or a combination of both.
  • Uptowns
    Is the slang used for the the Air Force 1 sneaker (also known as "uppies", or "classics"). The term "Uptowns" came from the popularity in uptown NYC hoods like Harlem, where the white-on-white Air Force 1 low will always be a favorite sneaker.
  • Vulcanization
    The sneaker creation process which utilizes heat to affix rubber to fabric, and was created by the U.S. Rubber company. This process is still used in sneaker creation today.
  • Wholesale
    Manufacturers selling sneakers in large quantities to be sold by stores at retail prices.
  • Wooden Model
    A small scale model or mock-up of a shoe in 3D. Sometimes called a Maquette.

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